55th Session of the General Assembly
Agenda item 95 (a):
Environment and Sustainable Development
Statement of the
United Nations Environment Programme
Adnan Z. Amin
UNEP, New York Office
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished delegates,
It is a privilege for me, on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP), to address this august body. I would also like to convey to you the regrets of the
Executive Director of UNEP, Dr. Klaus Töpfer, who was unable to be with you today.
The last year has been marked by considerable progress for UNEP, in particular in the
priority areas of concentration of the Programme, as well as in the implementation of the
reform programme. I am pleased to have the opportunity today to introduce three reports
being considered by the Committee under agenda item 95 (a). These are: the report of the
sixth special session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment
Programme (A/55/25, Supplement No.25); the note by the Secretary-General transmitting
the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme on
activities contributing to the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Programme for the
Further Implementation of Agenda 21 (A/55/447); and the report of the Secretary-
General on international institutional arrangements related to environment and
sustainable development (A/55/357).
These three documents together provide a clear sense of direction in the evolution of the
UNEP Programme as well as a significant programmatic and policy contribution to the
ten-year review of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.
The reports also provide the basis for contributing to the implementation of the
Millennium Declaration which, based on the Millennium Report of the Secretary-
General, affirms environmental sustainability as a priority agenda in articulating a vision
for the United Nations in the new era.
Facing the environmental challenges of the 21st century will ultimately be a matter of
good policies, effective leadership, creative and adaptable organizations, concerned and
involved citizens, good information and rational decision-making. Equipping the United
Nations to respond adequately to the environmental challenges in the new era was in
essence the objective of the reform process initiated by the Secretary-General through his
report on environment and human settlements (A/53/463). Substantial progress has
already been made in implementing these recommendations, as endorsed by the
Assembly in resolution 53/242. The Assembly, in its Plenary session, will have before it
for its consideration, a report of the Secretary-General outlining the measures that have
been undertaken in this regard.
As a first direct response to the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-
General on environment and human settlements, UNEP convened in Malmö, Sweden, in
May 2000, the first Global Ministerial Environment Forum, as a special session of the
Governing Council. The Forum was significant not only in the large number of delegates
attending, and the participation of almost 100 ministers, reflecting the high priority that
government now accords to environmental issues, but also in the open and innovative
nature of the discussion and the substantive inclusion of civil society and the private
sector in the process of regaining policy coherence in the field of the environment.
The outcome of the Forum - The Malmö Ministerial Declaration – is an inspiring and
meaningful expression of a global environmental consciousness and responsibility. It
recognized that in a spirit of international partnership and solidarity, the international
community has the tools and resources to translate the ambitious global equation of
sustainable development into concrete local actions and implementation. As a major input
to the Millennium Summit and as we prepare for the ten-year review of the 1992 Rio
Earth Summit, the message from Malmö is that there is an environmental crisis that can
only be addressed by governments, the private sector and civil society forging
partnerships and acting together to alleviate poverty and remedy the threats to human
health and the environment caused by our past actions.
In what can be considered as a watershed in international commitment to environmental
protection, the Malmö Declaration highlights the discrepancy between international
commitments and action. While the role of government is undisputed, it is also clear that
effective partnerships are essential. Civil society has played a major role in putting the
environment on the political agenda, and increasingly the private sector is faced with the
responsibility of finding solutions to environmental problems instead of being a
contributor to those problems. This is why it was so important that these two sectors
played a significant role at the Global Ministerial Environment Forum.
Nevertheless, the greater commitment by the civil society and the private sector should
not overshadow the need for greater institutional and regulatory capacities of government
and international organizations in this new interaction. In his recent address to the Earth
Forum at the IUCN Congress in Amman on 4 October 2000, UNEP’s Executive Director
suggested that a Special Partnership Statement, setting down key principles and the
standards that UNEP and the NGOs expect of each other, should be developed and that
the role of civil society should develop in a way that reduces rather than widens the
North-South divide. Similarly a greater commitment by the private sector should be
pursued to engender a new culture of environmental accountability through the
application of the polluter pays principle, environmental performance indicators and
reporting, and the establishment of a precautionary approach (risk assessment) in
investment and technology decisions. This approach must be linked to the development
of cleaner and more resource-efficient technologies for a life cycle economy and renewed
emphasis on efforts to facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
The Environment Ministers who gathered at Malmö also expressed their conviction that
the ten-year review of the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Environment
and Development in 2002 will provide a unique opportunity for the international
community to reinvigorate the spirit of Rio. The Ministers stated that the objective of
this Summit should not be to renegotiate Agenda 21, which remains valid, but to inject a
new spirit of cooperation and urgency based on agreed actions in the common quest for
sustainable development. They also recognized the need for governments and UNEP to
play a major role in the preparation for the 2002 review of UNCED at the regional and
global level and ensure that the environmental dimension of sustainable development is
fully considered on the basis of a broad assessment of the state of the global environment.
