Live Coverage World Summit on Sustainable Development

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
UN Page
Johannesburg, South Africa
26 August-4 September 2002
ENV/DEV/J/5
27 August 2002

Plenary
5th Meeting (PM)


PARTNERSHIPS, FINANCE, SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION PATTERNS, AMONG ISSUES DISCUSSED, AS JOHANNESBURG SUMMIT CONTINUES

Fourth Partnership Plenary Focuses on 'Cross-Sectoral' Issues

 

The important role of partnerships and the connections among the various dimensions of sustainable development were the focus of discussion this afternoon, as the World Summit on Sustainable Development continued its series of interactive plenary meetings.

This afternoon's "partnership plenary" was the fourth in a series focusing on the five priority areas identified by the Secretary-General for the Summit -- water, energy, health, agricultural production and biodiversity. Having already taken up health, biodiversity and agriculture, participants examined a number of cross-sectoral dimensions of sustainable development vital to attaining effective results.

The international community has gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to build a commitment to better implement Agenda 21, the roadmap for achieving sustainable development adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - the Earth Summit - held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Opening the discussion, Nitin Desai, Secretary-General of the Summit and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, highlighted the areas to be examined -- finance, trade and technology transfer; sustainable consumption and production patterns; and education, science, capacity-building and information for decision-making.

The links among the various dimensions of sustainable development were highlighted by the representative of the scientific community, who stressed the importance of forming partnerships between scientists and other stakeholders in all the key areas. New lines of research that addressed those links and more research on sustainable consumption and production patterns were also necessary.

At the same time, the representative of non-governmental organizations urged all to be mindful of the far-reaching effects of partnerships, particularly those that might be harmful or produce inequitable results. By example, he emphasized the increasingly interconnected nature of science and biological companies with multinational corporations.

The abiding lesson the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had learned, its representative said, was the primacy of the link between science and policy-making. A prime example of that was the problem with the ozone layer, where scientific evidence had led to an agreement. It was crucial to ensure that science and information were not just something for the rich and powerful and available to developing countries.

The panel's youth representative was concerned that so few speakers had addressed the critical issue of patterns of unsustainable consumption. Everyone knew that large corporations were more interested in selling than in conservation. The Summit should work to ensure that businesses, governments and media organs were aware that partnerships were needed to address that issue as well.

When delegations took the floor, Sweden's representative noted that unsustainable patterns of consumption and production were controversial, as had been witnessed during the Summit's negotiations. Indeed, the key to success in changing production and consumption patterns was the younger generation. The development and implementation of action programmes had to be done in conjunction with youth, in general, and with young scientists, in particular.

Pakistan's Minister for Science and Technology said development should be financed through all-inclusive strategies with a view towards ensuring, free market access, equitable access to and use of modern technology and technical assistance. Developed and developing countries must join hands in the sprit of cooperation to achieve poverty eradication, based on the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility as outlined by Agenda 21.

Moderated by the Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the Summit, Jan Pronk, the discussion included a panel of 20, representing United Nations agencies, representatives of the major groups and experts in the field.

Also participating in the discussion were the government ministers and representatives of Saudi Arabia, Burkina Faso, Finland, Zambia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Pakistan, Ghana, Benin, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Sweden, Equatorial Guinea, Norway, Côte d'Ivoire, Japan, Cuba, Nepal, United States and Botswana.

Representatives of the International Federation of University Women, Business Action for Sustainable Development and the European Space Agency also took the floor.

The Summit will hold its partnership plenary on water and sanitation at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 28 August.

Presentation of Theme

Speaking on the theme, NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Summit, said that the capacity to get results through sectoral programmes depended on a range of enabling factors, including finance and trade. The purpose of today's discussion was to focus attention on those cross-sectoral dimensions of sustainable development which were vital to attaining effective results. Those issues covered every area of work of the United Nations. He drew attention to a list of cross-sectoral issues related to sustainable development for consideration, contained in document A/CONF.199/CRP.3.

The three main areas of focus were finance, trade and technology transfer; sustainable consumption and production patterns; and education, science, capacity-building and information for decision-making. He hoped the discussion would focus on how to effectively implement commitments already undertaken. What had stood in the way of fulfilling those commitments? He hoped that the discussion would address barriers to effective implementation and see in what way the processes of implementation could be strengthened by partnership initiatives.

