FAILURE TO ACT NOW TO IMPLEMENT AGENDA 21 COULD UNLEASH SPIRAL OF HUNGER, DEPRIVATION AND DISEASE, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

GA/9259
23 June 1997

FAILURE TO ACT NOW TO IMPLEMENT AGENDA 21 COULD UNLEASH SPIRAL OF HUNGER, DEPRIVATION AND DISEASE, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

23 June 1997


Press Release
GA/9259
ENV/DEV/424*


FAILURE TO ACT NOW TO IMPLEMENT AGENDA 21 COULD UNLEASH SPIRAL OF HUNGER, DEPRIVATION AND DISEASE, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

19970623 As Special Session To Review UNCED Outcome Begins; Assembly President Says Poverty Eradication Not Listed as Priority Issue in Denver Communique

Failure to act now to implement Agenda 21 could damage the planet irreversibly, unleashing a spiral of increased hunger, deprivation, disease and squalor, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning, as he addressed the inaugural meeting of the General Assembly's nineteenth special session.

The special session was convened to review and appraise the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.

Mr. Annan said ultimately the world could face the destabilizing effects of conflict over vital natural resources. Stressing that Agenda 21 was unprecedented, he said Member States must act in "unprecedented ways to implement it". Governments and the United Nations must join with the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations in a new partnership. "If we could raise our sights to the wellbeing of our planet and of all those on it, today and in generations to come, we will succeed. We must not fail."

The President of the special session, Razali Ismail (Malaysia), said the Denver Summit Communique had not listed poverty eradication and the special needs of developing countries among priority issues for future work on sustainable development. Levels of development assistance had not even been graced with the tag of "business as usual". Meanwhile developing countries had continued to emphasize their right to development, without placing sufficient stress on social equity and transparent participatory decision-making.

_---------_ * Pages 2 through 14 of this release should have carried the second press release symbol ENV/DEV/424.

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Along with reaffirming previous commitments, the special session should address a new set of challenges, he said. The continued weakening of the United Nations, politically and financially, stretched it too thin and made it a convenient whipping boy. If true value was placed on finding global solutions to global problems, a strengthened United Nations was essential.

In welcoming remarks prior to the start of the special session, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, representing the host country of UNCED, said today the eyes of the world were on the General Assembly. People everywhere were following the event in the hope that through concrete action the international community would honour the pledge to fight for sustainable development and for a safe environment.

Speaking on behalf of the host country, Vice-President Albert Gore of the United States, said the current session of the Assembly must resolve to meet the challenges of climate change, create a follow-up mechanism to the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and must commit to defending water resources around the globe. While much had been accomplished with regard to global fish stocks, oceanic dumping of nuclear waste and on land-based sources of ocean pollution, much remained to be done.

The Chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Mostafa Tolba (Egypt), presenting the report of the Commission's fifth session, said agreement on issues such as financial resources, an increase in official development assistance (ODA), the mobilization of domestic resources, how to proceed with the intergovernmental work on forests and action to reduce greenhouse gases would require genuine political will during the special session.

Also this morning, the Assembly agreed on the composition of the General Committee for the special session, by appointing the Chairmen of the Main Committees and 21 Vice-Presidents.

The following Chairmen of the Assembly's Main Committees for the fifty- first regular session were appointed to serve in the same capacity at the nineteenth special session: First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) -- Alyaksandr Sychou (Belarus); Second Committee (Economic and Financial) -- Arjan Hamburger (Netherlands); Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) -- Patricia Espinosa (Mexico); Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) -- Alounkeo Kittikhoun (Lao People's Democratic Republic); and Sixth Committee (Legal) -- Ramon Escovar-Salom (Venezuela). For the Fifth Committee, Syed Rafiqul Alom (Bangladesh) will act as Chairman during the special session.

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The 21 Vice-Presidents of the fifty-first regular session were appointed to serve in their same capacity during the special session, as follows: Andorra, Angola, Bahamas, Burundi, China, Cyprus, France, Ghana, Honduras, Latvia, Libya, Niger, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sudan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

Appointed as members of the Credentials Committee were: China, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Netherlands, Paraguay, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone and United States.

