Delegates to the first Global Ministerial Environment Forum
(the Forum) convened in a morning Plenary for the opening ceremony
and statements. Ministers and delegates met in the afternoon for
ministerial consultations, a Committee of the Whole (COW), and a
working group on the Malmö Declaration.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, by video,expressed hope that
the Forum would rise to the challenges of the new millennium. He
said despite success stories, humans continue plundering the
environment and unsustainable practices are embedded in our daily
lives. He outlined four areas for further effort, including the
development of: media and public education to ensure that
corporations and consumers recognize environmental consequences;
policies and laws that consider the ramifications of subsidies and
promote environmental incentives; mainstreamed environmental
objectives in policy; and sound scientific information to
establish the basis for action.
GC President László Miklós (Slovak Republic) stressed that
the Forum should reflect on failures while charting the way
forward. He said environmental problems cannot be solved outside
politics and noted the disconcerting reality that poverty
persists. He suggested rethinking the rules of the global village
since market forces are insufficient and assistance from the
international community is required.
Ingvar Carlsson, former Swedish Prime Minister, said the Forum
provided an opportunity to send a strong message to the Millennium
Summit of the General Assembly. He called for more forceful action
in fulfilling obligations of environmental conventions. He
emphasized: solidarity across borders; new partnerships between
governments, the private sector and civil society; the importance
of new information technologies; and education and awareness
raising. He reiterated the concept "think globally, act
Yvonne Maingey (Kenya) and Philip Tinker (UK), representing the
Millennium International Children’s Conference on the
Environment, challenged delegates to: enforce environmental laws;
provide clean water for everyone in 10 years; increase recycling
bins; substitute plastic bags by 2004; and promote the use of
clean energy. They asked delegates to listen to youth because they
are future ministers and leaders.
Massumeh Ebtekar, Vice-President of Iran, delivering a message
from the Iranian President, said alienating approaches to nature
cannot provide solutions. She stressed religious values and
harmony between humans and nature. She called for the Forum to
consider a discourse substituting a spiritual approach to nature
based on humility for the material and arrogant attitude prevalent
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, representing 45 environment and
development NGOs, said that the 1990s was the decade of
environmental agreements, but not of implementing solutions. She
described a paralysis of thought and action and stated that
laissez-faire economic models cause social dislocation and
environmental degradation. She said Rio+10 should not be a review
of Agenda 21, but a global conference on sustainable development
and poverty eradication. She suggested that UNEP invite civil
society to comment on the creative use of its products and
formalize the link with NGOs as a whole, particularly in its
preparations for Rio+10.
Klaus Töpfer, UNEP Executive Director, noted that the Forum
was established by the UN General Assembly and highlighted the
meeting as the largest gathering of environment ministers in UNEP’s
history. He described the two main global environmental threats as
unsustainable production and consumption patterns in developed
countries and poverty in developing countries. Institutions and
legislation signaling commitment to tackle these threats exists,
but he said environmental stewardship is lagging behind.
Delegates then adopted the agenda and elected Hossein Moeini
Meybodi (Iran) as Rapporteur. Delegates agreed to continue
deliberations in ministerial consultations, to establish a COW,
chaired by Leandro Arellano (Mexico), and an open-ended working
group on the Malmö Declaration, chaired by Swedish Environment
Minister Kjell Larsson.
MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES IN THE NEW CENTURY: Klaus
Töpfer introduced moderator Professor Konrad von Moltke,
Dartmouth College. Professor Mario Molina, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, discussed the science/ policy interface. He said
three questions should be asked when facing an environmental
issue: do we have a problem; is it a consequence of human
activity; and should anything be done? In relation to ozone
depletion, the answers were yes, whereas for climate change, the
answers were unclear. Addressing the Ministers as "Ministers
of environmental security," M.S. Swaminathan, M.S.
Swaminathan Research Foundation, said that we need an
"ever-green revolution," which integrates the ecological
context. He highlighted that biodiversity is concentrated in
developing countries, home to the majority of the world’s
population. He added that traditional knowledge is crucial.
KUWAIT said legislation exists, but little action is taken when
rules are not obeyed. NIGERIA urged consideration of debt
cancellation for African countries. ETHIOPIA offered the term
"green evolution" since we are returning to the roots of
many farming practices and TANZANIA noted that the green
revolution had success in Asia, but not in Africa. NEW ZEALAND
said that the public is not always scientifically literate,
raising trust issues about genetically modified organisms. CUBA
recognized the role of science in development. EGYPT reflected on
scientific uncertainty relating to climate change and water
DENMARK called for a globalization of politics noting that the
riches of the north have increased, but generosity has diminished.
SAUDI ARABIA requested implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
TUNISIA stressed the need for affordable technology transfers.
COLOMBIA said problem solving requires inter-ministerial
cooperation. NORWAY emphasized decoupling economic growth and
environmental degradation and interlinkages between different
Highlighting climate change as the gravest challenge, UGANDA
emphasized capacity building for developing countries. The
NETHERLANDS called attention to both poverty and wealth induced
environmental degradation. CYPRUS said raising peoples’ welfare
level should be a priority, while the US said science and
technology were part of the solution. INDIA stated that poverty
should be the central focus. The UK called for preparing a world
sustainable development strategy. MALTA highlighted preventive
rather than reactive methods.
