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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-06-23

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Monday, 23 June 1997

This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.


  • General Assembly convenes in New York for a special session to review progress since Earth Summit in Rio.
  • UN Secretary-General says the task of the session is to turn political will into deeds and action.
  • General Assembly President says there should be no excuses for not tackling the forces of environmental degradation.
  • President of Brazil says today's challenges are even greater than those of Rio.
  • Zimbabwe's President urges developed countries to honour their Rio commitments.
  • Prime Minister of Japan announces a new initiative for developing countries.
  • Tanzanian President calls for a renewed spirit of global partnership for sustainable development.
  • Netherlands, on behalf of EU, calls for a legally-binding commitment to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • British Prime Minister urges industrialised nations to work with developing countries to combat climate change.
  • German Chancellor says urgent action to protect natural resources is needed to prevent future conflicts.
  • President of France calls for the sense of responsibility to protect the environment.
  • President of Kazakstan proposes an international fund to rehabilitate regions affected by nuclear weapons tests.
  • President of Argentina stresses the need to preserve marine biological resources.
  • Prime Minister of Norway says a World Environment Organization may be needed for a clearer voice on environment.
  • Security Council demands that Iraq allows unconditional access to UN inspectors.
  • Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommends extension of the UN Observer Mission in Liberia.
  • UN Secretary-General expresses outrage at the alleged atrocities committed by UN peacekeepers in Somalia.

The General Assembly Monday began a 5-day special session to review implementation of Agenda 21 - the programme of action adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The special session, also known as "Earth Summit + 5", will consider for adoption a three-part document as its proposed outcome and is expected to consider a political statement which is still to be negotiated.

Opening the session, President of the General Assembly Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia urged delegates to strip themselves of the old excuses for not tackling effectively enough the driving forces of environmental degradation and under-development.

"This special session will certainly have failed in the eyes of the world if it produces nothing more than stirring rhetoric that seizes the headlines and exhortations to continue to do more", said Mr. Razali. "I challenge governments North and South to tackle the real obstacles to implementing Agenda 21".

In his statement at the opening of the session, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the presence of so many Heads of State and Government was a welcome demonstration of political will.

"Our task at this special session, therefore, is to turn that political will into deeds and actions. We must aim this week to set a sure course for the world community into the new millennium, on this most urgent and vital global issue".

Vice President Al Gore of the United States, who welcomed the delegates on behalf of President Clinton and the American people, said that sustainable development must become a guiding principle in the 21st Century. Appealing to the international community to "roll up our sleeves", he said that the forum's task in the coming days was to chart the course for the years to come.

President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso called on the special session to identify, objectively, the areas in which no progress had been made and recognize that today's challenges are even greater than those of five years ago when the UN Conference on Environment and Development had convened.

"We have moved forward in the consideration of critical issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, forests, and desertification. Progress, however, has been hindered by a lack of efficient means of implementation and financing," he noted.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe urged developed countries to honour their commitments made at Rio, noting that if financial resources were forthcoming, Africa would refrain from cutting down trees for energy and polluting water resources for lack of appropriate technologies.

"There could be no preservation of the environment amidst the massive and pandemic prevalence of poverty, ignorance and disease, stressed President Mugabe, and these could not be eradicated in the absence of sustainable development. This organic link between environment and development was what had been woefully ignored since the Earth Summit in Rio," said President Mugabe.

In his address to the session, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan announced several new initiatives aimed at enhancing international cooperation in the field of sustainable development. The Comprehensive Strategy for the Prevention of Global Warming, or Green Initiative, he said, was designed to promote the efforts of developed countries in the development of energy conservation technologies, the introduction of non- fossil energy sources, the development of innovative energy and environmental technologies and worldwide preservation of forests.

As for a second initiative, Prime Minister Hashimoto said that Japan would promote, for developing countries, a new plan entitled Initiatives for Sustainable Development Towards the 21st Century (ISD). The plan contains a series of measures on air and water pollution, global warming, water issues, the preservation of the natural environment and the promotion of environmental education.

President of Tanzania, Benjamin William Mkapa, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, stressed that developing countries were ready and willing to implement the commitments undertaken five years ago at Rio. But he said that developed countries should reciprocate, by words and deeds, for the sake of their common destiny.

This Special Session should mark the beginning of a renewed spirit of global and practical partnership for sustainable development and poverty reduction measures, said the Tanzanian President. The goal could be achieved through increased official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI) for financing capacity building as well as preferential and unrestricted access to the markets of the developed countries.

The Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, called on the industrialised world to conclude a legally binding commitment in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. Prime Minister Wim Kok said the European Union had agreed to a phased reduction of the emissions of greenhouse gases of 15 per cent below the 1990 level by the year 2010.

"We are in danger of passing thresholds beyond which serious damage will occur, some of it irreversible. And even if part of the damage would be reparable, it would be against an unnecessarily, or even unaffordably, high price. To safeguard future generations from this danger and burden, it is our duty to act now," the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday said that by the year 2010 Britain would be ready to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent below its 1990 level. In his address at Earth Summit + 5, he also said that Britain intended to share its long experience of the public and private management of forests with other countries. "Today I can announce that we intend to adopt a new Forest Standard to provide a benchmark for the regeneration of forests. It may help to provide a model for other countries. So I can also announce that Britain will be increasing its development assistance for forestry management to countries wanting to share our experience", said the Prime Minister.

