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Speech at the Inaugural Meeting of CCICED by Federico Mayor


  Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen:

  It is and honour and a pleasure for me to be with you today at this inaugural meeting of the China Council for international Cooperation on Environment and Development. I commend the Government of the People's Republic on its wisdom and foresight in establishing the Council, and I wish the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) every success in its important task of co-ordinating the activities of the Council.

  This inaugural meeting of the new Council is of the highest significance on two counts. Firstly, it testifies to the strong commitment of the Government of the most populous country on earth to developing and implementing a linked environment and development strategy. Secondly, it gives an important international underpinning to this major undertaking. By inviting experts from other countries to join with China in the twin task of improving the living standards of its people while minimizing the harmful effects on the environment, the Chinese authorities have acted upon the recognition that the problem of environmental pollution knows no boundaries and that any solutions must, to some degree or another, have an international dimension. Taking place as it does just weeks before the United Nations Conference on Environmental and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, this meeting seems to me particularly timely and auspicious.

  The boundaries reascended by the problem of environmental pollution are, of course, sectoral no less than geographical. Sustainable development implies not only protection of the environment and the rational use of resources by also a whole series of policy options in the economic, social and cultural spheres - not least a commitment to equity and the eradication of poverty. By the same token, it calls for close policy co-ordination and commitment at the highest levels of government. In this connection, it is most encouraging that the Chinese authorities should have assigned to the Council the task of assisting in the development of "an integrated, coherent approach across the broad areas of environmental protection, economic and social development, science and technology".

  As the United Nations agency responsible for education, science and culture, UNESCO is well placed to contribute to the Chinese effort not only in some of the discrete disciplines relevant to sustainable development but also in the intersectoral domain, in the necessary building of bridges across disciplines and sectors of activity. UNESCO would hope to cooperate closely with the Council in its elaboration of an integrated approach to policy-making for sustainable development.

  Education is generally recognized to be an essential pillar of such an approach. While obviously no substitute for an effective industrial, economic and environ mental policy, it can provide powerful reinforcement for such policy within both formal and non-formal settings by expanding environmental awareness and promoting environmentally informed behavior. UNESCO is active in this domain, in the first place through its worldwide promotion of literacy and basic education together with its United Nations, NGO and government partners and, more particularly, through the International Environmental Education Programme it implements in cooperation with UNEP.

  Links between education and science- the second pillar of sustainable development policy with which UNESCO is concerned - exist at many levels. Education is obviously the key to the development of indigenous scientific capacity, and science in turn feeds back new knowledge into the educational curriculum, including that of environmental education. Science itself is a critical component of any environmental/development policy, as an instrument for monitoring, detecting analysing and solving the problems arising from this sphere. It is worth underlining that many of these problems - such as greenhouse gas emissions - are not the result of application of science and technology as such but rather a consequence of the use of inefficient or inappropriate technology. Knowledge transfer - of the kind UNESCO exists to promote -is therefore essential in this field, together with the building up of scientific capacity in which the organization is also engages. Natural resources are not; they become through the know how which permit to extract and transform them.

  I might perhaps mention at this point the UNITWIN programme recently initiated by UNESCO, which is designed to promote the rapid transfer of knowledge through t winning, networking and other linking arrangements among universities throughout the world, particularly along North-South and South-South axes. One of its principal components is the UNESCO Chairs scheme, intended to provide students from the developing countries with enhanced opportunities for advanced training and research at centres of excellence in key disciplines related to sustainable development. A number of such chairs have already been instituted, and a UNESCO/United Nations University Chair on plant biotechnology is shortly to be established at Beijing University. Its purpose - as with other UNESCO Chair - is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation activities to serve the practical needs of the country and other countries in the region.

  Science itself can go a long way towards resolving the problems arising from it s technological derivatives, and the China Council will need to avail itself of t he best possible scientific advice in the fields relevant to environmental protection. UNESCO can help here in a number of specific areas within its competence, including the oceans, terrestrial ecology and biological diversity, fresh water and the geological sciences. It promotes basic scientific work in all these fields through its major international programmes - the Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) (whose International Research and Training Centre on Erosion and Sedimentation is located here in Beijing) and the International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP). Within the framework of MAB, UNESCO has already been cooperating with the German Ministry for Research and Technology in the Cooperative Eecological Research Project (CERP), whose results could certainly be of use to the Council.