Also this morning, the special session established an Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole. Mr. Tolba (Egypt) was elected to serve as its Chairman. As such, he was included as a member of the General Committee of the nineteenth special session.

The Assembly invited the following States to participate in the special session as observers in the debate in the plenary meetings: Holy See, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Switzerland, Tonga and Tuvalu. It also decided that the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole would hear statements by the observers and by representatives of United Nations programmes and specialized agencies.

Representatives of major groups and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and on the roster of that body were also invited to participate in the plenary meeting. Those who could not be accommodated in the debate in the plenary would address the Committee of the Whole. The special session agreed to hear a statement by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in a plenary meeting.

Addressing the special session this morning were the following: President of Zimbabwe; Prime Minister of Japan; President of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries; Prime Minister of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries; President of Government of Spain; Prime Minister of United Kingdom; Federal Chancellor of Germany; President of France; President of Kazakstan; Prime Minister of Italy; and the President of Argentina. A statement was also made by the Vice-President of Peru.

At the outset of the meeting the President of the special session announced that 17 Member States were in arrears in the payment of their dues to the Organization under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter. (Under Article 19 a Member State in arrears in an amount equal to or exceeding contributions due from it for the preceding two full years shall not have a vote in the Assembly.)

At the beginning of the special session, the Assembly observed a minute of silent prayer or meditation. It also adopted its provisional agenda (document A/S-19/1).

The special session will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its debate on the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21.

Special Session Work Programme

The plenary of the General Assembly's nineteenth special session began this morning with an inaugural meeting to elect its President, to take action on organizational matters and to hear a report of the Chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development. In the coming days, Heads of State and Government will review and appraise the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held five years ago in Rio de Janeiro (1992). The special session is to end on Friday, 27 June.

Opening Remarks

FERNANDO HENRIQUE CARDOSO, President of Brazil, speaking on behalf of the host country of the UNCED: The Rio Conference demonstrated how much a summit meeting can achieve in terms of leadership and visibility. Today, the eyes of the world are on the General Assembly. People everywhere are following the event in the hope that through concrete action the international community will honour the pledge to fight for sustainable development and for a safe environment.

ALBERT GORE, Vice President of the United States, speaking on behalf of the host country to the United Nations: This session of the General Assembly will review the progress made in the five years since the Rio Conference. In that time, much has been accomplished with regard to global fish stocks, oceanic dumping of nuclear waste and on land-based sources of ocean pollution. In the political sphere, the international community has fostered democracy and gender equality, and has increased the role of non-governmental organizations. Global capital flows are increasing rapidly and the private sector has become an integral component of sustainable development. Technological advances such as the Internet and satellite photography have also served to promote sustainable development.

Much remains to be done. On current trends, global warming will mean that our grandchildren live on a planet with temperatures that have not been seen in 50 million years. Forest loss continues dramatically, with great implications for biodiversity, soil stability and climate change. Today, more than 2 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. Poverty and environmental decay are mutually reinforcing. The current session of the Assembly must resolve to meet the challenges of climate change, create a follow-up mechanism to the inter-governmental panel on forests and must commit to defending water resources around the globe. "We must roll up our sleeves and go to work."

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RAZALI ISMAIL (Malaysia), President of the Assembly: The task of reviewing the implementation of Agenda 21 must go beyond calculating ratios of progress versus deterioration. While the elaboration of the Rio Declaration as enshrined in conventions is a notable achievement, the end result remains paltry due to slowness in dealing with issues, the inconsistent fulfilment of agreements and the weak ability to enforce compliance. In that context, should countries rush to conclude a convention on forests, if the protracted time needed for the negotiations would provide an excuse for further delays in implementing best practices?

"This special session will certainly have failed in the eyes of the world if it produces nothing more than stirring rhetoric that seizes headlines and exhortations to continue to do more." Governments of North and South must tackle the real obstacles to implementing Agenda 21. Since Rio there has been a continuation of North-South trench politics. Governments and NGOs from developed countries promote environmental protection, without shouldering the greater burden of adjustment on consumption and production patterns. Meanwhile developing countries continue to emphasize their right to development, without placing sufficient stress on social equity and transparent participatory decision-making. Neither approach bodes well for the future.

