Summary: Information / Discussion
State of the environment and development
||16 July 2002, 9:30 – 11:00 Updated: VK 9:18 AM
Moderator(s):|| • Mr. Michael Williams, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)|
Presenters/ Participants:|| • Mr. Arthur Lyon Dahl, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)|
• Ms. Aniket Ghai, Geneva Environment Network (GEN)
• Mr. Bill Jackson, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
• Mr. Hassan Partow, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
||Cheryl Fischer (ICVolunteers)
||Michael Williams, UN Environment Programme, Information Unit for Conventions
||biodiversity crisis, imbalance, sustainability, wildlife, hunger eradication, biodegradation, sustainable development
Environmental problems, including global warming and the biodiversity crisis, have a social, ecological and economical impact on human beings and
all ecosystems. Working internationally rather than nationally will be instrumental in solving these problems.
The three speakers discussed the need to continue solving environmental problems in an international
framework. People-oriented solutions were emphasized.
Mr. Hassan Partou of UNEP spoke about environmental losses and gains between the
1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. He suggested accessing Global Environment Outlook 3
(www.unep.org/geo) to obtain more information. The 12% increase in carbon dioxide levels during the past 30 years continues to contribute to global warming and the enlargement of the Antarctic ozone hole. Yet, sulfur
dioxide is reducing and forests have been designated as protected sites. Despite the few gains, people have not halted the large scale environmental
degradations which impact life and the planet. A prime example of such a degradation
is the loss of the Mesopotamian Marshlands of Iraq. Mr. Partou stressed the need to focus on human vulnerability rather than prosperity in ascertaining environmental priorities. Adopting a sustainability-first approach rather than market-first, policy-first, and security-first scenarios is key to sustainable development, especially in eradicating hunger and in
ensuring the survival of ecosystems.
Mr. William Jackson of IUCN -an organization which has linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), governments and more for over 50 years- addressed the global biodiversity crisis. Since CSOs brought biodiversity to the world's attention, their participation is essential in dealing with the crisis. Mr. Jackson pointed out that biodegradation increases the chances of species extinction. Land degradation, through hunting, gathering, land clearing and other activities, has decimated forests, with desertification as an extreme result. He explained that climate change and urbanization provide problems in coastal zones, where the majority of the world's population lives. Ice melting in polar regions causes problems for polar species. Lack of potable water for one third of the world's people is another major problem. Water pollution leads to the decline of fisheries, and, therefore, to a decline of a major protein source.
Hence the problems are social, ecological, and economic. Mr. Jackson pointed out that companies-including pharmaceutical, botanical, agricultural, cosmetic, and ornamental -which use plant products and which are worth $500 to $800 billion annually- depend on a healthy biodiversity. Indeed, the value of the ecosystem is worth over $33,000 billion and includes energy, medicine, industry, tourism, water resources, and fisheries, and it has great importance to the livelihoods and the cultures of indigenous people.
Mr. Jackson regretted that the loss of biodiversity prevents sustainable development. Economic systems that undervalue natural resources and do not support the environment foster greed and corruption. Inequality between rich and poor is unfair to poor countries, which remain poor as poverty drives their citizens to overuse resources such as land and fisheries. CSOs can play major roles in promoting the three pillars-the environmental, the social, the economic-of sustainable development. Reforming trade policies and improving environmental governance through measurable commitment, including reforming how to finance sustainable development, is imperative. Empowering local communities in developing affordable technologies and paying local people for environmental stewardship and services is key. Such changes are necessary for salvaging biodiversity and reducing consumption and waste.
Mr. Arthur Dahl of UNEP highlighted the need to manage environmental improvement on a global rather than national level. Wealthy nations must be convinced to make technology accessible to all. Money, goods, and services are globalized, but the poorest on the planet are still not as mobile. Institutions have not adapted to the challenges of ensuring accessibility. CSOs and other stakeholders must restructure society to respond to these challenges.
Mr. Dahl observed that the WSSD in Johannesburg presents an opportunity to plan on a global rather than national level, including correcting material, social, cultural, and spiritual/religious imbalances, which need to be managed holistically. Surprising issues
The disappearance of the historically vital Mesopotamian Marshlands, due to the damming of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, has been a major loss to the Marsh Arabs of Iraq as wildlife has vanished and people have been forced into becoming refugees.
Finding sustainability-first and people-oriented paradigms on an international level in solving environmental problems is key to sustainable development. Social, environmental and economic requirements must be considered together, rather than separately.
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