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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Annan Urges World Summit to Rehabilitate the Earth

Annan Urges World Summit to Rehabilitate the Earth

Date : 15th May 2002, Source : Green Planet

NEW YORK, New York, May 14, 2002 (ENS) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is looking ahead a little more than three months to August 26 when the World Summit on Sustainable Development opens in Johannesburg, South Africa. Intended as a 10 year reinvigoration of Agenda 21 agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, Annan sees the gathering as a means to rehabilitate the Earth.

At preparatory meetings over the past year, stakeholders of all varieties have called for action, not more talk, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). Today Annan outlined five areas where concrete results can be attained in Johannesburg. Because of the secretary-general's urgent mission to Cyprus, where he is trying to give new momentum to the peace talks, his remarks calling for action at the Johannesburg Earth Summit were delivered at the American Museum of Natural History today by his wife Nane Annan. Water and sanitation, Energy, Health, Agriculture, and Biodiversity - these are the five key areas where concrete results "can and must be obtained," Annan said.

These five areas could be remembered by a simple acronym - WEHAB. Annan said her husband hopes this acronym will become "something of a mantra" between now and the opening of the Summit in Johannesburg.

"You might think of it like this: we inhabit the Earth. And we must rehabilitate our one and only planet," Annan said.

By concentrating on these five areas, Annan said, the Summit could produce an "ambitious but achievable program of practical steps to improve the lives of all human beings while protecting the global environment."

Environmental concerns have been overshadowed, Annan said, by conflicts, globalization and, most recently, terrorism.

The activities leading up to the Summit have refocused world attention on the environment, but he is articulating these five goals today, said Annan, to bring greater clarity to the process.

"I sense a need for greater clarity on what Johannesburg is about and what it can achieve," he said. "Negotiators who meet later this month in Bali need clarity if they are to draft a strong program of action. The public at large needs clarity if they are to support the changes that must occur."

The final preparatory conference for the Summit meets in Bali, Indonesia from May 24 to June 7. This ministerial level conference will consider the draft text offered by PrepComm chairman Emil Salim of Indonesia.

In his draft released May 9, Salim covers in detail the same points made by the secretary-general today. He and Annan both emphasize the need to eradicate poverty, which Salim calls, "the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, particularly for developing countries."

Salim suggests establishing a World Solidarity Fund for Poverty Eradication and the Promotion of Human Development in the poorest regions of the world.

New efforts are needed, Annan believes, because the present model of development, which has brought privilege and prosperity to about 20 percent of humanity, has also exacted a heavy price by degrading the planet and depleting its resources.

Yet, according to the Secretary-General, "at discussions on global finance and the economy, the environment is still treated as an unwelcome guest."

High consumption lifestyles continue to tax the earth's natural life support systems, research and development are underfunded and neglectful of the problems of the poor, and developed countries "have not gone far enough," he said, to fulfill either of the promises they made in Rio - to protect their own environments and to help the developing world defeat poverty.

The issue, the secretary-general said, is not environment versus development, or ecology versus economy. "Contrary to popular belief," he said, "we can integrate the two."

Annan stated concrete goals for each of the five areas he wants to see the WSSD take action to achieve.

Water: Provide access to at least one billion people who lack clean drinking water and two billion people who lack proper sanitation.

Energy: Provide access to more than two billion people who lack modern energy services; promote renewable energy; reduce overconsumption; and ratify the Kyoto Protocol to address climate change.

Health: Address the effects of toxic and hazardous materials; reduce air pollution, which kills three million people each year, and lower the incidence of malaria and African guinea worm, which are linked with polluted water and poor sanitation.

Agricultural productivity: Work to reverse land degradation, which affects about two-thirds of the world's agricultural lands.

Biodiversity and ecosystem management: Reverse the processes that have destroyed about half of the world's tropical rainforest and mangroves, and are threatening 70 percent of the world's coral reefs and decimating the world's fisheries. "These are five areas," Annan said, "in which progress would offer all human beings a chance of achieving prosperity that will not only last their own lifetime, but can be enjoyed by their children and grandchildren too."

"In Johannesburg, we have a chance to catch up," he said. "Together, we will need to find our way towards a greater sense of mutual responsibility. Together, we will need to build a new ethic of global stewardship. Together, we can and must write a new and hopeful chapter in natural and human history."

The World Summit on Sustainable Development will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from August 26 to September 4. Heads of government and heads of state,and more than 20,000 citizen activists and business representatives are expected to attend.

More information on the World Summit on Sustainable Development is online at:

Document last updated on Wednesday 01 August 2018

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