WSSD Statements: Cuba, Austria, Nepal

Published: Wed 4 Sep 2002 01:26 PM
Unavoidable obligations within the country, derived from a colossal effort aimed at the social development of our people - particularly in the fields of education, culture, health and science - to multiply its capacity to cope with the blockade and the effects of the international economic crisis, preserve the Revolution and ensure its independence amid pugnacious policies, threats and risks, have prevented our President from traveling to Johannesburg this time.
Ten years ago, President Fidel Castro highlighted ideas such as these:
"An important biological species is in danger of disappearing due to the fast and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: humankind.
stop it.
"[ ... ] We have become aware of this problem when it is almost too late to
"[ ... ] Consumer societies are fundamentally responsible for the brutal destruction of the environment.
"The solution cannot be to prevent the development of those who need it most [... ].
"If we want to save humankind from that self-destruction, we have to better distribute the wealth and technologies available on the planet. Less luxury and less waste by a few countries is needed so there is less poverty and less hunger on a large part of the Earth.
"Let us pay the ecological debt and not the foreign debt.
"Let hunger disappear and not humankind.
"Now that the alleged threat of communism has disappeared and there are no longer any more excuses for cold wars, arms races and military spending, what is blocking the immediate use of these resources to promote the development of the Third World and fight the threat of the ecological destruction of the planet? "
After ten years of new follies and more squandering for some - the minority - and more impoverishment, diseases and death for others - the overwhelming majority - those words echo in this hall on the conscience of quite a few. His questions are still unanswered.
However, it is fitting to pose three new questions:
The first: what results have we achieved from the Rio Summit up to now?
Almost none. A decade later things have not improved. On the contrary.
The environment is more threatened than ever.
While the Kyoto Protocol capsizes as a victim of an overbearing boycott, the emissions of carbon dioxide - far from diminishing - have increased by 9%; and in the country that causes the most pollution there has been a rise of 18%! The seas and rivers are today more poisoned than in 1992; the air is more polluted; 15 million hectares of forests are decimated every year: almost four times the size of Switzerland. The way of life in developed countries, that are the main predators, is as unsustainable as in the rest. The North pollutes by squandering, the South pollutes not to die.
A large portion of the population on the planet lives in critical conditions.
Evidence of the foregoing is found in the fact that there are 815 million hungry people, 1.2 billion people in abject poverty, 854 million illiterate adults and 2.4 billion people without basic sanitation. More evidence reveals 40 million human beings sick or having contracted the AIDS virus and that 2 million people die of tuberculosis and 1 million of malaria every year. Some 11 million children under 5 years of age will die this year of preventable causes - which in addition to being one more piece of evidence is also a crime.
The world is more unfair and unequal than ten years ago.
The gap has widened instead of decreasing. The difference in income between the richest and the poorest countries was 37 times in 1960, around 60 when we met in Rio - and it now stands at 74 times.
Second question: who is responsible for the current state of affairs?
First and foremost, the economic and political order imposed on the world by the powerful. It is not only profoundly unfair, but also unsustainable. It was left behind by colonialism and has resulted from imperialism; it continues to favor the handful of countries that attained development at the hard and painful expense of the overwhelming majority of the peoples on the planet. Its international financial institutions and the International Monetary Fund in particular. These serve the interests of the governments of a few developed countries, predominantly those of the most powerful among them, those of several hundreds of transnational companies and those of a group of politicians whose electoral campaigns have been financed by such companies. In order to defend those illegitimate and minority interests, most of the world population is subjected to poverty and hopelessness.
The International Monetary Fund - a public institution created on the basis of the explicit recognition of the role of the States and that the market could not solve the problems - has paradoxically been the main instrument for the imposition of neoliberalism on a globalized world. While the poor countries - the majority - had to accept the infamous Washington Consensus, the rich and developed - the minority - have afforded to breach it. They have not opened up their economies and have failed to eliminate subsidies.
Underdeveloped countries - the main victims of this new lost decade - have not been able to fight together to defend our rights, they have also failed to become allies of the millions of workers, non-governmental organizations and intellectuals that in developed countries are also demanding a profound change.
Third question: what should we do?
Two things are missing today: political will and access to financial resources.
Assuming that the political will arises, as a result of this Summit and of the notion that time is running out and that if this new Titanic sinks we will all perish, then the issue at hand is to seek the resources enabling our countries to procure fresh and stable financing on a concessional and non-conditional basis.
Cuba proposes that such funding be obtained from:
Putting in place a development tax of barely 0.1% on international financial transactions. Such action would generate resources amounting to nearly US$ 400 billion per annum, which could change the current situation if well managed by the UN and its system of institutions.
Immediately canceling the foreign debt of underdeveloped countries, whose total amount has already been paid more than once. That would prevent our countries from setting aside in debt service payment no less than US$ 330 billion per annum, a fourth of our earnings through the export of goods and services.
Agreeing, as an immediate step, that 50% of what is currently earmarked for military spending be channeled to a fund available to the UN for sustainable development. That would instantly raise nearly US$ 400 billion - half of which would be contributed by a single country, the mightiest and richest, and also the one ultimately responsible for, the decimation of the environment.
