Professor G.O.P. Obasi 
World Meteorological Organization

at the World Summit for Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa, 
29 August 2002

Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour and privilege for me to address the Ministerial Segment of this historic World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). On behalf of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and on my own behalf, I wish to convey our profound gratitude to President Thabo Mbeki, and through him, to the Govemment and people of the Republic of South Africa for inviting and hosting the Summit in this beautiful city of Johannesburg.

I should also like to express our appreciation to Dr Emil Salim, Chairman of the PrepCom of WSSD and his distinguished colleagues, for the valuable work they have done in guiding the difficult but significant preparatory process that has paved the road to Johannesburg. I am confident that, under the competent stewardship of President Mbeki, the Summit will meet the expectations of the world community, inter alla, by providing guidance on how the relevant stakeholders in sustainable development should make concerted and wellcoordinated efforts to lead into constructive and collaborative work. Such efforts should translate our ideas, aspirations, intentions and expectations, which are also embodied in Agenda 21 and the outcomes of WSSD, into political commitment and concrete and practical strategies in follow-up to Johannesburg. It is only in this way that we can reverse the current trend towards environmental degradation and move resolutely towards achieving sustainable development.

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Fourth PrepCom in Bali, in June this year, formally closed the preparatory process for WSSD, and crowned the preparations for Johannesburg with two types of expected outcomes which are before the Summit for its consideration and adoption. The outcomes include guidance on the implementation of the negotiated document and on "Type 2" partnerships and initiatives. The "Type 2" partnerships will not, of course, replace the obligations and commitments of Governments and stakeholders, but will nonetheless be important tools for complementing the implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of WSSD. WMO therefore calls upon the Summit to give precise guidelines, which will provide a clear division of labour among the partners, and for the regulation of the relationships and coordination between the obligatory and voluntary processes and procedures for implementation of the outcomes of WSSD.

The concept of partnerships among all stakeholders is an innovative idea which, if it functions effectively, will be one of the important outcomes of this Summit. the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), of which President Mbeki is among the Founding Fathers, is indeed a good example of "Type 2" partnerships and initiatives. Given the wide international support that NEPAD enjoys, we hope that WSSD will give the endorsement and support necessary for making NEPAD an effective regional mechanism for promoting and strengthening the efforts of the African countries and peoples in their quest for sustainable development.

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Johannesburg marks a renewed commitment to the process initiated at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) but, more importantly, it is the beginning of a journey into the 21 st century. The Summit must assure the current generation that we will leave for future generations a healthier and more equitable society, a better-protected environment, and a better and more prosperous world for all to live in. We are here because we believe in a common and thriving destiny; because the world community has placed considerable trust and high hopes in this Summit; and societies the world over, including children, youth, women and the elderly, deserve better protection and improved status in society. They want us here in Johannesburg to produce tangible results.

The Summit should generate the political will and commitment essential for practical implementation of the outcomes of WSSD. The success of the Summit should not be measured by the mere consensus adoption of the documents that will emerge such as the Johannesburg Declaration and
Programme for Sustainable Development. Rather, it will be the translation into tangible results of the measures and recommendations enshrined in these Documents that shall make Johannesburg a resounding success.

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world community wants us to succeed in Johannesburg with the determined and committed resolve to find ways and means, among others, to:

  • Eradicate poverty;
  • Assure food security and availability of adequate clean water;
  • Make globalization fair and equitable to all, and grant unconditional access of goods from developing countries to markets of developed countries;
  • Assure good governance;
  • Contribute towards the reduction of the scourges of diseases including HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria;
  • Promote the benefits of the global revolution in information and communication technology (ICT), and of advanced education and medical research through increased applications of the advances in science and technology to development;
  • Support and enhance national and regional capacities especially in developing countries, inter alla, through education and training and other capacity-building measures, to enable these countries to deal with their own development challenges and to attain self-reliance;
  •  Forge effective partnerships and initiatives for the implementation of WSSD initiatives;
  • Provide the means for the implementation of WSSD outcomes, including instituting an efficient and strengthened institutional framework; availing finance for development on a predictable, adequate and assured basis.
The world community also expects the outcomes of the Summit to contribute to:
  •  The protection and preservation of our global commons, including the atmosphere, environment, water, soil, oceans and their marine and coastal resources, all of which require systematic monitoring, assessment and management; and
  • The reduction and prevention of the negative impacts of environmental degradation, climate change and other extreme weather- and climate-related natural disasters and events.