The Denver Summit Communique lists priority issues for future work on sustainable development without making any reference to poverty eradication, the special needs of developing countries. We must be warned that market mantras alone will not secure sustainable development. Along with reaffirming previous commitments, this meeting should address a new set of challenges. It is fitting that this special session is being held three days after the General Assembly adopted the Agenda for Development. The United Nations continues to work on all aspects of development. However, its continued weakening both politically and financially stretches it too thin, assigns to it missions impossible and makes it a convenient whipping boy. If true value continues to be placed on finding global solutions to global problems, a strengthened United Nations is essential.

Statement by Secretary-General

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN: The presence of so many Heads of State and of Government and so many senior officials in the Assembly is a welcome demonstration of political will. You are determined that the process begun five years ago at Rio de Janeiro should not falter. You are convinced that more must be done to safeguard life on our planet, today and for generations to come. The task at this special session is to turn that political will into deeds and actions. We must aim this week to set a sure course for the world community into the new millennium, on this most urgent and vital global issue.

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The task of the special session is to build on what has been achieved. The foundation of UNCED and the Rio process is a firm foundation. The UNCED was a landmark in a new global diplomacy. Its objectives, scope and focus were loftier than any previous conference, its basis of support broader and its implementing partners more varied. The UNCED marked a conceptual breakthrough, giving practical effect to the relationship between environment and development in the new concept of sustainable development. The concept embraced the human and social dimension of sustainable development. It generated new hope that poverty and deprivation can be attacked with greater clarity and coherence.

Since UNCED there were some signs of progress such as the creation of national coordinating mechanisms and the entry into force of the conventions on climate change, biodiversity and combating desertification. But the balance sheet also has a negative side. More than a quarter of the developing world's people still live in absolute poverty. There is concern about the slow progress in following up on UNCED commitments for the transfer of concessional finance and environmentally sound technology to developing countries to assist them in implementing Agenda 21. Other areas in which there is a lack of progress include increase in carbon dioxide emissions, continued depletion of natural forests and the increasingly severe stress on water resources. The world is also hoping for serious progress on the question of climate change at Kyoto in December.

At stake this week is the capacity of the international system of States to act decisively in the global interest. In addition to action taken by the Secretariat, funds and programmes of the United Nations, the forthcoming programme of United Nations reform will usher in a broader process of renewal in the Organization. Governments and the United Nations must join with the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations in a new partnership. Agenda 21 was unprecedented. Member States must act in unprecedented ways to implement it. Failure to act now could damage the planet irreversibly, unleashing a spiral of increased hunger, deprivation, disease and squalor. Ultimately, the world could face the destabilizing effects of conflict over vital natural resources. "If we could raise our sites to the well-being of our planet and of all those on it, today and in generations to come, we will succeed. We must not fail."

MOSTAFA TOLBA, Eygpt, Chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development: The report of the Commission's fifth session is before the special session. In the preparatory process for the special session, the Commission benefited from a number of initiatives organized by Member States and non-governmental organizations, as well as from important expert input, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests and the report of the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development. The fifth session also

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had crucial input from its high-level meeting which gave guidance to the Commission and from dialogue with all major groups from civil society.

The text of the proposed final outcome of the special session is contained in the report. It is an indication of progress or lack of progress since UNCED, and the achievements as well as the challenges the world faces at the approach of the millennium. Those challenges require sacrifices for traditional lifestyles. Intensive intergovernmental negotiations continued during the last week. The special session is expected to adopt the agreed text and the text of the draft political statement as well as a draft programme for the further implementation of Agenda 21 after the completion of negotiations in the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole.

Agreement on a number of issues will require genuine political will and include financial resources, an increase in official development assistance (ODA), the mobilization of domestic resources, how to proceed with the intergovernmental work on forests and action to reduce greenhouse gases.

General Debate

FERNANDO HENRIQUE CARDOSO, President of Brazil: In the five years since the Rio Conference, changes in global politics and economics have not brought commensurate progress against poverty and the predatory use of natural resources. Sustainable development must be re-established as a priority in international relations. Environmental awareness has become an inseparable dimension of citizenship. Protection of the environment has been incorporated into the domestic political agenda of nations.

