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Open Speech by Mr. Shafqat Kakakhel from UNEP

2001-10-15author:Mr. Shafqat Kakakhelsource:

Distinguished Chairman, Vice Chairmen and Members of the CCICED, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great pleasure and honor for me to attend this important meeting on behalf of Dr. Klaus Topfer, Executive Director of UNEP, who greatly values his membership in august forum. Dr. Topfer regrets not being with you, and has asked me to convey to all of you his greetings and best wishes for the success of your meeting.

The CCICED has made a significant contribution to the efforts of the Chinese Government to achieve sustainable development, and its members deserve admiration and gratitude.

This meeting of the CCICED is crucial, for it will not only assess the quality and impact of the Council's work during the first and second phases of its existence but will also decide on its activities in future in consonance with the needs and expectations of China as determined by its leaders, policy-makers and other stakeholders. UNEP officials participated in the meetings of some of the Working Groups (especially the Working Group on Cleaner Production). We have considered the draft policy recommendations to the Chinese Government based on the deliberations of these groups, and find ourselves in agreement with their essential thrust.

UNEP wishes to express thanks to CIDA of Canada and the other Governments and bodies which have facilitated the work of the CCICED through the provision of financial and intellectual support. We hope this invaluable support will be extended to facilitate Phase Ⅲ of the Council, which is destined to be even more complex and challenging as China continues its drive to seek economic growth coupled with the protection and development of the environment. We pay tribute to the leaders and policy-makers of China for not only facilitating and encouraging the Council's work, but also for considering and integrating the advice given by the Council in their policies on various aspects of sustainable development. I wish to pledge UNEP's full and wholehearted support for and participation in the work of the Council in its onerous next phase.

I would like to suggest that at this meeting the Council considers how it might consolidate, document and disseminate the outcomes of its work during Phase I and Ⅱ. The dissemination of the excellent work done by the Council and its Working Groups would be immensely useful to other countries, especially the industrializing developing countries pursuing the goal of sustainable development. The Council may also wish to consider how it may be able to concentrate its work on fewer areas in the next phase, focusing more heavily on the top priorities of China. In this regard, the far-reaching implications of China's accession to the World Trade Organization should receive special attention. The Council may additionally wish to address measures-including market instruments-that may help in ensuring the contribution of the private sector in responding to the challenges of China's integration into the global trading system. All stakeholders, including civil society, will need to contribute.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members, 

In September 2002, the international community will assemble in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), in order to assess the successes and failures since the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio in 1992 and to reinvigorate global solidarity for promoting the outcomes of that landmark conference. Under the leadership of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan several United Nations agencies, particularly the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNEP, UNDP and the Regional Commissions, as well as the Development Banks, are contributing to the worldwide preparatory process for the WSSD. UNEP will be presenting its third Global Environment Outlook report (GEO Ⅲ), which will provide an objective overview of the state of the global environment and will help to ensure that the international community's consideration of appropriate actions is based on solid, impeccable analysis.

All of you are eminent and highly knowledgeable experts, and I need not give you facts and figures about the various environmental problems of the planet. I would only refer to the stark and vivid contradictions marking the global situation as we prepare for Johannesburg. There are impressive and admirable developments and trends, such as the improvements achieved by most developed and some developing countries in both pollution control and resource management, a greater awareness of the imperative of integrating environmental and development policies, and a more active interest of the private sector in sustainable development. However, the indicators in respect of all major global environmental problems show deterioration.

The recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change firmly establish that climate change is a real and serious problem, linked to human actions. Urgent remedial measures are called for.

Water-related issues include scarcity, limited access, and quality-pose daunting problems. China is acutely aware of these issues, and is making admirable efforts to address them. They are global problems and the solutions require concerted efforts.

The ill health of ecosystems is still cause for great concern. The depletion of biodiversity, the deterioration of land and the related problem of desertification, the protection of marine resources, the effective management of chemicals in an age of rapid 'chemicalisation', and the protection of existing and development of new forest resources are also urgent sustainable development priorities.

Urbanization and the various issues linked to it are a growing challenge. We are already in an urbanized world. Most of the growth of mega cities is taking place in the developing world, which is ill equipped to cope with environmental and health stresses, especially the pollution of air and water. Instead of serving as centers of productivity, culture, civilization, and scientific advancement, the fast growing-virtually exploding-cities of the Third World are plagued by denial and deprivation, exclusion and despair. We need to save our cities in order to protect our future.

The challenges of sustainable development have to be addressed on a global level through deliberate and concerted efforts. The two defining features of the global scene are globalization and poverty. Globalization is a fait accompli; it is inevitable and irreversible, and it is absurd to try to undo it. The challenge for all of us is, as Secretary-General Annan has repeatedly said, to make globalization work for and serve all, and to guard against marginalisation.

Poverty is another dominant feature of the global scene. Policy-related research by the World Bank, UNDP, UNEP and Governments such as the United Kingdom has highlighted the deep, inextricable and reinforcing nexus between poverty and environmental degradation. What is needed is the adoption of policy responses to address the serious and unfortunately growing problem of urban and rural poverty. Without these responses it will be impossible to achieve the goal of sustainable development at the global level.

Efforts to address the widening gap between the developed and the developing worlds are indeed urgently required. Unfortunately, the global context has experienced a serious deterioration as a result of the extremely tragic, cataclysmic events in the United States on 11 September. The preliminary assessment of the worldwide implications of the terrorist attacks issued by the World Bank on 1 October is highly disturbing. The assessment predicts a further slowing down of economic growth in the United States, Europe and Japan, which will have a highly negative impact on the economic situation in developing countries, especially those dependent on commodity exports and tourism. In sub-Saharan Africa, another three to five million human beings will join the three hundred million already living in absolute poverty.

We are indeed in a very difficult situation. We hope that the international community will be able to respond to the challenges by mobilizing the necessary political and taking appropriate and concerted actions.

Thank you.

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