22 June 2012

Speakers at United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Stress Vulnerability of Poorest, Weakest States in Highlighting Inequality

22 June 2012
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Conference on Sustainable Development


3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers at United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Stress


Vulnerability of Poorest, Weakest States in Highlighting Inequality


Leaders Call for Action, Not More Words,

As Small Island States Face Rising Seas, Dwindling Marine Resources

RIO DE JANEIRO, 21 June — Inequality — in both environmental and economic terms – took centre stage as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development entered its second day, with many high-level participants emphasizing that a disproportionate share of the world’s woes still fell upon its poorest, smallest and least represented States.

With discussions continuing to focus on the draft outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, to be adopted later in the week, reactions to the text remained mixed, as a large number of Heads of State and Government as well as ministers and other high-ranking delegates praised one of its most highly anticipated outcomes — the launching of an intergovernmental process to draft a set of agreed “sustainable development goals”.  Those targets must be coherent and enforceable, many speakers stressed, and above all, they must seek to reverse the ever-widening gap between the world’s haves and have-nots.

“Today inspiration is not enough,” said President Donald Rabindranauth Ramotar of Guyana upon taking the podium as the day’s first speaker.  The sustainable development targets must set out a bold vision for the future, and the world must ensure both their implementation and the funding necessary to execute it, he said.  Among the many difficult challenges now facing the international community was how to feed and power the world, how to alleviate poverty and promote equity, and how to provide essential services to all, he stressed.

Indeed, there were those for whom the sustainable development goals were more than mere words or commitments, but a manifestation of their very hope for survival, said President Emanuel Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia.  “Sustainable development is meaningless if some of us disappear from the face of the Earth because we failed to heed the obvious warnings,” he emphasized.

Joining other leaders of small island developing States in warning that entire cultures and generations of islanders were at risk of being wiped out by climate change as other Member States stood by and did nothing, he said the irony was that island inhabitants had not created the problems that now threatened their very existence.  In the face of credible scientific evidence, developed countries continued to prevent progress on mitigating climate change, whereas it was a known fact that factory and automobile emissions damaged the environment, and that major large-scale earth-moving activities harmed ecosystems.

It was high time to give genuine meaning to sustainable development by investing in renewable energy, eco-tourism, oceanic resource management and the transfer of new forms of eco-friendly technology, he said.  It was also time to invest in the “blue economy” — the sustainable use of ocean resources.  All leaders should support the draft outcome document with a sense of urgency, he stressed, warning:  “For an islander living in fear of disappearing beneath the mighty swells of the Pacific, this may be our only chance.”

Herman Humberto Rosa Chavez, Minister for Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador, agreed that the planet’s health was critical, but felt that the draft outcome text was “merely thin gauze to staunch a bleeding wound”.  It would be difficult for some political leaders to go home and explain to their citizens that all that had been accomplished at the Summit was the avoidance of a major pullback from the 20‑year‑old commitments of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (or “Earth Summit”), also held in Rio de Janeiro.

That was particularly troubling because so many of the targets set in 1992 had not even been achieved, particularly those relating to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, he pointed out.  El Salvador was on the front lines of climate change, having suffered repeated disasters over the past decade.  While the Government had pressed ahead with its efforts to protect the lives and livelihoods of its people, El Salvador would nevertheless call for global solidarity to protect the planet.  Cooperation and decisive action were the only way forward, he declared.

Some speakers stressed the economic dimensions of global inequality, which frequently accompanied the imbalanced exploitation of natural resources.  In that vein, Vice-President Isatou Njie-Saidy of Gambia said that the prevailing global economic crisis, spurred by greed, continued to hamper sustainable development, as did “evil economic activities” on the part of some States.  The Conference must result in action, she said, pointing out that almost a billion people went hungry every day, even as trillions of dollars were diverted to military spending.  “War surely does not enhance sustainable development,” she emphasized.  Instead, it promoted “sustainable destruction and sustainable poverty”.

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador described as “an egregious and highly unjust disparity” the fact that the richest 20 per cent of the world’s countries generated 62 per cent of its carbon dioxide emissions, while the bottom fifth in terms of wealth generated less than 1 per cent.  It was also ironic that the rich countries were the ones consuming goods created in the global South.  It was time to talk about rescuing the environment, not just wealthy banks in the North, he said, emphasizing the need for a change in economic thinking.

He went on to stress that the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — which had sought to stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions — had not established fair compensation mechanisms.  For example, countries that cut down trees and then replanted were compensated, while those that simply maintained their forests were offered nothing.  A new global system must be established to eliminate such loopholes, he emphasized.  Only through a holistic approach that ensured compensation for all conservation measures and actors could such pitfalls be avoided.

Still other speakers underlined the social and political scope of the problem, with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of Morocco saying that “people today want their fair share”.  They saw how people around the world were living, and the average person wanted medical care, education for her children and a fair share of prosperity.  The Arab Spring had removed regimes that built their policies on oppression, he said, noting, for its part, that Morocco had adopted a new Constitution and held elections.  Now the region’s main challenge was to mobilize to ensure greater justice for its people.

He called on the powerful to stand at the forefront of those fighting against unsustainable development, warning that if they failed to do so, the weak and vulnerable must coalesce together to hold them accountable.  “Either we sail together or we sink together,” he stressed, calling for an end to all actions that endangered livelihoods.  “Perhaps the rich can grow slightly less rich and support poorer nations,” he suggested, echoing the sentiments of many other speakers throughout the day.

For his part, Prince Albert II of Monaco stressed the need to move forward in striving for the common good.  “Let us recall the spirit of Rio that was here 20 years ago,” he urged, calling on delegates to ensure that the proposed sustainable development goals reflected several key priority areas.  Among those were the development of a green economy, the launching of an energy transformation process, the sustainable management of oceans and the need to “think globally and act locally” — namely, to implement sustainable development goals at the local and national levels.

Also speaking were the Heads of State of Colombia, Bolivia, Gabon, Haiti, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Cape Verde, Cuba, South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, Comoros, Marshall Islands, Madagascar and the Dominican Republic.

Vice-Presidents of Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania, Myanmar and Burundi also addressed the Conference, as did the Prime Ministers of Montenegro, Portugal, Norway, Jamaica, Grenada, Russian Federation, Qatar, Solomon Islands, India, Lebanon, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Turkey, Australia and Côte d’Ivoire.

Other speakers included the Deputy Prime Ministers of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan, as well as ministers and senior Government officials from Honduras, Estonia, Slovenia, Mauritius, Finland, Pakistan, Albania, Cameroon, Egypt, Switzerland, Latvia, Brazil, Botswana, Israel, Netherlands, Brunei Darussalam, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ireland, Belarus, Eritrea, Belgium, Mali, Ukraine, Liberia, Austria, Ghana, Mexico, Tunisia, Yemen, Suriname, Syria, Greece, Cyprus and Lesotho.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Palestine also delivered a statement.

General Debate

DONALD RABINDRANAUTH RAMOTAR, President of Guyana, said that among the difficult challenges now facing the world were how to feed and power the world, how to alleviate poverty and promote equity, and how to provide essential services to all.  “Today inspiration is not enough,” he stressed.  There was a need for bold vision, set out through a series of sustainable development goals.  However, even goals were not enough; implementation, and the funding to execute it, was also critical, he said.  In the area of climate change alone, many commitments had been made, and those aimed at 2020 would go a long way towards correcting age-old imbalances, he said.

“ Guyana will not be found wanting in the search for solutions,” he pledged, listing several initiatives that his country had undertaken.  It maintained 99.5 per cent of its forests, the highest rate in the world, and was converting to clean energy.  Guyana had also established a Millennium Development Fund to help small enterprises engage in eco-friendly activities.  In global terms, the country’s contribution to sustainable development was much greater than the proportion of its population and economy, he stressed.

Prince ALBERT II of Monaco said there was a prevalent illusion that growth and protecting the environment were incompatible, but the international community must find the ability to strive for the common good.  “Let us recall the spirit of Rio that was here 20 years ago,” he said, noting that the success of the 1992 Earth Summit was undeniable.  He recalled that he had stood beside his father at that conference as he had delivered his speech, addressing desertification, refugees, degradation of the seas and oceans, and other issues.  Those concerns remained pertinent today, he stressed.

He went on to stress that environmental law must be promoted and respected, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) must be upgraded to a specialized agency in order to create and strengthen synergies within the United Nations system in respect of the environment.  He said he was pleased that the drafting process for the sustainable development goals was being planned, emphasizing that four areas should be of particular priority:  developing a green economy; launching an energy transition focused both on mastering energy consumption and changing over to clean energy —Monaco would have a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 — the need to “think globally, and act locally”; and the sustainable management of oceans.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERÓN, President of Colombia, said the world should celebrate the fact that a set of objectives would be created in the area of sustainable development.  In the coming decade, those sustainable development goals would act as a “compulsory reference” for States in the critical areas of water and food security.  It was fundamentally important to agree on a process for developing those objectives in a reasonable amount of time, he said, adding that his country was prepared to cooperate in the working group charged with drafting the targets.

He said that Colombia, which possessed a great amount of environmental wealth, had instituted a water management plan for the Malena River, and had made a declaration yesterday announcing the institution of a strategic mining zone.  The country also planned to counter deforestation in its part of the Amazon.  Emphasizing the importance of translating international commitments into concrete action at the national level, he said that would demonstrate a willingness to launch a development model consistent with the world’s economic and environmental needs.  “The future will be the proof that we have come to an end of the time of decisions and diagnosis,” he said.  The sustainable development goals would show that Rio+20 would not have been in vain, and that the legacy of Rio was still alive, he said.

EVO MORALES AYMA, President of Bolivia, said his country was holding a holiday today to celebrate the peoples of the South.  He added that, 20 years after the adoption of Agenda 21, it was necessary to set aside the debt of the capitalist world and pay the external debt instead.  It was also important to engage in deep-seated reflection.  Recalling yesterday’s discussion of the green economy, he asked whether green was the new colour symbolizing the subjugation of people to the capitalist system.  Capitalism converted everything in nature into something to sell; it privatized wealth and socialized poverty.  Capitalist environmentalism was just a way to enslave nature, a form of predatory colonialism, he said.  The countries of the North were enriching themselves by exploiting natural resources, while limiting the South’s use of and benefit from those resources, he said, adding that biodiversity had been turned into a business.

The civilization of the last 200 years could not be allowed to destroy civilizations that had lived in harmony with Mother Nature for thousands of years, he stressed.  Two days ago, the Bolivian Senate had approved legislation to enable Mother Earth to live well and in good health.  That law called for humans to live in harmony with Mother Earth and upheld the rights of indigenous peoples.  Since the nationalization of Bolivia’s main oil company in 2005, its revenues had jumped to $3.5 billion this year, he noted, recalling that when he had first taken office, national reserves had stood at $1.7 billion.  This year they had reached $13 billion.  Public investment this year would exceed $5 billion, he said, emphasizing that countries in Africa should also be able to retake control of and benefit from their natural resources as Bolivia had.  Basic services in their countries should not be subjected to private control, he said, pointing out that since Bolivia had nationalized its water and telecommunications, revenues from those sectors had increased, and had been funnelled into national socio-economic projects.

RAFAEL CORREA, President of Ecuador, noted that the richest 20 per cent of the world’s countries generated 62 per cent of its carbon dioxide emissions, while the bottom fifth in terms of wealth generated less than 1 per cent.  That was an egregious and highly unjust disparity, he said.  It was also ironic that the rich countries were the ones consuming goods created in the South.  It was time to talk about rescuing the environment, not just wealthy banks in the North, he said, emphasizing the need for a change in economic thinking.  Environmental goods must not be exchanged in markets, he said, adding that their producers, who largely came from the Amazon Basin, must be properly compensated.  The Kyoto Protocol had not established fair compensation mechanisms.  For example, countries that cut down trees and then replanted were compensated, while those that simply maintained their forests were offered nothing.  A new global system must be established to eliminate those loopholes, he emphasized.  Only through a holistic approach that ensured compensation for all conservation measures and actors could such pitfalls be avoided.

