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Statement by Ambassador Shen Guofang, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations and the Head of the Chinese Delegation, at the Second Preparatory Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development acting as the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development

2002/02/01

Mr. Chairman,

This meeting marks the first substantive meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. It is our hope that it will be able to conduct a comprehensive review of the progress as well as constraints in our work in the field since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and hold discussions on a plan of action for the future, so as to create a good atmosphere as well as a solid basis for the success of the Summit.

I would like to thank the Secretary-General for submitting his report to this meeting, which comprehensively reviews the implementation of Agenda 21 in the past ten years and offeres recommendations that are useful to our further explorations in this regard.

Mr. Chairman,

First, I would like to briefly talk about China's efforts and achievements in implementing Agenda 21 as well as its sustainable development strategy.

The Rio Conference was a milestone in the history of human development. The principle of sustainable development and the Programme of Action adopted at the Conference represent the common interests of the entire international community. The Chinese Government has solemnly committed itself to sustainable development and has made enormous efforts to this end. China has been strictly implementing Agenda 21 and incorporated the strategy of sustainable development into its national socio-economic development strategies. China was among the first countries to formulate and implement the national Agenda 21. It has established two basic strategies, the strategy of rejuvenating the country through science and education and the strategy of sustainable development, and has been admired by the whole world for the tremendous successes it has scored in this regard. It has achieved a sustained, rapid and steady development of its national economy. The quality and standards of living have been greatly improved. The number of people living in poverty has been reduced visibly. The size of the whole population has been put under control. The physical as well as intellectual qualities of its people as a whole have been steadily improved. And its ability to utilize resources in an efficient and integrated way is strengthened with each passing day. China has also intensified efforts to deal with pollution. In each of the past five years, the investment that the Chinese Government has made in this regard has taken up nearly 1% of its GDP. In order to prevent pollution from worsening, the Chinese Government has demonstrated a strong resolve by closing up 84,000 businesses that are big polluters, which marks the success of the first stage in its campaign against pollution. The concept of sustainable development has been incorporated into the socio-economic development plans made by governments of all levels. Legislation in this field is also moving forward faster. To date, 6 laws on environmental protection, 9 laws on the management of natural resources, more than 30 administrative codes in these two fields as well as many laws and regulations and standards related to sustainable development have been formulated. The nation-wide campaign to rebuild a healthy ecological environment is now fully under way, with notable achievements. In recent years, China has formulated and begun to implement the West-China Development Strategy. In order to avoid the old track of "prescription after pollution", extra precaution was taken in the process of fully discussing and debating and carefully planning for the strategy, taking into consideration both the balance of development as well as ecological and environmental protection. This strategy has become an important move in the overall sustainable development strategy of China. Its implementation will have lasting and profound effects on the development of China's west as well as the whole country.

Despite all the achievements that I just mentioned, China, as a developing country with a large population, still faces serious challenges. Its per capita GDP is very low. There is an imbalance of development among different regions in China. The large population, lack of resources and poor environmental conditions are still seriously restraining the sustainable development of China. For a long period of time to come, China will have to maintain a certain rate of economic growth so as to improve the livelihood of its people. As a result, there will continue to be an increase of pressure on the environment and resources. At the same time, the seriousness of pollution of the whole environment will undermine the momentum as well as quality of economic growth. We are resolved to overcome all these difficulties, dedicate ourselves more deeply to promote development on the basis of a balance among the three factors of population, resources and the environment and give more priority to implementing the sustainable development strategy. We will protect and rationally utilize precious resources like fresh water, land and energies in accordance with law, stick to an economical way of exploring energies and, at the same time, make a strong resolve to address environmental issues that have major impacts on sustainable development, so as to ensure the implementation of this strategy.

What I just said has fully demonstrated that China adopts a highly responsible attitude towards global sustainable development and has made unremitting efforts to fulfill its commitments made at the Rio Conference and is taking firm measures to continue to make its due contributions to global sustainable development.

