World Summit 2005 Opens With 150 Leaders at UN Headquarters

NEW YORK, New York, September 14, 2005 (ENS) - After intense, down-to-the-wire negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday concluded its 59th annual session by approving a draft outcome document on UN reform and achievement of the Millenium Development Goals. The draft will be considered by 150 leaders attending the 2005 World Summit that opens today at UN Headquarters in New York. It is expected to be the largest ever gathering of heads of state and government.

Last night, the 60th session of the General Assembly opened at the Assembly hall at UN Headquarters.

Taking up the gavel immediately after the closing of the 59th Session by outgoing President Jean Ping of Gabon, incoming General Assembly President Jan Elliason of Sweden welcomed the draft declaration.

Elliason

UN General Assembly President Jan Elliason of Sweden was elected in June. At the time, he was Sweden’s Ambassador to the United States, a post he held from September 2000 until July 2005. (Photo courtesy UN)
He said the reforms being considered for the United Nations were the most ambitious ever attempted since the creation of the world body and that expectations were exceptionally high.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the final draft as a good instrument he could work with, but he deplored the omission of non-proliferation and disarmament issues.

"Obviously we didn't get everything we wanted, and with 191 member states it's not easy to get an agreement," Annan told a news conference Tuesday. "The big item missing is non-proliferation and disarmament. This is a real disgrace," he said speaking moments after the General Assembly approved a resolution sending the draft outcome document to the Summit.

"We have failed twice this year. We failed at the NPT and we failed now," Annan said, referring to a review conference in May on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that ended without substantive agreement. Without naming names, Annan called some states "spoilers."

"I hope the leaders will see this as a real signal for them to pick up the ashes and really show leadership on this important issue when we are all concerned about weapons of mass destruction and possibility that they may even get into the wrong hands," he said.

Annan cited positive items in the draft document on development, a peacebuilding commission, a new Human Rights Council, terrorism and the establishment of a democracy fund.

Annan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan of Ghana (Photo courtesy UN)
Tuesday, Annan today held discussions with United States President George W. Bush at United Nations Headquarters in New York on the eve of what is expected to the largest ever summit of world leaders.

Bush expressed his support for the world body, and the two leaders discussed Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, African peacekeeping missions and the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The meeting was one of many bilateral meetings Annan is expected to have to coincide with the three day Summit.

Meanwhile, a report prepared for the Summit by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concludes that targeted investments in the environment will generate substantial economic returns especially among the more than one billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

Every dollar invested in fighting land degradation and desertification may conservatively generate over three dollars in economic benefits helping to fight poverty among the millions living on fragile lands. Money could be spent on such traditional and soil conserving features like terracing.

Meanwhile every dollar spent on delivering clean water and sanitation is likely to give impressive rates of return of up to $14. It indicates that the income of the very poor could be boosted fourteen fold.

Here the economic benefits arise from areas including reduced health care costs, increased productivity because of workers spending less time searching for water and improved school attendance.

fishing

The Bay of Bengal Programme, started in 1979 with headquarters in Madras, India, seeks to help small-scale fisherfolk in seven countries - Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand). (Photo courtesy )
Conservation of habitats and ecosystems are also cost effective when compared with the short term profits from environmentally damaging activities such as dynamite fishing, mining and sedimentation as a result of deforestation in the interior.

A study of coral reefs in the Caribbean indicates that sustainable harvesting of coral fish for food and industries such as the pet and aquaria trade may be worth $300 million a year, coral based tourism is worth just over $2 billion annually, and shoreline protection from reefs is worth up to $2.2 billion a year.

These are among some of the findings from "Investing in Environmental Wealth for Poverty Reduction" prepared by David Pearce of University College London who tragically died last week.

Pearce

Dr. David Pearce was professor of Environmental Economics at University College London. (Photo courtesy UCL)
The report was written on behalf of the Poverty Environment Partnership (PEP) for the 2005 World Summit. PEP is an organized donor group, established in September 2001, which seeks to improve the co-ordination of work on poverty and the environment. It includes UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme, and organizations such as IUCN-the World Conservation Union and government agencies.

One of the summit’s aims is to review the status of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Agreed to by all 191 United Nations member states, the goals cover poverty eradication, establishment of environmental sustainability, and the provision of safe and sufficient supplies of drinking water, the reversal of the spread of diseases, and the empowerment of women.

Launched in 2000, these internationally agreed goals are scheduled to be met by 2015.

The Poverty Environment Partnership, which includes UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme, and organizations such as IUCN-the World Conservation Union and government agencies, today meets to plan how the environment can be mainstreamed in national poverty reduction strategies in order to better achieve the Goals.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director, said, "It is clear from this report, and from a series of other studies published throughout the year, that the environment is something like the red ribbon running through the Millennium Development Goals."

farmer

A farmer ploughs his small hand-terraced field in the Valley of Paro in the highlands of central Bhutan. The same plot will be used for growing rice, wheat, barley, potatoes and vegetables. (Photo by P. Johnson courtesy FAO)
"It is not a luxury good, only affordable when all other problems have been solved," Toepfer said. "It is the oxygen that breathes life into all our aspirations for a healthier, fairer and more stable world. I would call on world leaders to recognize this in the outcome of this important summit.”

The new report offers evidence that development and poverty are directly linked to conservation. It documents that 21 out of 27 case studies in developing countries show that investing in conservation delivers more economic benefits than agricultural or logging development.

In Ecuador, for instance, the economic output of ranching was compared to conservation, which proved to be 25 times more profitable.

In Nigeria, the net benefit of floodplain conservation is 17 times higher than irrigation schemes.

In Haiti, income will be doubled if investments are made in conservation rather than logging.

In Botswana, conservation that allows safaris with hunting provides a rate of return of up to 38 percent, compared to two percent for cattle ranching.

The report estimates that, to reach poverty reduction targets, an annual global investment in environmental assets of $60 billion to $90 billion will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years.

The report will be formally launched at the PEP 2005 World Summit Policy Dialogue: Investing in the Environment to Fight Poverty. The Economic Case and Priorities for Action, this afternoon from 2:30–5:30 pm at the Institute of International Education. Several ministers, IUCN Director General Achim Steiner, and other CEOs of large conservation organizations, will be among the panelists.

The report, Investing in Environmental Wealth for Poverty Reduction, and an accompanying report called Assessing Environment’s Contribution to Poverty Reduction, can be found at www.povertyenvironment.net/unep

Secretary-General Annan has invited the heads of state and government attending the 2005 World Summit to take the opportunity to sign, ratify or accede to key treaties for which the Secretary-General is depositary. This continues an initiative begun at the Millennium Summit in 2000 that has since become an annual treaty event held during the opening of each General Assembly.

The 32 treaties featured at this year’s event span a broad range of issues, including human rights, refugees, penal matters, terrorism, organized crime and corruption, the environment - including the Kyoto Protocol - the law of the sea, disarmament and health.

At this year’s event, the recently adopted International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism will be opened for signature.