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Speech at the Closing Ceremony by H. Labelle


  My fist word must be to extend our sincere thanks for the excellent arrangements made by our Chinese hosts and for the warmth of their hospitality. I do this on my own behalf and on behalf of all international members. In expressing our deep appreciation, I would mention first our Chairman Dr. Song Jian and his two Vice-Chairmen Professor Qu Geping and Mr. Gu Ming, under whose senior leadership all of these excellent arrangements have been made. Next, I would salute our Secretary General mr. Xie Zhenhus and his secretariat team from NEPA who have worked such long hours in order to make every aspect of the administration and logistics go so smoothly for us. We know that this required tremendous planning and skilled execution. Lastly, I would like to commend the very effective local support from the Shanghai EPB under the direction of Mme. Lu Shuping and from the Shanghai municipality both for their efficient arrangements and for their personal efforts to make us feel truly welcome. We shall leave this meeting with a warm memory of hospitality from all levels of government.

  May I turn now to some substantive points about our China Council. I would like to frame my remarks in the context of Dr. Song Jian's speech at the Opening Ceremony. In that speech he did three things. First, he mentioned the three important strides China has made in 1996. Secondly, he was frank to say that severe problems remain. Thirdly he said environment and development have entered a new stage in the 9th 5-Year Plan, and he challenged the Council to adapt to that new stage and make relevant policy recommendations and practical suggestions.

  Let me react to our Chairman's three points. First, it became clear to me, and I believe to other international members, during our recent deliberations just ho w important are the three major steps which China has taken in 1996.

  We have heard various Chinese speakers mention the new sense of direction they have since the decisions on the 9th 5-Year Plan and the 4th National Conference on Environment. They were all impressed that this conference was addressed personally by both the President and Premier of China. We are delighted to have learned that several Council recommendations have had positive impacts on the new directions being taken by China in the fields of environment and development. I am confident that this news will reinforce the determination of exert working group m embers and council members to continue their efforts to assist China.

  Secondly, we appreciate and admire China's willingness to be frank about the severe challenges it faces. Dr. Song Jian referred to worsening pollution in cities and rural areas and to expanding eco-destruction. As he said" situation in certain places has already impeded development and, in some case even directly threatened people's health". Only when a country like China is willing to be realistic in its assessment of the nature and scope of its problem, can outsiders begin to help develop appropriate solutions.

  Thirdly, I wish to address the challenge faced by the Council to adapt to what Dr. Song Jian has called "the new stage" in dealing with China's environment and development. In this meeting, we have been able to look back and learn from lesson s during the past four years while the Council was in its formative sage. Now I believe we have demonstrated that the Council was in its formative stage. Now I believe we have demonstrated that the Council has reached the stage of maturity. The Working groups produced comprehensive reports which reflected the several years of background work they have done. They were able to make solidly researched and relevant recommendations. And several Working Group have demonstrated that they have already entered the new more practical stage which will characterize the next five year. They did this by reporting on seminars and workshops which they have held with various departments and with local government officials. In some cases, they have already produced detailed reports which have already been followed by some local governments and they have achieved agreements between NEPA and relevant ministries. It is encouraging to see that Working groups have already by Chinese decision-makers. Moreover the practical spirit that animated the Working Groups was also demonstrated by the Council Members themselves in their discussions. It was gratifying to hear active dialogue between international members and Chinese members on the various policy recommendations and on the relevance of new technologies. We also learned about the wide range of problems faced by Chinese officials. For example, we heard about the tremendous differences between Shanghai and Guizhou in terms of types of problems they face and the resources at their disposal. We also had some initial discussions about how the increasing role of the market economy will change the challenge that China faces and the opportunities it will present for acquiring new technologies.

  I am encouraged that there was unanimous agreement that the Council should continue for the next 5 years. We heard many good suggestions on how the Council should adapt to the changing scene in China. Among the may ideas put forward, one is to be able to devise demonstration projects which are planned in such way that t hey meet the needs of a specific locality but are also capable of being adapted for dissemination in other parts of China.

  The government of China, the members of the Bureau and Secretariat will need a little time to reflect on all these comments and suggestions before making decisions on how to structure the Council for Phase II. But I am confident, on the basis of China's recent forward steps and on the results of this meeting, that the China Council has now reached sufficient maturity that it can rise to the challenge. I believe that, in the years ahead, the China Council will become an even more effective agent than in the past in prmoting good environment and development plicies in this great country.

  I wish to underline the importance of the international dimension of this Council. Many of the issues we examine are not only national in scope but are truly international in their impact and import. Equally important is the international spirit which animates this Council. When this Council began some people feared that it might divide along national lines. Exactly the opposite has happened. Each year we become closer together in our thinking and become not national but more truly international in our outlook. We have achieved something quite unique and valuable in this Council. We have set an example which other countries wish to emulate. I believe therefore that we should congratulate ourselves on our first five years and dedicate ourselves to do even better in the next phase.

  Lastly, may I say a word about your own role, Mr. Chairman. Your personal report on Phase I was one of the high points of this rich meeting. It was very important to all of us because it gave renewed energy to the Council. As you saw from the expressions on the faces of the Council members and heard from their testimonies you know how important it was for them to hear from a person of your stature about the accomplishments of the Council. It was also enlightening to learn about the beginning of this unique experiment. The document which summarizes your views will be invaluable for all of us who wish to muster support in our own countries for the Council's work in promoting environment and development in China. In summary, you have the respect and affection of all our members who recognize you as heart and soul of the Council.

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