President Thabo Mbeki arrives in DubaI ahead of the Second Festival of the Cultures and Civilisations of World Deserts, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, 16 April 2005

Pretoria - President and Mrs Thabo Mbeki have arrived in Dubai ahead of the Second Festival of the Cultures and Civilizations of World Deserts scheduled for Saturday, 16 April 2005.

President Mbeki is accompanied by Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, and Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad and Rejoice Mabudhafasi, Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs.

Keynote speakers at the Festival include UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Dubai's Crown Prince, General Shaikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The Festival of the Cultures and Civilisations of World Deserts aims to:

  • Develop a charter for the Sustainable Development of Desert Regions;
  • Draw the attention of desert peoples and governments to the ideal model for rapid and sustained socio-economic development in desert regions;
  • Promote cultural and scientific exchange between the people and governments of the world deserts;
  • Promote tourism and trade between countries of the world deserts;
  • Assess sustainable development strategies in desert regions and to identify constraints on their implementation;
  • Develop recommendations for collaboration between governments, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and the United Nations agencies in the environmental, socio-cultural and economic aspects of sustainable development in desert regions; and
  • Develop joint programmes of capacity building and awareness-raising for sustainable use of natural resources in desert regions.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), adopted in 2001 by African Heads of State, has identified combating desertification and land degradation as the first of eight priority intervention areas under the Environment Initiative of NEPAD. The UN Millennium Declaration and the Plan of Implementation from the World Summit on Sustainable Development both focus on development and poverty eradication as well as protecting our environment. They reaffirm support for the principles of sustainable development, including those set out in Agenda 21, with a commitment to press for the full implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification and the proposals for Action of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests.

In addition, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) sent a clear message in identifying the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as a critical tool in eradicating poverty and contributing to sustainable development. The UNCCD has the potential to deliver development and further poverty eradication amongst rural communities. Furthermore, the UNCCD is one of the more critical conventions, especially for African countries. It is in South Africa's interest, as custodians of decisions of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and part of the African leadership collective championing Africa's development, that we ensure that an effective Secretariat is in place to steer the UNCCD implementation.

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 990 4853.

Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

16 April 2005


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