The Declaration emphasizes that the 2002 conference should aim at addressing the major
challenges to sustainable development, and in particular the pervasive effect of the
burden of poverty on a large proportion of the Earth’s inhabitants, counterpoised against
excessive and wasteful consumption and inefficient resource use that perpetuate the
vicious circle of environmental degradation and increasing poverty. The Ministers were
also of the view that the conference should review the requirements for a greatly
strengthened institutional structure for international environmental governance based on
an assessment of future needs for an institutional architecture that has the capacity to
effectively address wide-ranging environmental threats in a globalizing world.
As requested in General Assembly resolution 54/218, and as part of the early substantive
preparations for the ten-year review of UNCED, you also have before you the report of
the Governing Council on UNEP’s contribution to the implementation of Agenda 21 and
the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 (A/55/447), which was
considered by the Governing Council.
The report outlines the role that UNEP has undertaken in the implementation of Agenda
21, and within this context, traces the evolution of UNEP’s policy framework since the
Rio Conference in terms of the intergovernmental decisions and institutional reforms that
have served to clarify, refine and strengthen UNEP’s role and mandate. The report
presents UNEP’s major and more recent programme developments with a view to
contributing to the 2002 review of the implementation of the outcome of the Rio
Conference. The report further addresses the issue of financing, and concludes by
stressing that strong focused and effective institutional arrangements are needed to ensure
a coherent and integrated environmental policy as an essential component of sustainable
development, and in that context outlines the potential that UNEP has to contribute to the
preparations for the ten-year review of the outcomes of the Rio Conference.
Important contributions are already being undertaken by UNEP, including the preparation
for the third Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report, which is expected to be
completed in 2002 in order to provide a substantive input into the ten-year review,
providing a definitive assessment of the global environmental situation. The GEO-3
process, which will gather and synthesize the knowledge of more than 850 experts in
some 35 scientific institutions around the world, will take a 30-year retrospective and 30-
year forward-looking perspective, with a view to reframing the way the international
community understands and responds to the environment in the new millennium.
UNEP’s information strategy is also being implemented through a series of sectoral
assessments of key environmental issues such as the Global International Waters
Assessment (GIWA), Land Management and Environmental Change Programme and the
Desert Margin Programme. UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP), the World Bank and the World Resources Institute, recently published the
‘World Resources Report 2000-2001: People and Ecosystems, the Fraying Web of Life’.
The report presents results of the pilot phase of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment,
which is a major international collaborative effort to map the health of the planet, and an
initiative highlighted by the Secretary-General in his report to the Millennium Assembly
and which we hope will contribute also to the ten-year review of UNCED.
UNEP is also undertaking the preparation of the third ten-year programme for the
development and periodic review of environmental law - the Montevideo Programme III.
It will be considered and finalized by a meeting of senior Government Officials Experts
in Environmental Law – an open-ended intergovernmental meeting to be convened by
UNEP in Nairobi later this month, the outcome of which will be submitted to the
Governing Council at its twenty-first session, in February 2001, for adoption. The
Montevideo Programme has been the seedbed for the development of international
environmental law over the last two decades.
In this connection, I am pleased to introduce the report of the Secretary-General prepared
in pursuance of resolution 54/217 on “International institutional arrangements related to
environment and sustainable development” (A/55/357), which further addresses the
initiatives undertaken in enhancing coherence and complementarities between
environmental and environment-related institutional arrangements. The report outlines
the considerable progress that has been made in this field, through the initiatives that
have been undertaken by UNEP, the convention secretariats and other partners in the
United Nations system, as well as areas for the further cooperation. The report
demonstrates that coordinated implementation of the environmental conventions is
essential at the local level, where it is possible to make significant difference, and where
tangible benefits are not only easily achievable, but also demonstrable. Also, the report
brings to the attention of the Assembly a number of emerging issues of common concern
for global and regional agreements.
The elements and conclusions of the three documents that I have had the pleasure to
introduce to the Assembly converge in addressing frankly the environmental issues
facing the human race at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and providing some
encouraging responses. They reinforce the inspiring message of the Environment
Ministers in Malmö that was delivered to the world through the United Nations
Millennium Summit. In their own words - “At the dawn of the century, we have at our
disposal the human and material resources to achieve sustainable development, not as an
abstract but as a concrete reality”.
It is in this spirit that UNEP is determined to contribute to the ten-year review of UNCED
with a forward looking approach to ensure that the protection of the environment of today
will ensure the development path of tomorrow and the prosperity of future generations.