UN forum in South Africa to focus on sustainable development

UN forum in South Africa to focus on sustainable development

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More than 100 world leaders and 60,000 participants are set to convene in Johannesburg, South Africa, over the next two weeks as a key United Nations forum opens on Monday in an effort to find new initiatives for implementing sustainable development practices and building a prosperous and secure future for their citizens.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, which will take place from 26 August to 4 September, comes 10 years after governments met at the so-called Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and adopted Agenda 21, a roadmap for achieving sustainable development.

The Summit promises to be one of the largest and most important international meetings ever held on the integration of economic, environmental and social decision-making and will focus on building a commitment at the highest levels of government and society to better implement Agenda 21.

The official opening of the Summit will take place on Monday with an address by South African President Thabo Mbeki. As Secretary-General of the conference, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic Affairs Nitin Desai, is scheduled to address the plenary next, to be followed by the Executive-Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Klaus Toepfer. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is slated to speak at the opening of the Summit's high-level segment that begins on 2 September.

For the Summit, Mr. Annan has identified five key areas in which the meeting can make a difference. Known as WEHAB, the Secretary-General says the international community should focus on issues pertaining to water and sanitation, energy, health, agricultural productivity, and biodiversity and ecosystem management.

Delegates are expected to adopt an action plan detailing the priorities and activities that countries will pursue after Johannesburg, as well as a political statement reaffirming their commitment to work towards sustainable development.

While expressing continued support for the goals of Agenda 21, the two documents will specify concrete means of overcoming problems that have hampered the implementation of Agenda 21, with a renewed focus on those activities that can be realized in each priority area.