Under the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, he said, the Government of Ecuador had chosen to refrain indefinitely from exploiting more than 800 million barrels of proven oil reserves in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil field within the Yasuni National Park.  By doing so, it had prevented some 700 billion tons of emissions from fossil fuels from polluting the environment while allowing indigenous people in the area to maintain their way of life.  Exploitation of such reserves would have yielded some $14 billion in revenue — an enormous amount for a poor country like Ecuador, he noted, calling on the international community to shoulder its common but differentiated responsibility to care for the planet as Ecuador was doing and to compensate the country for its sacrifice.  “This is not charity,” he stressed.  “This is something that is owed to Ecuador.”

The money would be placed in a trust fund set up and managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and channelled back into non-polluting renewable energy activities in Ecuador, he said.  The country had also reforested some 1 million hectares of forest, he said, pointing out that, while scientific and technological innovation was important in mitigating climate change, they were only a partial response.  He noted that energy use per unit had increased in high- and middle-income countries, despite the fact that the Kyoto baseline was supposed to limit overall consumption.  It was regrettable that the Rio+20 draft outcome document made no provision for mechanisms to force countries to comply with nature, as Ecuador had through its constitution, which recognized the rights of Mother Nature.  The text should have included an agreement on the universal declaration of Mother Nature’s rights and set in motion the creation of a tribunal that would force harmony with nature.

EMANUEL MORI, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said the Conference was a real opportunity for today’s generations to save the planet.  It was imperative to remain steadfast and to take strong steps to renew the global commitment to sustainable development.  For small island developing States, the threat posed by rising sea levels was very real, he said, adding that the phenomenon could make such States uninhabitable.  Entire cultures and generations of island people were at risk of disappearing.  Some islands were so small that they could be crossed within less than half an hour.  With the increased intensity of tropical storms, their inhabitants had nowhere to run and only limited resources to survive, he warned.  The irony was that such islands had not created the problems that now threatened their very existence.  “Sustainable development is meaningless if some of us disappear from the face of the earth because we failed to heed the obvious warnings,” he said, calling for support for the amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

In the face of credible scientific evidence, developed countries continued to prevent progress on mitigating climate change, he continued.  It was a known fact that factory and automobile emissions harmed the environment, and that major large-scale earth-moving activities harmed ecosystems.  It was high time to give genuine meaning to sustainable development by investing in renewable energy, ecotourism, oceanic resource management and the transfer of new forms of eco-friendly technology.  It was also time to invest in the “blue economy” — the sustainable use of ocean resources, he said, pointing out that Pacific small island developing States had taken the lead in that regard.  Asking other regions to support the long-term management of ocean resources, he said partnerships to develop fishing and on-shore facilities in small island States while increasing their share of the benefits derived from such resources was not only fair, but also necessary.  There was also a need to make the renewable-energy sector the focus of aid and to ensure the transfer of technology.  He urged all leaders to support the draft outcome document with a sense of urgency.  “For an islander living in fear of disappearing beneath the mighty swells of the Pacific, this may be our only chance,” he said.

ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, said that, 20 years ago, his predecessor had noted that, in Africa, the desire to “take off quickly” had left the continent with an irrational system for exploiting its wealth.  That statement remained highly relevant today.  “ Africa is about to achieve a long-awaited renaissance,” he said, adding that the gains it had made in sustainable development should not be undermined by instability or economic crisis.  For its part, Gabon was implementing a new low-carbon development plan, and had been the first country to ratify the 2010 Nagoya Treaty on Biological Diversity.  It had adopted a forestry law making sustainable forest-management plans obligatory.

Some 21 per cent of the national territory was protected and, as a result, its forest cover had remained stable, he said.  Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from deforestation had fallen, and the Government had established the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.  Additionally, the creation of a new court for sustainable development aimed at translating commitments into action was under discussion.  Those policies required adequate investment as well as scientific tools to evaluate and monitor impacts and outcomes, he said, thanking countries that had made contributions in that respect.

However, much remained to be done, he said.  A more holistic approach to sustainable development, with a focus on social equity and the environment, must be adopted.  Recalling the commitments made by world leaders 20 years ago, he said:  “Today the task is ours.”  Past commitments had not always been met, but it was impossible to continue on that path when so many people around the world expected solutions.  As the world strove for a common definition of the green economy, Gabon stood ready to harness that concept, he said, expressing support for the strengthening of UNEP and its transformation into a full-fledged institution, based in Nairobi.  “We need to act in solidarity, and find additional resources to tackle past and future challenges,” he said, appealing for determined collective action and vision under the guiding principle of shared responsibility.

MICHEL JOSEPH MARTELLY, President of Haiti, said he came before the Summit to endorse all those speakers who had promoted mechanisms to create growth and sustainable development for all.  While Haiti’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions was insignificant, the country shared a disproportionate burden of its negative impacts.  It was a unique least-developed country in the Western hemisphere, greatly exposed to disasters, all of which further hampered growth.  “I head up a country whose environment is devastated,” he added.  The Summit raised many questions for Haiti.  How could one talk about sustainable development in a country whose infrastructure was weak and must be rebuilt? he asked.

“Inequality has a corrosive effect,” he stressed, noting that the Haitian people had charged their Government with a mandate based on the issues of employment, rule of law, education, energy and the environment.  Measures were therefore now in place to combat inequality, with emphasis on the middle class.  Investments were being made in infrastructure in order to support “fairer growth”, and access to basic social services was being strengthened.  Haiti was also laying the foundation to reverse the trend of environmental degradation, through reforestation and water sustainability in particular.  However, sustainable development also required major social changes, including the provision of education and opportunities.  On the international level, many promises had not been kept, he noted.  Rio+20, which again raised the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, offered the chance to reverse that trend.

ISATOU NJIE-SAIDY, Vice-President of Gambia, reading a statement on behalf President Al Hadji Yahya Jammeh, said Rio+20 could not have come at a more appropriate time.  The global economic crisis, spurred by greed, continued to hamper sustainable development, as did “evil economic activities” on the part of some Powers.  The Conference must result in action, she said, pointing out that almost a billion people went hungry every day, even as trillions of dollars were diverted to military spending.  There was a need for the “total elimination of warmongering”, she stressed.  Economic growth and poverty reduction increased the quality of social services and helped to protect the environment.  Many low-income countries, such as Gambia, suffered continued environmental degradation and disasters.

The current “mad rush to acquire nuclear weapons”, alongside other hostile activities, made the dream of sustainable development more elusive, she continued.  “War surely does not enhance sustainable development,” she said, adding that, instead, it promoted “sustainable destruction and sustainable poverty”.  Further, the destruction of the environment had had catastrophic consequences while “hypocritical” superpowers were “hell-bent” on getting richer at the expense of others.  To achieve sustainable development globally, there must be political will on the part of all parties to end such greed and warmongering, she reiterated, encouraging the adoption of a “peace-loving economy” that cost nothing.  “Let our diversity be a uniting and loving factor,” not a divisive force, she emphasized.

ROSSEN PLEVNELIEV, President of Bulgaria, said that despite progress, millions of children still died from starvation, poverty remained pervasive, natural resources were being depleted, global warming and demographic problems were evident, and dwindling resources were threatening the long-term future of generations to come.  World leaders had repeatedly renewed political commitments to sustainable development since 1992, but many of those commitments remained only on paper.  Welcoming the proposal for the adoption of sustainable development goals, he said tangible outcomes and targets were needed, and called for a coherent post-2015 development framework built upon the Millennium Development Goals.

He went on to call for local, national and global benchmarks, and for a more effective United Nations role in coordinating, monitoring and implementing the current institutional framework.  The institutional frameworks for environmental protection must also be upgraded and created.  Commitment and action were required by all countries, according to their own capabilities.  Young people should take part in decision-making, and every individual must adopt sustainable development as a personal cause, he said.  There must be a fundamental change in thinking, he said, welcoming yesterday’s launch by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other partners of the Higher Education Initiative for Sustainable Development.

Bulgaria’s “2020” long-term development plan had made investment in renewable energy a top priority, he said, emphasizing the importance of energy efficiency.  The “pollute now and clean up later” mentality was not valid in Bulgaria.  At just 16 per cent of gross domestic product, the country’s public debt was very low.  Thanks to stability and fiscal discipline, it was the only European country whose credit rating had increased during the global economic and financial crisis.  The expansion of education was vital, he stressed, adding that growth should be sustainable for the next generation.  Simple actions were also necessary.  Sustainable growth that fostered human and environmental progress was in fact achievable, he said in conclusion.

SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO, President of Indonesia, said Rio+20 must be remembered as a time when the world renewed its commitment to sustainable development.  While advancing its national development agenda, Indonesia was also contributing to global sustainable development.  In 2009, the Government had announced that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent by 2020 and, with international help, slash them another 21 per cent under the so-called 26-21 formula.  In May 2011, the Government had enacted a moratorium on new logging permits, a major decision by a country blessed with one of the world’s largest tracts of tropical rainforest.

Turning to regional actions, he said that in 2007, Indonesia, as well as Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands and the Philippines, had launched the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security to address the urgent threats facing the coastal and marine resources of one of the planet’s most biologically diverse and ecologically rich regions.  That, alongside a “blue economy” project, showed that Indonesia was never shy about doing the right thing.  But those choices had not been so easy, he said, stressing that humankind did not have the luxury to see the world as “half empty”.

“We must find an answer in every problem,” he said.  “The myriad of economic, social and environmental challenges are opportunities waiting to happen.”  He urged all countries to follow a low-carbon development path towards renewable energy, emphasizing that the key was to “listen to nature”.  It was possible to break the lingering myth that development would lead to deforestation and inequity, he said, adding that the supposed choice between development and democracy was a false one.  There were plenty of empirical cases in which societies had been transformed within just one generation.  Growth alone was not the answer, since some growth paths could marginalize others.  The key was to have growth with equity, he said, pointing out that Indonesia had been pursing that goal with good results.  Still, sustainable equity was needed, which was why Indonesia had adopted a pro-growth, pro-poor strategy.

GURBANGULY BERDIMUHAMEDOV, President of Turkmenistan, said development would only be sustainable if it was comprehensive and for the benefit of everyone.  Turkmenistan had actively sought to implement efficient modern production methods and a social infrastructure that minimized impact on the environment.  That included the oil, gas and transport sectors.  The national strategy gave priority to developing high-technology sectors to improve the basis on which the economy was built.  Particular attention was paid to the energy sector, since Turkmenistan was ranked fourth in the world in natural gas deposits.  The development of energy infrastructure must not damage the environment, so the Government sought international consensus on energy security.  He proposed an interregional energy dialogue, under the aegis of the United Nations, among countries of the greater Central Asia region, the Middle East, parts of Europe and the private sector.

Close cooperation with the specialized United Nations agencies would be important in that context, he continued.  The Caspian Sea was part of humankind’s heritage, but at the same time it was important for transporting fossil fuel and its biological diversity must be maintained.  Constant monitoring of the situation could lead to political and legal measures for that purpose.  In addition, the Aral Sea area was rife with poverty and current efforts to save the surrounding environment were inadequate.  A comprehensive international approach was needed, with a separate United Nations programme to stabilize the situation.  There was also a need for a new structure for addressing climate change.  In other areas of sustainable development, he offered to share his country’s experience in health care, food supply, maternal issues and other topics, stressing the primary importance of mobilizing all possible efforts to preserve and protect the planet for future generations.

