|Making a Difference in Johannesburg
Sustainability summit to discuss five key areas in need of results.
Water and sanitation, energy, health,
agriculture, biodiversitythese are five key areas where concrete
results can and must be obtained at this Augusts World Summit
on Sustainable Development, according to United Nations secretary-general
These five areas could be remembered by a simple acronymWEHABAnnan
said as he launched a new campaign to raise awareness for the summit.
You might think of it like this: we inhabit the earth. And
we must rehabilitate our one and only planet. The secretary-general
added that he hoped this acronym would become something of
a mantra between now and the opening of the summit in Johannesburg,
South Africa, from August 26 to September 4.
By concentrating on these five areas, Annan said, the summit could
produce an ambitious, but achievable program of practical steps
to improve the lives of all human beings while protecting the global
The World Summit on Sustainable Development will bring world leaders,
citizen activists and business representatives together to work
on an agenda for ensuring that planet earth can sustain a decent
life for all its inhabitants, present and future. All too often
that issue is overshadowed in the policy-making process by more
immediate problems, such as conflicts, globalization and, most recently,
terrorism, the secretary-general said. But the Johannesburg Summit
offers humanity a chance to restore the momentum that had been felt
so palpably after the Earth Summit, which was held in Rio de Janeiro
New efforts are needed, he added, because the present model of development,
which has brought privilege and prosperity to about 20 percent of
humanity, has also exacted a heavy price by degrading the planet
and depleting its resources. Yet, according to the secretary-general,
at discussions on global finance and the economy, the environment
is still treated as an unwelcome guest.
High-consumption lifestyles continue to tax the earths natural
life support systems, research and development are under-funded
and neglectful of the problems of the poor, and developed countries
have not gone far enough, he said, to fulfill either
of the promises they made in Rioto protect their own environments
and to help the developing world defeat poverty.
The issue, Annan said, is not environment versus development or
ecology versus economy. Contrary to popular belief, we can
integrate the two, he noted.
Annan summarized the progress he hoped to see in the five areasareas
in which progress is possible with the resources and technologies
at our disposal todayas follows:
- Water: Provide access to at least one billion people who lack
clean drinking water and two billion people who lack proper sanitation.
- Energy: Provide access to more than two billion people who lack
modern energy services; promote renewable energy; reduce over-consumption;
and ratify the Kyoto Protocol to address climate change.
- Health: Address the effects of toxic and hazardous materials;
reduce air pollution, which kills three million people each year,
and lower the incidence of malaria and African guinea worm, which
are linked with polluted water and poor sanitation.
- Agricultural productivity: Work to reverse land degradation, which
affects about two-thirds of the worlds agricultural lands.
- Biodiversity and ecosystem management: Reverse the processes that
have destroyed about half of the worlds tropical rainforest
and mangroves, and are threatening 70 percent of the worlds
coral reefs and decimating the worlds fisheries.
In Johannesburg, we have a chance to catch up, he said.
Together, we will need to find our way toward a greater sense
of mutual responsibility. Together, we will need to build a new
ethic of global stewardship. Together, we can and must write a new
and hopeful chapter in naturaland humanhistory.