Marrk Malloch Brown
We are gathered here in Johannesburg with a simple, shared objective: to build on the historic achievements of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, tackle its omissions, reverse the setbacks, and ensure that this conference becomes the launch-pad for bold new plans of action aimed at building a safer, more prosperous and more sustainable planet.
The world is already living on borrowed time. And while the threat we face is global, the impact is most severe in the developing world - as the terrible drought currently afflicting so much of this region all too graphically illustrates.
Declining ecosystems, degraded agricultural land, disappearing tropical forests, diminishing supplies of clean water, dwindling fisheries, and growing social and ecological vulnerability, particularly as a result of accelerating climate-change, are all having a disproportionately brutal impact on the poor.
Quite simply, if we do not successfully arrest and reverse these problems, the world will not be able to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals set out in the historic UN Millennium Declaration, particularly the overarching goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
Our underlying goal here in Johannesburg is the same one that lies at the heart of everything the United Nations Development Programme stands for: helping provide all the world's citizens with the rights, opportunities and tools to live the kind of life they want with a secure and healthy future for themselves and their children.
As the UN's global development network, three years of reform and renewal has left UNDP better placed than ever to respond to these challenges.
We already have a strong track record. UNDP's Environment and Energy programme is the largest of all our six practice areas. Over the past decade, we have disbursed more than US$ 4 billion through the Global Environment Facility, Montreal Protocol and Capacity 21 and our own core resources.
But if we are to succeed in meeting the Millennium Development Goals we must first succeed in changing the terms of the global debate.
One part of the answer surely lies in keeping population issues at the
heart of the sustainable development agenda.
But more broadly the fact is ttoo many people still equate environmental protection with curtailment of economic growth and opportunities rather than their expansion. Too many see it as a cost rather than an investment.
In practice - as is spelled out in UNDP's Human Development Report 2002 - sustainable development is simply not possible without sound, transparent, democratically accountable institutions, stretching from local to national level, capable of protecting the environment while delivering critical services from security to clean water to justice to economic opportunity for the poor.
Across the world, our work has produced clear evidence that in communities where people, particularly women, are able to come together to protect local ecosystems such as fisheries and forests they also have better schools, healthcare and economic prospects. And the reason is simple: It is because empowering the poor to look after their own interests in one area empowers them in other areas as well, helping drive the whole process of human development forward.
That is why capacity, development aimed at helping countries support and promote such practices is at the core of the new UNDP - and why it is so central to broader national and global efforts to help meet the MDGs.
And it is also why UNDP has launched a series of concrete initiatives -- all built around partnerships with civil society, the private sector, bilaterals and others -- to catalyse broader action built around the five priority areas of this Summit: Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture and Biodiversity.
We already have a proud ten year track record of helping developing countries build capacity to draw up and implement policies and programmes that put Agenda 21 in practice through the successful Capacity 21 initiative.
Now we are going the next step, pushing forward with an expanded programme focused more squarely on the 2015 target for reaching the MDGs, called Capacity 2015.
In addition to working with the Global Environment Facility and others to assist in implementing and monitoring key international environmental agreements over the past decade, it will support a wide range of capacity development initiatives from national government strategies to local community activities with an emphasis on local ownership of broader plans that will stimulate new ideas and new action on the ground.
More broadly, UNDP is providing integrated approaches to sustainable development that cut across all our practice areas - Democratic Governance, HIV/AIDS prevention, Information and Communications Technologies, Poverty Reduction, Crisis Prevention and Recovery.
And in our Energy and Environment practice area, UNDP has also developed a package of new private-public partnerships in five key areas: water governance, drylands development, energy and biodiversity protection, that will help stimulate our own programme work while linking it clearly to the broader global development agenda and the MDGs.
Clearly there are tough choices and real tradeoffs that have to be made. But the bottom line, is that there is significant scope for action that simultaneously protects the environment and reduces poverty, promoting economic growth that is both equitable and sustainable.
Helping developing countries to make these choices is a collaborative effort, drawing on a wide range of other partners and making full use of UNDP's role as the coordinator of the UN system at country level
But our key contribution lies at this critical nexus between capacity development and policy making: using UNDP's resources and expertise strategically to support a broad range of initiatives that can have a catalytic effect on local, national and regional, policies and priorities.
Because if sustainable development is to become a reality, it will be done not just through national policies or institutions but field by field, forest by forest, factory by factory. And that is also the way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and prove to the peoples of the world that it is possible to build a safer, wealthier, and more sustainable world for themselves and their children.