One of the great lessons for the world that became clear at the Rio Summit was that building a higher quality of life for people and protecting the health of the planet go hand in hand.
Economic development and care for the environment are compatible, interdependent and necessary. High productivity, modern technology and economic development can co-exist with a healthy environment.
One of the most serious challenges facing us continues to be living up to the Copenhagen and Rio commitments to place people at the centre of development in a globalized economy.
As we try to solve the current global financial crisis, we cannot neglect social development and environmental protection.
The fight to protect economies and the propping up of falling currencies should not be at the cost of our fragile ecosystems and diminishing species. Lowering environmental precautions at this stage will constitute not only bad environmental policy but also bad economic policy as the longer term clean-up required is often more costly. If we are to have any hope of protecting our environment, we must understand the connections between the health of the world's economies and the health of the resources on which those economies rely.
While economies readjust and grow, governments and international organizations must accord high priority to identifying policies that hurt the poor. Public policies must enhance people's lives while protecting the most vulnerable from the negative impact of essential adjustments with well-targeted safety nets.
We must also realize that no development can be sustainable unless the needs of the least advantaged and most vulnerable sections of the society are met. It is the livelihood of the poor and their hopes that shrivel in the arid anguish of drought and are drowned in the raging fury of the floods.
The longer the circumstances of extreme poverty and environmental degradation persist, the higher will be the remedial costs and the external social and economic costs for nations that can ill afford to foot the bill. The incalculable human suffering associated with this process and the destruction of invaluable wildlife and natural resources can never be recouped.
On this day, let us resolve to eliminate by early next century from the face of the Earth, the worst forms of poverty. We must pay great attention to problems of severe malnutrition, unsafe drinking water and inadequate levels of sanitation and health care. Improving these conditions is necessary for the elimination of poverty." *******
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Tore J. Brevik
Information and Public Affairs
UNEP, PO Box 30552
UNEP News Release 1998/105