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New Report from UN Secretary-General Outlines Vision for Building a Secure Future at Next Year's Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development

20 December 2001 - "Progress towards the goals established at Rio has been slower than anticipated and in some respects conditions are worse than they were ten years ago," according to a new report issued by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today. But with strong political will, practical steps, and strong partnerships, several key hurdles that have caused the rather uneven results in the implementation of sustainable development can be overcome, he said.

The report is a candid assessment of the progress that has been made in implementing Agenda 21, the global plan for sustainable development-development that embraces economic growth, social development and environmental protection-that was agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The report will serve as the factual underpinning of the negotiations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development that will take place next year in Johannesburg. [Click here for a copy of the report.]

While tracking the trends and identifying a host of problem areas, the report also found that many steps can be taken to make globalization work for sustainable development and to jump start implementation efforts. The report provides a ten-point programme that countries, business leaders, non-governmental organizations and leaders of other stakeholders could consider during the preparatory negotiations for the Summit.

Calling political will "the key to success," the Secretary-General also said it was necessary to find practical steps and partnerships, combined with a renewed spirit of global cooperation and solidarity, to create major changes in the way policies and programmes for sustainable development are designed and implemented.

"One of the most important effects of 11 September has been to highlight the fact that we are living in one world, and that no part of that world can afford to ignore the problems of the rest."

The report found that Agenda 21 still serves as "powerful and long-term vision," and remains as valid today as it was at Rio. Nevertheless, while progress has been made in some areas to protect the environment, it found that the state of the world's environment is still fragile "and conservation measures are far from satisfactory." In addition, a host of new developments such as globalization, the information and communications revolution and the spread of HIV/AIDS present new challenges that must be addressed.

According to the report, implementation of Agenda 21 has been hampered by four main factors. These include:

  • A fragmented approach that has seen policies and programmes address economic, social and environmental concerns, but not in integrated manner.
  • The world continues to use far more resources than ecosystems can support.
  • There is a lack of coherent policies in areas of finance, trade, investment and technology and policies that take a long-term view.
  • A lack of resources dedicated to implementing Agenda 21. Developing countries have had difficulties obtaining new technologies and private investment from developed countries, and official development assistance has fallen over the last decade.

Globalization helped the global economy during the 1990s but not all countries benefited, the report found. International trade flourished, growing at an average of 6.4 percent a year and reached the $6.3 trillion mark in 2000. The economies of developing countries grew as well, as gross domestic product increased to 4.3 percent in the 90's, compared to 2.7 percent in the 1980's. Yet much of the growth was centered in a few countries, and notably, Africa and countries with economies in transition did not benefit from the wave of globalization.

Other noteworthy trends include:

  • The world's population topped 6 billion in 2000, up from 2.5 billion in 1950 and 4.4 billion in 1980. Projection show the population will reach 8 billion by 2025 and 9.3 billion in 2050.
  • Just 15 percent of the world's population, who live in high-income countries, account for 56 percent of all the world's consumption, while the poorest 40 percent, in developing countries, account for only 11 percent of consumption. Average household consumption expenditure in Africa is 20 percent less than it was 25 years ago.
  • The overall poverty rate in developing countries, based on a poverty line of $1 income a day, fell from 29 percent in 1990 to 23 percent in 1998. The total number of people living in income poverty declined from about 1.3 billion to 1.2 billion.
  • There are 1.1 billion people who still lack access to safe drinking water and about 2.4 billion lack adequate sanitation.
  • More than 8 percent of children in developing countries still die before the age of five and more than 113 million primary-age school children in developing countries-60 percent of them girls-are not in school.
  • There are 815 million people who are undernourished in the world, 777 million of them in developing regions. The numbers are declining in Asia, but growing in Africa.
  • Contaminated water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene cause over 80 percent of all disease in developing countries. Malaria alone causes over 1 million deaths a year.
  • More water is needed. Over the next two decades, the world will need 17 percent more fresh water to grow food for growing populations in developing countries, and total water use will increase by 40 percent. By 2025, two-thirds of the world could live in areas facing moderate to severe water stress.
  • More than 11,000 species are threatened with extinction, more than 800 are already extinct, and another 5,000 could face extinction unless steps are taken to reverse their population declines.
  • In the world's major fisheries, 50 percent are fully utilized and 25 percent are over-fished.
  • Deforestation continues at the estimated rate of 14.6 million hectares a year, although 5.2 million hectares have been reclaimed by either new growth or the establishment of forest plantations. Net deforestation rates are highest in South America and in Africa.
  • People in developed countries use more energy-almost ten times as much per person-as people in developing regions.
  • Petroleum accounts for 95 percent of energy consumption for transportation, growing at the rate of 1.5 percent a year in developed countries, and 3.6 percent in developing countries. Carbon dioxide emissions, considered a leading cause of climate change, are expected to increase 75 percent between 1997 and 2020.

While countries have yet to set an agenda for the Summit, the report suggests a top-ten list of areas where achievable goals can be set and reached. These include comprehensive steps needed to

  1. Making globalization work for sustainable development;
  2. Eradicating poverty and improving livelihoods in rural and urban areas;
  3. Changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, including a four-fold increase in energy efficiency over the next two to three decades;
  4. Improve health through safe and affordable access to fresh water, a reduction in lead in gasoline and improved indoor air quality;
  5. Providing access to energy and improving energy efficiency by developing and using more renewable and energy efficient technologies and changing unsustainable energy consumption patterns;
  6. Managing on a sustainable basis ecosystems and biodiversity by improving the indicators and the management systems including addressing the problems of over-fishing, unsustainable forestry practices and land-based marine pollution;
  7. Improve freshwater supply management and more equitable distribution of water resources;
  8. Providing financial resources and environmentally-sound technologies;
  9. Supporting for sustainable development in Africa through new and extensive programmes that can build institutions and systems that can address hunger, health and environmental protection and resource management
  10. Strengthening international governance for sustainable development.

Countries will consider the Secretary-General's report at the next preparatory conference for the Summit, which will take place in New York from 28 January to 8 February 2002.


Thursday 20 Dec 2001
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