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bringing you the latest news, information and analysis from
international environment and sustainable development negotiations





This page was updated on: 01/13/10





The United Nations General Assembly has formally endorsed the establishment of a World Solidarity Fund aimed at eradicating poverty and promoting social and human development in developing countries. Discussions on the Fund had been ongoing in the General Assembly, and were further stimulated by a Secretary-General's report on ways to operate the Fund and by government consensus at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg on the need for the creation of such a Fund. Modeled after the National Solidarity Fund established in Tunisia by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Fund is designed to implement the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015. Operationalization of the Fund has been entrusted to the UN Development Programme, and Fund contributions are voluntary in nature. Applauding the Fund's establishment, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said, "We see the World Solidarity Fund as an innovative mechanism that will support national development efforts with the energy of community-based organizations, the commitment of individuals and the vibrancy of the private sector." UNDP has been requested to submit a progress report on measures taken to operationalize the Fund at the next substantive session of the Economic and Social Council.


Links to further information

World Solidarity Fund website

UNDP press release, 20 December 2002





The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has received its largest ever replenishment to fund its operations till 2006. Thirty-two governments reached consensus on the replenishment of US$2.92 billion, which will finance the existing GEF focal areas of biodiversity, climate change, international waters, and replacing ozone-depleting chemicals, during the meeting of the Third Replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund on 6-7 August 2002. The replenishment will also provide additional support for the new mandate of the GEF with regard to persistent organic pollutants and desertification. Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the GEF, Mohamed T. El-Ashry, stated that "the level of replenishment is strong evidence of the participants' commitment to the global environment and the GEF, and should contribute to the success of the World Summit on Sustainable Development which takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa in three weeks time."


Links to further information

GEF Press Release, 7 August 2002


JULY 2002



The European Commission is proposing a multi-stakeholder Forum as a key means of advancing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The Forum will be aimed at promoting transparency and convergence of  practices and instruments CSR. Other proposed initiatives include mainstreaming CSR issues into all policy areas and promoting CSR principles and practice at the global level, with a particular focus on developing countries. The EC will not be regulating CSR, noting that by definition CSR is voluntary. Friends of the Earth Europe has criticized the Communication, stating that, "The Commission's paper ignores calls ... for binding rules to regulate multi-national companies world-wide. Friends of the Earth has called for the paper to address binding corporate accountability including key measures such as, at the very least, mandatory social and environmental reporting."


Links to further information

Communication from the Commission concerning Corporate Social Responsibility: A business contribution to Sustainable Development, 2 July 2002


MAY 2002


GEO-3 Report Highlights Planet at Cross-roads

The third Global Environment Outlook (GEO-3), compiling the work of over 1000 scientists from around the world assesses the current condition of the Earth, details changes that have taken place over the past 30 years and makes projections into the future. Recently released by UNEP, GEO-3 concludes that a great deal of environmental change has taken place and, projecting into the future, notes that over 70 per cent of the Earth's land surface could be affected by the impacts of roads, mining, cities and other infrastructure developments in the next 30 years unless action is taken. On a positive note, the report forecasts that hunger will decline, and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be stabilized provided concerted action is taken.

Speaking at a ceremony to launch the publication, UNEP's Klaus Töpfer stressed the importance of the results of the report with regard to the WSSD, only three months away. He said it he WSSD "is a summit for sustainable development, but also a summit for the environment… without the environment there can never be the kind of development needed to secure a fair deal for this or future generations," and called for concrete, concerted actions. The GEO-3 report outlines four policy approaches for the next three decades, with differing degrees of environmental action taken, and compares and contrasts the likely impacts on people and the natural world.


Links to further information

UNEP press release 22 May, 2002


MARCH 2002



The annual World Day for Water was organized on 22 March. Celebrations were hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, around the theme of "Water for Development." The events included an exhibition of art by Austrian and Ugandan children and a dialogue on water for development and a panel discussion involving eminent persons in the field. In an address in honor of the Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said water scarcity need not be a source of conflict, but could act as a catalyst for cooperation. Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP, highlighted the Millennium Declaration development goal of halving the number of people without access to safe and affordable water by 2015, stressing that better management, including both technological intervention and conservation, will be needed if the goal is to be met.

Also on the World Day for Water, the Stockholm Water Foundation awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, an international award for achievements on behalf of the protection of water resources, to Venezuelan-American hydrologist Ignacio Rodríguez-Iturbe of Princeton University.