  In the implementation of its scientific programme, UNESCO works in close cooperation with the international scientific community, notably through the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and its member organizations and committees. I am pleased to see that ICSU is represented at this meeting of your Council by its Executive Secretary.

  Over the year, UNESCO has amassed a great deal of experience and expertise in the areas I have mentioned. It is particularly strong in some areas likely to be covered by the Council's proposed working group. Monitoring and data collection, scientific research and training, protection of biodiversity, conservation of soil and water, control of desertification and deforestation - these are just some of the fields in which UNESCO can be of assistance to you.

  Similarly, IOC's research on oceans and the impact of human activities on coastal areas can provide valuable inputs for understanding current stresses on the various seas and coastlines of your country, UNESCO's work on tropical and semi-tropical islands all over the world should also be relevant to certain islands in Chinese waters.

  A third pillar of sustainable development policy to which UNESCO can contribute involves the social sciences and culture. A purely technological approach is not sufficient for the framing of development policy, which needs to take account of ways in which people interact with their environment, of their traditions and their history, UNESCO's programme relating to development strategies places great emphasis on cultural considerations and on the role of home resources in the context of sustainable development. The International Forum on Sustainable Development organized by UNESCO in Paris in September last year provided an excellent occasion to reflect on the interrelation of the diverse cultural, socio-economic, political, demographic, environmental and other factors that need to be taken in account in integrated development strategies.

  Information on these and many other activities is available from the UNESCO office in Beijing, from the UNESCO National Commission, from the Chinese National Committees working with such UNESCO entities as IOC, MAB and IHP, and from our organization's headquarters in Paris.

  Improving the Chinese economy for the benefit of its people while making judicious use of natural resources and causing minimal damage to the environment is an enormous challenge. The Council, in formulating Its advice to the Chinese Government, will have the task of pulling together widely disparate pieces of information and making sensible policy of them. As Jules Poincaré wrote: "Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house. "The Council's task is to construct a house, or plans for a house, in which all can flourish. And in such a crucial endeavour, we can not be guided by purely technical aims. Nor by market rules which can not mobilize citizens' willingness, particularly in such historical turning points. It is on the principles of equity, freedom and solidarity that our common future house must be built. And then economic growth turns into human development.

  The work you have already done, in preparation for this meeting and in preparing China's contribution to UNCED, is most impassive. The UNCED Conference represents a vital opportunity for the community of nations to set in motion actions to address the interlinked issues of environmental protection and development and to map out new global approaches to sustainable development. In establishing your Council, China has put in place the institutional entity, with broad inter-ministerial representation, that can implement intersectional polices or ideas generated by UNCED - and, for that matter, important policies you generated yourselves. After all, UNCED is the beginning, not the end, of a process.

  Clearly, in China and elsewhere, the pace of the political and economic transition is more rapid than the cultural transition. And what matters, in practical terms, is to develop new attitudes at all levels. It is only through a process that requires far-sightedness, imagination and perseverance that the present culture, a culture of war, will progressively turn into a culture of peace. Today we are unprepared we have the structures, the budgets and the minds shaped to face threats of military scope, to defend our borders, to mobilize soldiers. We know and accept the price of war. However, we have not the structure, nor the budgets and consciousness to face the threats of ignorance, poverty, environmental degradation. We do not know the price of a culture of peace and, nevertheless, we are already writing its first pages. This Council is a lucid example of how to tackle these new paths of our contemporary history, and I congratulate all those who had the initiative and took the decisions to set it up. And I am sure that they will take fully into account the crucial role - so frequently under-estimated - of the behavioral patterns of people. The reason of all our efforts is people. Development and environment are empty concepts if they are not conceived from and built around each single woman and man, as they are the protagonists and beneficiaries of all relevant strategies. Believe me, the solution of population growth, the long-term solution of environmental problems, the key for qualified human resources, for economic growth and endogenous of development is education, is access to knowledge, is the transfer of knowledge. External assistance can be extremely useful, even indispensable, to trigger the process. But every single country must acquire the self-reliance necessary to adopt its own decisions, to shape and design its own models-particularly on higher education the need for a re-examination of obsolete models is urgent - to assume a real independence and to foster genuine democracy.

  I thank you most sincerely for your kind invitation t o participate in the Council's session and look forward on behalf of UNESCO to co-operating with you in the future. May I wish the Council every success in its vital work.

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