JORGE CARLOS DE ALMEIDA FONSECA, President of Cape Verde, noted that his country was a small island developing State, particularly vulnerable to environmental imbalances, including climate change.  Concerned with desertification, species extinction and renewable energy supply, the Government was instituting action plans for sustainable development, he said, stressing that the future must not be mortgaged “to benefit the here and now”.  Noting that the consequences of environmental imbalances varied between different regions, he said the very survival of island States was threatened by drought, typhoons, rising sea levels and acidification of the oceans.

A major reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was needed worldwide, and bold action must effectively confront current patterns of consumption, he said.  While the draft outcome document included many ambitious proposals, it lacked a clear identification of the mechanisms to be put into effect in dealing with the great crises confronting the planet.  There was a need, in particular, to make resources available so that commitments would be translated into action and so that development could progress in a manner that was in harmony with nature, through new democratic governance regimes and an emerging world community aware of a common destiny and willing to honour commitments adopted at the Conference.

RAUL CASTRO RUZ, President of Cuba, said that unsustainable production and consumption patterns were decimating the systems that supported life on the planet.  Species were disappearing 100 times faster than at any time found in the fossil record.  Carbon emissions were still increasing at an accelerated pace, as were temperatures, threatening disaster for countries around the world, including through rising sea levels, tropical storms and the salination of fresh waters in Cuba and other Caribbean islands, most of which were victims of an international system that excluded the smallest and most vulnerable.

Turning to the Conference, he said there was a lack of political will on the part of developed nations to face their responsibilities, despite the best efforts of the Brazilian presidency.  Neo-liberalism, wars to exploit fossil fuels and other resources as well as other aggressions would continue to create even worse consequences for a world that was “already sick”., he warned, calling for real solutions to militarization and climate change.  The Governments of industrialized nations should not make the grave mistake of thinking that they would be able to remain unaffected by the consequences.  Disarmament must be pursued, and a more equitable international order must be built on the basis of everyone’s rights, as well as on achievements in science in technology.  “ Cuba hopes that common sense will prevail over irrationality and barbarity,” he said.

DANNY FAURE, Vice-President of the Seychelles, said the world needed a new vision that would ensure fairer trade and financing, as well as debt swaps for a range of initiatives in education, health and adaptation to climate change.  At the national and local levels, investments must be made to ensure services, rights and long-term sustainability.  Small island developing States had worked hard to develop and move towards a green and blue economy, but they needed international assistance to continue to pursue those efforts.  Sustainability must be based on scientifically credible information on combating global warming, overfishing and other ills, including piracy, which had reached record levels of threat.

He said the Seychelles would continue to lead in the protection of the environment, even if it strained national wealth, by setting aside more marine territory for conservation than was required in the relevant conventions.  The country was acting alongside other island States to put together a work programme on an adaptation initiative for the Western Indian Ocean, opening the way for major investments to meet all coastal challenges.  Urging more support for such initiatives, he expressed hope that the Conference would produce a new energy paradigm to spearhead the development process for the developing world.  The aspirations of developing countries should not be limited by their resources, he emphasized, pledging his country’s full efforts to ensure that any commitments made at the Conference were fulfilled.

MOHAMED GHARIB BILAL, Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania, associated himself with statements made on behalf of small islands, the Group of Least Developed Countries, the Group of 77 and the African Group.  He said that his country had made strides in poverty reduction and environmental protection, despite many challenges, and expressed hope that the Conference would result in greater financial assistance for African countries to meet such challenges.

In that context, he said his country’s priorities included water and energy endeavours, agriculture and food security, a multisectoral approach to sustainable development, including supply chains and export concerns, and other related issues.  Stressing that sustainable development must be inclusive and people-centred, benefiting all people at all levels, including the most vulnerable, he pointed out that Africa provided resources to all other continents and the promises made to the region should be fulfilled.  Methods for measuring national capital were important, he said, expressing hope that the Conference would result in a sustainable, higher quality of life for all.

IGOR LUKŠIĆ, Prime Minister of Montenegro, said the pursuit of sustainable development for all could not be put off until tomorrow.  Even in a time of deep and varied crises, citizens expected their leaders to adopt decisions and implement policies that improved their livelihoods.  “Also, generations to come expect answers from us,” he said, welcoming the adoption of the draft outcome document which sets out a pathway to economic growth with minimum pressure on the planet and its biodiversity.  As for Montenegro, he said his Government was committed to attaining and ensuring “green” and “blue” economies.  It was determined to protect valuable natural resources and to better management of their use.  The Government was also promoting an innovation-based education system that would support the three pillars of sustainable development.

Returning to the work of the Conference, he said his delegation supported strengthening the Economic and Social Council, but stressed that any decisions taken by that important body to monitor the follow-up to Rio+20 must be backed up by the efforts of a transformed UNEP.  Montenegro also supported calls to ensure that the United Nations remained at the forefront of efforts to usher States towards a green economy.  The country intended to participate actively in all international efforts to ensure the achievement of broad sustainable development, he said.

PEDRO PASSOS COELHO, Prime Minister of Portugal, said “urgency” was the key word for actions regarding sustainable development.  “We owe it to future generations to take decisive action now,” he emphasized.  “We cannot fail.”  That duty was linked to responsible management of the planet’s precious resources, and Portugal was doing its part by promoting efficient energy grids in major urban areas and enhancing water treatment facilities.  The country had also helped many businesses to join together in promoting sustainable practices.  Additionally, Portugal was promoting a blue economy through its efforts to improve the management of ocean resources, many of which were undertaken within and throughout the Portuguese-speaking countries.

JENS STOLTENBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, said it was important to acknowledge that many achievements had been made since the Earth Summit, including in the area of increased life expectancy and steady gross domestic product (GDP) growth.  However, many challenges remained.  Social and natural wealth must be measured and valued, and new technologies must be developed.  Women must be empowered to make the most of their contributions.  And while official development assistance (ODA) was vital for sustainable development, such resources must be accompanied by private sector funds and other innovative financing mechanisms.  Corruption, which amounted to massive theft from the poor, must be tackled head on, he stressed.

“We must put a price on pollution, and the polluter has to pay,” he said, adding that such measures would have a “triple positive” effect by reducing emissions, creating incentives to develop clean technology, and generating revenues for sustainable development.  He went on to call for investment in women’s human capital as a prerequisite for a just society and “smart economics”.  In addition, stakeholders must also respect indigenous peoples’ knowledge and their right to their lands, territories and natural resources.  Welcoming the initial agreement by the Conference on a set of sustainable development gaols, he stressed that they must be based on the three pillars of sustainable development and they must continue to emphasize poverty eradication.  Concrete steps must also be taken to strengthen the relevant United Nations bodies so that the decisions adopted at the end of Rio+20 could be effectively implemented.

PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER, Prime Minister of Jamaica, said her delegation remained convinced that Agenda 21 and the original Rio Declaration were fundamental to achieving sustainable development for all.  Jamaica also acknowledged the attention devoted to the situation of small island States in the Earth Summit outcomes.  As for the work of the current Conference, she said that any commitments adopted by Member States must focus on the “triple bottom line” – the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development.  The decisions must recognize the links between those elements while promoting their implementation and integration into national strategies, especially in developing countries.  She said that early in her administration, she had sought to cluster land and water with climate change under a single ministry to ensure that such matters were approached with an integrated focus.  That was a critical area of concern for developing countries in general, and small islands in particular, given their unique vulnerabilities.

With that in mind, she called on the international community to actively explore and design more creative, effective and flexible financial instruments and concessionary products to counter the effects of debt, reduce poverty and minimize and address risks and eventualities.  She also called for the creation of a funding mechanism for catastrophe insurance that would specifically provide small islands and other vulnerable countries with assistance following disasters.  Turning to the green economy initiative, she said that while her country supported it, Jamaica was nevertheless concerned that such a transition might not achieve all the hoped-for aims.  Indeed, green initiatives could seriously impact trade, market access and job creation in developing countries, she cautioned.  As such, green initiatives must not be based on markets alone.  As the international community recommitted to a global sustainable development path, Member States must adhere to the principles of the United Nations Charter, which would be the surest way to ensure that relevant policies were inclusive and fair.

TILLMAN THOMAS, Prime Minister of Grenada, said his Government had produced a video documentary ahead of the Conference to raise awareness about its activities to protect the environment and promote the achievement of sustainable development for all.  Grenada welcomed agreement on the draft outcome document aimed at strengthening social justice, societal inclusion and environmental protection.  The Rio outcome could not solve all the world’s problems, but it was important that it recognized the need to eradicate poverty and to balance economic growth with human and environmental well-being.

Still, the vision outlined in the text outcome would be worthless without the requisite resources to ensure its implementation, he pointed out.  Specifically for small islands, unless they had access to the funds that would enable them to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change, as well as to jump-start recovery after disasters, their very future would be in doubt.  With that in mind, he welcomed the decision to convene, in 2014, a follow-up conference on the status of the Barbados Plan of Action for Small Island and Developing States, he said, adding that Grenada would attempt to adopt the full range of decisions taken in Rio.  It would also continue to consider the United Nations as the key forum for decision-making on social development issues.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, recalled that the fundamental principles of sustainable development had been defined 20 years ago in Rio.  Today, new possibilities for forward movement were being considered, and the Russian Federation had made progress in its development.  It was an active participant in various forums to ensure that the global financial crisis did not recur, including the Group of 20 (G-20).  Establishing conditions conducive to good business were critical in that respect, as were stable financial institutions.  However, “society, economy and nature are inextricably tied”, he stressed.  The interests of the environment must be balanced and guided by long-term prospects.

The Russian Federation, an environmental donor with significant natural resources, upheld all of its related responsibilities, including those relating to the Kyoto Protocol, and stood ready to participate in a global agreement in which all countries would participate.  The Russian Federation paid particular importance to reducing its impacts on the environment, which were significant, especially those accumulated during the Soviet period, he said.  Today there were almost 80 environmental non-governmental organizations working in the Russian Federation.  The country would participate in all discussions on the sustainable use of oceans, he added, which should be in line with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  He further highlighted the importance of considering the relationship between large cities and the environment.

ABDELILAH BENKIRANE, Prime Minister of Morocco, said all those present were in agreement that the earth — its seas, livestock, forests and even human beings themselves — were in danger.  It was therefore necessary to implement the goals that all had agreed upon.  “Actions are judged by the intentions behind them,” he stressed, encouraging all to remain hopeful in that respect.  “People today want their fair share,” he added.  They saw how people around the world were living, and the average person wanted medical care, education for her children, and a fair share of prosperity.  The “Arab Spring” had removed regimes that built their policies on oppression, he added, noting that Morocco, for its part, had adopted a new Constitution and held elections.  Now its main challenge was to mobilize to ensure greater justice for its people.

A better balance was needed in Moroccan society, he said, noting that balance was the basis for stability.  Since the country also aimed to develop further, it was meanwhile engaged in efforts to protect the environment.  However, that effort was impossible to carry out alone.  All States must live “under the flag of humanity”, as all people were interlinked in today’s world.  He called on the powerful to be at the forefront of those fighting against unsustainable development, warning that if they failed to do so, the world’s weak and vulnerable must coalesce together to hold them accountable.  “Either we sail together or we sink together,” he stressed in that respect, calling for an end to all actions that endangered livelihoods.  “Perhaps the rich can grow slightly less rich and support poorer nations”, he concluded.

HAMAD BIN JASSIM BIN JABR AL-THANI, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said the main reason for holding the 1992 conference had been the adoption of a document that would contain an ambitious plan of action to which counties had agreed.  The achievements of the last 20 years, however, had not matched that ambition, and the world’s rising productivity had not been accompanied by measures to reduce its impacts or to protect natural resources.  Qatar was in the forefront of States that had reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 14 per cent by 2010, he said.  But the financial crisis continued around the world, and it was expected that the current decline would continue until 2013.  The progress made was indeed waning and the Millennium Development Goals —especially that of halving poverty and hunger by 2015 — were now inaccessible to many counties, in particular those in sub-Saharan Africa.  The world was duty-bound to achieve those goals, even if that occurred after 2015, he emphasized.

