Fifty-eighth General Assembly
14th Meeting (AM)
CLIMATE CHANGE, DISASTERS, DESERTIFICATION CAN AFFECT SECURITY, SURVIVAL
OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, SECOND COMMITTEE TOLD
Delegates Underline Plight of Small Island States, Least Developed Countries
Concluding their consideration of environment and sustainable development this morning, delegates to the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) underscored the negative impacts of climate change, natural disasters and desertification on development and sheer survival in developing countries.
Tuvalu’s representative, highlighting the plight of small island developing States, said that increased use of new and renewable sources of energy was vital not only for sustainable development, but also for their very security and survival. Tuvalu suffered severely from sea level rise and natural disasters, being barely three metres above sea level. Noting that reducing carbon dioxide emissions was a key goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he said the adverse effects of climate change on low-lying islands needed urgent attention.
Ethiopia’s representative emphasized that developing countries were disproportionately affected by natural disasters, with losses that were about five times as high per unit of gross domestic product as those of developed nations. Those losses sometimes exceeded a year’s worth of hard-won and desperately needed development. Progress in implementing the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was set against a backdrop of increased losses from national hazards and related environmental and technological disasters, he added.
A representative of the World Meteorological Organization said that developing countries, particularly those most vulnerable to disaster, needed financial and other support in order to successfully implement the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. There was a need for partnerships between developed and developing nations, the donor community, including international financial institutions, and the private sector. The international community also needed to begin preparing for the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction, he said, welcoming Japan’s offer to host that event at Kobe in January 2005.
Regarding desertification, South Africa’s representative said that the recently concluded Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification had affirmed that desertification was not only about the spread of deserts, but also about the impoverishment of land. Some 90 per cent of South Africa could be classified as arid, semi-arid or dry sub-humid, he said, adding that the poor in rural communities were the most vulnerable to desertification and drought.
Canada’s delegate noted that while constructive progress had been made in implementing the Convention to combat dsertification, political differences had sidetracked implementation, while institutional and procedural issues continued to thwart its effectiveness. A lack of transparency in governance and management continued to divide the international community, he added.
In other business this morning, the representative of Morocco, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced two draft resolutions, the first relating to preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of illicit funds, and the second on the Programme of Action for the International Year of Microcredit.
The Committee also heard from the representatives of Nepal, Uruguay (on behalf of MERCOSUR, Bolivia and Chile), Azerbaijan, San Marino, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Yemen, Israel, Australia, Andorra, Gabon and Nigeria.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Lebanon.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 20 October, to take up Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development; the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development; Environment and sustainable development: Further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
The Second Committee met this morning to conclude its consideration of environment and sustainable development. (For background information, see Press Release GA/EF/3045 of 16 October.)
It was also expected to hear the introduction of two draft resolutions.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
ABDELLAH BENMELLOUK (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced a draft resolution on preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of funds of illicit origin and returning such assets to the countries of origin. He said he was pleased with the progress made by the working party on the draft Convention against Corruption, and called on States to adopt the necessary legislation.
PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said desertification was a threat to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Canada was working hard to implement the Convention to Combat Desertification, which could be an effective mechanism to end that threat, and was committed to ensuring that resources were channelled effectively to meet the Convention’s objectives. While constructive progress had been made, preventable political differences had sidetracked implementation and institutional and procedural issues continued to thwart effectiveness. A lack of transparency in governance and management continued to divide the international community.
Canada’s commitment to the Convention was a function of effective governance and management, he said, urging States parties as well as the Executive Secretary of the Convention, to strengthen the accountability, transparency and effectiveness of its institutions. Otherwise, it would not be able to deliver on its promise for the millions of people burdened by desertification.
ENELE SOPOAGA (Tuvalu) said that his country, like other small island developing States, was highly dependent on imported oil and petroleum products and often subject to fuel prices as high as 200 to 300 per cent of landed price values. Savings from lower imports of fossil fuels would enable Tuvalu to fund development in needy areas. Increased renewable energy would also allow all sectors, particularly those in remote areas, to improve their ability to develop industrial, educational and employment opportunities. Tuvalu was a founding and participating member of the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition, he noted.
The adverse impact of climate change on low-lying small island developing States needed urgent attention, he continued, stressing that at barely three metres above sea level, Tuvalu bore the brunt of sea level rise and natural disasters. The promotion of new and renewable sources of energy therefore was not necessary merely for sustainable development, it was imperative for security and survival. Accounting for and redressing historical emissions was a prerequisite for achieving the goals of the Climate Change Convention.
