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Statement b the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Dr Klaus Topfer, at the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit Sustainable Development 

At the outset I would like to express my appreciation for being given an opportunity to address this meeting, the first preparatory session for the World Summit on Sustainable Development!. The Summit is a landmark event and will undoubtedly have an impact on the world that future generations are to inherit. This is an opportunity that we must translate into a new perspective for international cooperation to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for humanity. UNEP is fully committed to this process and will contribute in every possible way to make the Summit a success. 

 

Within the United Nations we have established a Task Force to prepare for this event, and it is my hope that the partnerships we have developed among the members of the ON family will be strengthened in the months to come. In this regard I wish to pay tribute to Mr. Nitin Desai for his commitment to this process, and to his staff at the CSD for the hard work they have already done in preparing for the Summit. UNEP will continue to assist and support them in this endeavour and we are already actively engaged in the regional preparations, where the 6 UNEP Regional Offices are working closely with the Economic Commissions in bringing all stakeholders together. Global developments since the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the environment has caused many of us to often pause and reflect on how our planet can continue sustaining the demands we make on our natural resource base. In 1992 the Rio Conference on Environment and Development emphasized that protecting this resource base was integrally related with improving social conditions and economic growth. 

 

The evolution from a focus purely on environment towards environment and development as inter-dependent components indicate a realization that sustaining our planet requires global efforts and not a continuation of unrelated attempts at addressing problems in isolation from one another. It is therefore essential that in our preparations we take into account trends associated with globalization, as they directly relate to sustainable development. The words of the South African Minister of Environment, that the core subject matter of the Summit should reflect the intersection between the environment, development and poverty , are particularly relevant in this regard. 

 

We are now preparing for the 2002 event and it is an unfortunate truth that we are not in a position to say that the common man and woman, living in poverty and with no adequate shelter, nutrition or clean drinking water, and with no prospects for immediate improvement, have benefited in any measurable way from our efforts to date. Having attended the Rio Conference as a delegate from Germany, I must stress that the failures to adequately address the commitments made in 1992 are not only limited to governments, but are also systemic in nature and go to the heart of our system of international cooperation. 

 

We must, therefore, while looking back over the past ten years, also look forward to the next ten, in order to ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes again. In this regard we must set targets which are realistic and which can be monitored in future. This forward looking approach, while analyzing the efforts we have undertaken through the implementation of Agenda 21, both its successes as well as its shortcomings, forms the basis of our participation in preparing for the summit with our partners and in UNEP's relationship with other ON bodies during this process. 

 

The role that UNEP has undertaken in the implementation of Agenda 21 has been central to its policy framework, in terms of the intergovernmental decisions and institutional reforms which have served to clarify and strengthen UNEP's role and mandate. Since the five year review of UNCED, UNEP has regularly reported to the General Assembly on our activities in implementing Agenda 21, and we have similarly informed the Commission on Sustainable Development 

 

In response to the ever changing environmental challenges and in light of the policy evolution and mandate of UNEP, a number of recent initiatives have been taken that will be especially relevant in the context of the ten-year review of UNCED. These are, for example, in the areas of information, monitoring, assessment and early warning; environmental law; coordination of environmental conventions; technology, industry and economics; and regional activities in management of the environment. In addition, UNEP acts as UN Task Manager on atmosphere; land degradation; biodiversity and bio-safety; chemicals and wastes; and information for decision-making. Our contributions in these areas will serve as inputs to the main policy report of the Secretary General, which should be available in September this year. 

 

In the area of assessment and awareness raising, our information strategy is being implemented through a series of sectoral assessments of key environmental issues such as the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA), Land Management and Environmental Change Programme and the Desert Margin Programme. In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Resources Institute, UNEP published a world resources report as pilot phase for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a major international collaborative effort to map the health of the planet, and an initiative highlighted by the Secretary-General in his report to the Millennium Assembly. 

 

We have also been involved in the preparation of the third ten-year programme for the development and periodic review of environmental law -the Montevideo Programme III -adopted by the UNEP Governing Council at its twenty...first session in February this year. This milestone gives further impetus to the work done by the international community in the ever more important area of international environmental law. 

 

Another contribution to the ten-year review already initiated by UNEP includes the preparation for the third Global Environment Outlook report, which is expected to be completed in 2002 and will provide a substantive and definitive assessment of the global environmental situation. The GEO 3 process, which will gather and synthesize the knowledge of more than 850 experts in some 35 scientific institutions around the world, will take a 30-year retrospective and 30-year forward-looking perspective, with a view to reframing the way the international community understands and responds to the environment in the new millennium. 

 

I have mentioned that reforms were undertaken to focus the mandate of UNEP and to ensure that it remains the global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda. The 1997 Nairobi Declaration and the Secretary General's Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements, which I had the honour to chair, contributed greatly to the strengthening of UNEP. The adoption of General Assembly resolution 53/242, in which many of you in this room participated, provided UNEP with further strategic guidance and included important recommendations concerning the improvement of inter-agency coordination, improving linkages among environmental conventions, and the establishment of an annual Ministerial level forum on the environment. 

 

In pursuance of this resolution, the convening by UNEP of the first Global Ministerial Environment Forum, in Malmö, Sweden, attracted an unprecedented gathering of more than 100 Environment Ministers from around the world. The outcome of the Forum - The Malmö Declaration -is an inspiring expression of a global environmental consciousness, concluding that partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society are needed to alleviate poverty and remedy the threats to human health and the environment caused by our past actions. The Ministers expressed their conviction that the ten-year review of the outcomes of UNCED will provide a unique opportunity for the international community to reinvigorate the spirit of Rio. They stated that the objective of this Summit should not be to renegotiate Agenda 21, which remains valid, but to inject a new spirit of cooperation and urgency based on agreed actions in the common quest for sustainable development. This broad mandate is consistent with General Assembly resolution 55/199, which establishes the preparatory process for the Summit. 