The world now faced several main challenges, he said.  The first had to do with the deterioration of social justice and widening gaps, in addition to increasing poverty and violence in many States.  Issues of social development constituted the crux of all attempts at reform and showed the importance of promoting a decent living for all humankind.  The next challenge related to the requisites of sustainable development at the national level, he said, adding that it required speedy actions and the translation of commitments into action.  Also critical was the elaboration of new sustainable development goals beyond 2015, he said.  In that respect, Qatar had adopted ambitious goals of its own, and was helping other States to achieve food security.  It had doubled its official development assistance in 2011 as compared to 2010 levels.

GORDON DARCY LILO, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, expressed a sense of urgency over the uncertain future faced by the human race, particularly those living in small island developing States.  Clear political will was needed to ensure better distribution of wealth, and a quality of life based on happiness.  An institutional structure and a means of implementation were needed to ensure implementation of the commitments made at the Conference on the basis of the principles agreed 20 years ago.  The Solomon Islands supported the convening of another conference to consider the specific situation of small island States, given the extreme threat that climate change posed to them.

He went on to underscore the need to move from scientific knowledge to effective action in order to stem the destruction of coral reefs and other marine environments.  Welcoming science-backed actions in those areas, and others included in the draft outcome document, he described actions taken by his country to conserve fish stocks, including closing off areas to fishing, in joint action with other Pacific island States.  Logging had been scaled down for replacement by eco-tourism and sustainable mining, he said, adding that the Government was also engaging population in sustainable development efforts.  He registered his strong support for the draft outcome document.

ARTURO CORRALES ÁLVAREZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Honduras, welcomed the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders.  He said that his country, having suffered greatly from the effects of Hurricane Mitch and other effects of climate change, affirmed the importance of common but differentiated responsibilities.  Much infrastructure had had to be modified to accommodate the effects of climate change, he said, adding that the cost of such adaptations was quite expensive for developing countries.

Honduras had a rich diversity of biological species and was working to preserve that diversity for humanity, he said.  Water management was also a priority for the country, as was renewable energy from wind and solar sources and the protection of marine life.  Alliances for sustainable development would assist such efforts, and each region should ensure the fulfilment of commitments in sustainable development.  Everyone around the world should work for the common good, following the road map created at Rio, he said.

URMAS PAET, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said his country had gone through a grass-roots environmental movement as part of its efforts to restore its independence.  It had since prioritized sustainable development as well as innovate uses of advanced technology for development.  Estonia would increase its development cooperation in the coming years and stood ready to share its experience with all development partners.  The country had launched “World Clean-Up” two days ago to engage 100 million people for a cleaner, more sustainable world.  Other Estonian projects aimed at ensuring cleaner transportation and good forest management were being pursued.  The common goal of sustainable development for the whole world would only be possible if respect for human rights and multilateralism was valued, he said.

FRANC BOGOVIČ, Minister for Agriculture of Slovenia, said that since independence, his country had pursued implementation of Agenda 21 in the area of sustainable water management and others.  Throughout the world, however, sustainability was just as out of reach as it had been before the Earth Summit.  Attainment of sustainable development must be based on science, he said, adding that Slovenia was willing to share its expertise in forestry, water management and chemical safety, which was carried out in conjunction with the private sector and in full cognizance of the need for social inclusion and equality.  The draft outcome document provided some guidance in those areas, but it would be crucial for all stakeholders to take action to make sustainable development possible.

DEVANAND VIRAHSAWMY, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development of Mauritius, said his country was striving to ensure that economic growth was harmonized with social equity and environmental protection.  Other important concerns included food security, energy efficiency, resilience to climate change and water availability.  Like other small island developing States, Mauritius faced constraints on land space in the context of a growing population and had to prevent deterioration of arable land while protecting its coastal areas.  The Government was currently assessing the economic potential of the surrounding seas and needed access to appropriate technologies to ensure optimal sustainable development.  He said adequate financial support was also needed and called for greater access to funding from international financial institutions for small island States.  Emphasizing the importance of meaningful commitment to sustainable development, he pledged that his country would follow up on the goals and commitments developed at Rio+20, taking a long-term perspective.

ERKKI TUOMIOJA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said that current and projected population growth was the single most important indicator of how the world had changed in the years since the Earth Summit.  Such trends should also serve as the baseline indicators of the need to change humankind’s relationship to the planet.  Climate change, weather anomalies and biodiversity loss were “wake-up calls”, he said, adding that the international community had perhaps just a few decades before the world reached a tipping point.  In 1992, Heads of State and Government had had the courage to take decisions to ensure the health of the planet and its people, he recalled.  Today, the interdependence driven by globalization and technological development actually made it easier — and more urgent — to take equally courageous decisions.

“We can no longer act in ways that endanger the planet and make the lives of the poorest more difficult,” he stressed, calling for “truly global decisions” leading to concrete actions “before it’s too late”.  To that end, important decisions had been included in the draft outcome document, he said, noting that Member States had nevertheless left many serious and pressing matters for decision later.  As such, agreeing on an effective and comprehensive follow-up mechanism was extremely important, not only to monitoring implementation of the outcomes, but also as to whether the Conference could ultimately be considered a success.  The international community could not afford to make short-sighted decisions, he emphasized, calling for comprehensive measures that would encompass diverse issues such as water, poverty eradication and education.

MOHAMMAD JAVED MALIK, Federal Secretary in the Ministry of Climate Change of Pakistan, said that while the draft outcome document would not satisfy everyone, it nevertheless outlined a path forward in a world beset my myriad crises and challenges.  Pakistan had itself faced a series of mega-catastrophes, particularly massive flooding in several areas, and continued to deal with the impact of insecurity and instability in neighbouring Afghanistan.  The Government had nevertheless pressed ahead with its sustainable development measures while also making other strides, including in such areas as human rights.

He said the transition to a green economy must be handled with care.  Pakistan was pleased to note progress towards the adoption of sustainable development goals and hoped they would be integrated into the broader post-2015 development agenda.  Pakistan also supported calls to bolster the three pillars of sustainable development and urged the integration of matters relating to water and other cross-cutting issues into strategies based on those pillars — economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

FATMIR MEDIU, Minister for Environment, Forests and Water Administration of Albania, said the World Bank had reported that his country was making great strides, including major improvements in human development.  Large portions of the country were heavily forested and a number of joint forestation and agro-forestry projects were under way to ensure better management of woodlands and improve the lives and livelihoods of those who depended on the forests.  The country was also implementing sustainable policies in urban areas and was working with neighbouring countries to adopt joint measures in dealing with the impact of climate change.  As for Rio+20, he said that achieving broad sustainable development was vital for the planet’s survival and called on all Member States to work together in pursuit of “the future we want”.

PIERRE MOUKOKO MBONJO, Minster for Foreign Affairs of Cameroon, delivering a statement on behalf of his country’s President, said there was no need to recount the deleterious and wide-ranging impact that human activity was inflicting on the planet.  Indeed, everyone recalled that it was increased pollution, steady biodiversity loss and the proliferation of toxic waste that had brought world leaders to Rio 20 years earlier.  All those issues were still matters of grave concern to those gathered in the Brazilian city today.  The international community had inherited the Rio Conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification, but environmental degradation and related challenges continued to mount, even as post-Kyoto Protocol negotiations slogged on.

Turning to the situation in Cameroon, he said the country was struggling to cope with the effects of climate change and other ills, such as the increasing pollution and salt content of its waters.  Following the Earth Summit, the Government had taken a series of measures to promote sustainable development and environmental protection.  Cameroon had also adopted a joint strategy with its neighbours — “Greening the Sahel” — to ease the environmental pressure on that ecologically diverse region.

In the spirit of the Earth Summit, Cameroon had promoted the use of new energy sources and had improved its agriculture sector, he said.  The outcomes of Rio+20 must support and reinforce the Earth Summit agreements, especially the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, which was the “poor relation” of the other international environment treaties.  Rio+20 must also reinforce United Nations agencies and mechanisms dealing with environmental issues towards the ultimate creation of a major environmental organization that could monitor implementation of new commitments.

HERMAN HUMBERTO ROSA CHAVEZ, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador, said the planet’s health was critical, yet the draft outcome document was “merely thin gauze to staunch a bleeding wound”.  It would therefore be very hard for some political leaders to go home and explain to their citizens that all that had been accomplished in Rio was the avoidance of a major pull-back from the 20-year-old Earth Summit commitments.  That was particularly troubling because so many of the targets set in 1992 had not even been achieved, particularly those relating to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, he said.  El Salvador was on the front lines of climate change, having suffered repeated disasters over the past decade.  The Government had pressed ahead with efforts to protect the lives and livelihoods of its people, and called for global solidarity to protect the planet.  Cooperation and decisive action were the only way forward, he declared.

RIYAD AL-MALIKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Palestine, said that while his people and Government supported the vision agreed at the Earth Summit, they could not achieve agreed sustainable development targets as long as they languished under Israeli occupation.  Indeed, their full development would only begin when they were able to exercise their right to self-determination.  The Palestinian people must also have access to the natural resources in their territory.  Speaking more broadly, he said sustainable development required, among other things, strengthening the partnership between developed and developing countries, including through reforming the procedures of the international financial institutions.

He went on to reiterate that Israel’s activities continued to undermine the reality of a two-State solution.  Indeed, its recent escalation and ongoing expansion of settlements contravened countless United Nations resolutions.  Israel continued its illegal measures aimed at the “judiazation” of Palestinian land, including by transporting Israeli citizens into those areas while forcing out native Palestinians.  In light of the oppressive blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and the ongoing system of roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the wider Occupied Palestinian Territory, the cost of the Israeli occupation robbed the Palestinian economy of an estimated $7 billion a year, practically derailing all opportunities for the Palestinian people to achieve sustainable development.  In spite of all those challenges, however, the Palestinian Authority had pressed ahead with its plan to build the institutions and foundations of a viable State, he noted.  That effort would continue in spite of Israeli obstruction, he emphasized, inviting all Conference participants to visit the region and get a true picture of what was happening on the ground.

MOUSTAFA HUSSEIN KAMEL, Minister for the Environment of Egypt, said that his country’s revolution was evidence of the aspirations of his people for a better tomorrow, in which all rights would be respected, including the right to development.  Egypt sought a new momentum from Rio+20 as well as action for better development and a rational use of resources to protect future generations.  But despite some progress over the past 20 years, major obstacles to sustainable development had been encountered.  The Palestinian people also had a right to sustainable development, he said, welcoming the recommitment to protecting the resources of peoples under occupation.  Common and differentiated responsibilities must be exercised in meeting other challenges, he said, stressing also the need for international goals in fighting desertification and the provision of means to meet them.  It was also necessary to meet the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity, including the fair sharing of genetic resources.

New challenges and opportunities must be recognized through a plan for the next 20 years that would demonstrate the seriousness of multilateral efforts, he said.  “Our peoples want this Conference to generate a new momentum,” one that was realistic and ambitious.  The draft outcome document reflected consensus on the future everyone wanted and the necessary means of implementation should be provided, with due respect paid to prior commitments.  Pledging that his country would pursue national efforts to meet the Rio objects, he said an international climate promoting the development of developing countries must be provided, with fair trade rules and a coherent international structure for international cooperation.  An open-ended intergovernmental mechanism at the United Nations for the implementation of sustainable development was needed in that context.  He welcomed in that regard the strengthening of United Nations bodies such as the Economic and Social Council and UNEP, saying the latter should provide more technical assistance to developing countries, in cooperation with UNDP.  He also cautioned that the green economy must not be a “back door” to impose conditionality and other restrictions on developing countries.