YUG NATH PAUDEL (Nepal) said environmental protection and sustainable development were issues of paramount importance to his mountainous and ecologically fragile country. However, rich countries continued to engage in unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, which were taking a serious toll on global resources. Some of the major polluting industrial States were backing away from their commitments to environmental protection and contributing to forest depletion and soil erosion. Environmental degradation was a global problem whose solution lay in shared international responsibility.
He said the Government of Nepal was creating and promoting regulatory and institutional frameworks for environmental protection and sustainable development. Nevertheless, the seven-year-old Maoist insurgency in the country was destroying infrastructure and fostering terror. Forced to allocate substantial resources to stemming violence and protecting its citizens therefore, Nepal was unable to pursue the developmental activities it needed. The international community should provide greater assistance and debt relief, and boost Nepal’s economic prospects by opening their markets and dismantling farm subsidies.
FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Common Market of the Southern Cone (MERCOSUR), Bolivia and Chile, said that the recent Latin American Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Sixth Convention of the Parties had identified indicators and benchmarks for desertification, drought, the integrated and efficient management of water resources, promotion of agroforestry, poverty alleviation, best practices in traditional knowledge and technologies, and renewable energies. The shortfall in adequate funding for the work of the Conferences of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and its subsidiary organs in the 2004-2005 period was a cause for concern and MERCOSUR would work constructively to ensure the General Assembly approved the necessary resources for their adequate functioning.
He also expressed concern over the emergence of a double standard on environmental protection. That had been confirmed by the recent failure at Cancún, where developed nations had once again found excuses to maintain agricultural subsidies and non-tariff barriers that distorted trade and caused irreparable environmental damage. There was a clear link between poverty, desertification and climate change. The promotion and conservation of biodiversity could not serve as valid arguments to justify trade practices that were the real cause of the problem, he stressed.
XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) said the recently concluded Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification had highlighted challenges facing many developing countries as a result of desertification. It had affirmed that desertification was not only about the spread of deserts, but also about the impoverishment of land in many different ways. The poor in rural communities were the most vulnerable to the effects of desertification and drought. The Convention was important for South Africa because 90 per cent of the country could be classified as arid, semi-arid or dry sub-humid.
He said climate change continued to challenge sustainable development and the growth prospects of developing countries, many of which stood to suffer due to their weak adaptive capacities. Some of the critical effects of climate change would be reduced water resources, decreased crop yields and increased exposure to diseases and rising sea levels. But despite agreements already adopted by the international community, evidence showed that emissions of greenhouse gases had continued to rise, he noted.
HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) said that the occupation of 20 per cent of her country’s territory and the forcible displacement of the population had exacerbated Azerbaijan’s already deteriorating environment, further harming its rich biodiversity. Since 1995, officials had strengthened economic, social and environmental laws, improved wildlife conservation and environmental management, raised public awareness and promoted the protection of the nation’s agricultural, scientific and natural resources. Azerbaijan had ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2000, set up a State Commission on Biological and Genetic Resources, and planned to mainstream strategies for conservation and sustainable biodiversity use into its overall development strategies.
Greater attention should be paid to the effects of desertification and drought, she said, stressing that effective water management was a crucial strategy of the Convention to Combat Desertification. Regional initiatives and cooperative arrangements should be enhanced and promoted with vigour. Azerbaijan had set up a national woodland restoration and forestry extension programme and, thanks to official efforts, two wetlands had been enlisted in the Ramsar Convention. In addition, four areas had been inscribed on the List on World Natural and Cultural Heritage.
MICHELA BOVI (San Marino) said her country had, in the last nine years, ratified the conventions on biological diversity, climate change, and desertification. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s report on the promotion of new and renewable sources of energy, including implementation of the 1996-2005 World Solar Programme, she urged implementation of specific programmes and projects to guarantee adequate energy services and a more rational exploitation of existing and new sources of energy. Such programmes could substantially improve living conditions, health and education, as well as effectively alleviate poverty, particularly in developing countries.
San Marino had made significant progress in achieving new and environmentally safe energy sources, she said. In the future, it planned to introduce ambitious policies for solar, wind, hydro, biomass, ocean and geothermal energy use. Wide and active cooperation among all countries to adopt new approaches to environmental development and preservation was essential for effective energy development. Thus far, the environment had played a secondary role at the United Nations, she said. A long-term strategy to safeguard the environment could guarantee good health and improve living conditions for future generations.
LEE KAY CHOON (Malaysia) said the increasing loss of biological diversity was a central concern of his country. As a member of the Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries, Malaysia felt a special responsibility in ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of its biological resources, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from biodiversity. Recognizing its rich cultural heritage, Malaysia had taken steps to ensure that its development strategies were carried out in a sustainable manner to protect and conserve biological diversity.