In the interactive discussion that followed, JAN PRONK, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Summit, addressed specific questions to panellists, representing United Nations entities, major groups, experts and advisers.

The panel included: René Vossenaan, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Chiedu Osakwe, World Trade Organization/ITC, Director, Technical Cooperation Division; Ian Golden, World Bank, Director, Development Policies; Zéphirin Diabré, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Associate Administrator; Mr. Szallosi-Nagy, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Assistant Director General for Science; Irene Freudenschuss-Reichl, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Assistant Director General; Adnan Amin, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Marcel Boisard, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); JoAnne DiSano, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Director, Division for Sustainable Development; Remy Paris, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Administrator, directorate for Development Cooperation; Lixin Zhang, President of the World High Technology Society; Lyndall Shope Mafole, ITC Coordinator, South African Government; Gerard Doornbos, farmers group; Mr. Tien, Third World Network, non-governmental organizations; Mrs. Lopez, women's group; Gisbert Glaser, science and technology; Kshitij Joshi, youth group; Thomas R. Jacob, business group; Kaarin Taipale, local authorities; and John G. Evans, trade unions.

Of the three major categories -- finance and trade, sustainable consumption and production patters, and questions regarding technology, information and education -- Mr. PRONK first raised the latter issue.

Asked whether scientists could contribute to a better performance in the 10 years ahead, the representative of that sector answered affirmatively. He said that partnerships needed to be developed between scientists and other stakeholders in all the key areas. New lines of research were needed that addressed the links between natural systems and socio-economic systems, as well as sustainable consumption and production patterns.

The President of World High Technology Society added that science and technology contributed towards economic growth without sacrificing a great loss of natural resources. Through data mining, information technology could dig out a lot of information. Partnerships were needed to make results accessible to the people.

The representative of UNESCO said education was necessary to apply research in practice. Education was key to sustainable development, and in that area not enough progress had been made. UNESCO science programmes were all geared towards technology transfer, keeping in mind the needs of developing countries. Outer space technology must be utilized more to understand the earth processes. The problem was the lack of observational data, particularly in Africa.

A representative of UNEP said the abiding lesson his organization had learned was the primacy of the link between science and policy-making. A prime example of that was the problem with the ozone layer, where scientific evidence had led to an agreement. It was crucial to ensure that science and information were not just something for the rich and powerful and available to developing countries.

The indigenous people's representative stressed that science and traditional knowledge were complementary. What was missing was diversity. Many institutions were not equipped to deal with diversity. She hoped partnerships in that regard could be established.

The UNDP expert on trade and development said the one of the agency's main service areas included encouraging the further penetration of new information and communication technologies (ICT) into developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

The representative of UNESCO said that agency had recently launched a programme which aimed to combine traditional knowledge with knowledge provided by the scientific community.

The representative of non-governmental organizations said transferring technologies to developing countries was vitally important, but it was important to remember that the TRIPs initiatives of the World Trade Organization (WTO) often prevented such transfer. He urged all to be mindful of the far-reaching effects of partnerships, particularly those that might be harmful or produce inequitable results. By example, he emphasized the increasingly interconnected nature of science and biological companies with multinational corporations.

The representative of Africa's ICT Task Force said the biggest hurdles were access to infrastructure, affordability of infrastructure and education. It was time for a new method of education for the new information society and a new type of world economy.

On the issue of partnership models for information sharing or technology transfer, the representative of the farmers shared two points of concern: enormous emphasis was currently being placed on theoretical knowledge over practical knowledge, and there was an increasing imbalance as scientific interests were becoming more and more market driven, as governments shied away from spending money on research and scientific technology.

The representative of the business community said a transitional period in social history was under way -- namely awareness was increasing about matters related to economic growth, production and the "ecological footprints" left by such growth. Everyone was learning, he said, citing several biosafety initiatives currently in effect. Still, the business community needed to be more open and involved. The challenge before the Summit was to put institutional structures and processes in place that would ensure new scientific and information technologies were used in a sustainable manner.

The representative of the trade unions said that such organizations provided the linking role between ICT and people in the workplace. But enabling conditions -- including basic labour rights and proper training facilities -- needed to be in place. He added that there was a danger if governments retreated too far from their key role, particularly laying the groundwork for corporate responsibility.

The Executive Director of UNITAR said perhaps the very notion of capacity-building needed to be better defined and its methodologies improved. He suggested five basic principles for good capacity-building, including ownership, integration strategies, harmonization between donors and agencies, increasing use of modern technology, and developing new forms of cooperation.

The representative of the World Bank said those principles were very much at the heart of the Bank's work.

The representative of women's organizations said the basic inequality between men and women had not been resolved in any part of the world. So, if women were denied basic rights, they could not be expected to participate in partnerships or any other form of capacity-building. There was no doubt that gender equality was essential to sustainable development.

The representative of the OECD said his agency continued its efforts to de-link economic production and the production of waste. Thus far, there was a mixed picture in that regard. There had been some progress, but much remained to be done, particularly in the area of transport.

The representative of UNIDO said the focus should be on three "e's" -- economy, environment and employment. Such emphasis would point the way forward towards greater sustainability in production patterns. UNIDO had done some work assessing the potential for the use of sustainable technologies and had discovered that the most important factor was economic profitability. The organization was also doing quite a bit of work on corporate social responsibility and, while those discussions were generally undertaken with transnational corporations, UNIDO tried to ensure that the concerns of small and medium-sized enterprises were not lost.

The panel's youth representative was concerned that so few speakers had addressed the critical issue of patterns of unsustainable consumption. Everyone knew that large corporations were more interested in selling than in conservation. The Summit should work to ensure that businesses, governments and media organs were aware that partnerships were needed to address that issue as well.

The representative of business stated that industry and business played integral roles in today's society. That role was both facilitated and constrained by government. Asked if governments were not constrained by corporations, he said that there were myths about those relationships which were not valid. The corporate structure had proven to be sufficient for providing for the large-scale needs of society. The representative of the farmers added that there was a role for government, for example in the area of food safety.

Noting a governance gap at the international level, the representative of trade unions stated that governments had to take responsibility for how their companies operated in the global market, in relation to sustainable development.

The representative of women felt the planet was becoming one full of poor people, with increased inequality and "islands of modernity".

Responding to a question on whether globalization had led to further division or whether it made the world more sustainable, the representative of UNEP said that it could not be denied that globalization had generated scientific advances and unprecedented wealth. At the same time, the division between the rich and poor had increased. The big difference between Rio and Johannesburg was that business was not present at Rio. Business was present at Johannesburg, because the public wanted accountability.

The representative of non-governmental organizations said that one of the main principles of Rio was that of common but differentiated responsibility. The North had to take the lead, because it had the capacity and resources to do so, and they must transfer that capacity to the South.

On the issue of the availability of resources to implement action programmes, the World Bank representative said that the International Conference on Financing for Development had been a milestone, because some developed countries changed their policy on increasing aid. However, aid alone was not the answer. It must be associated with other areas, such as debt relief and technology transfer. Aid was still a tiny fraction of what was needed for financing for development. The majority of financing would come from the private sector in developing countries and foreign investment.

As for the link between Monterrey and Johannesburg, he added, they both provided the message that the international community could not achieve its goals without a broad commitment to sustainable growth.

After the panel discussion, Mr. PRONK asked delegates what governments were going to do to foster sustainable consumption and production patterns in their countries and what they were going to do to make globalization conducive towards more sustainable development patterns in the world as a whole.

Government ministers and representatives, however, addressed several aspects and problems of the cross-sectoral areas. The Minister of Commerce of Saudi Arabia and Minister of Tourism and Environment of Zambia called on developed countries to earmark 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) for official development assistance (ODA) and to address the debt problem of the least developed countries. Zambia's Minister added that, at the end of the Summit, her people expected a meal on their table. Concrete results were needed and those results should translate into actions.

The Minister for Environment of Burkina Faso said the cross-sectoral issues were the foundation of the problems that had blocked development since Rio for countries such as his, which suffered from desertification. Such countries had created the required legal conditions for transfer of funds, but nothing had come. There was a need to develop an international economy with a human face. The implementation of sustainable development must proceed through the setting up of adequate means, such as financial support, strengthening capacity and technology transfers.

The Minister for Science and Technology of Pakistan said the scope of development had expanded and should be financed through all-inclusive strategies with a view towards ensuring, free market access, equitable access to and use of modern technology and technical assistance. Developed and developing countries must, therefore, join hands in the sprit of cooperation in order to achieve the cherished objective of poverty eradication, based on the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility as outlined by Agenda 21.