JACOB ZUMA, President of South Africa, said the people had spoken at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in favour of a world with adequate management of resources for all, and in Johannesburg 10 years later, when goals had been set to change unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.  The present Conference should build on those commitments and the experience gained in the past 20 years.  In that context, the proposed sustainable development goals should not nullify the Millennium Development Goals, but strengthen efforts to achieve them, he said.  In that regard, a green economy should be developed in accordance with the principles of the Rio Declaration on environment and development.  In strengthening UNEP, an enhanced mandate and predictable financing, as well as enhanced coordination and synergies, were needed, he said, adding that he expected the African Union to take that matter forward expeditiously.  Tangible progress must be made at Rio+20, where real commitments to a new global paradigm for a sustainable future for all should be agreed.

MICHAEL CHILUFYA SATA, President of Zambia, said that over the past two decades, his country had placed sustainable development at the centre of the development agenda even though it faced great challenges.  For example, much of the population depended on forest resources, and much effort was required to fight poverty while preserving those resources at the same time.  Unfortunately, the draft outcome document contained only “hazy” comments on implementation of the green economy.  Nevertheless, he pledged his country’s continued efforts to mainstream sustainable development in cooperation with civil society, the private sector and development partners.  Hopefully Rio+20 would not be an end in itself, but truly lead to “the future we want”, he said, reaffirming Zambia’s commitment to working with the United Nations towards that goal.

GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, President of Nigeria, said that in Africa the green economy was an agenda for sustainable growth and wealth creation.  However, sustainable development on the continent was constrained by the global financial crisis, the energy and food crises, natural disasters, desertification and loss of ecosystems, among other factors.  Lake Chad in West Africa used to be the world’s sixth largest lake, but it had shrunk from about 25,000 square kilometres in 1964 to 2,000 square kilometres today, he said, warning that if nothing was done promptly, that world-heritage body of water would disappear in 20 years.  If that happened, how relevant would Rio+20 be to future generations? he asked.

He said Nigeria supported and promoted the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative, conceived as a model to help in the fight against desertification, ensure the restoration of ecosystems and promote the development of arid and semi-arid zones.  The goal was to create more jobs and opportunities for people to rise out of poverty.  Rio+20 could only be deemed successful if the means of implementing it were adequately addressed, he said, stressing that collective challenges required collective responses.  UNEP should be strengthened to become a fully-fledged United Nations specialized agency.  He expressed hope that the draft outcome document would mark a turning point in history, and that humankind could look back 20 years from now and say that world leaders had made the right decisions and taken the right actions to shape a better future.

IKILILOU DHOININE, President of Comoros, said the planet still faced social, economic and ecological challenges.  Deforestation, the irrational use of soil, damage to marine environments and other challenges seriously threatened life on earth.  Extreme poverty, underdevelopment and direct threats to global peace underscored the modest results achieved through international action thus far.  Least developed countries and small island developing States were particularly worried by the threat of rising sea levels to their fragile ecosystems, and the consequences of their exposure to extreme weather events.  The Comoros had been hard hit since last April by extremely harsh weather and flooding, which had left more than 480 families homeless, he said, thanking the countries and organizations that had helped his nation and appealing for more support since it could not face such challenges alone.

The Comoros archipelago was also exposed to the ongoing risk of volcanic eruptions, he continued.  That, coupled with rising seas, had forced the Government to resettle people in order to limit their exposure to disasters.  Citing the risks of accidental oil spills on the high seas, he noted that 30 per cent of the world’s oil was transported by sea.  Rapid globalization had not respected the planet’s limits and had widened the gap between rich and poor while exacerbating ecological imbalances, he said.  Rio+20 must be the Summit of reason and action above all, he emphasized.  It must be a turning point in history, marking renewed political commitment.  The shortcomings of international environmental governance justified the need for a new institutional framework, he said, expressing support for transforming UNEP into a specialized United Nations agency and giving it the requisite financing and executive powers.

CHRISTOPHER J. LOEAK, President of the Marshall Islands, recalled the address by his country’s then-President during the Earth Summit, in which the latter had stated that without restorative action on a global scale, time may run out.  Twenty years later, time had run out, and the Marshall Islands, a small Pacific island nation sitting two metres above sea-level, was poised for a catastrophe.  In the absence of collective action, the world’s most vulnerable nations would be the victims, he said, expressing grave concern about the exclusion of certain island States from participation in this week’s crucial global forum.  All countries, including those not represented in Rio, had a responsibility to ensure the planet’s long-term survival, he stressed.  “The world’s most vulnerable should not be collateral damage for other nations’ economic growth.  Actions speak louder than world, particularly when it comes to the obscure words negotiated here in Rio.”

He said his country was not waiting for others to act.  It was leading with action towards a sustainable future, focusing on developing its blue economy.  As stewards of more than half of the world’s tuna, Pacific small island developing States were taking action to ensure sustainable fishing.  The window for preventing irreversible long-term harm from climate change was closing, he warned, emphasizing that the earlier the world acted, the greater the chances of avoiding a climate catastrophe.  Noting that climate change threatened the territorial integrity of the Marshall Islands, he said the unique vulnerability of small island developing States was exacerbated by their lack of incoming support for projects on the ground.  The Marshall Islands was leading by example with a renewable energy initiative that, if successful, could turn it into a renewable-energy exporter.  He warned that if the low-lying Marshall Island “went by the wayside”, it would be the precursor of the future for all.

ANDRY NIRINA RAJOELINA, President of the Transition of Madagascar, asked how it was possible to reduce the economic gap, respond to the food crisis and put in place true priorities to feed people and create energy policies that would preserve the environment.  Rio+20 should be the “Conference of all hopes”, as much for developed countries as emerging and developing nations.  A strong economy centred on the capacities of each State was possible, and that dream should be accessible to all.  It required innovative forms of cooperation, leading to a global balance, he said.  Sustainable development was the creation and maintenance of an innovative economy, a policy for social inclusion and the equitable and visionary management of natural resources, he said.

He went on to stress that it was indispensable, therefore, to emphasize good governance and strong, effective institutions capable of creating wealth, reducing poverty and contributing solutions to energy and commodity issues, and to environmental preservation.  All had a duty to work together to accelerate implementation of sustainable development commitments.  Madagascar’s hydro-energy potential was capable of reducing electricity costs and enabling access for each household, yet only 1 per cent of that energy was being used, he said.  “This is our challenge, our goal.”  He expressed hope that in 5 to 10 years, his country’s energy needs would be covered entirely by renewable sources.

LEONEL FERNÁNDEZ REYNA, President of the Dominican Republic, said everything discussed at Rio+20 represented steps in the quest for solutions, but like many others, he felt disillusioned and disappointed because undeniable progress in the last two decades had not kept pace with Mother Earth’s need to heal.  The global financial crisis had brought down powerful financial institutions and toppled powerful economies.  In the midst of that international financial cataclysm, people had endured exorbitant increases in energy and food prices.  They had led to violent social protests, claimed lives, spread uncertainty and, in some countries, created social unrest and political instability.

Today, he said, there was broad agreement that the current crises had been caused by the same factor — an international economic system that had become an “immense economic casino”.  To prevent a crisis in the international banking system, various reforms and regulations had been suggested, but they had met strong resistance.  Thus, the international financial system remained in jeopardy, due, it had been argued, to “credit derivative portfolios to better manage the risks of bank transactions”.  What was meant by that? he asked.  Truthfully, nobody knew.  Confusing and incomprehensible terminology was being used to mask the fact that some $4 trillion was at risk every day, without being subjected to any type of regulation.

Much of it went through a high-frequency exchange system, done at such amazing speed that calculations were in nano- or milli-seconds, he continued, saying that all that revealed a crisis in global leadership.  “Make no mistake,” he warned, the planet and humankind were experiencing some of the worst crises ever seen, leading some to maintain that “we are immersed in a crisis of civilization”.  Hopefully, the present Summit would become a turning point, allowing for the development of a new paradigm to chart a successful course for humankind’s fight against poverty, inequity, social injustice and environmental degradation.

SAI MAUK KHAM, Vice-President of Myanmar, stressed that development must proceed in parallel with environmental preservation.  Deliberations at Rio would produce some fruitful results, which should include practical measures for achieving peace and development, while mobilizing support for a transition to a green economy.  Sustainable development was the common global goal, and it required securing the planet’s available natural resources for present and future generations.  However, the sustainability of materials and natural resources “is easier said than done”, he said.

Everyone was duty-bound to do their utmost to reach that common goal, he said, cautioning that the combination of world population growth and rising material consumption would significantly impact the “finite planet”.  If that trend continued, negative impacts such as global warming, climate change and sea-level rise would surely follow, as would declining crop yields and biodiversity loss.  That was already occurring at an “alarming” rate and might not be reversible, he warned, calling for different approaches and models based on each country’s national circumstances.

GERVAIS RUFYIKIRI, Vice-President of Burundi, said his country had been moving forward in the areas of social and economic development.  The Government was determined to fight corruption, to invest in people — specifically in productive areas — and to mobilize the population around community work projects.  In the agricultural arena, Burundi’s budget had been increasing steadily in the last few years.  The Government was working to balance protection of the environment on the one hand, and to ensure food security on the other.  However, both of those goals were significantly affected by climate change, particularly changes in the rain cycles, he said.

He said the Government had implemented free health care for pregnant women and children under the age of five, thereby improving child and maternal mortality levels.  Additionally, it was working to implement United Nations objectives on energy policy, including energy access for all.  Burundi had identified and was now focusing on several priority areas, including agriculture, energy, infrastructure and tourism.  Urging development partners to participate in a conference on the framework for growth, to be held later in the year, he stressed that it was through cooperation with developed countries that poorer ones, such as Burundi, would break the vicious cycle of poverty and move forward towards sustainable development.

MANMOHAN SINGH, Prime Minister of India, said Rio+20 was taking place at a time of serious political and environmental crises.  “Difficult though it may seem, we must summon the imagination to balance the cost that we will incur in the present with the benefits that will accrue to future generations,” he said, urging States to think long-term as they faced those challenges.  The task at hand was to give practical shape and content to the sustainable development architecture, and to do so in a manner that would allow each country to develop according to its own national priorities and circumstances.  Poverty eradication must remain an overriding priority for developing countries, he stressed.  Sustainable development also mandated efficient use of available natural resources, energy in particular.

It was crucial to use less, while at the same time promoting a shift towards cleaner energy, he said.  Moreover, current consumption patterns in the industrialized world were unsustainable.  The approach to the problem should be guided by equitable burden-sharing.  Expressing satisfaction that the Summit had reaffirmed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, he pointed out, however, that “this does not mean that countries should not take proactive action to promote sustainable development”.  More could be done with greater support from industrialized nations.  “The future we want should be a future in which there is ecological and economic space for all,” he concluded, urging all parties to work together to achieve that goal.

NAJIB MIKATI, Prime Minister of Lebanon, said the challenges facing the international community required political commitment and an integrated approach.  The same applied to the Arab world, where sustainable development, improving education, empowering women, confronting the lack of resources and other challenges were major goals as the region’s countries emerged from conflict.  Lebanon had adopted a number of laws and regulations contained in the 1992 Rio Declaration, and the country was finalizing a seven-point plan for social and environmental reform.

Underlining the need to reconsider the global economic paradigm, he said the green economy alone could not heal all the flaws in the current one.  Lebanon also proposed the establishment of a global environmental court, especially considering the oil spills and other disasters for which the country had received no compensation from Israel.  No sustainable development could take place in the absence of permanent and just peace for all nations, he stressed, reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to their own State.  The world needed to work in solidarity because without concerted efforts among all States, no sustainable development would ever be possible.

