Address on the Occasion of the Torch
Handing Over Ceremony, "From Rio to Johannesburg"
, 25 June 2002 Rio De Janeiro
President Henrique Cardoso,
Prime Minister Goran Persson,
Distinguished Guests, and,
People of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro:
First of all, let me thank you, President Cardoso,
both for arranging that we visit Rio de Janeiro to participate
in this important handing over ceremony, which also
draws the necessary attention to the forthcoming Johannesburg
World Summit for Sustainable Development.
I am especially pleased that my friend, Goran Persson,
Prime Minister of Sweden, was able to join us. We, certainly,
can never tire in paying tribute to Sweden for the ground-breaking
positions she has taken over many decades with regard
to a variety of matters, including freedom from colonial
and white minority domination, the environment and equitable
I must also thank you dear brother, President Cardoso,
for the traditional warm welcome that you, the government
and the people of Brazil have extended to us since we
arrived in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil is to us like another
We are privileged that the South African city of Johannesburg
follows in the footsteps of Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro
in having the honour to host the peoples of the world
as they engage afresh the urgent challenge of sustainable
Ten years ago, the United Nations Conference on Environment
and Development, the 'Rio Earth Summit', brought together
leaders and nations of the world in this historic city
to change the course of history.
Here, the world declared with one voice: "Human
beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable
development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive
life in harmony with nature."
In the opening lines of Agenda 21, the nations of the
world pronounced that:
"Humanity stands at a defining moment in history.
We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities
between and within nations, a worsening of poverty,
hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing
deterioration of ecosystems on which we depend for our
well being. However, integration of environment and
development concerns and greater attention to them will
lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living
standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems
and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve
this on its own; but together we can - in a global partnership
for sustainable development."
A global consensus was established that sustainable
development rests on three interdependent pillars: the
protection of the earth, social development and economic
Agenda 21 was a seminal global achievement. It will
forever stand out as a shining beacon pointing the direction
to sustainable development. It is a towering monument
to the spirit of the people of this age. It is as valid
today as it was ten years ago.
As my brother, President Cardoso, passes on the torch
- the flame being Agenda 21 - to the World Summit on
Sustainable Development -the 'Johannesburg World Summit'
- the enormity of the responsibility and challenge becomes
tangible. We know that he hands over the torch on behalf
of the victims of unsustainable development, concerned
citizens of the world, and, on behalf of our children
and future generations, to whom the Earth really belongs.
The umbilical link between Johannesburg and Rio extends
to Stockholm. Hence the significance of the presence
of Prime Minister Persson. The United Nations Conference
on the Human Environment held this month three decades
ago has resulted in three decades of unprecedented global
concern about the negative impact of human activity
on Mother Earth.
Let us recall that in Stockholm the world declared:
"Man is both creature and moulder of his environment,
which gives him physical sustenance and affords him
the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and
spiritual growth. In the long and tortuous evolution
of the human race on this planet a stage has been reached
when, through the rapid acceleration of science and
technology, man has acquired the power to transform
his environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented
scale. Both aspects of man's environment, the natural
and the man-made, are essential to his well-being and
to the enjoyment of basic human rights the right to
Today, thirty years later, we have fewer fish in the
seas, more carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere,
more desertification, more soil erosion and more species
Our very development model is questioned daily by the
earth's ecosystem on which all life and all economic
activity is dependent. Our patterns of consumption and
production cannot be left unchecked.
If the Chinese citizen is to consume the same quantity
of crude oil as his or her US counterpart, China would
need over 80 million barrels of oil a day - slightly
more than the 74 million barrels a day the world now
produces. If annual paper use in China of 35 kilograms
per person were to climb to the US level of 342 kilograms,
China would need more paper than the world currently
produces. (Lester R. Brown, Eco- Economy).
The period since the Rio Earth Summit has been one
of unprecedented global economic growth. Growth in the
world economy in the year 2000 alone exceeded that during
the entire nineteenth century.
Yet people continue to die of hunger; babies get born,
grow up, and die without being able to read or write;
many fellow humans do not have clean water to drink;
and, people die of curable diseases. The gulf between
rich and poor members of the human race widens as we
The Johannesburg World Summit must take further our
pledge at the Millennium Summit to eradicate poverty.
It must focus on implementation and action. Its outcome
must make sense to she who has to walk for kilometres
to fetch drinking water and to she who spends hours
gathering firewood for energy. It must also speak to
he who consumes more than the earth can give.
When leaders of the world gathered here in 1992, my
country was still under apartheid rule. I did not enjoy
the right to vote. Uncertainty and conflict loomed.
But the human spirit triumphed. South Africa is now
a democracy in which we live in harmony as we struggle
to eradicate the legacy of over three hundred years
of colonialism and apartheid. Since the victory of democracy
in 1994, 7 million people have access to clean water,
over 1 million homes for poor people have been built,
over 2 million more homes now have electricity and every
child has a place in school.
And, South Africa is acting as host to the World Summit
on Sustainable Development.
At the time of Rio this was all just a dream.
As you prepare to travel to Johannesburg, we all know
that people can change and that it is possible to change
the lives of the poor. We also must believe that it
is possible for us to live in harmony with nature.
A global partnership for sustainable development and
for the eradication of poverty is within reach. Genuine
human solidarity is both possible and necessary.
On behalf of the people of Johannesburg and South Africans
in general, I invite leaders of the world and representatives
of people from all walks of life to join us in the pursuit
of this agenda of hope. Let us decide on a programme
to change the lives of People, to protect the Planet
and to build Prosperity.
Human society disposes of the means and the know-how
to achieve these goals. Nobody can truthfully argue
that the global community of nations is too poor to
defeat global poverty.
Nobody can truthfully argue that there is a larger
human imperative or decisive constraint that makes it
obligatory that we must destroy the environment. Together
we must give real meaning to the solemn pledge that
was made in this city 10 years ago:
"Human beings are at the centre of concerns for
sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy
and productive life in harmony with nature."
Together, let us, in action, repeat the words of the
African poet, Ben Okri:
"Break this cycle
Break this madness
Let new fevers rise in this
Radiant act of faith
Destroy this temple of living hell
Let us join our angers together
Forge a new joy for the age.
Before our lives disintegrate
("Memories Break" in An African Elegy, Vintage,
From Stockholm, to Rio de Janeiro, to Johannesburg,
let us continue to forge a new joy for the age.