Heads of State or Government gathered yesterday for a one-hour roundtable discussion. This was the largest gathering of world leaders around a single table in the history of international diplomacy. While there was no discussion per se, five Heads of State delivered formal statements on behalf of their regional groups. The President of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, spoke on behalf of the African Group. He referred specifically to: the need for prompt and effective implementation of Agenda 21; the problems of global trade imbalances and the need to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers; and quick-start for negotiation of a desertification convention. Masire called on leaders to seize the opportunity to commit to fundamental change.
Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif spoke on behalf of the Asian States. His speech was particularly noteworthy in the virtual absence of criticism regarding Conference outcomes. He did, however, call for the creation of an ecologically and socially just world order that would have as its primary objective, the eradication of poverty. Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev spoke on behalf of the East European group. He referred notably to the devastating effects of the communist system on both the human spirit and the natural environment. As well, he stated that the bitter experience with communism affirmed the extent to which social and economic development can only be achieved if there is harmony with the natural world.
Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari spoke on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States. He said that in order to rationally use the natural resources of the region, Latin American and Caribbean states require free access to other markets; renegotiation of foreign debt; access to clean technologies; and an acceleration of integration in the region.
Franz Vrantitzky, Federal Chancelor of Austria, spoke on behalf of the Western Europe and Others Group. His statement was the most hard-hitting, challenging fellow leaders to some rather difficult questions: are we sufficiently creative and courageous in our decisions; have we really accepted as a basis for future decisions, that current patterns of consumption and production are unsustainable; have we mandated our delegations to negotiate on the understanding that our future can only be a shared and common one; and have we considered the increasing imbalances among peoples and regions of this world? He called for courage in political leadership to recognize that our common future demands an equitable sharing of the world's wealth.
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