Out of all the complex challenges the world is facing today the environmental challenges are truly global, in scope and nature, and they require equally global response. Since Stockholm, and then Rio the international community has undeniably made great progress in policy formulation, standard-setting and institution-building, at both national and international levels, that have helped advance the understanding and awareness of sustainable development principles and practices worldwide. As a new paradigm for achieving social, economic and environmental well-being, sustainable development has been globally recognized to be a viable path towards an equitable, just and prosperous society.

Yet, the environment and the natural resource base that supports life on Earth continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate, including ozone depletion, global warming, fresh water crisis, deforestation, soil erosion and desertification, as evidenced from the recent studies, including the Global Environment Outlook 2000. Moreover, environmental threats resulting from rapid population growth, accelerating trends of urbanization and development of mega cities, the unsustainable exploitation and depletion of biological resources, increasing environmental emergencies, the risk to human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals, and land-based sources of pollution are increasingly recognized as issues to be urgently addressed.

The root causes for global environmental degradation have long been identified as embedded in social and economic problems such as pervasive poverty exacerbated by swelling debt burden, unsustainable production and consumption patterns, and inequity in distribution of wealth.

The blueprint of international action and cooperation for the promotion of sustainable development, Agenda 21 and other outcomes of UNCED, have been put in place. Yet, as the Secretary-General points in his Millennium report "the challenges of sustainability simply overwhelm the adequacy of our responses".

The legitimate question arises -why? Does the international community, increasingly seen as a single human family living in a shared global village, have the capacity to redress the above situation? Technically, the right answer seems to be -yes. There are resources -financial, human and technological -to cope with that challenge. The real hard question is -do we have sufficient political will and sense of solidarity to forge the genuine partnership needed to erase the staggering discrepancy between commitments and action.

In the final analysis, the answer to this question has to be affirmative and has to be supported by practical, meaningful action. My delegation is hopeful that would be the case at Rio+ 10 conference in 2002. In this regard, I wish to strongly support the views expressed at the high-level segment of the seventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development on the need of setting clear goals for the l0-year review, including a global commitment to a renewed North-South partnership and a higher level of international solidarity to further promote sustainable development in light of both existing and emerging challenges. With a view to ensuring sound preparations for Rio+ 10 the General Assembly at this session should set in motion its preparatory process taking into account the important recommendations emanated from the recent session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (N55/120). My delegation looks forward to actively participating in this exercise at national, sub-regional, regional and international levels. Of particular interest to us is the expected regional and thematic Agenda 21 round tables to elaborate practical proposals and innovative approaches aimed at expediting progress in the implementation of the Rio commitments drawing on the considerable experience and expertise of independent experts in the field of sustainable development.

As a country with extremely low population density, weak infrastructure and high susceptibility to natural disasters, Mongolia is faced with a host of sustainable development challenges, including desertification, drought and deforestation. While Mongolia is the 17th largest country in the world in terms of its territory, much of the land is unproductive. While over 40 percent of the country's territory is currently covered by desert, by and large, 95 percent of the total land is considered to be highly susceptible to desertification. In addition, droughts covering as much as 25 per cent of the country's territory occur every two to three years entailing a costly burden to its fragile economy. Over the last 20 years the forested area has significantly shrunk mainly due to forest fires and timber production.

With a view to tackling these and other challenges and as a follow-up to the Rio Summit Mongolia launched its national sustainable development agenda for the 21 st century up to the year 2020, known as MAP 21 (Mongolian Action Programme for the 21 st century). An extensive preparatory process, consisting of institution-building and awareness-raising activities from grass-root to central levels, where provincial authorities, citizens and NGOs took part in developing local action plans for sustainable development, preceded the elaboration of the national programme.