Address by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the National Conference on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2 September 2004

Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk;
Government Officials;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this National Conference on Sustainable Development, which is also the Second Anniversary of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Two years ago, thousands and thousands of people of the world representing 172 Governments, including 100 world leaders, participants from major groups and 4000 members descended on our Continent and on the shores of this wonderful country of megadiversity, breathtaking landscape and beautiful sunsets.

They did as they had done in Stockholm at the United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 where they declared in Stockholm:

"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 life itself."

Twelve years ago they had graced the shores of Brazil at the Rio Earth Summit where they said in the opening lines of Agenda 21:

"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 fulfillment 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."

On arrival in South Africa, they heard this from our President Thabo Mbeki as he opened the Civil Society Forum on the WSSD:

"The decisions that must be taken at the World Summit must answer the question concretely whether we, the present generations of the common humanity that emerged from the Cradle of Humankind, have the will to ensure that, after us, humanity will live on for millions more years.

We have to answer the question whether we have the will and the common sense to ensure that we treat the planet as a common renewable resource, a friend and partner whose health is a necessary condition for the health of humanity itself.

We have to answer the question whether we have the wisdom so to organise human society that we ensure that the billions across the globe live in conditions of peace, freedom, equality and a decent life, free from poverty and want and ignorance.

As we meet here in Johannesburg, we have to answer the question whether we have done what needed to be done to advance the objectives contained in Agenda 21. We have to answer this question openly and honestly so that we have the possibility to do what has not been done, and to renew and restore the enthusiasm and momentum towards sustainable development.
Since the international community adopted the Agenda 21 ten years ago, we have seen millions of people drawn into the ranks of billions others who are very poor. We have seen less and less capital committed to sustainable development, especially in the poor countries of the South. We have seen lack of technology transfers and the trade doors being shut on the face of the peoples from developing countries."

As he welcomed the Heads of State and Government , he had this to say:

"During the period we have engaged one another at the World Summit on Sustainable Development , we have achieved much in bringing together a diverse and rich tapestry of peoples and views, in a constructive search for a common path that will move all of us forward faster, towards a world that practically respects and implements the vision of sustainable development. The matter rests with all of us gathered here this morning whether, when we conclude our work as we meet on this Continent that is the Cradle of Humanity, we will be able to say truthfully, that we have taken decisions that will meet the objectives we set ourselves when we decided to convene the World Summit on Sustainable Development."

South Africa was indeed honoured to be the Host of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. President Mbeki articulated our feelings as the host country when he wrote about the Summit:

"As Africans , we were proud and privileged to host the leaders and representatives of the peoples of the world as they met to consider their response to the urgent challenge of sustainable development. At the same time, we were convinced that the ordinary people of our country understood that for a new and brighter world of hope to be born required that these leaders and representatives should convene in conference, freely to agree among themselves about what they needed to do together".

It was possible to develop a consensus in Johannesburg because other Summits and Conferences had analysed issues of development in great detail over more than a decade. For example, the Stockholm meeting laid a foundation for North-South partnership on environment and sustainable development. In the Rio Summit held in Brazil, the international community forged the Agenda 21 that became a blueprint for sustainable development, stating:

"We are committed to making the right of development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire race from want."

NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, had been adopted. A few months before the Johannesburg Summit, the Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey, Mexico, adopted a consensus on means of implementation for a development agenda already well understood.

In Johannesburg, we finally came up with a comprehensive plan of action that combines concrete targets, time-frames and means of implementation in addressing issues of poverty and underdevelopment and thereby creating conditions for sustainable development. For the first time, the international community negotiated and laid out detailed and time-bound plans to address fundamental issues of clean water and basic sanitation, access to energy, adequate shelter and food security. It was understood that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals would not be possible without the successful implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Action.

In April 2003, South Africa chaired the first session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-11) after the WSSD. This meeting adopted a forward-looking work programme for the Commission, based on two year implementation cycles. The 12th Session of the CSD in April 2004 in New York was clear that many countries mainly from sub-Saharan Africa and Small Island Developing States, will not meet the targets unless they receive further technical assistance and capacity building and gain access to substantial additional resources.

Now two years later, we have a responsibility as an international community to ensure that we make progress in attaining the goals we have set out. As South Africa, we have embarked upon a People's Contract to end poverty and to broaden access for a better life. In the first ten years, we have provided 1.9 million housing subsidies and 1.6 million houses have been built for the poor of our country. More than 70% of households have been electrified. Now 9 million additional people have access to clean water and 63% of households have access to sanitation.
South Africa has recognised that advances in science, technology and innovation are crucial for achieving the long-term goals of sustainable development. We believe that the correct use of appropriate technologies for sustainable development are critical for the provision of basic services.

One of our main challenges is the development of a National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) to integrate into our planning cycles at national and provincial level.

As custodians of the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and Johannesburg Programme of Action, the burden falls on our shoulders to see that international targets that are set, can also be met, so that there is advancement on these matters in the overall context of sound environmental management. South Africa remains committed to monitoring the implementation of a Johannesburg Plan of Action. We shall continue to urge the international community to remain faithful to the agreements set in Johannesburg by assisting with implementation of its goals.

Yet by all accounts it does not seem that we will meet our goals contained in the Johannesburg Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals.

The questions that we have to ask ourselves as people of the world are:
If we look at the environment, are there prospects for a significant decrease in the emission of fuel and thus cleaning the air of a major source of pollution?

If we turn our gaze towards the sea, are there more fishes than there were before or are numbers of marine life steadily declining?

If we examine our forests, are they flourishing as indeed they should be, or are they increasingly been cut down and destroyed to make way for commercial developments?

Then again what is happening to climate change? What are we doing to ensure that conditions of intense heat and extreme cold conditions do not prevail?

In the year 2004, we need to pose the question as to whether there are more children attending school than there were in previous generations?

Do more people have access to basic sanitation and clean drinking water than in days gone by?
Can we really be confident that we have in our grasp the attainment of a prosperous world and a healthy planet, that we can proudly bequeath to future generations?

These are some of the challenges still facing us today, two years after Johannesburg.
In our view, the political will exists, but the most important missing element is the resources to implement what we have agreed upon.

The Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development agreed to increase levels of ODA to developing countries, but nothing has materialised. The Millennium Conference agreed to making more funding being available for developing countries - where are these funds? Why are international institutions not supportive as indeed they should be to the needs of developing countries?

Clearly, Africa will not make it and in fact will lag behind in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and those objectives contained in the Johannesburg Programme of Implementation.
What do we take responsibility for? What are we doing to promote the renewal of sources of energy?

Clearly, there are enough resources in the world to carry out plans. But these resources need to be redistributed from areas of great abundance to areas of scarcity. This is at the heart of what needs to be done to bridge the global divide between North and South and between developed and developing nations.

These are the challenges that confront us now and that we must address at both international and national levels.
I hope that this Conference will be able to work towards answering these basic questions, for the fate of millions of people depend on our answers.

I trust that the deliberations at this Conference will take us forward to a common destination of sustainable development.

I wish you well.

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