23 June 1998


23 June 1998

Press Release


19980623 Aarhus, Denmark, 23-25 June

Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Fourth Pan-European Conference on Environment Ministers, "Environment for Europe", delivered on his behalf by Yves Berthelot, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe:

It gives me pleasure to greet all who have gathered for this ministerial conference on the environment. I would like to express my appreciation to Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and to the Environment Minister, Svend Auken, for their role in making this gathering possible.

Environmental threats -- from pollution of our air to overfishing in the seas, and from hazardous wastes to deforestation -- are typical "problems without passports", challenges that transcend borders. No nation is immune; no nation can address such issues on its own; and no nation is exempt from risks without the benefits of international cooperation. In short, if we are to solve the world's environmental problems we need "blueprints without borders".

I am pleased that the "Environment for Europe" process has developed into such an impressive framework for dialogue and collaboration. Indeed, your efforts here in the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) -- for example in promoting more efficient use of energy and other resources -- are setting important examples for other regions of the world.

I have been especially heartened by the innovative approach you have taken in opening up environmental decision-making to the general public. The new ECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision- making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters constitutes a milestone in increasing transparency and participatory possibilities in the environmental arena. It will help put an end to environmental secrecy. It will promote democracy and protect the right of everyone to live in a healthy environment.

- 2 - Press Release SG/SM/6609 23 June 1998

The strong involvement of non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the Convention is another noteworthy and commendable feature ofthe agreement. It is my hope that as many governments as possible in the ECE region and beyond -- since the Convention is open to non-ECE member countries -- will take the necessary steps to accede to this valuable new international legal instrument.

The Convention is one among several signs of progress along the road from the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro six years ago. Major conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification have entered into force. The phasing out of chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants (CFCs) is almost complete in the industrial countries. But we have not yet reached the critical mass needed for long-term impact. The United Nations is working to introduce new ideas and methods into global efforts towards truly sustainable development. But we must go further.

The ECE region has significant responsibility in this regard. It is the region which has most polluted our planet, but it is also the region which has made the greatest efforts to protect the environment through institutional measures, technological progress and other steps. As the "Environment for Europe" process continues to play a key role in these efforts, I wish you every success in your important deliberations.

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For information media. Not an official record.