Press releases

Friday 21 Sep 2001

UN Environment Chief Urges World To Fight Root Causes Of Civil Unrest That Can Lead To Terrorism

Almaty, September 21, 2001 - The world must tackle international terrorism and tackle the forces of poverty, environmental degradation and hatred that give birth to intolerance that can lead to fundamentalism and terrorist acts.

The message was delivered today by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at a launch in Kazakhstan of a regional environmental action plan for Central Asia.

"When people are denied access to clean water, soil, and air to meet their basic human needs, we see the rise of poverty, ill-health and a sense of hopelessness. Desperate people can resort to desperate solutions. They may care little about themselves and the people they hurt," he said.

"I am not suggesting for a moment that poverty and environmental degradation are factors on their own. Intolerance also has its role. But it can fan the flames of hate and ignite a belief that terrorism is the only solution to a community's or nation's ills, "Mr Toepfer told reporters at a press conference in Almaty.

UNEP's Executive Director, who was speaking 10 days after the atrocities in New York and Washington, stressed: "We must be determined and united in our efforts to bring those responsible to justice. What happened in the United States was a crime against humanity, an act of horrendous violence against all
races and creeds. But we must also expose the forces that create poverty, intolerance, hatred and environmental degradation that can lead to an unstable world."

He said the rise of globalization and its impacts on global trade patterns was also a key issue that the international community must face up to.

"You cannot be for or against globalization. It is simply a fact of the modern world. To ignore it you would have to be a hermit or someone, like Robinson Crusoe, who has been abandoned on a desert island. But we need a just and fair system that brings sustainable, economic benefits to rich and poor countries alike. Without this, the forces that forge civil unrest and in the extreme can give rise to terrorism will continue to flourish impoverishing everyone, " said Mr Toepfer.

He congratulated the Central Asian countries for their cooperation on the Regional Environment Action Plan since its initiation in May 2000. It builds on the collaboration developed to address the degradation of the Aral Sea and the other trans-boundary problems.

The plan has been also a collaborative effort between the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and UNEP in the region.

"It is a living document and the Central Asian countries need to create an institutional framework for its regular review and update", said Mr Toepfer.

The plan focuses on air and water pollution, land degradation, waste management and mountain ecosystem degradation. As solutions it emphasises the importance of public involvement in decision making, economic initiatives such as the "polluter pays", clean technology, environmental impact assessment and
the precautionary approach in planning.

The plan was launched by environment ministers from the five Central Asian countries: the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Today's launch follows meetings earlier in the week to determine Central Asia's contribution to next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development, the 10th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit

"In Rio we brought environment and development together into the goal of 'sustainable development'. In 2002 in Johannesburg we will take stock of what has been achieved and the considerable amount of issues that remain unresolved. It must also address the role of globalization in achieving or undermining our efforts to create a better and more just world," Mr Toepfer said in his keynote address to the ministerial conference.

"We must alter our trading patterns and practices so that we eradicate poverty in the developing world and eliminate environmentally-subsidized over consumption in the developed world. Careful and fair management of environmental resources is an important part of our peace policy for the
future," Mr Toepfer said.

"Your Excellencies, Ministers of the Environment of the five Central Asian countries and country experts, I congratulate you for developing a common plan for common problems for common solutions. This provides an excellent platform for establishing an institutional mechanism for regional cooperation", concluded Mr Toepfer.

 

For further information:
Please contact Tim Higham, Regional Information Officer, UNEP/ROAP, Bangkok,
Thailand, tel: 288- 2127, email: higham.unescap@un.org; or (in Almaty)
Surendra Shresta, Director, UNEP Regional Resource Centre for Asia and the
Pacific, +732 7250 3711, mobile +661 837 9435; or Tore Brevik,
Spokesman/Director, Communications and Public Information in Nairobi, on Tel:
254 2 623292, Fax: 254 2 623927, E-Mail: tore.brevik@unep.org

More information on the Central Asia Regional Action Plan is available at
http://www.rrcap.unep.org/centralasia/
Background information of the State of the Environment in Central Asia is
available from http://www.unep.no/aral/

UNEP New Release ROAP/01/19

Friday 21 Sep 2001
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