Weblogic

Closing statement to the Rio Summit (14 June 1992)

 

The carrying capacity of our Earth can only sustain present and future generations if it is matched by the caring capacity of its people and its leaders. We must bring our species under control, for our own survival, for that of all life on our precious planet. We now have a unique opportunity to do this. We have a basis for doing it in the decisions you have taken. We have the responsibility to start this road now. Our experience in Rio has been as historic and exhilarating as the road that brought us here. The road from Rio will be long, exciting, challenging. It will open a whole new era of promise and opportunity for our species if we change direction; but only if we start now.

 

STATEMENT BY MAURICE F. STRONG, SECRETARY-GENERAL UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT & DEVELOPMENT AT PLENARY MEETING CLOSING THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT & DEVELOPMENT, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL 14 JUNE 1992

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Heads of State and Government, Distinguished Delegates:

This indeed is a historic moment for humanity. And I think for all of you, as for me. it is also a very great human experience. This whole process. Mr. President, has been more than a political and a technocratic process - it has indeed been a profoundly important human experience from which none of us can emerge unchanged.

Mr. Chairman. first of all I would like to express my profound gratitude for the generous words. confidence and appreciation that have been extended to us here. I say us, Mr. President. because I get all too much exposure and all too much credit - and when there is blame I should shoulder blame. But the credit must go to my colleague. Nitin Desai, and our tremendous team. They are the ones who have really done this job. I have never had the privilege of working with a better team and I am just delighted that Nitin Desai is sitting up here beside me because he deserves fully all the appreciation that you have shown to me. And behind him is a very fine team that I am going to miss in the period ahead.

Mr. President, I would like first to extend my deep gratitude to you, Sir, as my President - President of this Conference - and as President of Brazil. It has been one of my life's great privileges to serve under you, and in the presence of the man under whom I serve regularly, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to thank both of you for your leadership and your immensely important support, without which the result we celebrate here today would simply not have been possible.

Also, Mr. President, as President of our host country, Brazil. I want to extend, along with all those who have registered their appreciation, my very special gratitude and that of all of our staff - our UN team that has worked under your leadership - for the absolutely superb job that you and your Government have done in preparing this Conference and in hosting it. GTN, Secretary Garcia and Minister Perri, that whole team - absolutely superb. There has never been a conference like this, in terms of its historic importance, but also, Mr. President, in terms of the organizational job, the job of actually putting it together and hosting it and making it work. These are the people behind the scenes to whom the highest possible accolades will not be adequate to register the thanks that I feel. And your superb team from the Itamarati, Foreign Minister Lafer, Ambassador Azambuja, and all the others too numerous to mention. Secretary of Environment Goldemberg, whom I am pleased is here on this occasion. Your Armed Forces. Some people have asked why do we have evidence of Armed Forces here. Well, I explain, Mr. President, these are your Armed
Forces, your normal Armed Forces. They're not doing here a job that is normal to them. They have done an absolutely superb job as has your Federal Police and all the other security people and services staff, including drivers, Mr. President. I mention them all because they all deserve their part of this moment of history.

And the State of Rio de Janeiro. Governor Brizola has been such a fine host and supporter. And, I should say, the State of Sao Paulo, also, has supported very strongly the efforts of Rio. And Mayor Alencar, the Mayor of Earth City, our host city during this period, and his people. I know that you haven't had the chance for the kind of interaction that many of us would have liked but I
am sure that you - as our staff have experienced who have been here a little longer, more frequently - have enjoyed the hospitality and vitality of the wonderful people of Rio. The cities of Sao Paulo and Curitiba. We should also remember, have successfully hosted two very important companion events to this Summit Conference. And to the many organizations of Brazil, public and
private, who have done so much hosting events of various kinds - entertainment
events, informational, educational events.

To our distinguished Rapporteur General, the Foreign Minister of Algeria, it has been a real privilege having him as the guiding force in preparing the report of this meeting. And to the Secretary-General of the UN, I am very proud to be sitting at your right hand. Mr Secretary General, to register my gratitude for your leadership and support.

