Klaus Toepfer
United Nations Under-Secretary
General and Executive Director, UNEP

It is easy to be cynical about the world’s political machinery and the way it appears to listen to itself – and be deaf to the needs of the people, the planet and those, in grinding poverty, in need of prosperity.

But I believe that there is a glimmer of hope, reflecting a mood that many of the world’s leaders from North and South appear willing to nurture.

Last year, in Doha, Qatar, it was agreed to bring environmental issues into the new round of World Trade Organization talks. This is not without its struggles or free from differences of opinion. But it is a new, and much needed, start towards developing and delivering a balanced world, one that delivers growth and prosperity and respects the planet and all its people.

A few months ago, in Monterrey, Mexico, nations agreed to a significant increase in development aid, reversing a declining trend that has seen it fall to 0.22 per cent of rich countries’ national wealth. The reversal is not enough – but it is a reversal.

We also have the Africa action plan, recently endorsed by the G8 Summit, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). African countries have agreed to put their house in order so that rich and poor nations can work together in mutual trust to heal this extraordinary continent’s environmental, social and economic wounds and release its potential to overcome poverty.

UNEP will be working tirelessly with its United Nations partners and friends to make the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) a success – to make it a Summit of concrete actions that turn the promises of Rio into reality.

We have drawn up a list of ‘deliverables’ in areas from marine pollution to engaging civil society and increasing public awareness.

We will also be pressing hard for richer countries to turn the pledges made in Doha, Monterrey, Canada and elsewhere into hard cash to implement these deliverables – and to change their unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.

We want to see the Global Environment Facility, which has done so much for conservation and helping to deliver sustainable development, replenished this year at an acceptable level.

We will strive, with UNESCO, to get the issue of cultural diversity – in relation to biodiversity, with which it is powerfully linked – onto the international agenda.

Without cultural diversity, without an anchor in our past, we face a poorer future in psychological, spiritual, economic and human terms. We risk losing our resilience, our species’ natural ability to survive and adapt in the face of change. This links directly to the need to develop globalization with a human face along the lines called for by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Without diversity, we risk becoming like a monoculture plantation forest, highly vulnerableto pests, high winds and other extreme change.

The consequences of failure in Johannesburg are too disturbing to contemplate. Unless a new course is charted for planet Earth we risk a new ‘Iron Curtain’, dividing not East and West but the haves and the have-nots – with all the ramifications of increasing political, social and economic instability, and all the risks of increased tensions, jealousies and hatreds between and within countries.

We stand no more than a toe-print into a new century. Despite all the complexities and difficulties of the choices we face, I remain optimistic for the world’s oceans, rivers, forests, atmosphere, wildlife and people.

The Malmö Declaration of 2000 says it all:
‘At the dawn of this new century, we have at our disposal the human and material resources to achieve sustainable development, not as an abstract concept but as a concrete reality. The unprecedented developments in production and information technologies, the emergence of a younger generation with a clear sense of optimism, solidarity and values, women increasingly aware and with an enhanced and active role in society – all point to the emergence of a new consciousness. We can decrease poverty by half by 2015 without degrading the environment, we can ensure environmental security through early warning, we can better integrate environmental consideration in economic policy, we can better coordinate legal instruments and we can realize a vision of a world without slums. We commit ourselves to realizing this common vision.’


This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Agenda of hope | Changing the paradigm | Only one Earth | Beyond brackets | African renaissance | Unmissable opportunity | At a glance: GEO-3 | Asking the people | Recapturing momentum | Taking the measure of unsustainability | Breaking the grid lock | Training for transformation | Bring big business to account | Out of the changing room | ‘Dear delegates...’ | We need a dream | Two sides of the same coin: before and after Johannesburg| Quality environmental data for all

Complementary articles in other issues:
Malmö Ministerial Declaration (The Environment Millennium) 2001
Klaus Toepfer: Prospects for WSSD: Towards Johannesburg
(Mountains and Ecotourism) 2002
Mohammed Valli Moosa: Achieving the vision
(Chemicals and the environment) 2002
Juan Mayr Maldonado: Open doors
(Chemicals and the environment) June 2000

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
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