Commissioner Wallström's Speech on WSSD
Sumario: June 21, 2002: Speech by Margot Wallström, Commissioner responsible for Environment on "European Rio +10 Coalition Conference - WSSD ". Third Conference of the European Coalition, in view of World Summit on Sustainable Development (Brussels)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hannah Njeri is a 45-year old woman who sells vegetables outside a gas station on a street in Nairobi. Every morning she collects a few tomatoes, onions or beans from her tiny plot and spends the rest of the day selling what she can to passers-by and people who stop for petrol.
Margins are small. Hannah makes just a few dollars a day, which she uses to put her children through school. She would like to own her own greengrocery, but capital is a problem.
She says "competition is tough. Everything depends on the market … sometimes you can't get tomatoes, so we are going to sell them for more. Or everyone has potatoes, so you have to cut your price a lot. Prices go up and down just like that".
I read Hannah's story on the journey back from the Ministerial meeting in Bali last week. It appeared in an essay in Time magazine about the impact of farm subsidies in the north on developing countries in the south. It strikes me that we should always remember stories such as Hannah's when we speak about sustainable development and our expectations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Poverty, soil erosion, lack of water, fair trade and education are not just concepts in policy documents!
In just ten weeks time, ten years after the Rio Earth Summit, world leaders will gather in Johannesburg. The Earth Summit was a landmark for sustainable development. It established new concepts and new ways of working which have been shaping the world's agenda ever since. Will the Johannesburg meeting make a similar contribution by setting an agenda that will improve the real lives of people like Hannah Njeri, or will it be just one more international conference?
Before attempting to answer this question lets look back to why Rio was a success and examine whether developments since then should lead us to be optimistic.
The Rio Context
Rio came to life in an era of optimism. The Berlin wall had fallen and the Cold War was on its way into the history books. Eastern European countries were embracing freedom and democracy, the US economy was recovering from recession and the Asian Tigers leaped ahead. In Europe green-left governments put people and the environment in the center of their policies and won elections. All this created a good atmosphere for high ambitions in Rio. There was genuine hope for real change.
The Johannesburg Context
Ten years later, at the beginning of the 21st century the picture is very different. Hope has tempered.
Many feel insecure, threatened by forces beyond their control; excluded from the prosperity which globalization is supposed to bring; alienated from their politicians and the political process.
The attacks on 11th of September shook the global community - we all realized that we live under a threat of terrorism and we are still trying to come to terms with the consequences.
We all realize that poverty lies at the root of terrorism, but we are struggling to come to grips with solutions. The world knows a lot more about what it takes to bridge the gap between rich and poor but is the international community willing to act on this knowledge?
Many blame globalization for the problems currently facing the world. While it offers enormous opportunities for development, there are concerns that not all countries benefit from it. There are fears for negative environmental and social implications, as well as for loss of cultural diversity. Globalization can be a powerful force for positive change but its potential to promote sustainable development for all remains to be realized.
So the stakes are high.
And in some respects as you know very well - conditions are worse today than they were ten years ago:
- Population pressures continue to mount;
- Global consumption of metals, minerals, wood, plastic and other materials increased some two and a half times between 1960 and 1995; and,
- The gap between rich and poor is increasing. Today, 10% of the world's population receives 70% of its income. The three richest men on Earth have assets equal to the annual output of the 48 poorest nations.
These trends are unsustainable.
Some Progress as Well
But do these worrying trends mean that the hopes and ambitions of Rio are dead? I don't think so. Trends are not our destiny.
We cannot let failures of the past and the enormity of the challenge paralyze us. But to realize these dreams and ambitions, we have to make a realistic assessment of the problems and set out to solve them in a focused and systematic manner.
Not least, because there are some positive signs too: in the health care sector, in reducing child and infant mortality rates, in food production and hunger reduction, in providing education, safe water and sanitation.
There are also some reasons for optimism in the environmental field. There are positive trends regarding water and air in some regions of the world, including our own. The international community has addressed a series of global environmental issues some successfully, for example, in reducing threats to stratospheric ozone, or persistent organic pollutants (POPs) through a new international convention signed last year.
And I am obviously delighted that the European Community and all the 15 Member States ratified the Kyoto protocol on 31st of May. This was a historic moment in our efforts to combat climate change and it is at the same time an important signal for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The ratification reaffirms the commitment of the EU and all its Member States to pursue multilateral solutions to issues of global concern.
Participation and Involvement
Over the last ten years, civil society has been the driving force for sustainable development. And I'm sure you will remain important in the process, as our objectives in Johannesburg will not be achieved without a continued active involvement of NGOs and civil society.
Local Agenda 21 has also been a success. Throughout the world around 2 000 cities and towns have concretely implemented Agenda 21. These local initiatives bring together representatives of local government with business, NGOs and other local organizations, and link action at the local level, where most action must take place, with the global issues defined by Rio's Agenda 21.
Some businesses have made significant changes in the way they operate throughout the world. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has taken an enlightened lead in stimulating the commitment to sustainable development on the part of its membership of more than 120 multinational corporations. Voluntary instruments for corporate responsibility are increasingly being applied. But it is too often the same companies who are taking the lead.
