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The World Summit on Sustainable Development
 European Regional Preparatory Meeting

Geneva, Switzerland; 24 - 25 September 2001

The Europe and North America Regional Ministerial Meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, WSSD, opened on Monday, 24 September 2001 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Ministers from 54 UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) member governments attended the meeting, as well as representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and other major groups and stakeholders. The meeting discussed UNECE Ministerial Statement to the WSSD both in Plenary and in a break-out group focused on drafting, and considered follow-up to the High-level Meeting on Transport, Environment and Health

(available late on 27 Sep)

Thur 27

Tuesday, 25 Sep

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Klaus Töpfer

Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, drew attention to terrorism, urging that the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) seek to tackle its underlying causes. The goal of the Summit, he stressed, is cooperation around the world to overcome poverty in a responsible way. He highlighted growing integration of efforts, from Stockholm’s focus on environment, to Rio’s focus on environment and development, to Johannesburg’s on Sustainable Development. He also highlighted the increased integration of valuable inputs from civil society and business. He stressed that eliminating poverty, meeting social needs and decoupling economic growth are key to resolving environmental problems, and urged reversing the decline in development assistance. To be successful, he noted, the Summit should lead to a new global deal that meets the needs of developing countries. He called for: acknowledgement of common and differentiated responsibilities; support for good governance; development and transfer of clean technologies; opening of markets to products from the South; responsible use of science and precaution; enhancement of compliance and enforcement regimes; and expanded access to information. He concluded that the road to Johannesburg will not be easy

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Joseph Deiss welcomed meeting participants to Geneva, and highlighted Swiss efforts to integrate sustainable development into national policies and with regard to international cooperation. Noting the recent terrorist attacks on the US, he stressed his country’s sympathy and solidarity with the US. He cautioned that retaliation and force alone cannot address the roots of terrorism, and supported a strategy of promoting sustainable development, equality and justice between people to deal with poverty, exclusion and desperation, and called for the preparations for Johannesburg to proceed in this spirit. He said a message should be sent to the global preparatory process with respect to promotion of global equality, and said disparities within and among countries in the region also need to be dealt with. He asked participants to look to the future, inviting them to find consensus and produce a meaningful contribution from the region to the global preparatory process

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Joseph Deiss


Crispin Tickell

Crispin Tickell, Chair of the Regional Roundtable on Sustainable Development for Europe and North America at Vail in June and representing UN DESA, reported the results of this expert group meeting to the assembly. He noted that the group of 30 “hardened industrialists and greenies” reached a measure of consensus that the present generation may be the last that can correct the course of development to respect the environment, and that industrial countries must take responsibility for addressing and helping other countries address environmental, economic and social problems. He drew attention to the Report of the G8 Renewable Energy Taskforce and the Amsterdam Declaration from over 1000 Global Change scientists. He noted their proposals including: tax reform, subsidies removal, new accounting rules, sustainable consumption and wider adoption of precautionary principle, as well as measures to deal with freshwater, oceans and seas, and land resources. He urged the ratification of the major treaties (e.g. climate change,  POPs, Biosafety, Cartagena) and raised the possible need for an international renewable energy agency and other institutions to support sustainable development. He stressed the need to bring Sustainable Development into education and underscored the special responsibilities of Europe and North America, calling for action

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Danuta Lübner, Executive Secretary of ECE and UN Under-Secretary-General, looked back at the ten years since Rio, noting that without the meeting much less would have been achieved. She highlighted achievements and failures with regard to sustainable development in the region, based on the Assessment of Progress in Sustainable Development since Rio 1992 for Member States of UNECE, which was prepared by UNECE and the UNEP Regional Office for Europe. She said the greatest changes have taken place in the economies in transition (EITs), with poverty, unemployment, wide income distribution and corruption, and the emergence of a new foundation for economic growth, democracy and civil society at the positive side. On the situation today, she presented a mixed picture.