The Minster of Environment, Science and Technology of Cuba said it was obvious that the world had changed since Rio and the realities the international community faced were only now becoming clear. She suggested several ways the challenges in achieving many of the principles of Agenda 21 could be overcome, including establishing transparent trade regimes, reducing the impossible burden of indebtedness, ensuring technical and economic assistance to developing countries, providing cleaner technologies, promoting South-South cooperation, and reforming the present international financial structure so that it was more transparent and equitable.

Norway's Minister said the challenge of sustainable development could be met, but not if the world continued with narrow sectoral strategies. An integrated cross-sectoral approach was required. Also, development assistance must be doubled. The protection of the environment should be at the core of all efforts, she stressed. She also emphasized that policies must be developed to improve access for indigenous peoples to economic activities.

The Minister of Forestry and Environment of Bangladesh said cross-sectoral issues had dual relevance and constituted the major constraints facing developing countries. Those constraints were most visible as poorly funded capacity-building programmes and a lack of knowledge on environmentally sound technologies, among others. It was, therefore, important to strengthen environmental governance at all levels and to seek access to resources and technologies to maximize the benefits of globalization.

Ghana's Minister of Environment and Science would like to see long-term financial flows directed towards building and strengthening the initiatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), resolving conflicts and developing subregional transportation infrastructure.

The Minister of Environment for Côte d'Ivoire emphasized the need for debt relief, the non-use of multilateral environmental instruments to erect new non-tariff barriers, the strengthening of national capacity and facilitating the acquisition of environmentally-sound technology, among other things.

The representative of Japan said, in order to achieve both development and environmental protection in a coordinated fashion, all stakeholders should participate as partners in that endeavour, and there should be concrete implementation of the agreements reached at Doha and the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development. His country would emphasize human resources development -- focusing on education, health and gender -- and ownership and solidarity in development. It would also underline the notion that the world would enter a "dark age" unless global environmental degradation was not addressed.

Botswana's representative said governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations and trade unions all needed each other if agreed sustainable development goals were to be reached. All actors must not only ask what was wrong, but how things could be fixed. Research was essential to making any advances, he said. But all must ask themselves "advances for whom?". His view was that research should be people-centered.

A United States representative pointed out the need for information on the state of the Earth and its environment and applauded efforts to ensure free dissemination and access to the information they compiled, particularly geographical data. Addressing the devastating effects of the AIDS virus on human resources was an area where cross-sectoral linkages were clearly visible: people suffering from AIDS needed clean water, food, jobs, homes and a safe environment. Help could come from governments, as well as business or private sectors.

Addressing a suggestion that biotech crops were being forced on some countries, another United States representative explained that 60 per cent of the United States' bio-engineered soybeans and 30 per cent of the corn was used for domestic consumption or food export, including food aid. He added that soon 13 million people in southern Africa were going to face food shortages as a result of drought and poor governance. The United States had pledged half the food aid and financial resources to help stave off that eventuality. He urged other governments to provide such resources.

Addressing the issue of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, Sweden's Minister said that such patterns were controversial, as had been witnessed during the Summit's negotiations. Her country's experience had shown that prevention was less expensive than the cure. The key to success in changing production and consumption patterns was the younger generation. The development and implementation of action programmes had to be done in conjunction with youth, in general, and with young scientists, in particular.

The representative of the International Federation of University Women stressed the importance of ensuring a right's based approach to sustainable development. Male paradigm-centred development models created barriers for women to build their capacities at every level. She added that education should be an entry point to development, particularly for women.

The representative of the European Space Agency said the work of the Summit would be difficult, even if the participants had a perfect understanding of the world around them. Since such an understanding was not possible, the decisions made in Johannesburg must be made on the basis of the best available information. His agency and other Earth observation groups worked to provide that information on the Earth's surface. Their work would no doubt inform the work of the Summit as world leaders deliberated the effects of global warming, environmental degradation and natural disasters.

Summing up the discussions, Mr. PRONK said while it was clear that there was broad interest in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the principles of Agenda 21, and though efforts had been made to bridge the gaps, there was still a lack of adequate implementation. It was necessary to highlight the context between and among the sectors and other areas of social, political and economic activities. Many of the participants highlighted specific obstacles to sustainable development in their societies. Others focused on new approaches to achieving that development, including empowerment, ownership, gender consciousness, the need for capacity-building, provision of resources, and how to steer international development and globalization towards sustainability.



Meeting Summaries
Summit News