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PLENARY DEBATE

The Plenary held two sessions each day during UNGASS, where approximately 197 statements on review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21 were offered by 53 Heads of State and Government or Vice Presidents, 75 Ministers, 6 Vice Ministers, 29 Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, 5 observers, 17 heads of international organizations and 12 representatives of major groups. Twenty representatives of international organizations that were not able to speak in Plenary offered statements in the Committee of the Whole on Monday and Tuesday.

Speakers generally agreed that in the five years since UNCED, the concept of sustainable development has come to inform economic planning worldwide. The principles of Agenda 21 are being codified into national legislation, and major new conventions on climate change and biodiversity are being applied. Nearly all regions of the world are now experiencing lower fertility and lower population growth. Nevertheless, there was apparent consensus that much more needs to be done. Developing countries argued that their efforts to implement Agenda 21 have continued to be hampered by lack of resources. Many countries stressed that implementation of Agenda 21 requires new and additional financial resources and technology sharing. Several speakers pointed out that without alleviating the extreme and increasing poverty that pervades the world, sustainable development is both unrealistic and impossible.

Despite commitments made at Rio, consumption and production patterns remain unsustainably high, official development assistance (ODA) has actually declined, deforestation continues and developing countries lack essential “green technologies.” Several speakers pointed out that one third of the world’s population did not have access to clean drinking water. Speakers also emphasized the importance of action on forests, climate change, oceans, freshwater management, and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. The need to study the impacts of globalization and trade liberalization on developing countries was emphasized by many speakers. Countries also noted the importance of educating young people, promoting sustainable tourism and encouraging local initiatives and Local Agenda 21s. It was also stressed that peace and political stability were integral components of sustainable development.

Several speakers noted that, worldwide, foreign investment has replaced overseas development assistance in amount and frequency. Yet, foreign investment is not an appropriate replacement for ODA. Based on economic, rather than developmental, objectives, such investment necessarily yields selective benefits. For example, although several least developed countries are following liberal policies and have open economic systems, business capital flow has not been forthcoming. Innovative ideas are needed to raise funds for environmental protection and sustainable development. <W0>Copies of Plenary statements can be found on the Internet at <<gopher://gopher.un.org:70/11/ga/docs/S-19/statements/gov>>.

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