Danuta Lübner

She highlighted the integration of environmental concerns in decision-making in all sectors of society as a crucial theme in Rio, stressed the importance of decoupling economic growth from resource use, and called for more local Agenda 21 action and more impact of NGOs. She stressed the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convetion) as a legal breakthrough with regard to public involvement and called for its effective implementation as it enters into force on 30 October this year. She called for effective mobilization of resources and achievement of the 0.7 ODA target. She highlighted the UNECE preparation for the WSSD, introduced the draft Ministerial Statement, and said the preparations build on ongoing processes such as the Ministerial “Environment for Europe,” with the next meeting taking place in Kiev, Ukraine in 2003. She also highlighted regional cooperation on transport, environment and health, forests and sustainable energy, as well as regional conventions and protocols. She concluded by noting that much remains to be done on the road to a sustainable future and called for new political impetus to make sustainable development more effective and consistent

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Oliver Deleuze, Belgium, on behalf of the EU, underscored solidarity with the American people. He stressed the need for a high level of ambition for the WSSD leading to agreement on a forward-looking, action-oriented agenda accelerating implementation of the Rio commitments. He called for the reaffirmation of the Millennium Declaration and development targets, and stressed the overarching goals of sustainable production and consumption and poverty eradication for WSSD. He stressed the need to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation and called on all nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, allowing its entry into force by 2002. He noted both the opportunities and related to globalization, and stressed the international environmental governance process. He called for a global deal at Johannesburg and welcomed dialogue between the ECE and other regional preparatory processes

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Oliver Deleuze

Hendrik Vygen

Hendrik Vygen, Germany, stressed the link between poverty and environment, and supported sustainable energy development in this context. He favored a strong statement on renewable energy, and also stressed water as a key issue, noting that Germany will host a conference on fresh water prior to the WSSD. He said the response to globalization of the economy should be global environmental and social targets

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Delegates going through their paperwork

Serhii Kurykin, Ukraine, stressed the principle of sustainable development as a key element of modern culture, noting that the principle has often not received enough political support in the NIS. He called for reference to debt-for-environment-swaps and the polluter pays principle in the draft Ministerial Statement

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Serhii Kurykin

Kalman Mizsei, UNDP, identified as the primary focus of his organization the implementation of development, and through its offices in 130 countries, and capacity building. Its programs include: Capacity 21; developing Agenda 21 strategies at the national and local levels; linking environment to poverty reduction; and assisting countries in crisis prevention and recovery. UNDP seeks to implement development for a sustainable peace

Kalman Mizsei

Nándor Vass


Nándor Vass, Hungary, stressed that as the ECE regional meeting was the first, other regions would pay attention to its outcomes. He stressed the responsibility of the ECE region to achieving sustainability and aiding developing countries. He called for improvement of integrated decision-making at all levels

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Daniel Mitller, Friends of the Earth International, drew attention to the shortfalls identified by the UNECE assessment of Sustainable Development in Europe. Turning to the Draft Ministerial Declaration, he noted that precaution and aid commitments are being left out. Citing a lack of political will for clear targets and timetables, he pointed to the march of economic globalisation and excessive corporate influence on government decision making, he postulated that efficiency gains would be offset by increasing volumes of consumption. He described FOE-I’s priorities heading to Johannesburg : a review of trade agreements to ensure that social and environmental needs are met; regulation to make corporations more accountable; recognition of ecological debt and reduced resource consumption; enhanced environmental governance; and negotiations on environmental human rights

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Daniel Mitller

Achieving sustainable development in the ECE region, according to Elaine Price, World Health Organisation, requires addressing the interlinked problems of health and poverty. She called poverty the largest determinant of ill health, as it generates increased personal and environmental risk, and ill health decreases productivity. Pointing to the problems of unsafe water and lack of sanitation, she urged mobilizing resources to tackle these problems through coherent activities

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Elaine Price

Kjell Larsson

Kjell Larsson, Sweden, highlighted the message from a Youth Meeting on environment held in Sweden, calling for decisive action at Johannesburg. He stressed the importance of the precautionary principle, which he said should be further developed and applied in all MEAs, and underscored that the international trading system should play an active role in paving the way for sustainable development and called for such an outcome at Doha

Danuta L�bner, UN Undersecretary General, reported the results of the High Level Meeting on Transport, Environment and Health


The representatives of the Dutch National Youth Council pointed out that youth are most concerned about globalisation, climate change, overconsumption, finance and governance, and offered balanced proposals for addressing their concerns. Reporting the results of the Borgholm Youth Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development,  23-27 May, 2001, the pair pointed to the legitimate concerns of hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters. They urged implementing a global convention to enhance accountability of transnational corporations; increasing to 10% the share of renewable energy in generation; promoting public transit and cycling; eliminating perverse subsidies; educating youths and adults; strengthening the multilateral environmental agreements and liability system; utilizing the �ecological footprint� for national accounting; and meeting international aid targets


Return to Tuesday's coverage

UNECE Region's website for the WSSD
Introduction to Johannesburg Summit 2002
Linkage's Portal to the Johannesburg Summit 2002

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