DENZIL DOUGLAS, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, noted that his island nation was the tiniest in the Western hemisphere, and was disproportionately affected by the phenomena under discussion at the Conference.  There was therefore a need for significant and urgent changes to counter looming threats.  Vulnerability to natural disasters, financial threats, as well as unemployment must be addressed through a global plan of action that would ensure the implementation of policies already endorsed by the international community on the basis of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, he said.  The time had come to advance alternative patterns of production and consumption, following the low-carbon development pathway needed to eradicate poverty, raise employment and increase energy sustainability.  Moreover, countries such as Saint Kitts and Nevis could be vulnerable to shocks from the transition to a green economy, so appropriate allowances must be made.

Contributions to sustainable development must be made by all countries, he stressed, calling for Taiwan to be permitted to participate in international mechanisms.  A third United Nations conference for the development of small island developing States would also be of key importance for the future of those nations, he said, calling for a balanced, tangible and results-oriented outcome.  The devastating impact of non-communicable diseases should be included in that context.  All previous pledges must be honoured, and effective institutional frameworks created at all levels to facilitate the implementation of agreements, he said, stressing also the need to ensure women’s participation in all such activities.  In general, action to realize a multilateral vision, born of enlightened self-interest, was critical.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, Prime Minister of Turkey, said that greed, unlimited consumption and selfishness were threatening future generations.  Irresponsible people were using enormous amounts of resources while others went hungry.  In a world where children were dying, no one was free of responsibility.  Joint solutions for the problems besetting humanity were needed, he stressed.  Rainforests, dolphins and vulnerable ecosystems must be protected, as must children in conflict areas around the world.  A “global conscience” must prevail, he said, expressing hope that Rio+20 would make its contribution.

JULIA GILLARD, Prime Minister of Australia, said the Conference must work towards sustainable development goals and for global collective action to solve difficult problems, attacking them with rigour through a clear manner of working towards long-term success.  The Millennium Development Goals had brought about significant results for the most vulnerable, she said, adding that the United Nations Secretary-General had requested her to help develop the new set of targets.  Australia was increasing its global cooperation for sustainable development, she said.

Australia was adopting market-based mechanisms for a green and blue economy, she continued.  There was, in particular, a need to protect the high seas through a strengthened oceans governance regime and to eliminate harmful subsidies.  Australia was playing its part in that area, by making financial contributions and establishing vast national marine reserves.  Warmly welcoming the Summit’s embrace of women’s engagement in all areas of sustainable development, she advocated greater engagement with indigenous peoples, noting her country’s initiatives to include aboriginal peoples in that regard.  In all such areas, not only agreement was needed, but action as well, she said.

JEANNOT KOUADIO-AHOUSSOU, Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, said that respecting natural heritage while increasing cooperation and ensuring diversity were important priorities for Rio+20.  It must be acknowledged that the world had fallen short on eliminating poverty, changing unsustainable production and consumption patterns and addressing other challenges.  Inequalities had increased, sea resources were diminishing rapidly, climate change was already taking a toll and a severe resource gap was now being faced.

Côte d’Ivoire had created an institutional framework for a green economy and other elements of sustainability, he said, adding that related research projects were being put in place.  A victim of toxic waste, Côte d’Ivoire agreed that UNEP should become a specialized agency with stronger capabilities.  Everyone must answer honestly the question of what kind of planet they wanted and work for it, he said, stressing that extreme problems were not inevitable.  There was a need for greater solidarity to finally overcome underdevelopment in the world.

DORIS LEUTHARD, Head of the Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications of Switzerland, said that it must be acknowledged that everything done today would have consequences in the future.  In seeking solutions to world problems, all sectors, including civil society, the private sector and scientists, must be engaged.  New technologies should afford the ability to achieve sustainability and growth at the same time.  There was a need to reform UNEP and the Commission on Sustainable Development, she said, welcoming the decisions to strengthen both.

Expressing confidence that the draft outcome document would accelerate the building of a green economy and provide better employment opportunities, she said the elaboration of sustainable development goals was also an important endeavour.  However, those steps were not enough, and all actors must be more ambitious than the draft outcome document, she said, adding that she would have welcomed a more explicit declaration on women’s reproductive rights, for example.  Common action was needed to fight new inequalities and create the future that was needed, she added.

SOMSAVAT LENGSAVAD, Deputy Prime Minster of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said that, while his country had achieved a number of results, many areas continued to be challenging, including integration of the three pillars of sustainable development.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic had set up coordinating mechanisms and environmental management at the macro level, as well as policies and a legal framework to achieve international sustainability goals.  The World Bank had identified a hydropower plant as a model for clean and renewable energy, and the Government had set a benchmark for expanding the national forest area by 65 per cent by 2015 and 70 per cent by 2020.

He went on to state that the Government had achieved sustained and stable economic growth over the past two decades, with an annual growth rate of 7 per cent.  Nevertheless, as a landlocked developing nation, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic still faced specific challenges, in particular those resulting from high transport and market costs.  He therefore called on the international community to attach importance to assisting landlocked developing States by focusing on implementing the Almaty Programme of Action and actively participating in the review of its implementation.  Only through serious manifestation of partnership and shared commitment could the world meet its lofty goals, he said.

NICK CLEGG, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said that, among other initiatives, his country had set up the world’s first green investment bank.  It was also introducing extensive electricity reform, and was about to host the “greenest Olympics ever”.  Three big shifts were needed, and happily, they were included in the draft outcome document:  the elaboration of sustainable development goals focused on food, energy and water; a better understanding of growth, with broader measures of progress beyond GDP, including social well-being, in order to inform decision-making; and an increasing recognition among major companies that using resources in a sustainable manner was in their own interest.

Calling for the establishment of a global framework for sustainability reporting, he said Rio+20 provided a chance to strengthen coherence in governance.  The current landscape was too cluttered with too many organizations focusing only on their own objectives.  While some argued that the draft outcome document did not go far enough, it did contain all the right components, he said.  What was needed was to build those components into a machine capable of delivering the needed results.  “We need to turn words into action” and to work together to change behaviours.

NGUYEN THIEN NHAN, Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam, said his country had been able to record significant achievement in social and economic development over the last 20 years.  Gross domestic product had grown by more than 7 per cent and per capita income had risen by nearly nine times.  That reality could be a lesson that although national productivity might not be high, it was still possible to implement sustainable development policy successfully.  However, the world still faced major challenges such as financial and energy crises, he said, proposing three major activities for Rio+20.

First, the United Nations should assemble a new set of sustainable development goals and a monitoring and assessment mechanism, he said.  They should be universal in nature, yet allow for different approaches suited to the specific conditions of each country.  Second, regional centres should be established to monitor the green economy, with greater emphasis on energy and resource consumption and slowing down climate change, he said, adding:  “Green economy today is not an option, but a must for every country.”  The Organization could also set up a centre for green economy to coordinate those regional centres.  Third, the United Nations should establish a network to deal with rising sea levels, which was now a real threat, he said, noting that river deltas in his country were rising and penetrating deeper and deeper into Viet Nam’s rice fields.

VLADIMIR PESHEVSKI, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said all delegations were aware of the responsibility that they shouldered in pursuing a path of green development.  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, though small, was carrying out a sustainable development strategy that included increasing the target share of renewable energy in its energy mix.  It was in line with the aims of the European Union.

The involvement of non-governmental organizations and private sector actors was essential to identifying and designing holistic developments strategies, he said, pointing out that the transition to a green economy hinged on research and development strategies as well as education.  Therefore, small and developing countries needed mechanisms that would promote technology transfer and training initiatives.  While the draft outcome document might not address all the issues that many people had wanted, it was nevertheless a step in the rights direction and contained elements that could strengthen efforts to achieve sustainable development for all.

Sheikha AMTHAL AL AHMAD AL JABER AL SABAH, Deputy Prime Minister of Kuwait, said her country’s Government had long been committed to meeting the goals set by the Earth Summit, and would be equally committed to implementing the agreements that would be adopted tomorrow.  Sustainable development required comprehensive and forward-looking initiatives, but they must not introduce new burdens or requirements.  Moreover, they must take individual national development priorities and conditions into consideration.  Kuwait had given generously to an Arab sustainable development fund that would help countries inside and outside the region enhance their development capacities.

Kuwait was well aware that achieving broader development meant eradicating poverty, creating jobs and enabling developing countries to achieve adequate levels of technological advancement, she continued.  As for the transition to a green economy, such a change should not place new burdens on developing countries, and it must be based on concrete goals, she said, adding that the international community must move quickly to come up with a specific definition of “green economy”, which would go a long way towards easing such a transition.

DJOOMART OTORBAYEV, Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, said that after two difficult years, his country had been able to fairly and transparently carry out a democratic transformation.  In the wake of that change, maintaining a commitment to human rights would be an absolute priority, as would the provision of education and social equality for all the country’s people.  Even though the Government was committed to sustainable and green development, Kyrgyzstan faced several hurdles, including its rugged mountain terrain and the fact that large portions of the country were covered in glaciers.  Also, many of its unique ecosystems were under threat, as were a number of animal and plant species.

Kyrgyzstan would be willing to join all initiatives relating to such issues, including sharing best practices on environmental protection, he continued, going on to cite the country’s efforts to increase crop yields, rehabilitate pastures and further diversify its energy mix.  He proposed launching an initiative that would advocate support for landlocked mountainous countries, a plan that would also include a call for reducing their national debt burdens.  He also proposed organizing an international conference on the impact of climate change in mountainous regions, saying Kyrgyzstan was prepared to host it.

EDMUNDS SPRUDZS, Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Latvia, said the planet’s situation had worsened over 20 years, words had not matched actions and growth had taken priority over a clean and healthy environment.  The next generation demanded change.  “We don’t have a lot to be proud of; we are not ready to change and transform our lives to give a chance to our planet and our children.”  Urging all to aim higher in order to change the current course of events, he said the contributions of small countries were as important as those of larger ones, adding that several were proving that inclusive and environmentally responsible actions should not be sacrificed in the interest of economic growth or quality of life.

Noting that his country had recently come through its toughest period, he recalled that in 2008, after years of booming economic success, Latvia had taken one of the world’s sharpest dives, with gross domestic product plummeting more than 20 per cent.  The country’s credit rating had been downgraded to “junk” status, and the number of unemployed had tripled.  Despite that “very gloomy” picture, Latvia was back on track as one of the top performers in the European Union.  Throughout the last 20 years, the Government had implemented several environmentally wise decisions, turning the country around and proving that, by working together, it was possible to have growth as well as an environmentally sound sustainable policy.

IZABELLA TEIXEIRA, Minister for Environment of Brazil, said that over two decades, sustainable development had been placed in the hearts and minds of people worldwide.  Today, world leaders were called upon to continue that process and strengthen its mandate.  The best path must be chosen, one that offered social inclusion and environmental protection, she said, adding that Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles were the foundations upon which to build.  A significant outcome had been reached at Rio+20 following protracted negotiations.  The result did not meet all of Brazil’s ambitions, or those of everyone else, but it was the very best commitment to which all could agree.

Indeed, the draft outcome text would be remembered as a landmark, she said, noting that the Sustainable Development Dialogues had proved to be a success, providing valuable guidance for all segments of society.  While the draft outcome document contained concrete commitments towards a sustainable future, they required political determination.  There would be an opportunity to address the main failures of the economic model.  The 10-year framework adopted would help protect natural resources, improve resource efficiency and reduce waste, while providing opportunities for economic growth and job creation.  The draft outcome document was a clear statement that multilateralism was the right pathway, she said.

