Highest Importance for the World
UN Special: How important is sustainable development for UNEP ?
It is of the highest importance for the world. The whole Millennium Declaration is based on the famous We, the people of the UN Charter. If we want to have for these people a peaceful future we have to stick to sustainable development. All the decision makers in the field of environment, in the social field, justice and economics have to stick to sustainable development. UNEP being the major institution within the UN system to be responsible for environment matters, sustainable development is key to us.
you think of that fact that when the World Commission on Environment and Development
chaired by Mrs Brundtland defined sustainable development the environmental concern
was the key element. Now two other pillars have been added on. Does it weaken
the environmental component ?
It is interesting to follow the development of the title of the world summits. In 1972 in Stockholm, the first one was on Human Environment. This was really an environment summit. One of the major conclusions was that environment problems do not know any frontiers making it obvious that regional and international cooperation was indispensable. The second one in Rio in 1992 was no more on human environment but on environment and development. In those days I was still a minister it was then clear that environment should be in line with development needs, with the needs of the poorest of the world. Therefore the concept of sustainable development was clear: one should not aim at development at the cost of the environment yes to development but with environment in mind. The title of the forthcoming Johannesburg summit is also clear: it is the summit on sustainable development making it obvious that this development is the necessity to direct our activity, our technology and our behaviour, mainly in developed countries because they are largely exporting their ecological problems to the rest of the world. They are exporting their ecological catastrophe to the rest of the world. I like very much what Koffi Annan said: We want to go towards a responsible prosperity the aim is to change the production and consumption patterns of the rich and to improve the living conditions of the poor. In line with social justice and environmental caution. When I was asked to head UNEP my friends in Germany questioned the fact that I would be dealing with environment problems back in Nairobi. One year latter I told them that in fact it was very important to be in Nairobi because there you could really see the link between environment and development. That is why I am not at all concerned by a weakening of the environmental part of sustainable development. On the contrary if somebody is concerned with social justice and development it should be in line with nature.
What will be the impact
of the outcome of Johannesburg on the mandate of UNEP ?
This question is high on the agenda of many people. UNEP was the outcome of the first world conference in 1972. It was very logical that the outcome of this environment summit was an environmental programme. As an outcome of the Rio summit it was also logical to have a Commission on sustainable development. Now ten years latter the question is whether this commission has fulfilled its expectations and the question is also to know whether the mandate of UNEP has to be enlarged? There was an open ended ministerial working group which reported to our governing body and in Cartagena last year we got a strong backing of environmental ministers to have a much more active role in policy making. We have a clear mandate we have a strong backing. I believe that our stake-holders are interested to increase the mandate of UNEP. Up to the point that some ask for a world environment organization something similar to the world trade organization.
you in favour of this WEO, world environment organization ?
Yes, indeed, but it is an evolutionary process and this evolution will take time.
are the priorities of UNEP ?
UNEP must be the organization for environment and sustainable development assessment, monitoring and early warning. Major problems may occur in the field of water, climate change, and bio diversity, we should be able to warn the international community well in advance. We should be able to advise member states on the need for new global instruments to deal with these problems. We just finished the preparation of a Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, now our constituency wants us to prepare something on persistent non organic pollutants, especially those related to chemical substances. Furthermore, we have a lot of tasks related to global agreements, in particular because their implementation is not what it should be. As you can see the agenda of UNEP is very heavy and we will do our best to fulfil it.
Interview by Jean Michel Jakobowicz.