More than 60 environment ministers, United Nations officials, senior business executives and NGO leaders met here at UN Headquarters over lunch to discuss critical environmental protection issues. The meeting concluded with calls for an international follow-up in late 1998.
Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told the powerful gathering: "There is a window of opportunity opening for all groups to jointly participate in a process of genuine improvement. From today's discussions it is clear the time for joint action on sustainable development is now -- UNEP looks forward to playing a leading role when we meet later this year to discuss the role of voluntary initiatives."
"The Cleaner Production Declaration, which UNEP will launch at a meeting in Seoul in September, is just one example of how the UN and business can cooperate to guarantee development which is sound from economic, environmental and social perspectives", added Mr. Toepfer.
Today's lunch, co-hosted by UNEP, the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), was held during the two-week session of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development. The Commission is the annual follow-up meeting to track improvement of agreements made at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
Amongst discussion items at the luncheon roundtable were how UN agencies, business and NGO groups can cooperate to create "win-win" sustainable development partnerships to solve emerging environmental problems. Industry's growing honour roll of successful voluntary environmental action programmes, which have boosted the environmental performance of businesses worldwide, were also covered during the two-hour discussions.
Maria Livanos Cattaui, Secretary-General of the ICC, said: "The financial, managerial and technical expertise industry and business has brought to the drive for sustainable development will provide key foundation stones upon which genuine sustainable development will be fashioned."
The ICC chief executive said global industry's voluntary initiatives to promote sound environmental management since the Earth Summit were examples of industry's "serious achievements".
Mrs. Cattaui called for a meeting in late 1998 "at which governments, industry and all other stakeholders would meet to define a processes which would allow us to explore a way forward for voluntary initiatives".
"Voluntary industry initiatives are an important policy tool for improving industry's environmental performance beyond regulatory standards", said Mr. Toepfer. "They can also be an important tool for industry to demonstrate that they are managing their operations in a manner that will enhance economic growth, ensure environmental protection and address social concerns."
"UNEP looks forward to playing a key role in the proposed meeting later this year -- it presents a true opportunity for positive dialogue between governments, UN agencies, industry and other major stakeholders on an important issue which will go to the heart of industry's efforts to promote sustainable development into the 21st century", he said in conclusion.
For more information, please contact:
Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel
UNEP Industry and Environment
Paris Tel: 33-1-44-37-1450
UNEP News Release 1998/21