Now I mustn't leave this recognition of those who have helped us - it's a list far too long to give you - without special mention of Miles Stoby, the Secretary of the Conference, and his tremendously helpful and competent staff. And we owe an immense debt of gratitude to our partners throughout the UN system, the agencies and organizations and programmes of the UN, who have worked as real partners in this entire process and will continue to do so in its follow-up and implementation. And to the Conference Services staff.the interpreters, the translators, those who have been processing the documents, the Department of Public Information, Protocol, Security.

And, of course, overall we have worked under the leadership of the Preparatory Committee in which all of you participated, which we, as a Secretariat, have been so privileged to serve. It is the body that has really brought us to Rio. And, fortunately, we have enjoyed here as the Chairmanship of the Main Committee, Tommy Koh, the person who brought to a successful conclusion the work of the Preparatory Committee. The ship that has brought us here to Rio could not have had a better captain - a tough one sometimes, yes; relentless with that gavel; but the person without whom this historic voyage would not have been possible. And with him, some superb people - I won't mention them all - but Ambassador Kjellen, Dr. Bukar Shaib, Mr. Molden, and all the co-ordinators and facilitators who have enabled us to put this whole package together.

The intergovernmental organizations and the non-governmental organizations that have contributed so much to our work. And the Global Forum especially. You have read and heard about the pangs and pains of that enterprise, but with the support of President Collor and the State of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, the City of Rio, and a whole lot of others, the Forum has been a great success. We should congratulate them, Mr. President. I would like to see a congratulatory word of appreciation come from this Conference to the Global Forum because it has been the People's Summit that has complemented and interacted with us. And a particular word of gratitude to Chip Lindner and Ashok Khosla of the International Facilitating Committee who have presided over this so effectively.

A number of other events have occurred in relation to this - I won't mention them all, Mr. President, but I do want to mention the Indigenous People's Conference from which we heard here; the Sacred Earth Conference; UNEP's World Environment Day; a whole series of related events that have contributed to this total Rio experience, which we should recognize.

I also, Mr. President, finally want to recognize the many sources of support that we have had in our preparatory work in terms of financial and material support, from Governments, from Foundations, from other private-sector sources, they are listed in a special paper that is being circulated here today and they all deserve our and your appreciation and acknowledgment.

ECOFUND is a prime example and Ben Read, who set up their private-sector foundation that has enabled so many of our activities to be funded. The Committee to Promote the Pledge. Ted Kheel. Robert Rauschenberg, the artist - genius - who created our poster and has enabled us to realize
so much from it. The Earth Summit Times and the Earth Summit Bulletin.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates:

It is now time to reflect on what we have done here and what we are called upon to do when we leave. I will not make this moment of reflection too long, Mr. President, but I do believe lowe it to you and to this assembly, to give you a few of my thoughts as to what we have done here, what we have not done, and what we must now do.

Firstly, Mr. President, of course, you have carried out successfully the largest high-level intergovernmental conference ever held on our planet. And clearly the most important. Nothing less than the future of our planet as the home for our species and others has been the object of our work.

We have had the right people here, Mr. President: the right Presidents, the right leaders of over 180 countries, more than 100 Heads of State and Government; people - NGOs, women, youth, children, indigenous people, a whole series of representatives of virtually every sector of society;
the media, Mr. President, more media than have ever watched and reported on any world conference, not just as bystanders and reporters but, in a very real sense, they have been participants in this process and they have permitted hundreds of millions of people around the world to engage in this process with us.

We have not been alone here in Rio. We have had the people of the planet with us, watching us, participating and wondering what we are going to do here and after we leave here. Millions of them throughout the world have, as most of you have done,evidenced their interest through the medium of the Earth Pledge.

