28 January 2002


Press Briefing


The outcome of the World Summit for Sustainable Development would be a major statement of purpose rather than a laundry list of small programmes to be implemented, two officials involved in preparations for the Summit stated this afternoon at a Headquarters press briefing.

One speaker was Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs as well as Secretary-General of the World Summit.  The second speaker was Emil Salim, Chairman of the Summit’s Preparatory Committee, the second session of which began today.  The Commission on Sustainable Development is acting as the preparatory committee for the Summit, to be held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September.  Moderating the briefing was Sue Markham, Chief of Promotion and Planning in the Public Affairs Division of the Department of Public Information. 

Continuing his introduction on expectations and preparations for the Summit, Mr. Desai said the preparatory process for the Summit had already been unusual.  Rather than starting points, the preparatory sessions were “focusing” events to consolidate outcomes of activities already undertaken at either regional or thematic levels.  Thematic meetings had been held, for example, on issues that would be Summit priorities, including renewable energy, water and a healthy environment.  Likewise, the regional meetings had resulted in regional consensus on problems and directions.

Basically, he said, the Summit would look at practical measures, from the level of political commitments to specific issues in various areas.  What do we need to do to increase energy production ten-fold in a sustainable manner? he suggested as an example of a question to be addressed.  Essentially, the Summit would combine elements of the emerging anti-poverty agenda that had come out of the Millennium Declaration, and the sustainable development agenda, in particular through political and financial commitments.

Mr. Salim then said common elements were emerging.  First, people were tired of talk; they were saying the Summit should avoid renegotiating the Rio programme and build on what had already been done to get at substantive matters.  Further, the three elements of sustainable development must be merged, those being the economic, social and environmental focuses.  The participation of major stakeholders such as youth, women, farmers and workers must be included so that sustainable development was not left only up to governments.  Sustainable development must be looked at from the perspective of addressing the newly emerging issues of globalization and technology, in order to ensure that new technology did not work against the environment.  And finally, the Summit outcome must be a statement of hope.  It must show how humans can overcome difficulties and thereby build the confidence to do so.

In actuality, there would be two documents, he said.  One would be a programme implementation document and the other a political one.  Asked to explain the preparatory process and describe the stage it had reached, he said the regional and thematic agreements were being presented at this session.  Beginning tomorrow, the stakeholders would present their views.  In the third preparatory session, to be held in March and April, the first document would be finalized.  The political document would be finalized in the fourth preparatory session.

Asked to further elaborate on the outcome products, Mr. Salim said the first priority would be on setting up partnerships.  The accent would first of all be on promoting proactive partnerships between businesses, governments and other stakeholders.  Secondly, concrete partnerships would be promoted both intergovernmentally and between the various stakeholders in countries and regions.

While there would be no new convention elaborated at the Summit, Mr. Desai added in response to a question, he said the hope was that the Kyoto Protocol would be ratified during the Summit by those who had agreed to do so.  There were other relevant instruments to be signed or ratified as well, such as the instrument on persistent inorganic pollutants.

Summing up, he answered a question on the impact of the decline in development funding by noting that the Monterrey Consensus had been negotiated over the weekend by the preparatory committee for the International Conference on Financing for Development.  It had a much broader reach than simply financing Agenda 21 issues on sustainable development, reaching into domestic issues and addressing matters such as corruption, governance and debt.  Probably the greatest achievement of the March Conference in Monterrey would be the bringing together of the World Trade Organization and the Bretton Woods institutions into one consensus-building structure.

He said the document referred specifically to the 0.7 per cent official development assistance (ODA) figure, and that aid quality issues were also stressed.  When the Conference ended on 22 March, the level of commitment to development would be known.  However, aid quality issues such as improving the method of delivery could make a difference in any case.  Delivering aid on time and simplifying reporting procedures could make a 25 to 40 per cent difference in the amount of aid delivered.

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For information media. Not an official record.