Secretary-General Kofi Annan, responding to environmental degradation and persisting poverty amid global economic growth, has proposed a new action plan to be considered by negotiators gathering next year in Johannesburg for a United Nations meeting on sustainable development.
In a just-released report, the Secretary-General notes that the global economic growth that propelled many economies over the last decade did not promote sustainable development. Despite "impressive" overall economic trends, including world trade amounting to over $6 trillion last year alone, many regions, notably Africa, faced numerous difficulties, the Secretary-General says.
"The state of the world's environment is still fragile and the conservation measures are far from satisfactory," writes Mr. Annan. "In most parts of the developing world there has been, at best, limited progress in reducing poverty."
The Secretary-General's report will serve as one of the key documents being considered by delegates at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in South Africa from 26 August to 4 September. It offers a critical assessment of progress towards the objectives of Agenda 21, the landmark plan of action on sustainable development adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (the "Earth Summit") in Rio de Janeiro.
While affirming that Agenda 21 still constitutes a powerful vision for the future, the Secretary-General says that, "progress towards the goals established at Rio has been slower than anticipated, and in some respects conditions are worse than they were 10 years ago."
The report charges that the current approach to development remains piecemeal, while unsustainable patterns of consumption and production continue to overburden the world's natural life support systems. Policy approaches are driven by short-term considerations rather than a long-term interest in sustainability, and financial resources for sustainable development remain insufficient.
In response, the Secretary-General presents an action plan aimed at making globalization work, eradicating poverty, changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, promoting health, providing access to energy, increasing energy efficiency, improving the management of natural resources, mobilizing funds, promoting sustainable development for Africa and strengthening international governance for these efforts.