To create a focal point for international public opinion on sustainable development, Brazil is prepared to host a "Rio Forum on Environment and Development" as a way of keeping the "spirit of Rio" alive. Since UNCED, the international community has moved forward on such issues as climate change, biodiversity, forests, and desertification. The current session of the General Assembly should identify areas in which no progress has been made.

Brazil has set aside 5.22 per cent of its national territory for national parks and ecological sanctuaries. Its new Integrated National Policy for the Amazon aims at redirecting economic growth and fostering the development of the Amazonian people. The pilot programme for the protection of the tropical forests of Brazil is one of the most noteworthy examples of international cooperation for sustainable development.

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ROBERT MUGABE, President of Zimbabwe: Africa is in the midst of a profound economic crisis. While developing countries have enjoyed economic growth in the range of 5 per cent since Rio, sub-Saharan Africa had experienced only the ever-deepening cycle of poverty and the pollution of land, air and water. Africa was losing 3.6 million hectares of forest every year. The income gap between developed and developing countries is expanding and the least developed countries are more dependant upon aid than ever before.

The Commission on Sustainable Development has pointed out the negative effects of globalization upon Africa, which could be remedied only through international cooperation. The United Nations system is the best forum for dialogue in that regard. African Ministers of the Environment, meeting in Burkina Faso in March of this year, called on the international community for a regional action plan on sustainable development for Africa. With adequate financial resources, many environmental problems in Africa could be resolved.

The current special session should recall that there can be no economic development without industrialization. It should mandate the Secretary- General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to undertake a study on the implications of globalization for sustainable development. In Africa, indigenous entrepreneurs are being "choked out" by transnational corporations polluting the environment. The World Trade Organization has assisted transnationals, but has not made them live up to their environmental responsibilities. There can be no preservation of the environment amid the current pandemic of poverty in Africa.

RYUTARO HASHIMOTO, Prime Minister of Japan: Global climate change is a serious issue that directly affects not only the lives of all living people, but of future generations. At the recently completed summit meeting in Denver, it was agreed those countries would commit to meaningful, realistic and equitable targets that will result in reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2010. The Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be convened in Kyoto in December. The current special session of the Assembly should demonstrate commitment to success at Kyoto.

If the international community wishes to stabilize the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a level of about twice as high as before the industrial revolution, global per capita carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to one ton by the year 2100. Towards that end, Japan wishes to propose a comprehensive strategy for the prevention of global warming, or green initiative. It will consist of two parts: green technology and green aid. Those initiatives will promote energy conservation, photo-voltaic power generation, and afforestation. They will utilize ODA and private resources to promote cooperation and the development of human resources.

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Japanese policies on ODA aim to promote sustainable development. Japan has reached the ambitious target that it set in that regard at the Earth Summit and actually exceeded environmental ODA by more than 40 per cent, providing $13.3 billion in assistance over the past five years. Japan is initiating a new plan entitled Initiatives for Sustainable Development towards the Twenty-first Century. It will establish an acid deposition monitoring network in East Asia, will promote the transfer of green energy technologies, will promote the creation of water and sewage systems and will promote afforestation. The program will also promote worldwide environmental education programmes.

BENJAMIN WILLIAM MKAPA, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China: To try to renegotiate the noble commitments freely undertaken in 1992 is to backtrack on the Rio global consensus. The consequences of environmental degradation and pollution respect no borders. They affect equally the polluters and those who do not pollute, and hence the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities. It had been agreed at Rio to reach the United Nations target of developed countries contributing 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) to ODA. That contribution has declined since Rio from 0.34 per cent in 1992 to 0.25 per cent now. Each decline in ODA erodes the capacity of developing countries to implement Rio agreements and action plan.

The Global Environment Facility capital also needs to be increased substantially to enable it to provide adequate finance for programmes that are within its mandate, as well as new areas which do not yet have funding mechanisms of their own. While developing countries accept that private investment and trade are more secure foundations for sustainable growth and development, the focus of foreign direct investment (FDI) is always on projects that yield quick results. Further, least developed countries do not have the infrastructural development necessary to attract FDI. Therefore, it is important to ensure that globalization and liberalization of the world economy is pursued in compatibility with sustainable development.

