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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-06-25
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 25 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.
The third day of debates continued on Wednesday at the special session of the General Assembly to review of the implementation of Agenda 21 -- the environment and development programme adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The Assembly heard repeated calls for concerted international cooperation without which plans for action, no matter how far-reaching, were bound to fail. It was said that official development assistance (ODA) was declining at a time when developing countries were struggling to implement remediation programmes of afforestation, coastal zone and fisheries management, poverty alleviation and education.
Environmental restoration would require a fundamental rethinking of economic activity, the Assembly was told. Least developed countries were destroying the environment with poverty. In developed countries, where 25 per cent of the world's population produced 95 per cent of waste, the destruction was caused through over-consumption.
President of the Marshall Islands, Imata Kabua, told the Assembly that the old entrenched ways of looking at the world should now give way to a new mind-set and a renewed level of consciousness before it was too late. Calling for a recommitment to the principles established in Rio, he said he was convinced that a world that was incapable of taking care of its own environment also lacked the basic respect for its own inhabitants, and therefore was incapable of bringing about a world peace that was fair and just.
Hungary views the special session as an important element of stock- taking efforts aimed at giving new impetus to implement Agenda 21, while ensuring that they are embedded in the overall reform process of the Organization, President of the Republic of Hungary Arpad Goncz told the General Assembly.
The Hungarian President stressed that United Nations global conferences, such as the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, could not be implemented outside the reform efforts. Conversely, no reform effort could be successful, if it ignored the basic tenets of the courses of action charted in Rio, Vienna, Cairo, Istanbul, Copenhagen and Beijing. "To bridge these gaps in the institutional capacity and resources as a result of our common political will, is the real test of the partnership we demonstrated in Rio, and what we seek to uphold a this special session", said President Goncz.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security of the Bahamas Frank H. Watson told the Assembly that sustainable development must be built on three pillars of society, including environmental well- being, social harmony and economic opportunity for all citizens. The Deputy Prime Minister stressed that it would be impossible to achieve sustainable development in societies where conditions of poverty had not been addressed and where economic opportunities were available to few.
The goal of achieving sustainable development of human settlements to protect the natural resources and environment was in danger of not being achieved unless the requisite resources were in place, Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho Pakalitha Mosisili told the Assembly. He said Lesotho was a mountainous country with fragile ecosystems, and the scarcity of fresh water would, in the near future loomed as a critical problem of global proportions. The Deputy Prime Minster said his country was acutely aware of its responsibility to preserve and manage the existing water resources for the benefit of the region.
The Government of Jordan has taken several measures reflecting decisions of the Rio Conference, including the provision of a legal framework for the protection of the environment and the institutionalization of environmental action, the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and the Environment of Jordan told the special session of the Assembly. Highlighting practical measures his Government undertook since the Rio Summit, Mr. Tawfiq Kreishan said his country had established a public corporation for the protection of the environment and the conservation of its resources. He said Jordan was committed to the implementation of the Rio principles and rules, despite the shortage of natural resources.
Austria appeals to the biggest user of energy and therefore "top emittent of greenhouse gas" to join the European Union on the road to Kyoto in an effort to save the climate, Austrian Federal Minister for the Environment Martin Bartenstein told the special session. "Leadership in today's world does not only mean leadership in technology, economy or military strength, but perhaps before all to lead the world into sustainable development", he said. The Austrian Minster also called for additional work with regard to sustainable and equitable management of fresh water, energy and forests. Developing adequate ways and means of managing scarce resources at the global level would make it necessary to develop new international mechanisms that allowed for a fair sharing of the short-term burden that the transition towards sustainability would impose on us all, the Minister stated.
The special session was of crucial importance for measuring the level of commitment and resolve to reverse the downward spiral into development stagnation and environmental catastrophe, the Environment Minister of Indonesia Sarwono Kusumaatmadja told the Assembly. He said the predominant sources of environmental degradation resulted from both unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, mainly in the developed countries, and from pervasive poverty and under-development still rampant in the developing countries. As far as the developing countries were concerned, said the Minister, environmental sustainability could only be effectively achieved by strenuously combating poverty and under-development.
