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Opening Ceremony Speech by Dr. Huguette Labelle


  It is a great pleasure to meet again with the China council under the distinguished leadership of Vicepremier Wen Jiabao and to welcome him and new and old Members and Wording Group Chairmen.

  I wish to congratulate the new arrivals on joining a unique organization. It brings together host country and international experts in equal numbers, as well as senior representatives of governments, non governmental and multilateral agencies, academia and business; and it makes them all feel part of the same team. It is the only instance I know where a major government voluntasrily invites foreigner s to give sustained organized criticism and advice on such sensitive areas as en vironment and development.

  This Council is meeting at a historic time when China is facing significant inte rnal and external challenges. It is a critical juncture fo China in several resp ects:

  First ,our Chairman is part of a new State council under the dynamic leadership of Pre-mier Zhu Rongji which has pledged to take action to deal with China's eco nomic and so-cial problems. The state Council has reorganized and reduced the Go vernment appartus and is reforming the "State Owned Enterprises"and the firnanci al and housing sectors. Moreover, we note with approval that he has elevated the status of the Environmental Protection Agency to that of a State Administration under the direction of our friend, Minister Xie Zhenhaua.

  Second, other parts of Asia have been hit by serious economic and financial trou bles while China has continude rerolutely on its path of progress. Not only has China resisted pranic in the face of regional turmoil but it has even helpde its neighbours through both finan-cial and monetary contributions.

  Third, Chins has just come through its worst floods in many yeasrs. We have just heard from the Chairman in some detail about the national flood recovery program . The govern-ment and people of China deserve praise for that heroic effort. We wish to express our sadness and sympathy for the loss of life in China and for t he fremendous hardshipcaused to the people of China by these massive floods. We have seen in 1998 alone major climatic disasters around the world. From East Afr ica, to Mexico, China, Bang ladesh, Caribbean,south America and recently in Cent ral America, floods have devastated whole regions.

  As environmentalists and development experts we nust increase our resolve to fin d and applypolicies and programs that will contribute to the prevention of such disastre. It should reinforce our commitment to support sustlable utlization in China, in particular of its ecologically more fragile regions.

  Can we use the story of this disaster to advance public education about the real costs of environmental degradation and the direct link between environment and development?

  I believe that this conjuncture of dramatic events challenges our council to res pond with strategic recommendations in the fields of environment and development . We have con-centrated on impressive Council discussions and excellent Working Group studies. Build-ing on this wealth of knowledge, now is the time to make st rong and practical recommen-dations for actiojn. At this critical juncture of Ch ina,s development our recommendations must offer soltions that contribute at the same to environmental rpoblems, econom-ic problems and social issues, therefore that allows for integrated solutions.

  In reviewing the word of the working Groups over the past year I am so pleased t o see that many of them have focused-from their sometimes broad mandate areas-so specific is-sues which are crtical. At last year's Council meeting we resolved that this phase Ⅱof the council should include more pracical demonstration or p ilot projects to support rec-ommendations. We are nowpracticing demonstrations p rojects.

  It is clear that the council will need to draw in other-donor funding,in order t o be able to realize the practical porential, and capitalize on the enormous amo unt of analytical work that the council's Working Groups have presented us with. As a Council and Bu-reau member ,it is my concern that the full practical poten tial of chinese experts and for-eign experts working side byside be realized.

  I would also like to point out that in many cases the work of demonstrating the practical validity and economic, economic and social validity of working Group r ecommendations does not onlyrest on drawing up pilot projects. Inmany cases it i s also a matter of realizg-ing sunergies. I note for example that both the Energ y Working Group and the cleaner production working Group this past year have b een working on the issue of township and willage nterprises and the potential fo r environmntal improvements s through ener-gy-efficiency and cleaner production measures. I note at the same time that the Asian De-velopment Bank is embarkin o jn a cluster of technical Assistance initatives, also in the area of township an d willage enterprises, I have on doubt that similar synergies exist with the wor ld Bank program in china. I hope that the representatives both from china and fo rm abroad gsathered here for this council will be able to access some of these s ynergies between our various efforts over the next few daye-with the outcomd tha t the efforts of the working Groups can be matched with demonstration activities , and recommendations be backed by pilot results.

  May I conclude by saying that our meeting provides a special opportunity:

  1)to have a positive generasl debate on the critical subject of how the Council should pro-mote a vital role for the environment in China's economicdevelopment program

  2)to take more time than has been possible in past in past meetings to guide the working Groups on what practical issusethey should emphasize in phaseⅡin order to be relevant to Chinese decision-makers

  3)to solicit comments from both chinese and international Mebers on how to make phase Ⅱmore practcal and on how to attract financial support for council demons tra-tion projects from bilateral and multilateral agencies and intemational foun dations

  4)to identify which current recommendations of the working Groups are reaby to b e for-warded to the state Council and which need more work. Inshort, our aim sho uld be to make relevat practical and high priority recommendations to the Govern ment of china.

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