Mr. Chairman,

Looking back at the path we have traversed in the past ten years since the Rio Conference, we see that the concept of sustainable development has won the hearts of all people. Many countries have formulated and implemented strategies of sustainable development. Public awareness has been greatly enhanced. NGOs, civil society organizations, local governments, academic institutions and all circles of the society are taking an active part in the work of sustainable development. Negotiations on and implementation of international conventions on environment are progressing at a faster speed. As concluded by regional preparatory meetings, all regions have chalked up some achievements in this regard

However, the deterioration of the global environment is continuing. The unsustainable production and consumption pattern in some developed countries has not been changed. The fragile economic foundation, poverty and the increase of population have caused enormous pressures on and seriously restrained the efforts for sustainable development by developing countries, where most of the world's population lives. The consensus and commitments provided by the Agenda 21, including the provision of new and additional financial resources and ODA to developing countries, transfer of environmentally sound technologies and establishment of a favorable external environment, have not yet been translated into action.

The rapid development of globalization has served to deepen the economic inter-dependency and connection among countries and regions. The opening of markets and the development of technologies, especially the emergence of the Internet, have brought them even closer. However, the development of the world economy is still far from balanced and the problem of polarization is as serious it was. Long standing problems such as the lack of financial resources, the burden of debts and trade obstacles which have troubled developing countries for many years remain unsolved. There are now new problems such as the digital divide. Poverty and inequality stay as the two major obstacles in the way of sustainable development. In such a situation, it is all the more necessary to pool together the wisdom, wealth and technology of all humanity for sustainable development in accordance with the spirit of the Rio Conference, so as to take more concrete measures to promote the implementation of Agenda 21.

Mr. Chairman,

In order to face up to the challenges of sustainable development in the 21st century, a concrete plan of action must be put in place. We believe that such a plan should include the following elements:

First, it must stick to the principles established at the Rio Conference. The Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 represent commitments made by the international community for sustainable development. The fundamental principles, such as the"integrity of environment and development" and "common but differentiated responsibilities", are of major importance and must be strictly followed.

Second, global partnership must be revitalized in a common effort towards sustainable development. The realization of sustainable development is a responsibility of the entire humanity. Therefore, it is necessary to mobilize all resources of the international community for its fulfillment. Global partnership that the Rio Conference has called for are still of great importance and relevance today. Concrete measures should be taken to turn principles into actions. In this regard, governments should live up to their responsibility of leadership and make themselves good examples of honoring commitments.

Third, we should focus on priorities and work out an overall and coordinated plan. At present, many developing countries are facing problems such as poverty, land degradation, desertification, shortage of water resources, industrial pollution and natural disasters. Developing countries themselves need to continue to make efforts to find solutions in accordance with their national conditions. At the same time, efforts should also be made to promote effective international cooperation so as to provide assistance to developing countries.

Fourth, a favorable external environment must be created. In order to help developing countries to avoid the vicious cycle of poverty and environmental deterioration, the international community should commit itself to creating an enabling external environment for the developing countries to develop their economy and strengthen their capacity, through trade and the utilization of external financial resources, for the sake of sustainable development. In this regard, overcoming trade protectionism in all forms is of critical importance to the promotion of the healthy development of trade and the protection of environment.

Fifth, means of implementation must be improved. Efforts by developing countries for the effective implementation of sustainable development strategy are restrained by the shortage of financial resources, backward technologies and the lack of capacity. As to the means of implementation, Agenda 21 has made very clear stipulations. The fulfillment of these stipulations has a direct bearing on the implementation of the Agenda itself. Therefore, the summit should come up with concrete measures to ensure timely and full solutions for the means of implementation.

Sixth, the creativity of the major groups should be fully tapped. The major groups are important forces for the promotion of sustainable development. We welcome major groups and all circles of the society to take part in the work of sustainable development. We also believe that governments, NGOs and businesses have enormous potentials for cooperation. We support the establishment of partnerships among governments, businesses and the other major groups so as to make use of the creativity and initiative of all sides and enable them to contribute to sustainable development.

Mr. Chairman,

We look forward to the great achievements by the international community in promoting global sustainable development by grasping the opportunity of the Summit to be motivated even more strongly in this regard, take concrete action and strengthen global partnerships in the implementation of Agenda 21. We are willing to work together with all countries and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the preparation for the Summit, so as to make contributions to its smooth convocation and complete success.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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