The first session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was called to order yesterday morning by the Chair, Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia. In his opening remarks Razali spoke of the understanding that environment and development are both interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Sustainable development, achieved through partnership, is based on this collective understanding and the role of the Commission as a monitoring body depends on support from the public to redirect resources under Agenda 21. This meeting must clearly produce results in order to signal that commitments given in Rio must remain strong.
Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development Nitin Desai delivered a message from UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. He said that the challenge is to give practical expression to the pledges made in Rio. He emphasized the need to address the unsustainability of poverty and the lack of development. The follow-up to Rio has been incorporated within the current UN restructuring, adding that it needs high-level positive guidance and financial support from the member states.
Amb. Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, Permanent Representative to the UN from Brazil, delivered a message from the President of Brazil, Itamar Franco, on the first anniversary of the Rio Conference. He said that this meeting pushes the process forward as it ensures a rational balance between development and environmental concerns. The spirit of cooperation, represented by the commitments undertaken, must be translated into a new global partnership. He stressed that the right to development must be ensured.
US Vice President Al Gore then spoke, recalling the Rio Conference and the shared understanding by the participants that they were committed to a common future. He discounted those who say that humans are exempt from the laws of ecology, emphasizing the Clinton administration's commitment to join other governments in the leadership on a new course. He announced the US government's plan to establish a National Council on Sustainable Development. He spoke frankly on the issue of consumption, saying that developed country citizens have a responsibility to deal with their disproportionate impact on the global environment. While the CSD can't do everything, it should seek to exert leverage on other institutions. He said that it is a myth that industrialized countries have a monopoly on ideas and that economic development and environmental responsibility are incompatible. He set out two guiding principles in the pursuit of sustainable development: governments must take national responsibility for change; partnership is needed, both among countries and together with the private sector.
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