Preparations for summit on sustainable development go global, UN official says

Preparations for summit on sustainable development go global, UN official says

Preparations for next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development advanced this week from the regional to the global level, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai told a press conference today at UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr. Desai, who will serve as Secretary-General of the Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, next September, said that events in New York this week would build on the results of earlier regional activities, which included round tables and various intergovernmental and inter-sectoral meetings. Yesterday, the UN General Assembly's Economic and Finance (Second) Committee started its debate on "Environment and Development," focusing on the Johannesburg Summit, Mr. Desai said. The first meeting of a high-level advisory panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan was also held on Monday.

The main objective for the Johannesburg forum will be to "try to put some flesh and bones" around the concept of sustainable development in a few key areas, Mr. Desai stressed. That meant linking the poverty agenda to environmental issues, a connection that was obvious since 70 per cent of the poor depended on land, water and forest for their living, and health issues depended greatly on water, sanitation and air quality.

The second challenge for the conference, according to Mr. Desai, will be to deal with the sustainability of consumption and production, with the intention of formulating policies to meet both the demands of developing countries - where consumption and production levels are still low - and the management of high consumption levels in industrialized countries. The Summit agenda will also deal with ecosystems - water, forest, biodiversity and oceans.

Overall, the Summit will have to look at how these issues can be addressed through policies, programmes and institutions, as well as the finances, technologies and organizations needed to implement the outcomes, Mr. Desai said.

"What we're looking for is political commitment, practical steps and partnerships between governments and others actors -- like business, local authorities, state unions cooperatives and others," he noted.

The Johannesburg Summit will be a 10-year follow-up to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that adopted Agenda 21, the programme of action that serves as the blueprint for achieving global sustainable development.