Chapter One: Overall Perspective

1.1. The current concern with the Human Environment has arisen at a time when the energies and efforts of the developing countries are being increasingly devoted to the goal of development. Indeed, the compelling urgency of the development objective has been widely recognized in the last two decades by the international community and has more recently been endorsed in the proposals set out by the United Nations for the Second Development Decade.

1.2. To a large extent, the current concern with environmental issues has emerged out of the problems experienced by the industrially advanced countries. These problems are themselves very largely the outcome of a high level of economic development. The creation of large productive capacities in industry and agriculture, the growth of complex systems of transportation and communication, the evolution of massive urban conglomerations, have all been accompanied in one way or another by damage and disruption to the human environment. Such disruptions have indeed attained such major proportions that in many communities they already constitute serious hazards to human health and well-being. In some ways, in fact, the dangers extend beyond national boundaries and threaten the world as a whole.

1.3. The developing countries are not, of course, unconcerned with these problems. They have an obvious and a vital stake in them to the extent of their impact on the global environment and on their economic relations with the developed countries. They have also an interest in them to the extent that they are problems that tend to accompany the process of development and are in fact already beginning to emerge, with increasing severity, in their own societies. The developing countries would clearly wish to avoid, as far as is feasible, the mistakes and distortions that have characterized the patterns of development of the industrialized societies.

1.4. However, the major environmental problems of developing countries are essentially of a different kind. They are predominantly problems that reflect the poverty and very lack of development of their societies. They are problems, in other words, of both rural and urban poverty. In both the towns and in the countryside, not merely the "quality of life", but life itself is endangered by poor water, housing, sanitation and nutrition, by sickness and disease and by natural disasters. These are problems, no less than those of industrial pollution, that clamour for attention in the context of the concern with human environment. They are problems which affect the greater mass of mankind.

1.5. It is evident that, in large measure, the kind of environmental problems that are of importance in developing countries are those that can be overcome by the process of development itself. In advanced countries, it is appropriate to view development as a cause of environmental problems. Badly planned and unregulated development can have a similar result in developing countries as well. But, for the greater part, developing countries must view the relationship between development and environment in a different perspective. In their context, development becomes essentially a cure for their major environmental problems. For these reasons, concern for environment must not and need not detract from the commitment of the world community -- developing and more industrialized nations alike --