Stressing that industrialized countries must work with developing nations to help combat climate change, Prime Minister Blair proposed to enhance the United Kingdom's partnership with key developing countries in energy efficiency and climate change research and observation.

Leaders of Germany, Brazil, Singapore and South Africa have launched a joint initiative to protect the environment, Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany announced on in his speech at the special session. The initiative, he said, was designed to demonstrate that the North and South could take joint action to protect the environment. Chancellor Kohl warned that conflicts over natural resources would become ever more likely if no urgent action was taken to protect those resources.

The German leader pointed out, however, that there were also developments that gave hope, such as the use of solar power and other forms of energy. Chancellor Kohl proposed that industrialized countries should adopt the position of the European Union to cut the levels of the main greenhouse gases by 15 per cent by the year 2010.

Stressing that to "attack nature is to attack mankind", President Jacques Chirac of France said that the sense of responsibility was an absolute requirement for protecting the planet. In his address to the special session he said it was presumptuous to claim that Man, through his intelligence, would always be able to repair the damage wrought in the name of progress. No one knew how to reconstitute the ozone layer, and no one knew how to correct the global warming caused by the greenhouse effect, the French President added.

Stressing the importance of water as a source of life, President Chirac said that France, with the support of the European Union, had submitted proposals to the Commission on Sustainable Development which he hoped would lead to concrete programmes and to a partnership on a world-wide scale. "Let us together decide that in ten years' time, every village in the Third World, in Africa in particular, must have its own well or access to drinking water", he said. The French President also urged an early start of negotiations for the convention on forests and said that the commitments regarding the conventions on biological diversity and the fight against desertification should be finally defined.

Calling on the United Nations to play a more active role in an intensive exchange of clean technologies and their transfer to economies in transition, the President of the Republic of Kazakstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev said the world body could create a mechanism of control over non- proliferation of polluting, toxic and hazardous technologies and industries.

Highlighting the problems caused by many years of tests at the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground, the President of Kazakstan stressed the responsibility of the nuclear powers for the damage caused to the population and nature of the States where tests had been conducted. "Kazakstan proposes to materialize the responsibility of the nuclear powers in the form of an international fund for the rehabilitation of the health of the population and nature of the regions affected by the nuclear weapons test", said President Nazarbayev.

Argentina, a country with an Atlantic coast of over 4,000 kilometres, attaches great importance to the protection of the oceans, President of the Argentine Republic Carlos Saul Menem told Earth Summit + 5. Noting that preservation of marine biological resources demanded sound practices on both waters under national jurisdiction and the high seas beyond the economic exclusive zone, President Menem said that the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was an important but insufficient step forward.

"The United Nations should reaffirm its role as guarantor of a clear and operative legal framework to prevent disputes among States who fish beyond the 200 miles", said Mr. Menem, stressing that the international community must ensure a sustainable exploitation of the natural resources for the benefit of mankind. "We are convinced that the depredation of marine resources may generate conflicts which in turn could endanger peace and security, the maintenance of which is the main purpose of this Organization".

The Prime Minister of Norway Thorbjorn Jagland said that the international community might need a World Environment Organization to provide a clearer and more authoritative voice on environmental contributions to sustainable development. Addressing the special session, he proposed that such an organization could be made part of the UN reform process.

Stressing that Agenda 21 was "not up for renegotiation", Prime Minister Jagland said that five years after Rio the industrialized countries were not getting any closer to the objective of 0.7 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Prime Minister said that since 1993, Norway had increased development assistance from $1 billion to $1.3 billion, adding that the goal of his Government was to move to 1 per cent of GDP in development assistance over the coming years.

Stressing the unacceptability of any attempt by Iraq to deny access to inspectors of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), the Security Council on Saturday demanded that the Government of Iraq allow the Special Commission inspection teams immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to all areas, facilities, and records they wish to inspect. The Special Commission is charged with identifying and destroying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

In a unanimous vote, the Council also demanded that the Government of Iraq gave unconditional access to officials and other persons under the authority of the Iraqi Government whom the Special Commission wished to interview, so that the Commission could fully discharge its mandate.

The Council expressed firm intention to impose additional measures on those categories of Iraqi officials responsible for non-compliance, unless it is advised by the Special Commission to the contrary.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended to the Security Council that the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Liberia be extended for a final three month period until 30 September 1997. In a report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General said the calm that had prevailed in Liberia for the past few months could not be taken for granted. In particular, he said, the possibility of unrest during or after the elections, especially if the results were hotly contested could not be ruled out. The Secretary- General noted that it was a credit to all that Liberia is proceeding towards the elections in a calm and peaceful atmosphere that had prevailed since the conclusion of the disarmament exercise in February.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday expressed outrage at the alleged atrocities committed by United Nations peacekeeping soldiers while on duty in Somalia. Mr. Annan stressed in a statement that UN peacekeeping soldiers should be held to the highest standard of service and conduct, adding that training of soldiers in their responsibilities to citizens, refugees and others facing hardships had been strengthened since 1993. The Secretary- General gave the assurance that every possible effort would be made on the part of the United Nations to ensure that such incidents did not happen again.
For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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