Second Preparatory Session for the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(New York, February 1, 2002)
Statement by Ambassador Nicolás Rivas, Deputy Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations
Permit me first of all to salute and congratulate you on the excellent manner in which you have been conducting the work of the Preparatory Committee. The results of our deliberations this week and next week will be of crucial importance in determining the agenda and work to be accomplished in the lead up to the Johannesburg Summit. We have full confidence in you, Mr. Chairman, and are certain that under your leadership the correct decisions will be taken.
I wish to thank the Secretary-General and all those who participated in the elaboration of the report on the implementation of Agenda 21, which constitutes the basis for our work. I also wish to acknowledge the valuable contributions that the major groups and civil society in general have made to the process. A spirit of collaboration and partnership must prevail throughout this process.
I also wish to associate myself and express my support for the statement made yesterday by the representatives of Venezuela and Costa Rica on behalf of the Group of 77 and the Group of Rio. I would nevertheless like to highlight certain aspects that are of particular importance to my delegation in the lead up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
We view this process of review of the 10 years that have gone by since the Earth Summit as an opportunity to acknowledge the successes achieved in the implementation of Agenda 21 but also to identify and address the obstacles that have prevented the achievement of genuinely sustainable development.
There is no question of renegotiating what has already been agreed upon and not implemented. The aim is to move forward with firm political will to overcome the problems. We must stress that, despite the significant changes that have taken place over the past decade in the political, economic and social fields, Agenda 21 continues to be as valid today as it was 10 years ago and the principles subscribed to in the Declaration of Rio continue to be valid.
We must recognize that the patterns of extravagant consumption and production on the one hand and the extreme poverty, exclusion and inequity that exist in the world, on the other, continue to place severe pressure on the environment, ecosystems and natural resources.
In Colombia, we have sought to promote the concept of sustainable development and to mainstream it into our national development policies. In fulfillment of the commitments entered into under Agenda 21, for example, we established the Ministry of the Environment under Act No. 99 of 1993. In that Act, we recognize that "the process of economic and social development of the country will be guided by universal principles and by the principles of sustainable development contained in the Declaration of Rio of June 1992 on Environment and Development".
We wish to reiterate today once more our commitment to sustainable development and to reaffirm the validity of the concept itself. We believe that in an increasingly globalized and interdependent world, it is only through an integrated, holistic and coordinated approach to the different variables that we will achieve economic development, social development and protection of the environment for present and future generations.
Despite the success achieved in important areas and sectors of economic activity as well as in the protection of the environment, we must admit that even greater efforts are needed to overcome internal imbalances. Just as it has not been easy to integrate and coordinate the economic, social and environmental variables at the international level, similarly we have encountered difficulties at the domestic level.
I would like to comment briefly on four aspects which we believe should be carefully examined if we are to move forward along the road to sustainable development, without prejudice to the importance that we attach to many of the other issues that are part of the analysis and which have already been addressed by the Group of 77 and the Rio Group.
1) Illicit crops: This is an aspect which has been and continues to be of great concern to Colombia and to other countries of the region. It has been a major obstacle to our development efforts and has had very negative effects on the environment, on our economy and on our people.
Illicit crops have accelerated the processes of desertification, deforestation, depletion of water resources, and destruction of valuable ecosystems and have intensified armed conflicts, increased poverty, affected food security and caused the breakdown of social structures.
Faced with this reality, we believe that in Johannesburg we must vigorously promote international cooperation to facilitate the search for and establishment of mechanisms of prevention and support for the reduction of rural poverty and the promotion of alternative crops, with the aim of protecting environmental systems that are of such vital importance to mankind as our forests, the environmental system of the Amazon and the strategic mountain ecosystems.
2) Local communities and indigenous peoples: A second aspect to which we attach particular importance is the content of chapter 26 of Agenda 21, which calls for the recognition and strengthening of the role of indigenous populations and their communities and also recognizes the role of other local communities.
We believe that greater emphasis should have been placed in the analysis of these issues in the report of the Secretary-General. We therefore wish to insist that this issue be the subject of careful analysis in the review of the implementation of Agenda 21. We wish to call attention to the grave risks to and the vulnerability of the various cultures represented in indigenous, afro-descendent and traditional peasant communities.
We must stress, in this regard, the importance of taking into account the cultural dimension in the implementation of options and alternatives for sustainable development moving away not only from traditional practices but also from a cultural point of view from unsustainable consumption patterns and extractive practices that are wasteful of natural resources.
We believe that one result of the Summit should be the emergence and promotion of a new ethic for sustainable development that encourages a culture of sustainable development in communities, civil society and the private sector, through education and strategies for promoting greater public awareness.
3) Education for sustainable development: A third aspect, which we believe to be of critical importance, is the role of education in promoting greater awareness of sustainable development. In Colombia, we have been promoting the establishment and strengthening of Inter-Institutional Technical Committees on Environmental Education at the departmental and local levels. These Committees are working to organize environmental education in each one of the departments and municipalities of the national territory through plans in which all institutions with competence and responsibilities in this particular field participate. We need to strengthen these programmes and ensure that their coverage is expanded.
4) Trade and environment: It is evident that this relationship requires careful analysis in our deliberations. Foreign trade as the engine of growth is critical to sustainable development. It requires a review of the trade subsidies that distort prices and greater access for the products and services of the developing countries to the markets of the developed countries, in particular in sectors, such as agriculture and textiles, in which these countries have a competitive advantage.
Developing countries also need assistance in their efforts to achieve full integration within the global trading system and effective participation in multilateral trade negotiations. We therefore need clear rules based on non-discrimination at the international level.
As part of the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Colombia established in December 2001 the WSSD Inter-Institutional Committee, which will shape the policies that the country will advocate in the debates leading up to the Summit. It is a Committee with broad-based participation both from the private sector and from non-governmental organizations.
We have also been undertaking a number of different activities in preparation for Johannesburg. One of these has been the First Regional Workshop on "Car-less Days for Mayors in Latin America", which, in collaboration with the Division of Sustainable Development, will be held on 6, 7 and 8 February 2002. This workshop will demonstrate how the city of Bogotá is committed to the concept of sustainable urban transport and how residents of the city have given up some individual rights for the common good.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I wish to take this opportunity to renew the invitation issued by my Government to all delegations and other interested parties to attend and participate in the definition of one of the most important institutional aspects in the preparations for the Johannesburg Summit, which is the question of international environmental governance, a subject that is being discussed within the framework of the 21/21 decision of the Governing Council of UNEP and which will shortly culminate in Cartagena.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.