 

Also pursuant to resolution 53/242, UNEP has established the Environment Management Group (EMG) which has already met and formed two issue management groups, led respectively by UNEP and UNESCO. These groups are focusing on harmonization of national reporting in terms of the bio-related conventions and environmental education and training, and it is expected that their conclusions could provide a valuable input to the Summit process. In cooperation wi1h the respective governing bodies of the environmental and environment-related conventions we have undertaken a series of initiatives to develop coherent inter-linkages among the conventions. In this regard we are attempting to promote their effective implementation through the avoidance of duplication and the translation of synergies into concrete actions and effective and efficient ways of achieving the objectives of sustainable development. These efforts are in line with resolution 55/198, on enhancing complementarities among international instruments, which also requests that the question of inter-Iinkages and complementarities be further considered in the preparatory process for the Summit. 

 

All these attempts at finding synergies and strengthening the capacity of the institutional architecture to effectively address wide-ranging environmental threats can not be viewed in isolation. UNEP has therefore, in following up the views expressed by governments at out 21st Governing Council session, in February this year, embarked on a process aimed at improving international environmental governance. The Council in decision 21/21 called for a comprehensive policy-oriented assessment of existing institutional weaknesses, as well as future needs and options for strengthened international environmental governance, including the financing of UNEP. The Council established an open-ended intergovernmental group of Ministers, or their representatives, to take this process further. This Ministerial group had its first meeting, here in New York on 18 April, and we were privileged to have had 93 countries participating, including 31 Ministers. Participants emphasized the need to strengthen international environmental governance through an evolutionary approach, building on existing structures, as well as ensuring better coordination and coherence among the various global institutions and instruments involved. The President of the UNEP Governing Council reported on the outcome of the April 18 meeting to the High Level Segment of CSD 9 and copies of this statement have been distributed

The work of the intergovernmental group will be augmented by incorporating the views and perspectives of other United Nations entities, international financial institutions, experts and major-groups. A series of meetings will take place during the year in which these and all other stakeholders will have an opportunity to deliberate on this important topic. Consultations are also underway to establish a timeframe for further meetings of the intergovernmental group of Ministers. 

 

It is the expectation of the Governing Council that the work of this group should contribute to the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development and provide an input for its deliberation on strengthening international environmental governance. The next session of the Council, in the form of a Global Ministerial Environment Forum, is scheduled to take place in February 2002. This Forum will provide its input on future requirements for international environmental governance, in the broader context of multilateral efforts for sustainable development, to the l0th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, acting a PrepCom for the Johannesburg Summit. It is certainly the intention of UNEP to have the PrepCom consider this input as early as possible and a report in this regard should be available within the first quarter of 2002. 

 

Having provided some detail and background on what UNEP is doing in preparation for the Summit, we should perhaps also take a moment to consider looking at the future. In 1992 some goals and objectives were set, many of which have not been met. In reviewing the implementation of Agenda 21 we can not afford to become tied down by shortcomings. It is true that some of the most important commitments, such as those dealing with financial assistance to the developing world, capacity building and technology transfers are yet to be adequately addressed. I share the conviction that these issues must be successfully addressed, and hope that the Conferences on Least Developed Countries ~d Financing for Development can contribute in this regard.

Assessments of the implementation of Agenda 21 increasingly reveal that, while comprehensive and containing a huge number of targets, dates and actions, there was a lack of an overarching, politically uniting target. The preparatory process for the Johannesburg Summit will therefore have to ensure that proposals of sufficiently high political and economic significance are developed to engage heads of state and governments. 

 

Although the majority of the earth's inhabitants continue to shoulder the burden of excessive poverty, balanced against wasteful consumption and inefficient resource use that perpetuate the vicious circle of environmental degradation and increasing poverty, clearly the nature of the current global economic, social and environmental situation is fundamentally different to the situation we faced in 1992. The advent of globalization has brought immense changes in the functioning of financial markets, major improvements in information communication and technological changes that have transformed industry and production.

Despite these developments, large segments of the world's population continue living in poverty, linked to the degradation of the world's natural resource base. I am convinced that a refocused global vision of implementing sustainable development, beyond current arrangements, is necessary .Recent evidence points to an antagonistic relationship between globalization and sustainable development including a growing gap between rich and poor within and among countries. Ways must therefore be found to I. :lly engage the private sector and to ensure that the globalization process is harnessed and developed in a way that contributes to sustainable development, poverty elimination and the future environmental sustainability of the planet. 

 

Issues such as ensuring that globalization can contribute to poverty alleviation, the linkage between poverty, environment, human security and health, the urban agenda, the need for accelerated technology transfer, the protection of the natural resource base on which development depends, the reinvigoration of international cooperation for development and so on all require to be addressed in a coherent framework. The serious environmental threats which mankind face can not be separated from the economic and social consequences that are closely interwoven with water shortages, energy supply, desertification, global warming, climatic catastrophes and loss of biodiversity at a rate never before witnessed.

 

Only if we act in a pro-active manner can we succeed in achieving the goals set at the Millennium Summit last year and moreover, leave a sustainable planet to future generations.