Guaranteeing prompt compliance by developed countries with their commitment of setting aside 0.7% of GNP as ODA. That would increase their contribution from US$ 53 billion in 2000 to nearly US$ 170 billion in 2003.
These are just some ideas. If we add to them the establishment of a new international financial architecture - including the demolition of the current IMF and its replacement with an international public institution serving everyone's interests - the development of a fair and equitable trading system that guarantees special and differentiated treatment for underdeveloped countries and the strengthening of multilateralism and the role of the United Nations Organization on the basis of full respect for its Charter, we could then say that this Summit has been worthwhile.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
the Austrian Foreign Minister
at the
World Summit for Sustainable Development
Johannesburg, South Africa
3. Sept. 2002
Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The recent catastrophic floods in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, but at the same time also in China and the Americas as well as equally catastrophic droughts here in Southern Africa have demonstrated once again that natural and man-made disasters do not stop in front of our door steps. They concern us all. We must change track and act together if we want to leave our grandchildren a peaceful, prosperous, egalitarian and a healthy planet.
Meeting the social and the environmental challenges the world is facing requires concrete action by everyone: states, local communities and the private sector. In Johannesburg we have just strived to do that. For months we have been working to find compromises, which would be acceptable to all states in North and South, East and West.
Some significant progress has been achieved, although we should have taken some issues even further. Key elements of the action programme have been agreed upon. An action-oriented spirit seems to penetrate this gathering, on which we must build. Implementation is the key word.
As a member of the European Union Austria fully supports the positions put forward in this forum by the EU. In addition, let me focus on the issues that are of particular importance to Austria:
I find it very reassuring that this conference is dedicated not only to issues of climate change but also focuses on how we can reach the goals of the UN Millennium Declaration, the most important of which is the reduction of poverty. The link between Monterrey, Doha and Johannesburg as well as the interaction and interdependence of these efforts have become very clear. It was a crucial step to bridge the gap between trade, finance and sustainable development, issues that cannot be discussed in an isolated manner.
For our own sake and for the sake of future generations, we have to continue to debate this issue and to take concrete action, such as ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. My country has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and other related instruments and thus fully endorses the EU goals in this context, which we consider crucial for reaching the objectives of this summit. I strongly appeal to those who have not yet ratified to follow suit. Austria has initiated and has been the driving force in the Global Forum for Sustainable Energy, which provides a platform for dialogue between all interested parties - developed and developing countries, the private sector, international organizations and NGOs and will take action to provide access to energy for people in developing countries. Let me assure you that Austria will continue to play an active part in any future international debate to advance the idea of renewable energy and of the reduction of green house gases. The next Global Forum will take place in November in Graz, Austria.
We have agreed upon strong language, but I regret very much that we could not agree on any timeframes and targets for our endeavour. Inspite of all that, I see the outcome of the Summit as a solid basis for future discussions.
Austria is a country rich in water resources. We have developed advanced technology for clean water, sanitation, sewage, irrigation, and small hydropower plants. Therefore we will emphasize these issues in our development cooperation. We also attribute great importance to health issues. We are glad that the related target date has been met.
As a predominantly mountainous country we support the Swiss Framework Initiative on mountain partnerships. In view of the international year of the mountains I have been working to promote the concept of eco-tourism, which we gladly share with developing countries.
Only through decisive political leadership and the right mixture of incentives and information campaigns we can get our citizens on board to make significant changes in the way we produce and consume. Under the Johannesburg Commitment, Governments have agreed to broaden the use of eco-labeling of organic produce and to promote the Fair Trade Initiative, another Austrian priority. These may be small steps, but in their sum they will make a difference.
We have also agreed to promote cleaner production processes on a global level. While in the industrialized countries we do have both the technology and the financial means to achieve this goal, we have to work together with Developing Countries to allow them to adopt the same production techniques. In the past years, together with Switzerland, Austria has been supporting the Cleaner Production Programme of UNIDO and has so far (co-financed eight Cleaner Production Centres with more than 4.8 million Euros. This initiative has proven to be very successful and I am inviting all member states to support this programme and enlarge its scope.
Also, our commitment to sustainable development is a commitment to global neighborhood and solidarity. Here in Johannesburg we have reconfirmed the goal that developed countries should spend 0,7% of GDP on ODA. For decades very little progress has been made to achieve this goal. In Johannesburg we have agreed that Governments will examine timeframes and targets to reach this goal. A few months ago, the EU Member States have agreed to do just that and will significantly increase the ODA volumes. Austria is fully committed to this goal.
The follow-up to the Implementation Programme we have negotiated over the last year has to get underway right now. I want also to call on all of us to take a fresh look at the structures we use to deliver sustainable development, on the national, the regional and the international level. Sustainable development can only be successfully realized if the economic, social and environmental pillars are fully integrated.