He said that the reaffirmation by the World Summit on Sustainable Development of the Convention on Biological Diversity as the key instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources, was a welcome indication of the growing awareness of the importance of biodiversity. The international community should assist concerned States to fulfil their commitments to pursue more efficient and coherent implementation of the three aims of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the achievement by 2010 of a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss.
B.G. CHIDYAUSIKU (Zimbabwe), describing energy as an engine for development, said solar energy resource development should be part of the search for cheap, reliable and socially acceptable energy. Zimbabwe had high solar energy potential and considerable experience with renewable energy technologies at different levels. Government departments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector had participated in pilot projects, feasibility studies, studies, local assembly and manufacture of components as well as installation of solar energy systems.
The challenge ahead, he said, was how to expedite continuous and sustained implementation of programmes and projects that would reduce environmental degradation, curb desertification and land degradation in African and other developing countries. The recent creation of the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition and the provision by the Global Environment Facility to finance renewable energy projects in developing countries were positive steps in pushing forward the renewable energy agenda.
AHMED AL-HADDAD (Yemen) said that more than a billion people used forests and other resources for energy and other non-commercial needs. The international community must reinforce the need to use new and renewable energy sources so as to eliminate problems arising from the overuse or misuse of existing resources. There was also a need for technological expertise and national actions in the area of new and renewable energy.
Yemen was one of the Arab countries suffering from desertification, he said. Sand covered a considerable portion of its north-eastern territory as well as its entire coastline. Wind-swept sand covered agricultural areas, reducing the possibilities for using the soil and raising the cost of exploiting it. Yemen called on the United Nations and international financial institutions to provide the necessary resources to fight the problems of desertification.
ALI YAHYA (Israel) said the Government of his country had recently adopted a strategic plan for sustainable development under which government policies would now be based on the principles of sustainable development, combining a dynamic economy, wise use of natural resources, protection of ecosystems, and the granting of equal opportunity to all. Projects being implemented included a national water management programme to create a sustainable water sector, able to supply the country’s water needs without damaging the quality and quantity of surface and underground reservoirs. The programme called for the allocation of water to protect nature and restore rivers.
He noted that industry was reducing the quantities of solid and hazardous waste that it produced, which benefited both the environment and the industrial plants themselves. The private, public and government sectors were working, both separately and together, towards the conservation of Israel’s biodiversity. Impressive achievements had been made in such areas as the reintroduction of biblical species, protection of sea turtles, re-flooding of the Hula Valley marsh, and conservation of migratory birds. He called on other States of the region to work together with Israel to promote sustainable development.
REBEKAH GRINDLAY (Australia) said that her country, a committed member of the Convention on Biological Diversity, was pleased with the important work leading up to the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties on alien invasive species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species. However, references in the text of the draft decision adopted there presented strong and unacceptable risk of increased trade protection. Australia had lodged a formal objection to the draft and the associated Guiding Principles adopted at that April 2002 meeting. The draft decision had been invalidly adopted since it had been gavelled through in the face of Australia’s formal objection.
She said that in the lead up to the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties, to be held in February in Kuala Lumpur, Australia wanted to act constructively and in cooperation with other parties as well as the Convention of secretariat to resolve that substantive issue. It was important to continue informal consultations in order to reach a decision that would be acceptable to all parties.
JELENA PIÀ-COMELLA (Andorra) said the International Year of Mountains had been an excellent opportunity to take up the complex and diverse issues concerning mountain development. Andorra had established a National Committee for the International Year of Mountains to organize activities aimed at generating public awareness of the need for sustainable mountain development.
She said Andorra and Switzerland had joined forces to enhance their efforts and to encourage the active participation of civil society and non-governmental organizations in developing appropriate measures for sustainable mountain development. Both countries had presented the challenges faced and progress made during a meeting earlier this month at Merano, Italy, of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It was hoped that 2004 would mark the beginning of international cooperation for sustainable mountain development.
GREGOIRE LOMBA (Gabon) said the Convention should assign priority to long-term biodiversity objectives such as the use of genetic resources on the ocean floor. In recent decades, the world had witnessed many socio-economic setbacks that had influenced its ecosystems.
The Government of Gabon had decided to install an observatory for forests and fisheries to ensure the control and sustainable exploitation of their natural resources. In that effort, it had enjoyed the full cooperation of members of the European Union as well as the United States, Canada and Japan. Close cooperation of all actors in development would make it possible to respond to the many challenges of conserving the environment. Gabon supported an international regime that would guarantee the continuing benefits arising from the use of natural resources.
