Agenda Aimed at Generating Action Emerging for 2002 Johannesburg
|| 26 OctoberA growing consensus is building around the idea that next
September's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg must agree
on definitive actions that can comprehensively address the economic, social and
environmental issues confronting the global community, according to Nitin
Desai, United Nations Secretary-General for the Johannesburg Summit.
"There is a pressing list of challenges that must be squarely confronted
by the international community. Many people and organizations have concluded
that Johannesburg will be the best place to reach agreement and to make
commitments that will result in actions on the ground."
While governments have yet to formally adopt an agenda for the Summit, Desai
said there is an increasing urgency to address sustainable development issues,
particularly in light of growing political, economic and social tensions around
"What we need," he said, "is to build a system, a set of rules,
or an environment, that will enable globalization to become a more positive
force for improving all people's lives." This new environment, he
cautioned, must involve greater international cooperation, particularly in the
areas of finance, technology transfer, debt relief and trade, and equity.
Desai said the challenge is to promote sustainable development on a wide range
of national, regional and international initiatives to lessen stress on the
environment, reduce poverty and encourage economic growth and prosperity,
particularly in the developing countries.
"We already know and have agreed on what has to be
done," Desai said. "What we need to know now, is who is going to do
what, and when."
In the ten years since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the world
first paid attention to the notion of sustainable developmenta concept
that embraces actions that allow people to prosper and the environment to
thrive-there have been significant changes in the way many governments and
businesses have incorporated human and environmental concerns into their work.
Yet change has not come quickly, and most of the work in meeting the challenges
of sustainable development still lies ahead.
In a series of consultations held around the world, Desai said experts were
concerned about a number of current trends affecting attempts by governments
and other institutions to respond to the challenges of sustainable development.
One of these trends relates to the sharp shift of resources to the private
sector over the last decade due to the growing demands for efficiency and
increased competitiveness in the global market.
One trend that has complicated efforts to promote sustainable development and
that must be tackled, Desai said, has been the fall-off in assistance to
developing countries. "It is very difficult to understand how a developing
country, trying to compete in the world economy while struggling under the load
of high debt payments, can possibly devote the necessary resources to
sustainable development without assistance from the richer nations.
Desai said the Johannesburg Summit also provides an opportunity for countries
to hammer out a series of time-bound actions for meeting the targets that they
have already set for themselves in a range of agreements and at various
gatherings, such as at the Millennium Summit.
For example, Desai cited the need to focus on promoting sustainable agriculture
as a way to help countries meet the target for halving the proportion of people
suffering from hunger by 2015. In fact, Desai said, 70 percent of the poor who
live in the rural areas of the Third World cannot be lifted out of poverty
unless we conserve and enhance the natural capital of land, water and other
resources which provide livelihoods.
Likewise, he said, to meet the agreed target for improving the efficiency of
resource and energy use four-fold over within the next two decades, countries
must eliminate environmentally damaging subsidies and tax incentives in the
energy sector. Other challenges that must be confronted, he said, include
reducing health threats caused by poor water and air quality, which account for
25 percent of all preventable health problems in the world today.
The Johannesburg agenda will move into sharper focus over the next few months,
Desai said, as the pace of meetings and activities at the national, regional
and international levels gains momentum.
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006