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the last three decades and especially since UNCED, apart from the visible deterioration of the environnent, a number of disturbing trends in weather, water and climate have been observed. I will highlight just a few to demonstrate the range of issues that require our attention and decisive actions, wherever possible:

(a) The greenhouse gases, and in particular carbon dioxide (C02), have continued to increase unabated: C02 at the rate of 1.5 parts per million by volume (ppm) per year and, which now stands at 370 ppmv, an increase of 31 per cent since 1750; nitrous oxide (N20) has increased by 46 ppmv (17 per cent) since 1750 and continues to increase; and methane (CH4) has increased by 1060 ppmv (151 per cent) since 1750 and continues to increase.

(b) The year 1998 was the warmest, and 2001 the second warmest, since records began in 1860. Ten of the warmest years have occurred since 1990. The 20th century was the warmest over the last 1 000 years.

(c) The overall global ozone decline during the last 25 years compared to pre-1970s averages is about 6 per cent, while over the middle and polar latitudes it is close to 10 per cent. Of special concern is that the rate of ozone decline has significantly increased, especially noticeable in the northern hemisphere spring during the 1990s. The dividends of measures now being taken will bë evident in the next 50 to 70 years.

(d) The frequency and the impacts of weather-, water- and climate-related natural disasters have increased from about 360 significant disasters in 1992 to over 700 in 2001. Annually, over 60 000 people are killed and about 200 million are affected by disasters. Over 98 per cent of the people affected were by hydrometeorological disasters.

(e) The 1997-1998 El Nino was the most intense ever recorded, with socio-economic losses of more than US$ 96 billion and more than 110 million people affected worldwide.

(f)  Today, 22 countries have renewable freshwater resources under the scarcity benchmark of 1 000 m3 per capita per year The amount of freshwater available to each person in Africa is about one-quarter of what it was in 1950, while in Asia and South America it is about one-third of the 1950 amount.

(g) The levels of atmospheric and water pollution continue to increase, especially in the sprawling urban areas.

(h) The projected climate change will have further impact on the environnent. The WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has authoritatively stated that "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities." Global average temperature is now projected to increase by 1.4-5.8°C between 1990 and 2100. The global mean sea level is expected to rise by 9 cm to 88 cm. This rise will have serions implications for countries with extensive coastlines and for Small Islands Developing States. In addition, there will be impacts on agriculture, food production, water resources, health, human settlement and ecosystems, among others; all of these have a bearing on our efforts aimed at poverty alleviation and on support for the developing countries and in particular the Least Developed Countries.

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe that the global quest for sustainable development is unattainable unless genuine solutions are found to these environmental and development problems. In this connection, I also believe that the Summit, as representative of the global community, should pronounce itself on what it would like to constitute as the terms and conditions for follow-up to Johannesburg, inter alia, by taking decisions and giving guidelines on whatever it will take to make WSSD a success.

To this end, it is desirable that WSSD aims to accomplish the following in anticipation of practical implementation of the Summit outcomes:

(a) Complete the unfinished business of UNCED by implementing fully Agenda 21 and the relevant postUNCED conventions and related international instruments;

(b) Recognize, restore and call for reinforcing the central role of science and technology in promoting sustainable development. Sustainability science should be promoted. In this connection, the call for the establishment of a central coordinating advisory mechanism on science and technology at a senior level within the UN system with an empowerment to forge relevant academic, scientific and other interested parties outside of the UN system should be made;