Chairman of the Delegation of Israel, Ambassador David Peleg, said that environmental issues figured prominently on all tracks of the peace process in the area in order to utilize and exploit natural resources in a sustainable manner. Ambassador Peleg told the Assembly that the multi- lateral track of the Middle East peace process, designed to identify and define joint developmental needs, was not functioning effectively due to the refusal of some of the neighbours of Israel to participate and the intent of others to use that track as a platform for pressuring Israel. He said peace would make it possible to establish regional frameworks, to preserve joint resources and to create new ones.
President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn unveiled a five-point environmental plan of action, committing his institution to do "all it can to forge a global partnership to promote equitable approaches to environmental issues. "As an institution dedicated to reducing poverty, we at the Bank are more aware than ever of the continuing link between the degrading environment and the poverty afflicting so many of the world's people", he told the special session. Outlining the five-point plan, Mr. Wolfensohn said it provided for the World Bank's contribution in the areas of climate change, biodiversity, ozone depletion, desertification and the water crisis. In all of these areas, he said, the World Bank would work in partnership with others.
The news of the death of French undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau was met at the United Nations with expressions of sadness. UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan said that Cousteau's visionary life in the cause of marine biology was a landmark contribution to the protection of the global environment. "In this week when world leaders gather at the United Nations to recommit themselves to the goals set forth by the Earth Summit, let us redouble our efforts to protect the marine environment to whose preservation Jacques Cousteau dedicated his life", said the Secretary- General.
President of the General Assembly Razali Ismail of Malaysia called Cousteau "a giant of a man" in promoting development and environmental issues. "Mr. Cousteau saw the world as being linked and committed himself to understanding the multifaceted aspects of this overall linkage between nature and humankind", said Ambassador Razali.
UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, James Baker III, said he was surprised by the "excellent" tone and spirit of the first round of direct talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which concluded in Lisbon on Tuesday.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Mr. Baker said that the talks had been private and he could not go into the details of the substantive issues. The Secretary-General's Personal Envoy said that the parties had presented their positions. Meanwhile he had submitted some "bridging proposals" which had been considered by both of the parties and the observer countries.
Mr. Baker said that the talks had adjourned while these bridging proposals received final consideration from both sides who had indicated that they would be back with answers "as soon as they possibly could".
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended a two-phased exit strategy for the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Sirmium (UNTAES). The strategy is aimed at the successful completion of peaceful integration and the withdrawal of the UN mission from the region. United Nations Spokesman Fred Eckhard said the recommendation is contained in a soon to be released report of the Secretary-General. "He expresses his concern that a quick transfer of authority to Croatia and the early withdrawal of UNTAES could lead to a mass exodus of Serbs which itself would create a major humanitarian crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and would also have negative repercussions on Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Republic of Sprska", said the Spokesman.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended a two phased exit strategy for the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Sirmium (UNTAES), aimed at the successful completion of peaceful integration and the withdrawal of the UN mission from the region.
In his report to the Security Council on the situation in Croatia, which was released on Wednesday, the Secretary-General said that as part of the strategy, the Transitional Administrator would devolve to Croatia executive responsibility for the major part of civil administration of the region while maintaining his authority and ability to intervene and overrule decisions should the situation deteriorate and the achievements of UNTAES be threatened.
In the second phase, and subject to satisfactory Croatian performance, remaining executive functions would be devolved, with Croatia assuming responsibility for the continued demilitarization of the region and the gradual integration of the Transitional Police Force into the Croatian police force.
The Secretary-General expressed concern that a precipitate transfer of authority to Croatia and the withdrawal of UNTAES in the near term could lead to a mass exodus of Serbs, which would create a major humanitarian crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and would have negative repercussions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly the Republika Srpska.
The head of the UN agency which serves as the centre of expertise on drug abuse control launched on Wednesday a comprehensive report on the status of drugs and related phenomena.
Addressing the press at the launching of the World Drug Report, Giorgi Giacomelli, the Executive Director of the UN International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) said the report "tackles all the complex web of issues surrounding the drug phenomena in a single manageable volume and details global trends in drug production, trafficking and consumption".
The report, among other things, explains the financial burden on society resulting from drug-related health care, loss of productivity in the workplace, and the employment of law enforcement resources. It also focuses at public policy on drug control and examines the issues surrounding the debate on drug legalization and how policies translated into preventive action.
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