The world, Mr. President, will not be the same after this Conference. Diplomacy, as one leading commentator has said, will not be the same after this Conference. The United Nations, I am sure.Mr, President, Mr. Secretary-General, will not be the same after this Conference. And the prospects for our Earth cannot, must not be the same. We came here to alter those prospects - we cannot allow those prospects to have come through this process without having been decisively altered and changed to a more promising and sustainable future. Certainly the environment and development dialogue will never be the same.

People may criticize, they may be cynical, they may say that what we are asking is unrealistic, but they have to talk today about the problems of the developing countries, about poverty,about inequity, about terms of trade, about flows of resources to developing countries. Today you can't talk about environment without putting all those issues into the equation. That itself, I think, Mr. President, is one of the most important results of the Conference and one of the most important reasons for hope - that the people of the world will be behind the leaders of the world, and indeed may be ahead of the leaders of the world, in ensuring the implementation of these results.

In specific terms, Mr. President, Governments have agreed on the Declaration of Rio, Agenda 21, including, of course, measures on financing its implementation, technology transfer, institutions, forestry principles, and a negotiating process has been mandated fora convention on desertification. Each of the conventions, on climate change and biodiversity, have been signed by more than 150 nations.

But, Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, ifwe have reason for satisfaction at this, we certainly do not have reason for complacency. The realmeasure of our success will be in what happens when we leave here, in our own countries, in our own organizations,in our own lives. Will this Summit merely be a high point in our expressions of good intentions and enthusiasm and excitement, or will it really be the start ofthe process of fundamental change which we absolutely need.

Mr. President, that requires us to examine what we have not done here and, very briefly, what have we not done?

We have a profoundly important Declaration, but it must continue to evolve towards what many of us hope will be an Earth Charter that could be finally sanctioned on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995. Agenda 21 - there has been, of course, some weakening of that document in the process, but it still stands as the most comprehensive, the most far-reaching and, if implemented, the most effective programme of international action ever sanctioned by the international community. It is not a final and complete action programme, and was not intended to be, but one which must continue to evolve. And, I have to say, we still don't have all the means, by any measure, to carry it through.

On finance, we have agreement, but not yet sufficient commitment. We have made a start on finance but we must recognize that we are a long way from meeting the needs for full implementation of Agenda 21.

On technology transfer, Mr. President, we have agreement. But the degree of full commitment to the basic principles of that agreement is still evolving and we cannot yet measure how deep that commitment is.

On institutions, we have made recommendations but only the General Assembly can act on them. And we know that how the world will view this Conference will, in the final analysis, be in the quality and effectiveness of the measures taken for its implementation.

On conventions, Mr. President, on climate change, we have taken an historic first step, but only a first step - not a sufficient step. Stabilizing the gaseous composition of the atmosphere is clearly the most urgent problem we will face in the 1990s. Yet the agreement signed here sets neither
targets nor timetables. You must now act quickly to bring the climate convention and its protocols in line with what scientists are telling us - that carbon emissions must be cut by at least 60 per cent just to put the global warming trend on hold. It is too late for protracted discussions and delay.
The convention on biological diversity, Mr. President, has not been accepted by at least one of the nations necessary for its full and effective implementation.

Most importantly, Mr. President, the underlying conditions that have produced the civilizational crisis that this Earth Summit is designed to address have not changed during our stay here in Rio. There are prospects for change but the patterns of production and consumption that give rise to so many of the global risks we are dealing with have continued. Factories continue to belch the same smoke, the same amounts of C02 are entering the air every day while we are here. The process of deterioration continues. 260,000 children have been born each day while we were here - mostly poor, born into a world of hunger and deprivation - but all, rich and poor, facing an uncertain future. Every minute we have spent here, 28 people have died of hunger, 3 out of 4 were children under the age of 5. If present birth and death rates continue, we will be struggling to accommodate 11 billion people on our planet within the next 40 years in the lifetime of our children.