(c) Enhance the capacities at all levels and in public and private settings especially in developing areas, national, subregional, regional, international and global mechanisms working in science and technology-related fields, and empower them to make increased contributions to sustainable development;

(d) Call for the implementation of those activities pertaining to the global commons articulated in the negotiated implementation document These, among others, include:

(i)    Promoting the systematic observation of the Earth's atmosphere by improving ground-based monitoring stations, increasing use of satellites,      and appropriate integration of these observations to produce high-quality data that could be disseminated for the use of all countries, in particular developing countries;

(ii) Implementing a strategy for integrated global observations to monitor the Earth's atmosphere, with the cooperation of relevant international organizations, especially the United Nations specialized agencies, in cooperation with the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;

(iii) Developing programmes for mitigating the effects of extreme water-related events;

(iv) Supporting developing countries and countries with economies in transition in their efforts to monitor, assess and manage the quantity and quality of water resources and improve scientific understanding of the water cycle through cooperation in joint observation and research, as for example through the WMO World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS). Promote effective coordination among the various international and intergovernmental bodies and processes working on water-related issues;

(v)Translating available data, particularly from WMO's global meteorological observation systems, into timely and useful products for socio-economic development activities;

(vi) Combating desertification and mitigating the effects of droughts and floods through such measures as improved use of climate and weather information and forecasts, early warning systems, land and natural resource management, agricultural practices and ecosystem;

(vii) Improving the techniques and methodologies for assessing the effects of climate change and encouraging the continuel assessment of these adverse effects by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

(e) Recognize and enhance the roles of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of nations in sustainable development, especially in the protection of life and property, provision of economic and social benefits to society, and in follow-up to the outcomes of WSSD. In this regard, financial and other means should be provided to these Services to help them develop the capacities necessary for making commensurate contributions to sustainable development at local, national, sub-regional and regional levels; and

(f)Call for sustained support to self-reliance efforts of developing countries including, in particular, support to national and regional initiatives for sustainable development such as NEPAD, to facilitate and accelerate their implementation.

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Summit should agree and avail the essential means of implementation of its outcomes such as those outlined above. Of the required means, the following are fundamental:

  • Additional and adequate financial resources, as repeatedly stressed, inter alla, through the set Official Development Assistance (ODA) targets, the Millennium Development Goals, the Monterrey Consensus on financing for Development, as well as through national, bilateral, regional and private arrangements, commitments and agreements;
  • Efficient and effective mechanisms for implementation, including relevant organs and bodies of the UN system and their governing bodies, as well as the "Type 2" partnership arrangements and initiatives; and
  • An effective coordination machinery within and outside of the UN system, for effective implementation and review and appraisal of WSSD outcomes.
WMO for its part will, through its collaborative efforts with other relevant organizations, contribute, within its mandate, to sustainable development in general, as well as to the follow-up to WSSD. In so doing, WMO will pay particular attention to poverty eradication, and contribute to this global effort through, among others:
  • Water resources assessment and management;
  • Preparedness against natural disasters by providing increasingly accurate and longer-term early warnings;
  • Monitoring and assessment of climate change and variability and their impacts;
  • Application of weather, water and climate information to food security, protection of the environnent and of the natural resource base, and to the use and management of energy, including renewable energy.
WMO will also promote and support the application of science and technology for development and will give high priority to capacity-building efforts of developing countries; partnerships for sustainable development; and the full implementation of the relevant parts of Agenda 21 and UNCED related conventions and international instruments.

In addition, I wish to assure the Summit that WMO will continue to work with the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to ensure that the unique set of qualitycontrolled data and the derived products on weather, water and climate are made regularly. I also wish to assure that every effort will continue to be made so that these data are made available along with the derived products free and in an unrestricted manner to all nations of the world for sustainable development activities.

Chairperson, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, what has to be done must be done, in a timely and systematic manner. People and nations the world over have banked high hopes on this Summit, and harbour great expectations from it. WSSD offers a rare opportunity for genuine success. We cannot, therefore, afford to let down the world community, nor future generations of humankind.

I thank you for your attention.