O.K. MOKAILA, Minister for Environment of Botswana, described an outcome text adopted at an African Summit in May, saying it included a communiqué on “natural capital accounting”.  That involved the wise use of natural resources as well as respect for national wealth and the integrity of ecosystems and biodiversity.  In addressing that Summit, the President of Botswana had noted that there was no option but to embrace sustainable development as a way of life, to use natural resources well and to transform them into drivers of inclusive economic growth and people-centred development.

Botswana did not equate the process of economic valuation of natural resources and economic goods as “monetizing” nature, he continued.  Rather, it was a process by which to make optimal use of natural capital for sustainable human development.  Noting that poverty remained a major setback to sustainability, he said resource-efficient economic growth enabled emerging countries to expand and prosper.  A green economy had great potential to meet aspirations for sustainable development and poverty eradication.  However, it was a tool, not a “silver bullet” for development issues and challenges.  He called for international cooperation between Governments and the private sector in implementing economically sound, environmentally stable and socially inclusive development strategies, as well as for an international conference to launch the proposed sustainable development goals.

BRAHIM OULD M’BARECK OULD MOHAMED EL MOCTAR, Minister of Rural Development of Mauritania, pointed to his Government’s poverty-eradication plan for 2001-2015, which focused on improvements in health care, environmental protection, clean water and sanitation, and other socioeconomic aims.  Mauritania had also adopted environmental protection agreements and strategies.  It had set up a Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development, launched a strategy to integrate sustainable development into all policies by 2016, formed a National Council of Sustainable Development, and involved all stakeholders to ensure follow up, and drafted a national plan to protect the environment and prevent deforestation.  It was also carrying out environmental impact studies in commerce and industry.  The Government aimed to develop by 2015 the country’s deserts, which covered two thirds of its land mass.  The Government, installed in 2005, had also focused on reforming the health-care and education systems, ensuring economic growth, and bolstering infrastructure development.

The Government had built schools, hospitals and centres for vocational training, he said.  It had set up poverty-reduction programmes for particularly needy groups, which had enabled a 5 per cent economic growth rate in 2011 despite the global financial crisis.  It had helped vulnerable populations throughout the crisis with food aid, and had provided basic commodities free of charge or at a very low price.  This year, it set a programme to aid populations affected by recent heavy rains as part of its overall strategy for food security and social protection.  Moreover, it adopted a series of programmes in the last three years to ensure environmental protection in the context of sustainable development and a policy to stem to the growth of shantytowns and to ensure decent housing.  The 2011-2015 energy plan aimed to combat global warming and to improve energy efficiency, as well as ensure the rational use of natural resources and integrated marine resource management.

GILAD ERDAN, Minister of Environmental Protection of Israel, said if the world continued on its current path, there would be a gloomy future ahead.  Mankind had passed the tipping point.  One billion people had no access to safe drinking water.  Economic growth based on environmentally damaging activities was no longer an option.  Economic growth must be compatible with sustainable development.  The world must leave its comfort zone.  GDP measurements were not sufficient indicators of wealth.  A broader approach must be developed.  Sustainable development goals must be streamlined into the work of all economic institutions.  The world still had a chance to pay attention to the “flashing red light” and to change direction.  Cooperation and the sharing of knowledge were key to achieving sustainable development goals.

Since its creation, Israel had increased agricultural production fivefold, he continued.  It had developed the world’s most efficient drip irrigation technology.  It reclaimed nearly 80 per cent of wastewater for reuse.  Israel had spared no effort to share its unique experience with developed and developing countries alike through MASHAV, the country’s agency for international development cooperation.  He lamented that the message of Israel’s neighbours during the Summit had been politicized and they had released false figures.  To set the record straight, he said Israel was supplying the Palestinians with 60 per cent more water than what was stipulated in their interim agreement.  Israel gave 5 million cubic meters of water to Gaza, despite the rocket attacks it received in return.  It was time to seize the opportunity to overcome common development challenges.  He called on his Palestinian neighbours to finally implement the project of 26 system upgrades that had been agreed upon.

BEN KNAPEN, Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation of the Netherlands, said that as some 9 billion people would populate the world by 2050, it was vital to achieve a high standard of living and ease the increasing pressures on the environment.  For the Netherlands, where most of the population lived below sea-level, global warming was a direct threat.  Small islands faced the same situation.  To make matters worse, those countries were highly energy dependent, and as a result, were turning to wind and solar power as alternative sources of sustainable energy and natural resources.  It was necessary to work together to create a green economy.  Environmental cooperation among nations and with the business community was vital, he added.

The Netherland had created a national Rio+20 platform to prepare for the Summit, he said.  The world needed checks to monitor States’ behaviour.  The international community must be bound by a set of agreements.  For that reason, the Netherlands had called for a global agenda to green the economy.  Such an economy represented the balance between the three pillars that defined sustainable development.  Gender equality and human rights were crucial for sustainable development.  The Netherlands would contribute to that through cooperation with the private sector and civil society.  The Dutch Government earmarked O.7 per cent of GDP for development aid.  The Netherlands was committed to achieving sustainable development worldwide.

MOHAMMAD YASMIN UMAR, Minister of Energy of Brunei Darussalam, said that consultation and dialogue remained the way to reach consensus on a common approach to sustainable development.  In his region, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries had worked together on the three pillars of sustainable development to make significant progress on climate change, biodiversity, sustainable management of forests, and energy.

At the national level, his country was a fossil fuel producer but also had the highest per capita consumption of energy and therefore had put in place a plan for energy sustainability, with programmes to shape human resources for that purpose as well as pilot projects in solar energy with specific targets for renewable energy percentages.  A green building certification scheme was being developed.  Targets for local rice production increases were also in place, as well as water management strategies and an integrated plan for rain forest preservation.  Brunei would stay committed to implementation of Agenda 21 through implementation of the Rio+20 outcome.

RAYMOND N'TUNGAMULONGO TSHIBANDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Francophonie of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aligning himself with statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Africa and the least developed countries, said that, unfortunately, most commitments for sustainable development made in the past 20 years had not been fulfilled.  Engagement of multiple stakeholders was critical in working for sustainable development as well as for changing patterns of production and consumption; the United Nations role in encouraging such engagement was of crucial importance.  Each local facet of the world’s local heritage was a part of the solution for solving the various crises.  That was part of the meaning of common but differentiated responsibility.

In the case of the least developed countries, he said, preferential trade measures, official development aid and transfer of technology were needed, although the ultimate responsibility to increase the well-being of its population fell on individual States themselves.  His country, for that reason, had focused on preserving its forests for the benefit of its people and the world.  At the same time, conflict was exacerbating all existing challenges.  He called for the strong condemnation of the warlords in the east of his country and for the compensation of his country for the sustainable management of its forests.  As for the work of then Conference, he said that structurally, UNEP and the Economic and Social Council must be strengthened.  Partnerships for fighting climate change and promoting sound human development were critical.

PHIL HOGAN, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government of Ireland, supporting the statement made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the agreement on an outcome for the Conference, calling it pivotal for future work on sustainable development.  His Government was working with all key stakeholders on a framework for sustainable development that mainstreamed the effort across all sectors and oriented the country towards a green economy that provided decent jobs and reduced poverty.  Expressing pride in Ireland’s contribution to development assistance, he welcomed commitments to provide adequate nutrition for the world’s poorest and looked forward to the adoption of an agreed set of sustainable development goals to complement the Millennium targets, and adequate strengthening of United Nations structures for sustainable development.  He pledged that his country would work to make sure that all the hard work leading up to today was not done in vain.

SERGEI MARTYNOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said his Government was undertaking measures to guarantee economic growth based on green principles.  Responsible policies for the past 20 years had helped improve the country’s environment, while also increasing efficiency.  The success of sustainable development for developing countries and transition economies depended on strong, effective and determined apparatus; only a responsible State able to manage and resolve economic problems was conducive to sustainable development nationally.

He said that globalization had changed the world and helped the so-called lucky few, but the world was too small not to spread that well-being around.  Only unity among countries would create true sustainable development and retain the planet’s wealth for future generations.  Implementing the Conference outcome required more determined and effective global governance bodies — not necessarily new ones, but more effective existing ones.  It must also be ensured that sustainable development and a green economy did not exacerbate technological dependence or lead to new divisions.

TESFAI GHERESELASIE SEBHATU, Minister of Land, Water and Environment of Eritrea, said 20 years after the Earth Summit, about 4,000 people died daily from hunger or hunger-related illness, and every 15 seconds, a child died from water-related disease.  In Africa, 5,500 people died every day from HIV/AIDS.  Those human tragedies did not include killings, injuries, or displacements caused daily by armed conflict.  His country sought a better future, one defined by social justice and equity, peace and security, sustainable economic growth and prosperity, and a sustainably habitable environment, as well as genuine international cooperation and advanced science and technology.

He said the Eritrean people and Government were working very hard to eliminate hunger, and it was on track to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals 4 (child health), 5 (maternal health), and 6 (HIV/AIDS).  Banning the practice of female genital mutilation had been another significant step in the right direction.  Eritrea was also striving to provide access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, and it offered schooling for free at all levels.  However, critical challenges remained, such as climate change, land degradation, food insecurity, and poverty.  The Rio deliberations must not be the usual empty speeches; the goals contained in the draft outcome document must be implemented.

PAUL MAGNETTE, Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium, said, “I’ll be frank — we’re disappointed.”  Belgium and others in Europe had “high expectations” for Rio+20; it had hoped for the dynamism present at the Earth Summit and the will to take on clear and well-defined commitments.  But the outcome far from met those goals.  Everyone knew what needed to be done to achieve sustainable development.  First was to get away from an economic growth mentality that “ate up” natural resources and replace that with one of sustainable development, which guaranteed to all on Earth food, sovereignty and security.  Decent work and social protection must be provided to all, and attention must be paid to women, who played an essential role but who remained the subject of discrimination.  It also must be ensured that particular attention was paid to least developed countries.  Great strides were being made in his region, but those efforts were undermined by Europe’s own economic and monetary and other policies.

He said he was satisfied with certain Rio outcomes, including the proposed mechanism for protecting oceans and innovative financing tools, such as a tax on financial transactions.  Those must be built upon through multilateral frameworks.  Regrets were useless.  There was only one thing to do and that was to begin tomorrow — preparing for the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly with true commitment to the Rio outcome text through a set of processes to be launched in September.

ALPHA BOCAR NAFO, Minister of Energy, Water and Environment of Mali, supported the statement by the representative of Congo in his capacity as regional coordinator for Africa for Rio+20.   Despite the strong expression of common political will, the situation today was worse than 20 years ago when the Earth Summit was held.  Every moment the world hesitated was a missed opportunity.  Like others, Mali believed that Rio+20 would make it possible to foster capacity-building, technology transfer and successful transition to a green economy.  The planet had never been as threatened as it was today.  Rio+20 must focus on action supported by strong political commitments.  It should not be seen as charity, but as setting out a holistic vision to ensure the planet’s sustainability for future generations.  Global solidarity was needed to overcome desertification, biodiversity loss, climate change, and land degradation.  Mali had undertaken true institutional reform in the area of sustainable development governance.  It had set up a national policy and action plan to mitigate climate change.

To create a resilient green economy, Mali had set up a strategic framework for investment in sustainable land management, an environmental agency for sustainable development, a national committee on climate change and a climate fund, he said.  Leading up to Rio+20, Mali carried out a national sustainable development assessment.  It helped draft the African consensus document.  The green economy should not be seen as a mere notion; rather it was a bold strategic response to combating extreme poverty and achieving sustainable development.  The world must produce and consume differently.  He urgently appealed to developed countries in particular to commit further under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility to prevent further environmental degradation.  Implementing sustainable development commitments required a stronger United Nations role in global environmental governance.  He supported turning UNEP into a specialized agency.

