Voices from the Johannesburg Summit

Socialist Affairs selects from the many statements made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002

Let us face the uncomfortable truth. The model of development we are accustomed to has been fruitful for the few, but flawed for the many. A path to prosperity that ravages the environment and leaves a majority of humankind behind in squalor will soon prove to be a dead-end road for everyone.

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations


I believe that it would also be true that the recognition has grown that, indeed, the world has grown into a global village. The survival of everybody in this village demands that we develop a universal consensus to act together to ensure that there is no longer any river that divides our common habitat into poor and wealthy parts.

This indicates that the noble concept of human solidarity has, once again, regained currency as a driving force in the reconstruction and development of our common world. This confirms our collective capacity to overcome cynicism, to outgrow market fundamentalism, to accept the imperative for people-centred development. Among others, the Earth Charter represents this healthy development.

Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa


At international level we will take three initiatives:

Firstly, I will invite delegates to Germany for an international conference on renewable energies.

The aim is to continue in the energy sector from where we all left off at the end of last year with the Bonn International Conference on Freshwater.

Secondly, Germany will participate in the global energy agency network decided upon yesterday.

Thirdly, Germany will develop its successful cooperation in the energy sphere with the developing countries into a strategic partnership.

Over the next five years Germany will provide 500 million euro to promote cooperation on renewable energies.

Environment and development - that was the promise in Rio in 1992.

Without successful poverty alleviation, there will be no global environmental rescue, and also no lasting peace.

Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany


Kyoto is right, and it should be ratified by us all. But it only slows the present rate of damage. To reverse it, we need to reduce dramatically the level of pollution. Let us at least set that direction.

None of it easy. The short-term clashes with the long-term. There are painful decisions. Vested interests. Legitimate anxieties. But the facts remain. The consequences of inaction are also not unknown. They are calculable. Poverty and environmental degradation, if unchecked, spell catastrophe.

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


One of the fundamentals in promoting change and increase participation is education. I would like to see more teachers discussing the impact of our lifestyles on the environment. Universities should offer courses on global survival issues and sustainable development in all major programmes. We need to promote centres of educational and scientific excellence in these areas. In order to stimulate the breaking of new ground in sustainable development studies, Sweden is prepared to gather these centres at an international seminar next year.

Göran Persson, Prime Minister of Sweden


The majority of the world’s poor are women. In many regions, it is the women who take care of farming and basic production. It is the women who make the daily decisions on purchases. It is the women who hold the key to sustainable development. Thus girls and women must have better education, equal inheritance rights and access to land tenure.

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland


My government believes that there can be no long term benefit from growth based on low environmental standards which degrade our natural heritage, or which fail to lift the quality of life for our people. And we have made a particular commitment to working in partnership with the indigenous people of our country so that they too are able to reach their full potential.

The last two years have seen a number of remarkable international meetings resulting in strategies beneficial to development. But what distinguishes this Summit from the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, the agenda set at Doha by the WTO, and the Monterrey Consensus is its focus on sustainability. A push for trade and development which ignores the planet’s ecological limits will ultimately fail. A push for trade and development which fails to meet basic human needs will also ultimately fail.

Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand


Our historical experiences do not let us be indifferent to economic stratification of our planet. The Poles know very well that global problems will not be solved by the erection of a new wall, behind which the rich will be defending themselves from the siege of the poor. Isolation and indifference to the problems of those in need would not only be ineffective, but above all - morally unacceptable.

Aleksandr Kwasniewski, President of Poland


In fact the consequences of desertification are one of the factors which impoverish humankind and the land. That is why we must give the Convention on Desertification the resources it needs to accomplish its programme and in particular a financial mechanism capable of facing difficult if not disastrous situations created by desertification and the advance of the desert. I therefore call for an unremitting and vigorous international effort in the campaign against this scourge which threatens the planet.

Pedro Pires, President of the Republic of Cape Verde


The commitment to solving the continent’s problems is unquestionable. Africa believes that improving the life of its people is the primary responsibility of its people, themselves. Therefore Africans are now taking charge of their destiny. This is so, because there is a growing consensus that development cannot be imposed from outside. It should be home-based, owned and directed by the countries themselves, and reflecting the broad needs of their society.

Joaquim Chissano, President of the Republic of Mozambique


This wide framework for practical implementation of the model for sustainable development in Bulgaria has made it possible to involve in it all institutions and key social groups - centrally, regionally and locally, trade unions, representatives of the small, medium and big business and non-governmental organisations. Our experience of the past years has shown that these groups, institutions and organisations can be much more efficient working for sustainable development if they refer to common strategies, programmes and plans and coordinate their activities through an effective partner-ship. But also, if they are assisted by the developed states and the international organisations.

Georgi Parvanov, President of the Republic of Bulgaria


Africa continues to be the poorest region of the world, in spite of the enormous natural resources at
its disposal, registering accentuated distortions, namely high levels of poverty; low levels of agricultural production which contribute to the low quality of life of the rural population; high rates of illiteracy; inefficient access to drinking water and basic sanitation, on top of being the zone of the planet mostly affected by epidemics, sicknesses and natural calamities that are the basis of the high rates of mortality.

While this picture persists, it will be impossible for the African continent to partake, on the same equal footing, with other regions in the sustainable development process and benefit in a more just and equal form, from the scientific and technological advances of humanity, which necessarily means the transfer of technology and assistance in the implementation of the projects.

João Bernardo de Miranda, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Angola


Nepal believes the greatest threat to sustainable development is poverty, which has also been a key source of many conflicts. Rich nations must help poor nations in eradicating poverty through capacity building, employment generation, and investment in education, health and drinking water. And they must open their markets by removing the subsidies and barriers inimical to free trade. It will be a worthwhile investment in durable peace for all.

Prem Lal Singh, Environment Minister of Nepal


We should realise that our ineffectiveness in terms of our overall sustainability objectives stems from lack of comprehensive strategies, action plans with concrete targets, more efficient institutional structures, and means of implementation and ultimately, the lack of properly coordinated actions.

We need to pay particular attention to improve the synergy among our institutions.

Katalin Szili, Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament


We cannot accept that 2 billion people across the earth live in absolute poverty, Mister Chairman. Better living conditions, sufficient food, clean water, reliable and renewable energy sources have to be provided to all and quantifiable targets should be established. But at the same time the environment must be taken into account, as a degraded nature will hold poor societies in the hunger and disease grip.

Vasso Papandreou, Environment Minister of Greece


Since we believe that the future is in the hands of today’s children and young people, we in the Dominican Republic included in our delegation three young students, two of them female, so they could be exposed to the ideas, visions and negotiations that have taken place here in the last two weeks.

Taking into account the crucial role that women play in sustainable development and in recognition of their technical and managerial abilities I am also pleased to say that 54 per cent of the executives of the Dominican Republic’s ministry of environment and natural resources are women.

Rafael de Moya Pons, Environment Minister of the Dominican Republic




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