Links to further information

World Water Day 2002 website

UN Wire, 22 March 2002





Financing the successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals will cost between US$40-60 billion a year in additional aid for the next 15 years, according to a recent study released by the World Bank. The Millennium Development Goals, which were endorsed by world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, set out a series of economic, environmental, educational and health objectives. Breaking down the costs according to each specific goal, the Bank concluded that the aim of halving the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015, relative to 1990, is expected to cost between $39-54 billion per year, while achieving universal primary education by 2015 is estimated to cost between $10-15 billion a year. Health-related goals, including reducing infant and maternal mortality and curbing infectious diseases, are expected to cost between $20-25 billion annually. Environment goals of gaining universal access to water and sanitation by 2015 and the "City without Slums" programme are estimated to be between $5-21 billion a year.

The sum of the estimated costs of reaching the individual goals takes into account that policy improvements and resources embodied in achieving certain goals contribute to reaching others. "These numbers show that without additional resources we will not meet the development goals. But they also underscore why success lies in a partnership of action between developing countries and rich countries," said James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, who has called on rich countries to double their official development assistance from the current level of about $57 billion a year and dramatically cut their agricultural subsidies. The World Bank further stressed that while the $40-60 billion of funding is critical to meeting the Millennium Goals, developing countries would also need to reform their health, education, and institutional policies to improve the effectiveness of development aid.


Links to further information

World Bank press release, 20 February 2002



Poverty and water issues should top the agenda at the Johannesburg Summit, according to a recent 25-nation public-opinion poll and a parallel survey of sustainable development experts across the world. The poll of 25,000 "global citizens" found that a majority believe environmental quality has deteriorated over the past ten years, while most respondents considered poverty and the gap between the rich and poor as the most important topic for the WSSD. Among 300 sustainability experts polled in a separate survey, water issues ranked as the highest priority for the WSSD agenda, with poverty reduction coming second. Sixty percent of the experts also believed that the transition to sustainable development is progressing too slowly to avert major, irreversible damage to human, social and ecosystem health.


Links to further information

World Bank press release, 31 January 2002 e200692a79/8b2954dae17c471085256b5f00516824?OpenDocument





A new initiative has been launched to promote practices that help eradicate poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the Equatorial belt. The "Equator Initiative," which is headed by UNDP in partnership with the Government of Canada, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and United Nations Foundation, will focus on capacity building, exchange grants and practical case studies to achieve its aims. It will also involve the presentation of "Equator Initiative Awards" at the WSSD. These awards will recognize five community-based sustainable development success stories that involve partnerships between communities and non-governmental and governmental entities. Nominations can be made until 15 May 2002.

The Equator Initiative will continue beyond the WSSD. Drawing on the lessons and approaches identified through the awards process, a series of policy papers, case studies and capacity-building exchanges will be undertaken, focusing on the nexus between poverty eradication and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Additional partner organizations to the Equator Initiative are welcomed.


Links to further information

Equator Initiative website 



The G-77/China Chairmanship was officially handed over by Iran to Venezuela on 11 January 2002. The chairmanship of the Group of 77 rotates annually between the three continents of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.


Links to further information

G-77 press release, 10 January 2002



The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to strengthen links with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU, which was signed late January, fosters collaboration on issues such as transboundary haze, environmental education, state of environment assessment and reporting, and the development of environmental legislation. The MOU notes that ASEAN has established a committee of Senior Officials on the Environment, with Working Groups on nature conservation and biodiversity, coastal and marine environment, and multilateral environmental agreements, and a haze technical task force. Under each working group, the MOU highlights areas for greater collaboration, addressing issues such as risk assessment and management of genetically modified organisms, illegal logging, eco-tourism, public participation, river water quality, assessment of environmentally-sound technologies, and cleaner production for small- and medium-sized enterprises.


Links to further information

UNEP press release, 22 January 2002 



World income inequality is on the rise, with a growing disparity between rich and poor households, according to a new study for the World Bank. According to the study, which was published in the Economic Journal, the combined income of the richest 1% is now more than that of the bottom 60%. Although world income per capita had increased by 5.7% over the five years of the study, all gains were shown to go to the top 20%, whose income increased by 12%, while the income of the bottom 5% decreased by 25%. Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and sub-Saharan Africa were regions in which the poor became considerably poorer. The study, which draws on a series of surveys covering 84% of the world's population and 93% of world income, is the first to compare household income across countries.


Links to further information

BBC News Online, 17 January 2002 

Complete text of the World Income Distribution report, 2002



The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has officially opened its Secretariat office in Penang, Malaysia. Based in the World Fish Center (ICLARM), the Millennium Assessment (MA) Secretariat is headed by Executive Director Walter Reid, who will be responsible for coordinating the work of 1500 scientists and research institutions worldwide. Through "multi-scale assessments" taken at the global, sub-global and national levels, the MA aims to improve the management of the world's ecosystems by providing decision-makers and the public with peer-reviewed, policy-relevant scientific information on the state of ecosystems, the consequences of change and options for response. The four-year assessment process, which began in April 2001, is recognized by governments as a mechanism to meet part of the assessment needs of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.


Links to further information

Environmental News Network, 15 January 2002

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment website

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