Let me finally stress that sustainable development needs good governance on all levels, the local, the national and the international. Whatever efforts we undertake to make our world livable for our as well as future generations we have to be guided by the respect of human rights and the rule of law.
Mr. President, I am addressing this august forum today also in my capacity of current president of the Human Security Network, the only inter-regional grouping based on the UN framework, particularly propelling issues of human security. Sustainable development and human security are closely interlinked.
Both concepts focus on the well-being of the individual and on ways how to preserve a functioning world for the future. During the Austrian presidency the Human Security Network will especially focus on two issues, that are - as I am convinced - very pressing: Human rights education and children in armed conflicts. These maybe „soft issues" but are based on „hard facts".
Mr. President, I should like to appeal to the distinguished delegates present today to help turn the instruments on issues of sustainable development as well as on human security by enhanced efforts of implementations into hard facts as well.
Hon. Mr. Prem Lal Singh
Minister for Population and Environment
His Majesty's Government of Nepal
at the
World Summit on Sustainable Development
Johannesburg, South Africa
03 September 2002
Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I express my delegation's profound gratitude to the Government and people of South Africa for the splendid hospitality extended to us here in Johannesburg.
It is a time to reflect and recommit. Ten years after Rio, though awareness has risen and countries have taken some steps, the commitments of the Earth Summit remain unfulfilled and Agenda 21 remains unimplemented. Meanwhile, the ecology continues to deteriorate at a devastating rate.
Today, the globe is warming and sea levels are rising, the ozone layer is depleting, many plants and animals are risking extinction, forests are receding, hunger is stalking 800 million people, and pollution-borne diseases are killing 3 million people every year. Both rural and urban areas have been affected. Clearly, this is unacceptable to the civilised world that has collectively had the capacity to change it.
A few rich countries enjoy unsustainable prosperity built on ravenous use of resources such as water, fossil fuel and forests, producing acid rains and CFC gasses and threatening the very existence of animal and plant species on earth.
Those people living on the edges of human existence in poverty and lack of alternatives have also contributed their share to environmental degradation. They have to cultivate marginal lands to feed growing populations and cut the forests to meet their energy needs, jeopardising biodiversity and public health.
A least developed and landlocked country located in the fragile Himalayan Mountains, Nepal is acutely aware of the growing perils of poverty and environmental degradation. Our people have to largely depend on natural resources to make a precarious living; and changed global environment has been causing erratic floods and landslides, and threatening glacial lakes outburst in our part of the world.
Thus Nepal has an abiding interest in sustainable development, which gives the mother earth a chance to live so she can nurture us, as the only escape route from the environmental nightmare that is sure to visit us if we did not act immediately. Our very survival and well-being is contingent on the sound global environment and healthy mountains.
Nepal believes the greatest threat to sustainable development is poverty, which has also been a key source of many conflicts. Rich nations must help poor nations in eradicating poverty through capacity building, employment generation, and investment in education, health and drinking water. And they must open their markets by removing the subsidies and barriers inimical to free trade. It will be a worthwhile investment in durable peace for all.
Poverty eradication is Nepal's top priority. We are engaged in accelerating growth, promoting social development and preserving the environment. Reforms are under way to encourage innovation and investment, to promote social development and to reinforce environmental policy and institutions. We have mobilised civil society and other stakeholders in this process.
More specifically, the Government has set up a high-level commission on sustainable development headed by the Prime Minister and a separate ministry of population and environment. It has also introduced pollution standards, established several national parks and wild life reserves, expanded afforestation programs and made environmental assessment mandatory for all major development projects.
Nepal is seeking to develop its huge hydropower potential as a clean source of energy and is promoting community forestry and eco-tourism with some success.
However, these efforts remain under-funded and potentials untapped due to resources constraints, further compounded now by the imperative to fight the terrorism that is decimating our country. Without increased support and assistance from its development partners, Nepal will not be able to restore peace and implement its sustainable development programs.
Many other developing countries, too, share in a similar plight. At this defining moment in history, I strongly urge world leaders, particularly from developed countries, to meet the commitments they have made regarding aid, debt and market access at this Summit as well as at the Millennium Summit and the Monterrey and Doha conferences.
Particular attention must be paid to assisting the least developed countries like Nepal to implement the Brussels Program of Action and the initiatives agreed to at the WSSD process.
In addition, wealthy nations must pursue sustainable patterns of production and consumption at home by developing environment-friendly technologies and changing their lifestyles. They should also take leadership in joining the Kyoto protocol to strengthen the global environmental regime for the good of our generation as well as of our children.
South-South co-operation is a cornerstone for sustainable development in developing countries. In South Asia, the SAARC has recently adopted the Thimpu Resolution in this respect and as the current Chair of the regional Group, Nepal has the honour of putting that resolution before you.
This Summit is a litmus test for world leaders' determination to fulfill their past commitments and to take fresh and innovative steps to ensure sustainable development that gives peoples hope and defeats extremists fomenting conflicts in poor societies.
Humanity has a common fate today. We must ensure that this meet proves to be a giant step forward in fulfilling the promise it represents for our peoples and for our planet.
Thank you.

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