The Implementation Gap
So the progress that we have witnessed is commendable, but still the questions remain - why haven't we made more
progress? Why has progress been slow
One reason is undoubtedly that the industrialized world's unsustainable patterns of consumption and production have remained unchanged. This explains one of the key problems of globalization: market liberalization and trade are opening up new economic opportunities, but our model of production and consumption is simply not viable as a model for the global economy.
A second reason for the gap in implementation is that the financial resources required to implement Agenda 21 have not been forthcoming. Official development assistance actually declined from 0.35% of donor countries GDP in 1992 to 0.22% in 2000.
The Doha, Monterrey, Johannesburg Continuum
If we are to deliver on our ambitions, we have to see the World Summit this summer as part of a wider process stretching from Doha through Monterrey to Johannesburg and beyond. The new trade round launched in Doha last November will improve market access for developing countries. The UN Ministerial Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey made progress regarding finance for sustainable development.
The European Union decided to substantially increase development aid. The EU aid already represents more than 50% of all assistance worldwide, and we are now committed to reaching an EU average of 0.39% by 2006. The ultimate objective for each Member State is to attain the UN goal of 0.7% development assistance of GDP. This EU pledge is an important part of the wider commitment made by the international community to increased development assistance in Monterrey.
Johannesburg must build on these agreements. It must set the political targets the world aims to deliver in the coming ten years and harness the Doha and Monterrey processes as key means to implement these political goals.
The Bali Conference
However, success in Johannesburg is by no means guaranteed. The recent Ministerial meeting in Bali was a disappointment in that it became bogged down in the fight over trade and aid between developed and developing countries instead of promoting agreement on a new positive agenda for sustainable development. We will need to work hard in the coming weeks to avert the risk that Johannesburg degenerates into acrimony over market access and development funding. The developed countries must clearly
re-affirm their commitment to deliver on the promises they made in Doha and Monterrey, without any qualifications or quibbling. The developing countries must accept that they cannot re-open Doha and Monterrey and all of us must agree on how to use these processes in the cause of sustainable development.
As the NGOs said in their submission to the Seville European Council on this subject, "We do not regard the lack of consensus in Bali as a bad thing. The alternative was a bad agreement and that would have been far worse".
The Agenda for Change
The EU believes that we can help to set a positive agenda for change at Johannesburg.
My colleague Poul Nielson will address in his speech the specific EU initiatives for deliverables at Johannesburg.
Let me just underline that we are calling for clear political commitments to measurable targets. Our deliverables must be linked to these political commitments.
For example, the EU is committed to ensuring that, by 2015, the number of people unable to reach or afford safe drinking water is halved. And that, by the same date, the number of people without access to adequate sanitation is halved. At Johannesburg, we want others to sign up to these targets and to agree on how we will achieve them.
Similarly, the EU is committed to concrete action in the field of energy and development. We will in particular focus on access to energy services for those who are currently without it, improved energy efficiency, clean technologies and the development of locally available renewable sources. Generally, the EU wants the Summit to give a strong signal to increase of the share of renewable energy sources worldwide.
The Way Forward
In the coming ten weeks, the EU will seek to play a constructive role and promote common commitments in bringing the WSSD parties together. Upcoming meetings such as the Seville European Council and the G8 meeting in Canada in late June, as well as bilateral contacts, will provide important opportunities for review and discussion among developed countries on how to respond to the concerns of the developing countries, without re-opening the Doha and Monterrey agreements.
We will need to work closely with the G77 to re-establish a climate of trust and partnership, and to explain our globalization and sustainable development agenda. In addition to political contacts, we will also continue our technical work to build support for our partnership initiatives, which can bring real benefits in terms of poverty reduction, improvement in health and education and environmental protection to developing countries.
There of course remains a possibility that the Johannesburg meeting will be dominated by acrimony over the issues of trade and finance and the focus on sustainable development risks being lost.
So now is the time for leadership. I welcome the fact that the South Africans are now in the driving seat. They will need our help and support to pull things together in the coming weeks.
For our part, the EU is committed to sustainable development. We are trying to practice what we preach, by developing new ways of making economic, social and environment policy work together, decoupling economic growth and environmental degradation. We believe that this is the only sustainable approach, the only way to reconcile the needs of the present and future generations.
It is equally valid on an international level. The challenge for our leaders when they meet in Johannesburg is to embrace this approach and to commit themselves to new ways of international co-operation.
Some NGOs told me after Bali that they were not too disappointed that it had not been a great success. "It gives us something to campaign for in the run-up to Johannesburg"
they told me. The opportunity to campaign is definitely there now.
be a worthy successor to Rio but we will all
have to work hard in the coming weeks to make sure that it will be
. And remember, it is for normal people like Hannah Njeri that we need to take the right decisions.
Thank you for your attention.
- Ref: SP02-222EN
- Fuente UE: Comisión Europea
- Foro NU:
- Fecha: 21/6/2002
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