SWEDEN called for new institutions to deal with environmental
crises, broader and more sustainable financing for UNEP, and new
North-South agreements. SYRIA highlighted water and debt as major
challenges. CAMEROON advocated enforcement of international
agreements and supported the polluter pays principle. CHINA called
assistance in attaining sustainable production and consumption
BANGLADESH noted deficient resources for sustainable
development. PORTUGAL stressed the need to define priorities and
to increase efficiencies at Rio +10, while PAKISTAN said that old
environmental problems persist. GERMANY noted that 2002 must start
an action-oriented process and SWITZERLAND highlighted the
importance of integrating environmental goals into all sectors.
IRAN said the growing gap between rich and poor indicates
mismanagement on various levels. BHUTAN drew attention to falling
levels of development assistance. JAPAN called for a life cycle
economy and MALAYSIA suggested that the 21st century
marks the time for action.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ON THE ACTIVITIES OF UNEP:
Shafqat Kakakhel, UNEP Deputy Executive Director, introduced the
"Report of the Executive Director on the activities of UNEP"
(UNEP/GCSS.VI/6). He highlighted UNEP’s priority areas: (a)
environmental information, assessment and research; (b) enhanced
coordination of environmental conventions; (c) freshwater; (d)
technology transfer and industry; and (e) support to Africa. He
noted the re-energized African Ministerial Conference on the
Environment (AMCEN) and the resulting 1999 Abuja Declaration as an
important landmark. He reiterated UNEP’s successful monitoring
of the environment through the Global Environmental Outlook report
INDIA, and many others, congratulated UNEP for its excellent
reports. He also said India does not support multilateral
processes regarding rivers and affirmed that environmental issues
should not be used as trade barriers. UGANDA, supported by NIGERIA
and ZAMBIA, encouraged the implementation of the Abuja
Declaration. JAPAN highlighted the databases for sound
environmental management of UNEP’s International Environmental
PORTUGAL, on behalf of the EU, supported UNEP’s role in the
coordination of activities for Rio +10. He also proposed,
supported by NEW ZEALAND, that UNEP produce a document describing
the relationship between GC decisions, UNEP activities, and the
UNEP budget. SAUDI ARABIA recognized UNEP’s role in monitoring
convention implementation. CANADA supported government links with
UNEP. CHINA suggested help for governments to develop appropriate
water policies and argued for regional bureau involvement in
preparing GEO 2002.
AUSTRALIA suggested that UNEP prepare a document with policy
options for environmental emergencies. The US proposed a report on
convention coordination for Rio +10. VENEZUELA suggested that UNEP
institute proper environmental management systems of natural
resources. ZAMBIA encouraged UNEP to continue work on synergies of
conventions at all levels.
CYPRUS emphasized the importance of looking at the demand side
of water management. TURKEY expressed concern that the water
report reflected UNEP involvement in issues with political
implications. TUNISIA emphasized UNEP’s role in implementing UN
conventions, especially for desertification and climate change.
NIGERIA encouraged UNEP to provide more support for capacity
building. RWANDA said awareness-raising efforts need to emphasize
land degradation in Africa. MALAWI emphasized that increasing
poverty is hampering convention implementation in Africa.
Responding, Kakakhel ensured that this positive feedback would not
cause complacency on UNEP’s behalf.
Halifa Omar Drammeh (UNEP) introduced "Water policy and
strategy of UNEP" (UNEP/GCSS.VI/6/Add.1/Rev.1). Discussions
on this document begin on Tuesday.
WORKING GROUP ON THE MALMÖ DECLARATION
Delegates discussed the preamble of the draft Declaration text
(UNEP/GCSS.VI/CRP.1) presented by Chair Kjell Larsson. INDIA,
supported by CHINA, NIGERIA, and KENYA, called for stronger
language on poverty. INDIA, CHINA and BRAZIL emphasized common but
differentiated responsibilities. CHINA underscored inequities
created by the globalization process. The NETHERLANDS, supported
by the US, opposed replicating previous UN language, and supported
consideration of poverty, threats, spiritual values and youth. The
US and others reiterated that the Declaration should reflect
ministerial discussions. UGANDA said the preamble should map out a
future course of action and, with NIGERIA, highlighted the debt
burden. NEW ZEALAND emphasized ownership of the issues by the
people. SWITZERLAND said the Forum should send a clear message to
the Millennium Assembly.
IN THE CORRIDORS
The inaugural Forum got off to an inspirational start with a
choir performance and dramatic film on environmental challenges
urging action, and some delegates enthusiastically expressed that
this meeting could set the environmental agenda for the 21st
century. However, others were uncertain of the objectives of the
meeting, as a regular session of the GC could discuss the same
issues. But there was also a willingness to give the session a
chance since such a meeting has never before been held.
Expectations are also high regarding the key output of a Malmï¿½
Declaration, but negotiations on final language are not expected
to be easy with a view to its presentation to the Millennium UNGA.