- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The World Summit on Sustainable Development recently concluded in Johannesburg amid a flurry of speeches and press releases. Emerging from the dialogue, debate and occasional discord was an impressive international consensus as to how the world's governments, international organizations, civil society and businesses can work together to strengthen the three pillars of sustainable development: durable economic growth, sound investments in people and effective environmental stewardship. The United States joins the world community in extending our appreciation to the government of South Africa for its hospitality in hosting the World Summit and extends our sincere congratulations on the successful outcome of the conference.

In the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted at the summit, developed and developing countries alike endorsed a shared vision for sustainable development that will help open our economies and societies to grow, provide freedom and security for present and future generations, secure for people everywhere the opportunity for healthy and productive lives and ensure good stewardship of the world's natural resources.

Participants adopted an ambitious but realistic agenda to help provide clean water and sanitation to people living in squalor, reverse the loss of biodiversity, stem the spread of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, restore the world's fish stocks and take other actions to lift people out of poverty. The summit also highlighted the key role of women in the development process as planners, implementers and beneficiaries.

The Plan of Implementation builds on the leadership of President Bush at the Monterrey Financing for Development Conference last March. In the Monterrey consensus, world leaders agreed that development commitment begins at home and that private sector resources drive progress. At the same, world leaders agreed that the international community will support efforts to create the policy and governance conditions needed to unlock new resources, opportunities and human talents in pursuit of sustainable development. The United States and the European Union committed substantial new assistance resources in support of that consensus.

Our challenge now is to move from Rio, Monterrey and Johannesburg to the future through concrete actions. As Secretary of State Powell stated in Johannesburg, "Plans are good; actions are better. Only actions can put a drop of clean water on the tongue of a thirsty child, prevent the transmission of a deadly virus from mother to child, and preserve the biodiversity of a fragile African ecosystem."

President Bush is committed to spreading the benefits of sustainable development throughout the world and eradicating poverty. Under his leadership, we unveiled at Johannesburg four new "signature" partnerships in water, energy, agriculture and forests that unite the talents, energy and resources of government, business and civil society.

For example, the "Water for the Poor" initiative will leverage some $1.6 billion to expand access around the world to clean water and sanitation, improve watershed management, and increase the productivity of water in industry and agriculture.

The "Clean Energy" initiative will help families in developing countries replace wood and dung with modern energy sources in their indoor cooking, thus helping to eliminate indoor pollution that causes some two million premature deaths each year from respiratory illness. Similar initiatives will promote sustainable agriculture, protect the Congo Basin forest region, combat HIV/AIDS, build low-cost housing, expand educational opportunities and pursue other key development goals.

Equally important, the summit substantially strengthened the consensus to foster responsible governance in developed and developing countries alike. Development begins at home through the investment in people, promotion of economic freedom and enterprise, elimination of corruption and respect for human rights and the dignity of mankind.

Delegations from developing countries also stressed the importance of trade and investment to their future. They are aware the $450 billion they export each year to the United States represents more than eight times the total amount they receive in foreign aid.

They welcomed that for the first time the needs of developing countries have been placed at the heart of world trade talks in the Doha Development Round. They also welcomed our reaffirmation of Mr. Bush's commitment to work with our partners for an agreement in these talks that will spread the benefits of freer trade as widely as possible, including through proposals to slash barriers to global trade in agricultural products.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development did not paper over differences among the world's governments and citizens as to how we address our common challenges, including global climate change, sound energy development and the need for sustainable production and consumption patterns. Discussions of these issues will continue beyond Johannesburg, as will the combined efforts of the international community to give full meaning to the accomplishments we achieved there.

Our achievements have raised dreams and expectations of a better life for the billions of people suffering from lack of water, sanitation, clean energy, education, housing, health care and even hope.

The great African-American poet and playwright Langston Hughes once asked, "What happens to a dream deferred?" If we continue to work together as governments, civil society, international agencies and businesses to implement our common vision of sustainable development and poverty eradication, that is a question we will never have to answer.


Paula Dobriansky is undersecretary of state for global affairs.


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