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I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of the countries members of the Rio Group on agenda item 95 entitled "Environment and sustainable development".

The item on the environment which has been allocated to the Second Committee covers issues that are of prime importance to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. In that connection, I wish to refer briefly to some of these issues which without doubt will occupy our attention over the next few days.

Firstly, the Rio Group wishes to reaffirm its support for the principles of sustainable development agreed upon in Agenda 21 and in the Rio Declaration of Principles, in particular, the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities.

Our region, as one of the regions of the world with the richest biodiversity, has been making tremendous efforts at the regional, subregional and national levels to protect and preserve its environment and to achieve an adequate balance between the economic, social and environmental variables, in the search for genuinely sustainable development. In some cases, we have had very encouraging results, while in others the results have been less satisfactory .

Indeed, despite the positive economic and social indicators achieved in some areas, the environment of our region continues to be threatened by high indices of poverty, by demographic pressures, by a process of urbanization which is sometimes disordered and with a direct impact on the environment, by natural disasters, and by some productive processes by which we seek to develop our export sector in order to achieve a more effective insertion for our region in the process of globalisation.

Rio + 10. The Rio Group believes that the commitments undertaken by the international community for the conservation and protection of the environment and for sustainable development at the 1992 Rio Conference and the subsequent review Conference in 1997 are still valid and pending implementation.

In this regard, we consider that the next 10-year review of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development will provide a suitable opportunity to mobilize the political support of the international community for the Rio agreements and commitments, to evaluate the status of their implementation and to reaffirm the concept of sustainable development. Agenda 21 must not be renegotiated.

We believe that Rio + 10 should have a pro-active and action-oriented agenda that includes. inter alia, a comprehensive and detailed analysis of such cross-cutting issues as financial resources and the transfer of technology.

The delegations of the Rio Group are ready to work on the negotiation of a consensus resolution to give impetus to the preparatory process for this important event.

Our Heads of State and Government meeting in Cartagena last June underscored in their Declaration the importance of sustainable development. I now wish to highlight some aspects which we consider to be of crucial importance for achieving that goal:

Transfer of technology. The Rio Group reaffirms the urgent need to incorporate environmentally appropriate technologies and to develop systems for sustainable production. The countries of the Rio Group are working to strengthen our capacities in the area of science and technology .We are also promoting concrete initiatives to promote closer international cooperation, including initiatives to facilitate the transfer of technology.

Trade and environment. At the same time, the Rio Group recognizes that the increase in trade flows and protection of the environment are complementary objectives to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. In that connection, we are opposed to the adoption of unilateral measures which, under the pretext of concern for the environment, constitute in effect unjustified restrictions on trade. We also reject the adoption of arbitrary and unilateral measures in contravention of the multilateral trading system, based on labour considerations that restrict the access of our products to other markets.

Climate change. With respect to climate change, we call upon the developed countries to accept the targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol before 2002. In that regard, we attach particular importance to the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held at The Hague in November 2000, and stress the need to honour the commitments undertaken in the "Buenos Aires Plan of Action". In particular, the need for the early regulation of the implementation mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol, especially the Clean Development Mechanism.

The Rio Group is aware of the threat which global climate change represents for present and future generations and recognizes the importance of careful regulation of the flexibility mechanisms that are part of the Kyoto Protocol. Such regulation must preserve the integrity of the Convention on Climate Change and it is for that reason that we oppose any initiative that runs counter to this objective.

The Rio Group expresses its hope for the success of the Hague Conference and the desire of our region to work and cooperate in order to achieve results satisfactory to all parties.

Ozone layer. The Rio Group expresses its deep concern on the results of recent research which show an unprecedented enlargement of the ozone layer over the Antarctic, 19 times bigger than the level registered in 1981, reaching, for the first time, cities of South America. In this sense, we call upon States to adopt the necessary measures to fulfil the commitments of the Montreal Protocol and its Amendments, in particular, the Fourth Amendment of Beijing, regarding the Ozone-depleting Substances. We also call upon States to provide adequate resources to the Multilateral Fund of the Protocol in order to support countries, in particular, the vulnerable ones.

Biosafety. The Rio Group welcomes the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol adopted within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity .We invite those countries that have yet not done so, to sign the Protocol and to comply with the necessary arrangements to allow its prompt entry into force. The Rio Group also wishes to highlight the need to promote international co-operation in the area of capacity building which is essential for developing countries to the implementation of the Protocol.

Forests. The Rio Group welcomes the recent adoption by ECOSOC of the United Nations Forum on Forests. We have always believed that a mechanism such as the one that has been adopted will contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of all types of forests. In that connection, we will be ready to take an active part in the discussions that will take place within the UNFF.

Desertification. The Rio Group views with great concern the dwindling resources that the financing mechanism of the Convention has provided for the region. This Convention is at the same time the most important of the Conventions adopted at Rio and the one that enjoys the least international support. In this regard, we wish to stress the importance for our Group of support for the attainment of the goals and adoption of programmes to promote the implementation of the Convention in the region.

El Nino Phenomenon. For the Rio Group, the adoption of a long term international strategy to reduce the impact of the El Nino Phenomenon has been a priority .We support the draft resolution which will be presented on behalf of the Group of 77 and China to promote the process of elaboration of an international strategy to prevent the effects of such a phenomenon. We also support the establishment of the International Centre for the Study of the El Nino Phenomenon in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and we urge the international community to provide the necessary assistance to this project.

In conclusion, the Rio Group wishes to underscore the importance of strengthening international cooperation in all its forms in order to achieve genuine sustainable development. It is evident that the problems of development and its relationship to the environment demand joint action by the entire international community. The United Nations, its agencies, funds and programmes, together with the various intergovernmental organs and civil society are called upon to playa defining role in the preservation and conservation of the environment and in promoting sustainable development.