Africa's external debt is unsustainable. While recent initiatives for debt relief are welcome, when criteria for eligibility are too stringent or when promised relief is to be realized in the too distant future, "the medicine may arrive when the patient is beyond help". Further, it is important to arrive at internationally agreed modalities on how to transfer technology from developed to developing countries on a predicable and sustainable basis. Also, the environmental degradation caused by unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, particularly in developed countries, should be addressed.

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The special session should mark the beginning of a global partnership for sustainable development through increased ODA and FDI, for financing capacity building, as well as for preferential and unrestricted access to the markets of developed countries.

WIM KOK, Prime Minister of Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia: People have to be put at the centre of development. Development is sustainable only if poverty is eradicated, employment promoted and if social integration and democratic governance are fostered along with gender equality and respect for human rights. The search for sustainable development implies a change in patterns of production and consumption. Within Europe, the inefficient use of scarce raw materials and energy will be discouraged. In that context, prices should reflect environmental costs. Conspicuous and wasteful consumption by the affluent is a stress on resources and an injustice to the poor.

Climate change is a global problem. The industrialized countries should take the lead in reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases. They should conclude a legally binding commitment in Kyoto. The European Union has agreed to a phased reduction of the emissions of greenhouse gases of 15 per cent below the 1990 level by the year 2010. Further, it is necessary to put awareness of the impending water crisis higher up the international agenda, ensuring that a more integrated approach is taken. Now is the time to go ahead and start the negotiating process for a global Convention on Forests, which should be open for signature in the year 2000. The European Union is ready to provide substantial financial support for this purpose.

The European Union calls on the international community to support the global mechanism to implement the convention on desertification. On the subject of technology transfer, the Union is ready to engage itself to promote technology transfer in a multilateral framework, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) or the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Union has launched three initiatives: on efficient and equitable distribution of water resources; on the need for action to provide coordinated sustainable energy policies; and on the need for eco-efficiency. It has proposed to study the feasibility of a fourfold increase in eco-efficiency which should be achieved within two to three decades. At the special session, the Union committed itself again to provide substantial new and additional concessional financial resources necessary for the early and progressive implementation of Agenda 21. However, as a big donor it insists on a fair burden sharing, both with traditional donors and with new countries in a position to do so.

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JOSE MARIA AZNAR, President of Government of Spain: The fact that the international community is not satisfied with the progress made since the Rio Conference is an indication of the need to confirm the value that is attached to the ethical framework accepted there by all Member States. The programme to be developed is extensive. There are two priorities: eradication of poverty and changing production and consumption habits. Technological innovation is needed so that the international community can improve production by using less resources and energy.

There must be an international economic environment favouring sustainable development and an adequate trade policy within the World Trade Organization. Developed countries must make an additional effort to satisfactorily renew existing funds. The participation of the private sector is fundamental. Direct foreign investment is a powerful tool for transformation and needs a flexible multilateral framework. In the receiving countries there should be an adequate body of law and the mobilization of internal resources.

The Mediterranean Basin is a clear example of a shared natural wealth, the preservation of which is necessary to all. Spain urges the development of the convention against desertification, and the implementation of its Annex IV on the Mediterranean. Member States must reach an agreement to draft a convention on the protection of forests. The promotion of sustainable tourism is also a priority to Spain and other countries in the Mediterranean as well as the proper management of water availability and water demand. Spain has given the name of Araucaria Project to a plan that will protect five geographical areas of rich diversity, highly representative of the major American eco-systems. In its implementation and follow-up Spain will work together with Ibero-American civil society and the private sector.

TONY BLAIR, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom: I speak to you not just as the new British Prime Minster, but as a father. Member States must give everyone a stake in the world's environment. The fall in the flow of aid since 1992 is worrying. My Government supports the United Nations aid target and is committed to improving further the quality of its assistance, to reverse the decline in Britain's development contribution, and to refocus efforts against poverty.

It will give priority to the poorest countries, including those in Africa. At the Denver Summit, I committed the United Kingdom to raising by 50 per cent its bilateral support for health, education and water projects in Africa. Reducing poverty is in the world's interest.

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This special session should agree to start negotiations on a forest convention. To be serious about sustainable development Member States must show they are serious about sustainable forest management. The United Kingdom intends to adopt a new forest standard to provide a benchmark for the regeneration of its forests which may help to provide a model for other countries. It wishes to share its experience of public and private management of forests and will be increasing its development assistance for forest management to countries wanting to take advantage of its expertise.