TERUNEH ZENNA (Ethiopia) noted that progress in implementing the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was set against a backdrop of increased losses from national hazards and related environmental and technological disasters. The global summary for 2002 indicated the occurrence of more than 500 disasters, with more than 10,000 people killed, 600 million people affected, $55 billion in total damages and $13 billion in insured losses. Developing countries were disproportionately affected by such disasters, with their losses about five times as high per unit of gross domestic product as those of rich countries, sometimes exceeding a year’s worth or more of hard-won and desperately needed economic development.
He said Africa was subjected to a variety of natural disasters, especially large-scale floods, drought and associated food insecurity, tropical storms and volcanic eruptions, which not only caused considerable losses, but also exacerbated other chronic problems of the region, such as poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS. Ethiopia, a least developed country, faced formidable challenges in its efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development, which were further compounded by frequent disasters, such as drought, famine, epidemics, floods, landslides and earthquakes. Over the past year alone, about 15 million people had been threatened by famine as a result of drought. Had it not been for the rapid and coordinated response of both the Ethiopian Government and the international community, the drought would have led to large-scale casualties.
DANIEL DON NANJIRA, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said natural disasters figured prominently in the WMO’s mandate, since close to 75 per cent of natural disasters were hydrometeorological in origin. They included floods, hurricanes, tropical storms/cyclones, droughts, weather-related forest fires, and the El Niño phenomenon. The organization also paid special attention to disasters because they knew no national borders, did not negotiate or warn and did not discriminate between men and women, young or old, poor or rich. They simply came, killed and destroyed.
He said that the successful implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction would require financial and other support needed to translate measures taken by the international community into practical action. The focus should be on efficient institutional arrangements to assure effective functioning of the Strategy and assistance to developing countries, particularly those most vulnerable to disaster. In that respect, there was a need for partnerships between developed and developing nations, the donor community, including international financial institutions, and the private sector. The international community also needed to launch preparations for the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction, he said, welcoming Japan’s offer to host that conference at Kobe in January 2005.
B.P.Z. LOLO (Nigeria) supported the shifting of the focus of development-related debates away from normative principles and policies towards practical measures to increase access to clean water, sanitation, shelter, energy, healthcare and food security. Nigeria also supported the diversification of energy as both a short-term and long-term strategy to eradicate poverty. However, United Nations bodies should refrain from rehashing old debates, simply to generate controversy, he said. The idea of establishing an autonomous “world commission on renewable energy” would lead to the unnecessary multiplication of agencies and duplication of work.
Turning to desertification, he said it promoted poverty and hindered sustainable development. Despite Nigeria’s efforts, between 50 and 60 per cent of its territory would become arid by 2030. In that regard, he urged the United Nations to include funding for its Convention to Combat Desertification in its regular budget so that it could continue to adequately assist affected countries.
Mr. BENMELLOUK (Morocco), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced a draft resolution on the Programme of Action for the International Year of Microcredit, 2005. He said the text encouraged Member States to create national coordinating committees that would be responsible for preparing for and observing the International Year, among other things.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Armenia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh was under the full control of its legally elected government and that his country had invited observers to see what was happening on the ground. He simply called on Azerbaijan to negotiate and make real efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully.
Azerbaijan’s representative responded by saying that Armenia’s aggression and its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh had been recognized by the international community. Unfortunately, Armenia had chosen to ignore a Security Council resolution confirming the hostile acts of its armed forces and expressing concern over the displacement of the Azerbaijani people. The United Nations had recognized Azerbaijan’s rights over Nagorno-Karabakh, she said, adding that, because of Armenia’s interference, her Government could not conserve or benefit from its own resources in the territory when it did not have control over it. In addition, the legitimacy of the election to which the Armenian representative had referred had never been recognized by the international community.
In response, the representative of Armenia said Nagorno-Karabakh had never been part of an independent Azerbaijan. Also, Azerbaijan was itself in violation of the relevant Security Council resolution since the text called for the parties involved to pursue negotiations. For its part, Armenia was complying by helping the people of Nagorno-Karabakh find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The representative of Azerbaijan found it ironic that Armenia was claiming to implement the Security Council resolution since one of its principal provisions said Armenia should immediately withdraw its armed forces from the territory and Armenia had not done that. She stressed that the international community must not tolerate double standards, noting that the responsibilities of victims and aggressors could not be equalized.
The representative of Lebanon, responding to Israel’s calls on its neighbours to join it in working towards sustainable development, asked how any people whose territory was occupied and whose natural resources were being exploited, could cooperate with their aggressors. Every year the Committee adopted a resolution that acknowledged the sovereign rights of the Arab peoples over their own territories in the Golan and Palestine, but the illegal occupation continued. Arabs wanted sustainable development in their countries and wanted to cooperate with their neighbours. That was why they had proposed a peace initiative at the 2002 Beirut Summit. However, cooperation could only take place in the context of true peace, which Israel was preventing.
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