What must we do then, Mr. President, about all of this. When we leave here we must surely build, on the foundations that we have established here, a new global partnership, the partnership needed to give effect to the decisions you have made here. Specifically, we must build further and quickly on the climate change convention, on the biodiversity convention, and move quickly in the negotiation of a desertification convention, continue to move negotiations towards a forestry regime that will be acceptable to all, and advance from the Rio Declaration to the Earth Charter. As to Agenda 21, it is up to you, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, to go back to your countries - and many of you have encouragingly said that you intend this -and translate Agenda 21·and the decisions that you have taken at the global level into your own national policies and practices. And we must do this within the UN, and at the regional level, at the local level, and at the level of organizations and people.

On finance, Mr. President, we must translate the good indications given here by many into specific commitments. And I would hope, Mr. President, that a good many of the larger donor countries in particular will do this by the time the General Assembly considers this item in its next session. We also must start the process of developing new sources of funding, because the steps we have taken still do not promise to meet the larger needs. We should consider, for example, new taxes, user charges, emission permits,citizen funding, all based on the polluter-pays principle. I believe the amounts of money available simply from funds wasted in existing subsidies to non environmentally-sound activities could alone provide all the money necessary as an indispensable investment in environmental security.

On technology transfer. we must begin immediately the job of capacity building. And here we all welcome and support President Collor's initiative for the establishment in Rio de Janeiro of a world-class international development centre.

And, Mr. President, we must also expand the participatory process that has meant so much to us here - participation of people through non-governmental organizations in the implementation of Agenda 21, and indeed in the UN itself. I believe we need to review entirely the system of arrangements within the UN for greater participation of these organizations.

Finally, the remainder of this decade, Mr. President, must be a time of transition which will truly move us on to the pathway to anew economy. The President of one of the great corporations of our world told the Preparatory Committee in an informal session at its last meeting in New York that the present economic system is simply not adequate. This doesn't mean it needs to be scrapped, but it needs to be radically revised to bring it into tune with eco-realities. We need to move to a real economic system.

Mr. President, The elimination of poverty has'come through here as an important objective. But perhaps we haven't really committed to making this a central objective for the whole world community as we move into the 21st century. The New World Order, Mr. President, must unite us all in a global partnership which, of course, has to respect national sovereignty as a basic tenet, but must also
recognize the transcending sovereignty of nature, of our only one Earth.

Mr. President, the carrying capacity of our Earth can only sustain present and future generations if it is matched by the caring capacity of its people and its leaders. We must bring our species under control, for our own survival, for that of all life on our precious planet. Thanks to you, Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, we now have a unique opportunity to do this. We have a basis for doing it in the decisions you have taken. We have the responsibility to start this road now. Our experience in Rio has been as historic and exhilarating as the road that brought us here. The road from Rio will be long, exciting, challenging. It will open a whole new era of promise and opportunity for our species if we change direction; but only if we start now.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, I think you all will agree that we must change the course that we have been on. That's why we're here. The messages from the children delivered as we opened this session this morning, gathered during the 15,000 mile journey of Gaia, and the voices of the children we heard here the other night as our session closed, all tell us why we are doing it we're doing it for them. They have a right to expect it from us; they are going to hold us accountable for what we do after Rio about the decisions you have taken here.

You heard the other night from a fellow Canadian, a lovely young 12 year old girl, Severn Suzuki. And I want to close these remarks, Mr. President, by reminding you of what she said, which I believe every child on this planet will have in his or her heart as they look at what you have done here at Rio. She said: "Parents used to be able to comfort their children by saying 'Everything's going to be all right; we're doing the best we can and it's not the end of the world'."  

"But", she said, "you can't say that to us any more. Our planet is becoming worse and worse for all future children. Yet we only hear adults talking about local interests and national priorities. Are we even on your list of priorities? You grown-ups say you love us, but we challenge you to make your actions reflect your words."

We are all challenged, Mr. President, in the responsibilities we carry as we leave Rio, to make our actions reflect the words which have testified to our commitment here.

Thank you, Mr. President.