We must integrate environmental considerations in all government decisions. Britain will play its part in developing an action plan to ensure universal access to clean water and sanitation. At the local level, all local authorities in the United Kingdom must adopt local Agenda 21 strategies by the year 2000. At the international level, stronger global environmental initiatives are needed. On climate change, the European Union has proposed the new and challenging target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries to 15 per cent below their level by the year 2010. Britain would be ready to go further -- to a 20 per cent target.

The British Government delivered on greenhouse gas emissions targets set at Rio. Industrialized countries must realize that their targets will not be taken seriously by the poorer countries until the richer countries are meeting them. At Kyoto, in December, industrialized countries must agree on legally binding targets for significant reductions. "If we fail at Kyoto, we fail our children, because the consequences will be felt in their lifetime."

HELMUT KOHL, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany: Much has been achieved since Rio, but the main patterns leading to global pollution continue. Conflict based on access to natural resources will become more likely as these resources shrink. Despite the gravity of the environmental situation, there is cause for hope. Mankind possesses knowledge to protect natural sources for life through technologies such as solar power. Environmental and development issues are two sides of the same coin. Because environmental degradation is frequently linked to the desperate search for food, the international community must combat poverty in the developing world more vigorously than before. Industrialized countries should provide economic aid and modern technology; developing nations must create conditions for healthy development. Industrial and threshold counties must ensure that their economic growth does not also mean an increase in pollution.

The General Assembly should ask the conference of parties to the climate convention to derive an international agreement for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. Industrial countries should adopt the European Union's position to cut the levels of the main greenhouse gasses by 15 per cent by the year 2010. Forests must be protected by internationally binding agreements.

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Such agreements are needed now, not in a few years' time when it is too late to save the forests.

Sustainable development needs clear representation at the United Nations. Cooperation among various environmental organizations should be improved, leading to a global umbrella organization for environmental issues, with significant involvement by the UNEP. The Charter should reflect the aim of global environmental partnership.

In the past, north-south differences influenced discussion and hampered progress on global environmental protection. To demonstrate the feasibility of north and south cooperative action, Germany is joining with leaders in Brazil, Singapore and South Africa to launch a joint initiative on environmental protection and sustainable development, based on personal commitment.

JACQUES CHIRAC, President of France: It is wrong to think that nature has the capacity to heal all wounds inflicted on it. There are animal and plant species, and enormous tracts of forests, that are gone forever. It is presumptuous to think that mankind, will always be able to repair any damage wrought in the name of progress. No one knows how to reconstitute the ozone layer. No one would know how to correct the global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.

What is important today is to set goals for the next five years. In December, in Kyoto, the international community should agree on the objectives of the battle against the greenhouse effect, and how to achieve them. Before the end of the year, the international community should start negotiations for the convention needed to protect the world's forests. International commitments regarding the conventions on biological diversity and the fight against desertification must be defined. To apply these texts, and to monitor their implementation, the United Nations needs more efficient institutions, centred around Nairobi and Geneva, and the means necessary to fulfil its functions. The Global Environment Facility plays a central role and contributors, meeting in September in Paris, should agree to the replenishment of resources. France, the world's third largest donor of official development, will contribute its full share.

The world risks facing a shortage of fresh water. Water consumption doubles every 20 years, increasing twice as fast as the population. Fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce. A lack of water, a source of life, can be a source of conflict. Each year, 25 million human beings die of diseases related to unclean water. Resources must be mobilized around a few great projects. Within 10 years every village in the developing world must have access to drinking water, and the number of urban homes without access to

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drinking water and water sanitation should be reduced by half. France would host at the beginning of next year a conference to be attended by all water management policy makers. It would be part of the preparation of the action plan that the Commission on Sustainable Development should adopt at its next session in the spring of 1998.

Man's capacity for invention, and the power that he has given himself to modify the environment, must be accompanied by responsibility to protect the planet. To attack nature is to attack mankind.

