World Summit on Sustainable Development

30 AUGUST 2002

Mr. President,

Let me start by congratulating you for your brilliant election to the presidency of this historical Summit. Nobody doubts indeed of the unique character of this conference and the capital issues it has before it. 

Some of us may however feel a more acute and perhaps personal sense of reward, for we see in this summit the culmination of a process started 10 years ago and an exceptional opportunity as well, for reporting on concrete successes in the field of sustainable development in general and the implementation of Agenda 21 in particular. Few of us realize indeed that the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification stands as one of the most concrete achievements of the UNCED Summit. As such, it provides the international community with a reliable instrument for assessing the implementation of Agenda 21, from which it directly stems.

Of all the recommendations adopted in Rio de Janeiro ten years ago, there's certainly a sense of pride in reporting that the decision to have a Convention to Combat Desertification has been completely fulfilled, empowering thus the international community with an innovative legally binding instrument which today counts 183 Parties. It provides us with a prime tool to address desertification and drought, two challenges affecting the livelihood and food security of over 900 hundred million people worldwide.

It is also very encouraging to note that at the occasion of the present Summit, there is a welcome consensus on the need to provide this convention with a Financial Mechanism, and thereby effectively address the single most important obstacle to the implementation of the UNCCD.

Rio had given birth to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Johannesburg will undoubtedly set the path of implementation through its effective funding.

Mr. President,

As the world leaders are coming to the rescue of the Planet in ensuring that the development process on which the Earth is engaged complies with agreed sustainability schemes, it is even clearer today than it was yesterday, that widespread poverty constitutes one of the major challenges to be addressed on an increasingly urgent basis.

The Millennium Declaration took a commitment to halve the number of peoples living under the poverty line and those in just 13 years from now. Likewise, by 2015, the Millennium Assembly committed to halve the proportion of peoples suffering from hunger. 
As it is widely recognized today that poverty is widespread in rural dry lands of developing countries, it is our conviction that the way the international community addresses that issue needs an enhanced focus. Experts and other Eminent Personalities have indeed underlined the importance of combating poverty where it strikes most: in rural dry areas. In this context, it is encouraging to note that the unique comparative advantage of the UNCCD, as a prime tool to combat poverty, has already been emphasized by this Summit.

This Convention is now ready to move from its initial conceptual phase to a much awaited implementation phase, based on its National Action Programs (or NAPS), which constitute the very building blocks of its implementation. The international community should take it that the effective and timely implementation of the Action Programmes prepared under CCD will dramatically contribute to achieve the objectives of the Millennium Declaration by restoring the productive capacity of the land and substantially increasing the income of affected grass roots community. This is indeed an area where a minimum investment will yield considerable and rapid results. 

Countries affected by desertification should therefore constitute the growing priority in the international combat against poverty. In this context, the unique nature of the NAPs that serve the purpose of territorial platforms of intervention for different processes at the country level should be emphasized. Building upon the comparative advantage of the NAPs, quantifiable result-oriented objectives could be agreed upon over a certain period of time. This will allow the international community to monitor the effective implementation of this Convention and increase the cost efficiency of multilateral investments.

Desertification, a supreme stage of land degradation, is a global environmental problem. As such, its effective implementation will unquestionably generate positive effects on the mitigation of climate change by increasing carbon sinks and also contribute to protect our land from losing its biological diversity. With an increased involvement of the Global Environment Facility in supporting the CCD enabling activities and through catalytic funding, we will promote win-win outcomes in which the multiplier effects generated will at last ensure achieving the objectives of the three Rio Conventions. It is our utmost conviction that achieving sustainable development cannot be secured through isolated and sectoral approaches but rather through a dynamic process of interaction and integration between major players. In this respect, we value the unique opportunity offered by the synergetic implementation of the three Rio Conventions, particularly at the national level. We commend their respective leadership for their full support in this endeavor.

The potential of the NAPs might now unfold to facilitate the integration of initiatives to combat desertification, mitigate drought, conserve natural resources and respond to the demands for sustainable livelihood of the rural poor at the local level.

Mr. President,

For a Convention which simultaneously addresses the three pillars of sustainable development that are economic growth, social development and environmental protection, there is no better occasion than this Summit to reaffirm our full commitment to its implementation. It is the only legally binding instrument that came out as a result of a direct recommendation of Agenda 21. As such, in it lie our credibility and in it lie our hopes. 

Thank you.