April 22, 2002

Ministers reinforce commitments

Links and partnerships were strong underlying themes in a unanimous concluding statement issued by the Ministers. They placed particular emphasis on environment and development, environment and health, and environmental governance, and stressed that the forthcoming WSSD must be about implementation (of the Agenda 21 plan that came out of the Rio Summit ten years ago).

They reaffirmed their nations' commitment to taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, either through ratification of the Kyoto Protocol or alternative strong domestic measures. The Ministers acknowledged the contribution of various multilateral environmental agreements to the advancement of global sustainable development, and resolved to work with partners at all levels to enhance the effectiveness of such agreements.

There continues to be a pressing need to improve coherence among differing policies in areas such as international development, social, trade and finance issues, investment, and bilateral and multilateral environmental assistance, the Ministers noted. They commended the innovative approach to sustainable development embodied in the New Partnership for Africa's Development and pledged to work with African nations to promote its goals.

Over the past decade, the connection between environmental quality and human health has become a key driver of environmental protection in both industrial and developing countries, and there is growing recognition of the links between environment, health and poverty, the Ministers stated. The WSSD offers a valuable opportunity to mobilize concrete actions to address environmental issues that threaten human health.

To this end, the Ministers indicated their intention to call for the launch, in Johannesburg, of an international initiative to synthesize and exchange existing information on environment and human health links. This information exchange, they said, will seek to strengthen policy responses by providing an evaluation of best practices, clarification of barriers to action, and clear definition of priorities for action and funding.

With respect to environmental governance, the Ministers took special note of the vital role that private sector firms committed to sustainable development can play through investment, technology and corporate social responsibility. They stressed the need to find ways of creating opportunities for these leading companies to recruit greater numbers of their corporate colleagues to adherence to sustainable development principles. Voluntary codes of conduct and activities such as the Global Reporting Initiative can be strongly influential in promoting sustainable corporate practices, they noted.

Finally, the Ministers welcomed recommendations by an Intergovernmental Group on International Environmental Governance, which they viewed as essential to a stronger international environmental regime. This work was led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Ministers pressed for extra funding for UNEP and overall strengthening of this agency in terms of its co-ordinating role.

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