RICARDO MARQUEZ, Vice President of Peru: Peru has established a national agenda for the implementation of Agenda 21 to reconcile the imperatives of economic efficiency, human development and respect for nature. In ancient times, Peruvians struck an admirable balance of sustainable development which stands as an inspiration to Peru today. Peru's national population policy enhanced the role of women in society and provided all citizens with access to education, health services, housing and justice. Social expenditure accounts for 40 per cent of Peru's national budget and is on an upward trend.

The use of trade restrictions for environmental ends places great pressures on developing countries. At the Rio Conference, the international community acknowledged the role of free trade in achieving sustainable development, but five years later, the results do not seem positive. Peru has established a legal framework for environmental protection and has designated 1997 as the year for reforestation of 100 million trees. Peru enjoys enviable biodiversity. It looks to its indigenous persons for their knowledge of the use of medicinal plants and other renewable resources in the Amazon region.

NURSULTAN A. NAZARBAEV, President of Kazakstan: The 300 million people in the newly independent States, occupying one sixth of the world's territory, lack both sustainable economic development and environmental security. In most post-socialist countries, economic reform and the social aspects of economic development are in conflict. Moreover, the countries of the former Soviet Union have to contend with polluting production facilities devoid of ecological control.

The United Nations should play a more active role in the transfer of clean technologies to countries with economies in transition. It could also create a control mechanism governing the non-proliferation of polluting, toxic and hazardous technologies.

Kazakstan is faced with two major environmental problems: the disappearing Aral Sea and the Semipalatinsk nuclear-testing facility which -- comprising 18,500 square kilometres in area -- hosted some 470 nuclear

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explosions. Kazakstan proposes that the nuclear weapons powers acknowledge their responsibilities by the establishment of an international fund for the rehabilitation of the health of the population and nature of regions affected by nuclear-weapons tests.

ROMANO PRODI, Prime Minister of Italy: Today humanity as a whole uses over one third more resources and "eco-services" than nature can regenerate. In 1992, this ecological deficit was only one quarter. Five years after the Rio conference, the world is further away from sustainability. With the right policies and international support, the number of people in acute poverty could fall by half over the next quarter of century. Italy is ready to give as much as possible to help the poorest countries reduce poverty in the shortest possible time, and to improve the quality of life of all sectors of their societies. This should include full integration of women into the process of social and economic development. In that context, renewed attention must be focused on children's rights, especially projects to create "child friendly" cities.

On the issue of sustainable consumption and production patterns, developed countries should take the lead in the process of developing environmentally sound technologies and implementing necessary changes in their own countries, while the newly industrialized countries should endeavour to reduce the stress that their fast rate of growth puts on the ecosystem. At the same time it should be recognized that the lowest income countries should achieve fast economic and social improvement without reproducing the developed world's models of industrialization. It is the responsibility of developed countries to ensure that developing nations move towards appropriate and sustainable models of development.

The downward trend in ODA must be reversed. The transfer of environmentally friendly technologies and foreign private investments can also play an important role in promoting sustainable development. Donor countries should help developing countries which have not yet succeeded in attracting private flows of capital to create a more attractive climate for FDI. So far as the issue of deforestation is concerned, Italy supports the proposal to convene as soon as possible an intergovernmental negotiating committee.

CARLOS SAUL MENEM, President of Argentina: At the Rio Conference, it was stressed that the time had come for the world to recognize that economic development versus preservation of environment was a false choice. The Argentine Constitution, as reformed, includes the right to a healthy environment. Sustainable development requires poverty eradication and elimination of unsustainable patterns of consumption.

General Assembly Plenary - 14 - Press Release GA/9259 Nineteenth Special Session 23 June 1997 1st Meeting (AM)

Policies should include an environment component. Moreover, sustainable development requires an open, equitable and non-discriminatory trade system. Today, mankind is faced with a water crisis. In that context, the participation of private capital is important in water conservation and treatment. Since the 1992 Rio Conference, Argentina has created 10 protected areas. In 1997, five additional national parks will be added. Those areas will help to guarantee biodiversity.

The protection of marine biological resources is important for Argentina since it has a large coastline. In that regard, the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was important but insufficient. There is need for a workable framework to prevent conflict between states which fish beyond the 200-mile limit. Argentina supports UNEP as the international voice for the defence of environment. Further, it stresses that international cooperation is essential for sustainable development.

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For information media. Not an official record.