President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 
President of the Republic of Tunisia delivered 

on  behalf by Mr. Mohamed Ennabli, Minister of Environment and Land-use Planning

at the 
World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
September 4, 2002


In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate,

Your Excellency and Dear Brother President Thabo Mbeki, 
Chairman of the Conference,
Your Majesties, 
Highnesses and Excellencies, 
Your Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan,
Secretary General of the United Nations Organization, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the beginning, I would like to express to His Excellency President Thabo Mbeki and to the brotherly people of South Africa my most sincere thanks and most profound gratitude for their hospitality and cordial reception. I also would like to congratulate them on the excellent organization of the works of this Summit, and to express my consideration for the efforts exerted by the preparatory committee to bring together various viewpoints and to achieve concord between the peoples of the earth on crucial issues that concern the future of humanity as a whole. I hope that our Summit will lead to a consensus on the "Executive Action Plan 21", so as to materialize the aspirations of all the peoples of the world toward progress and development, in the framework of entente, cooperation and solidarity. My sincere thanks and gratitude also go to the United Nations Organization which supervises the various international mechanisms for the consecration of the orientations emanating from the Rio Summit.

Thirty years have now passed since the Stockholm Declaration, and ten years since the holding of the first Earth Summit. During these periods, and increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable development in its three dimensions economic progress, protection of the environment and struggle against poverty, all the peoples have endeavored to preserve the chances of the future generations on a planet to which the development of human activities has caused great damage and whose natural resources have been dilapidated in a worrying manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our country has been keen on adopting a development methodology that conciliates between the development work and the preservation of the environment and the natural milieu, in the framework of a comprehensive policy that cares for the quality of life and seeks to ensure the essentials of sustainable development. In so doing, it consecrates a human rights dimension which we consider fundamental, namely the right to a decent life in a healthy environment.

Tunisia has indeed followed an ecological policy based on a number of principles, chief among which are the involving of the civil society, the fostering of the role of associations in all the concerned fields, the implementation of the environmental projects, and the preservation of natural resources and of the equilibrium of the ecosystem.

Our country has also contributed to the consecration of the principles of the first Earth Summit in Rio and to the drafting of the conventions emanating from it. It was indeed among the first countries which ratified these conventions, and has always been keen on participating in the various conferences related to the international agreements in the areas of biological diversity, biological safety, climate change and the struggle against desertification. It has also elaborated a work program and a national strategy to meet its commitments in relation to the international convention on biological diversity. Besides, Tunisian experts have participated in the activities of the work team in charge of biological safety, and in the elaboration of the international protocol on safety in the field of biotechnology.

Moreover, as part of the implementation of the recommendations emanating from the UN framework convention on climate change, Tunisia has taken the initiative to assess the solutions concerning the reduction of the effects of the emission of gases. It has also joined the Kyoto Protocol and adopted, as regards the implementation of the framework convention on the struggle against desertification, a participatory approach to the elaboration of the strategy and the national work program, and to the implementation of the executive program for the decade 2002 - 2011.

Furthermore, our country has completed, in the light of Agenda 21, the establishment of the institutional and legal frameworks and the reinforcement of national capacities with a view to ensuring more efficiency to the management of natural resources and to facing the problems caused by pollution. It has also endeavored to catch up with the most advanced technologies in the fields of observation, evaluation and control of the environment. 

Our country has also faced up to the phenomenon of poverty and destitution, thanks to the economic and social policies adopted and to the large-scale dissemination of the culture of solidarity. As a result, the poverty rate in Tunisia went down from 12.9% in 1980 to 4.2% in 2000.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international community is today, and more than ever before, called upon to concretely materialize the principle of collective responsibility, through the establishment of a real partnership between the countries of the North and those of the South, in order to achieve the purposes of sustainable development, in the framework of the "international alliance for development", advocated by the Monterrey Summit on Financing Development. This can be fulfilled by increasing the levels of official aid for development, in the light of the objective set by the UN Organization, which consists in allocating 0.7% of the gross national product to support developing countries in the implementation of their development plans.

This alliance also requires that developed countries take the appropriate measures to counter the implications on the international environment, whose negative effects can be seen in the aggravation of the phenomenon of desertification, the succession' of the years of drought, and the deterioration of ecological equilibriums as a result of the climatic changes, the emissions of gases and the increase in pollution.

Today, we are called upon to observe a moment of contemplation to evaluate what we have achieved in the implementation of the principles of the Rio Declaration. Though the objectives set in this regard seem to be highly ambitious, they do, in fact, remain legitimate, in view of the opportunities contained in Agenda 21, to achieve economic development and to benefit from modern technologies, as well as to preserve natural resources and to confront the phenomenon of poverty and marginalization in the age of globalization and comprehensive economy.

The results achieved by developing countries in the fields of economic growth and human development still remain below the expectations. In fact, despite the successes achieved, the systems of production and consumption do not meet the requirements of sustainable development; for indeed, the excellent economic performances are achieved through an excessive and irrational exploitation of natural resources and an increasing deterioration of the environment. This vests us with a historic responsibility to contain the dangers that currently surround our economies and threaten the future of the coming generations.

The experience of these last years has proved the efficiency of complementarity between the official development aid and the promotion of commercial relations in compliance with the principles of the World Trade Organization. And while we endeavor to integrate within the new international system, we underscore the necessity to coordinate between the commercial, financial and monetary policies in the world, provided that the UN Organization remains the adequate framework for the realization of these objectives, by further developing its work in the economic field, in such a way as to ensure the correlation between the issues of security, peace and development.

The scarcity or exhaustion of resources in many developing and poor countries, resulting from the demographic pressure and the anarchical and excessive exploitation of fragile resources by extremely indigent people, constitutes one of the gravest dangers threatening the ecological equilibrium in our world. This vests the international community with a great responsibility to ensure the preservation and development of natural resources, and to achieve the balance between a healthy environment and sustainable development.

These objectives cannot be achieved without supporting the international endeavors in the struggle against poverty, in accordance with the commitments made by the international community during the international conferences and meetings held these last years, especially the Millennium Summit in 2000 and the Monterrey Summit in 2002.

These conditions require more cooperation and solidarity, on our part, in order to find the appropriate mechanisms to tackle them. In this regard, Tunisia proposed, in 1989, a program to recycle the debts of poor and developing countries for environmental programs, as one of the most efficient ways to strengthen the channels of international cooperation.

Believing in the necessity to establish fresh cooperation mechanisms to materialize solidarity between industrialized and developing countries, we called, in 1998, for the creation of a world solidarity fund, and we reiterated our call during the Millennium summit. Our initiative aims at alleviating the effects of poverty in the most destitute regions. While this initiative was approved by the United Nations and was met with a large-scale international support, we still hope that the necessary efforts will be joined in order to find the appropriate mechanisms and methods to materialize it, so that it can really contribute to reducing the phenomenon of poverty all over the world, more particularly in the African continent, which would provide better conditions for the safety of the environment and would protect the natural resources against the dangers of exhaustion.

On this occasion, we would like to stress the necessity for the industrialized countries to renew their commitments related to the international agreements, to implement the decisions emanating from them, and to promptly ratify the Kyoto Protocol, so that the developing countries would benefit from the mechanisms of a safe ecological development.

We hope that this summit will mark an effective start-up for the establishment of new international relations that will consecrate the objectives of sustainable development on the basis of international solidarity, and thus ensure a better future for the humanity as a whole.

Thank you for your attention.