EDUARD STAVYTSKYI, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, stressed the need for sustainable consumption, food security, climate change mitigation and poverty reduction.  More political commitment was needed to achieve sustainable development.  He expressed hoped that the Conference’s draft declaration on sustainable development would be implemented through national and international strategies.  Natural resource management was vital.  Ukraine supported the outcome document’s focus on reforming global environmental governance.  He supported transforming UNEP into a specialized United Nations agency, as well as the creation of a global environmental constitution, with the participation of all specialized research institutions and international environmental organizations.

He stressed the importance of sustainable agriculture to ensure food security in the future.  The way forward was through the use of new technologies.  Ukraine was taking the necessary steps to ensure sustainable development.  The Ukrainian Government had formed an environmental constitution.  It had brought national environmental standards in line with European Union standards.  Several mechanisms to create a green economy and sustainable consumption and production patterns had been set up.  He also pointed to a national environmental action plan to achieve agreed sustainable development goals.

AMARA KONNEH, Minister of Finance of Liberia, stressed the need to create a planet that could sustain human existence for generations to come.  During the last six years, Liberia had registered strong economic growth.  It was improving socio-economic indicators in some areas, but challenges remained in others.  The West African country was rebuilding Government structures to achieve sustained economic growth and development.  Liberians were determined to rebuild their nation and provide basic social services such as education and health care that had not existed for nearly two decades.  The Government was focused on restoring affordable energy to all Liberians, including through private-sector investment in hydro, wind, solar and other sources of renewable energy.  Most sectors of the Liberian economy were climate sensitive.  The effects of climate change threatened rehabilitation efforts and impacted agriculture, forestry, fisheries and the health sector.

The effects of climate change had resulted in low agricultural yields and had potentially disrupted food security, he said.  Coastal cities were impacted by sea-level rise, which had displaced much of their populations.  More than 50 per cent of Liberia’s flora and fauna were impacted by the phenomenon, which could lead to biodiversity loss.  Forty per cent of the upper Guinea region in West Africa was feeling the effects of climate change, he added.  Despite action to mitigate such threats, Liberia still needed help from development partners for what was emerging as a potential regional disaster in waiting — the country’s fish stocks were dwindling.  Recently, during the sustainability in Africa summit held in Botswana, African leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the three pillars of sustainable development.  The “Vision 2030” development plan aimed to make Liberia a middle-income country within 18 years.

WOLFGANG WALDNER, State Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Austria, said that the international community must strengthen its actions on all three pillars of sustainable development, with a green economy and poverty reduction interlinked and a focus on the poorest and most vulnerable.  He welcomed the draft outcome as a “step in the right direction and a basis for further action”, although he had hoped for a more ambitious document.  He looked forward to continuing discussions in good faith and emphasized the need for the engagement of all stakeholders in implementing the principles reaffirmed.

A green economy would not replace sustainable development and should not result in new constraints on developing countries.  Describing his country’s accomplishments in renewable energy, he fully supported the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.  Energy, water and food security must be covered by the proposed sustainable development goals, while the priority remained achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015.  He urged all to use the momentum generated by the Rio Conference to accelerate work towards a better future for our children.

HANI SHERRY AYITTEY, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology of Ghana, said that the first Rio Conference had held high promise, particularly coming as it did at the end of the cold war.  That promise remained largely unfilled and commitments must be renewed at Rio+20, although the real action must start after the event at the national, regional and international levels.  The United Nations system must carry out further studies to determine the true nature of the green economy, of which her country had begun to undertake analysis.  Transfer of technology and building of capacity for national development must be ensured.

Rio+20 provided a necessary platform for further progress, and should focus more on science, technology and innovation and how partnership could help developing countries take advantage of those elements.  In hydropower, for example, Ghana could make much progress toward sustainable energy for all if it had access to the right technology.  She said that the Millennium Development Goals remained relevant, and sustainable development goals, as they were identified, needed to provide a rigorous basis for decision-making at the national and community levels.  Effective, coherent and truly representative institutions were needed, within a streamlined international structure.  UNEP, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission for Sustainable Development should be strengthened in that light.  At the same time, it was critical that solutions were developed on the ground.

JUAN RAFAEL ELVIRA QUESADA, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, applauded the efforts of all delegations to achieve an outcome document of balanced results at Rio, but he maintained that the draft so far did not rise to the level of ambition that the urgency of the situation demanded.  His country was firmly committed to doing its part, having invested in a market for environmental services.  The deforestation rate had been cut significantly and climate change laws of the country were pioneering.

He went on to say that there was an integral partnership between the public and private sectors for sustainable development.  Some 5,000 businesses had joined with the Government in emissions reduction efforts.  Mexico had also been in the forefront of providing forums for green growth and sustainability, he said, pointing most recently to the holding of the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit last week in Los Cabos, where he said significant accomplishments had been made.  The work in Rio+20 was one step toward international goals but did not represent an end in itself.  Work had to continue on a sound road map and actions to achieve sustainable development.

MAMIA ELBANNA ZAYANI, Minister of Environment of Tunisia, said the Tunisian revolution, which had sparked the so-called Arab Spring, was the best evidence of the “unsustainability” of the past two decades.  Furthermore, the uncertain global developments following the Earth Summit, as well as financial and environmental crises in both developing and developed countries, underlined the need for solidarity in confronting such challenges and moving towards a more sustainable future.  Rio+20 was a unique opportunity, and despite difficult negotiations on the draft outcome text, a “minimum consensus” had been achieved which would be the foundation for common efforts.  She hoped all stakeholders would remain committed to it and that the appropriate resources would be provided.

On many occasions, she said, her Government stressed the importance of greening the economy as long as conditions were provided to create employment, particularly among youth, and that efforts were made to eradicate poverty and sustain development.  Tunisia also favoured the creation of a United Nations council for sustainable development, or an equivalent organization, to face up to the challenges.  Also deserving support was a high-level political forum on sustainable development to support the role of the Economic and Social Council, as well as strengthening the role of the regional commissions.  The proposed reforms to ensure developing country participation in the international financial bodies also deserved consideration.  In the absence of an international consensus on creating a specialized agency on the environment, UNEP should be shored up, and regional centres should be created to assist in the development of green technologies by spreading knowledge, shaping policy, and making use of best practices.  The agreement on quality and quantity for sustainable development was a courageous step and she supported the initiative.

ABDOUL RAZAZ SALEH, Minister of Water and Environment of Yemen, said the renewed commitments would succeed only if all forms of poverty were combated and work was undertaken to create a just society that ensured prosperity and dignity for all.  He stressed the need for balanced national sustainable development in cooperation with both regional and international cooperation.  Yemen had the political will to address environmental issues with the involvement of all major stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society, trade unions, women’s and youth groups, and others.

The country faced many challenges, foremost among them was water scarcity.  Water consumption had risen, particularly in agriculture, and climate change had aggravated the situation.  Yemen was experimenting with new policies to protect the environment, which were registering some success.  He said his country was convinced that a green economy would have a major role in achieving its major objectives, particularly poverty eradication and food security, natural resources protection, and a more rational use of water.  Yemen favoured more sustainable production and consumption patterns, the use of renewable energy sources and improved capacity to withstand natural disasters.

GINMARDO KROMOSOETO, Minister for Spatial Planning, Land and Forest Management of Suriname, said that realization of the commitments made 20 years ago stood at disappointingly low levels, “leaving us in agony and serious doubt about the ability to bring creative and necessary solutions”.  Some developing countries had made progress in the past two decades, but he was disappointed that disparity at all levels and between all countries had increased because of the reluctance to act correctly, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.  He supported the pledge to reach the internationally agreed development goals by 2015, but sadly, the record of achievement was also disappointing.  His Government reaffirmed its political commitment to sustainable development in assessing progress and gaps in implementation and in addressing new and emerging challenges to advancing the global development agenda.

Noting that Suriname was among the greenest countries, with forest coverage of over 90 per cent of its territory, he said the Government had effectively managed those resources and taken bold steps to replant mangroves and protect the country’s vulnerable coastline and, by so doing, contributed to mitigating global warming.  There were several welcome developments in the draft outcome document, including the decision to phase out the use of mercury, as well as the decision to organize a world conference on small island development States in 2014.  Suriname had made great strides in achieving important economic growth in recent years and sustaining use of its natural resources, which had led to its reclassification as a middle-income country.  However, it was unjust that as a result of that positive growth, a decision had been made by certain countries and financial institutions to deny the country access to certain loans.  His Government was nevertheless committed to responsible use of its natural resources.  Due consideration was also given to the interests of the indigenous and tribal communities on its soil.

MOHAMMAD KHADDOUR ( Syria) said his was among the first States to work towards sustainable development by integrating into the national five-year development plans.  Syria faced several challenges due to climate change, the rise in temperature, drought and water scarcity, coupled with regional instability.  He pointed to Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Syrian Golan, where 500,000 Syrians continued to suffer.  Israel had usurped more than 1.5 billion cubic metres of water in the Golan and it had attempted to dump nuclear and toxic wastes there as well.  Israel had also damaged and destroyed several fragile environmental areas and religion sites in the Golan.

He went on to say that illegal unilateral economic sanctions imposed on Syria were an impediment to its sustainable development.  The country also had difficulty obtaining modern technology due to the United States and European embargo.  The activities of armed groups in Syria had destroyed the environment, resulting in the accumulation of solid waste and impeding water production.  Theft of fertilizers by armed groups to build explosives had inhibited production of farmers and other agricultural producers.

This year, the Syrian Government had enacted legislation to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, he said.  He reaffirmed the importance of strengthening institutions for sustainable development.  He stressed the responsibility of advanced countries to uphold their commitment to give capacity-building support and to transfer technology to developing countries, including Syria, so they may implement environmental projects.  Creation of a green economy should not be a simple substitute for sustainable development.  Israel must end its occupation of the Syrian Golan and stop exploiting its resources, he added.

DIMITRI ALEXANDRAKIS ( Greece) attached great importance to education for sustainable development as well as the reform of the United Nations structures, including an updated UNEP with a strengthened regional dimension.  Climate change adaption, coastal zone management, disaster recovery and other areas were priorities for international cooperation.  Promoting energy savings through the use of renewable energy sources was vital for all pillars of sustainable development and also conducive to regional cooperation.  The Mediterranean region had been active in the sector in many years, as well as in water management.  Marine biological diversity must be maintained in national as well as international waters.  The Conference should push forward measures on all other outstanding issues towards providing a sustainable future for generations to come.

EGLY PANTELAKIS, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture of Cyprus, said that despite advances made, the prevailing economic models had failed to address many needs of people, but there was now a new opportunity for people-driven sustainability, which only could be achieved in the context of respect for human rights, welfare for all and an ethic of humanism.  The right to a high quality environment had been recognized by the United Nations and progress must be owned by sovereign States.  At this Conference, important principles had been affirmed that must be put into practice.  “It is now up to us to rise to the challenges and guide our planet to a better future,” she said.

PALESA MOKETE ( Lesotho) said that the world continued to be faced with obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and Agenda 21.  This Conference should be taken as an opportunity to accelerate progress in that context.  Global performance in the three pillars of sustainable development underlined the need to mainstream them further, given the high dependency of humankind on the earth’s resources.  Good governance and social equity were critical for that purpose.

In her country, dominated by mountains which were rich sources of biodiversity, the protection of such ecosystems could not be overemphasized.  She called on the international community to support her country’s efforts in that regard.  Despite degradation of land and other challenges, her country had pursued varied plans in sustainable development.  There must be a genuine commitment by the entire international community, however, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, with adequate funding, transfer of technology with little restriction, support for national programmes and the buy-in of international institutions.  Harmonized efforts were critical to attain sustainable development for the world’s peoples, who had high expectations of the Conference.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.