Goran Persson describes how it is everyone’s business to make the Summit a success

The Johannesburg Summit (WSSD) offers a great opportunity to give new energy to international cooperation and to strengthen global solidarity. It is an opportunity make real progress in achieving the goals set out in Rio ten years ago. It is an opportunity that we are not allowed to miss.

We know where we want to go; we have agreed the overarching goals for development in Agenda 21 and the Millennium Declaration. Now we need to give our full attention to ‘how to do it’ and ‘who should do what’.

If the Summit is to be a success, it must be action-oriented and must start to bring about real change to those who need it most: people living in extreme poverty, in cities or the countryside; children who are sick due to lack of access to safe drinking water and to heavy pollution; women who have to spend most of their day looking for wood so that they can cook.

Hope for the young
The Summit must also bring hope to all the world’s young people. Hope for a juster and safer world, characterized by greater solidarity and growing opportunities for all. Our challenge is to ensure a globalization that unites instead of marginalizes, one that works for sustainable development instead of against it.

In Johannesburg we need to take concrete steps in this direction. This is a question of political credibility, not just for individual political leaders, but for the United Nations system as a whole.

To succeed, we need active participation and contributions from civil society, from experts of different disciplines – and from the private sector. While governments have a clear responsibility to ensure that sustainable development can be achieved, we cannot do it alone. We need to work in partnership with all sectors to gather the resources needed, both human and financial. Sustainable development is everybody’s business.

More action, fewer words
This summer Sweden hosted an anniversary conference in Stockholm 30 years after the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, where 250 participants from 66 countries and 14 international organizations worked together. It was valuable in analysing the lessons learned since 1972 – and how to best progress now. There was frustration due to the lack of progress in implementation, but there was also a lot of energy and hope. The message from youth organizations was clear – ‘we want to see more action and fewer words’.

The bottom-up approach has been a central part of the preparations for Johannesburg. Local, national and regional experiences in implementing Agenda 21 and promoting sustainable development have been the basis for elaborating the Summit’s agenda. If we are to move from words to action we need to share knowledge and good examples.

Progressive policies
In Sweden we have adopted a national sustainable development strategy that ties together efforts in different sectors – economic, social and environmental. Progressive social policies form a central basis of our work for sustainable development. Investments in people and labour market policies are productive engines for growth. Human resources are the most important factor in achieving sustainable development.

Ensuring basic welfare and decent jobs for all is also a condition for promoting popular commitment to the protection of the environment. Meanwhile strong environmental policies and investments in new technologies generate economic and social opportunities.

The launching of new partnership initiatives to contribute to the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals through the WSSD Implementation Plan is promising. But this does not mean that we as government leaders can avoid our responsibility. We need clear intergovernmental commitments to implementing agreed targets and goals in Johannesburg. We need to demonstrate our readiness to work together with partners in the North and South, in civil society and in the private sector.

To make a real difference and to deliver results that match the challenges, we need everybody’s commitment and participation – and strong political leadership. This is the only way forward 

Goran Persson is the Prime Minister of Sweden.


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
Kjell Larsson: Now for vigorous action (The Environment Millennium) 2001
Kjell Larsson: A further step (Chemicals and the environment) 2001
Klaus Toepfer: Prospects for WSSD: Towards Johannesburg
(Mountains and Ecotourism) 2002

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
About the AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment