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Environment and Development

Year:1991 Issue:10

Column: WORLD

Author: HONG XIN

Release Date:1991-10-20

Page: 19,20

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The Ministerial Conference of Developing Countries on Environment and Development was held in Beijing on July 18-19, 1990. Forty ministerial delegations of developing countries, twelve specially invited representatives from international organizations, and several observers attended the meeting to exchange views and seek solutions on a crucial issue—the environment and development.

As the global environment continues to deteriorate, environment and development becomes a critical issue of concern to all world nations. Delegates pointed out that environmental problems—the global climate change, ozone layer depletion, transterritorial transmission and spread of toxic and dangerous products and waste, the accelerating loss of biodiversity, contamination and shortage of water, air pollution and acid rains, land degradation, desertification, soil erosion, deforestation, and the pollution of sea waters, etc.—were worsening. The protection of the environment has become mankind’s common wish.

Next year, the United Nations' Conference on Environment and Development, the first meeting of this kind sponsored by the United Nations, will be held in Brazil. It will consider world environmental situations, discuss global warming, ozone layer depletion, the protection of biodiversity, as well as other problems pertaining to developing countries such as the quality and supply of fresh water, desertification, floods and droughts. The meeting will also formulate strategies and measures to improve the environment through international co-operation and ensure the socio-economic development of all nations. The aim of the Beijing conference was to coordinate the standpoints of developing countries in preparation for the forthcoming UN conference in Brazil.

Although there are many differences among developing countries in history, geography, culture, and socio-economy, it is inspiring that they share common ground on many issues concerning environment and development.

Developed countries are the main consumers of world resources and the main producers of waste. Saudi Arabia’s delegate pointed out that “the deterioration of world environment is due to the disastrous effects of long-term development of industrialized countries.” Tomasi Vakatora, minister of housing and environment development of Fiji, remarked with deep concern that the warming climate, the rise of sea levels, and the decrease of water resources seriously threatened the human race. “Our mere existence is in danger. Fiji is the victim of developed countries.”

All delegates present at the conference called on developed countries to shoulder the appropriate obligations for the protection of the environment. Since the industrialized countries are greatly responsible for environmental pollution, they should commit themselves to preventing and cleaning up the damage. Njoroge Murgai, Kenya's minister of environment and natural resources, said that the ecological and environmental problems facing the developing countries were in close relation with the overdevelopment of industrialized countries. Consequently, it is natural for the developed countries to help developing countries improve the ecological environment on preferential terms, in order to compensate for their economic loss.

Developing countries are also keenly concerned over the issue of development, which has an important bearing on the interests of their peoples. At the conference, the delegates acquainted each other with the environmental protection strategies and measures adopted by their governments and the results achieved. In their views, environmental protection and economic development are compatible problems, and the former can only be tackled on the premise of sustainable economic growth and in light of the specific conditions of the various nations.

Participants at the meeting voiced the developing nations’ common desire to play a larger role in international environmental activities and cooperation. “Up to now, only the voice of developed countries could be heard in taking decisions on global environment, without considerations for developing countries,” an Argentine delegate said. “This is unfair.” The chief Egyptian delegate, Abdel Latif said developing countries were confronted with both environment and development, which are two inter-connected problems. On the one hand, he said the developed countries should bear the responsibilities for environmental problems. There are no geographical boundaries for pollution because if one country is polluted, another cannot escape the effects. We are in the same boat, so it is very important for us to cooperate with each other. On the other hand, he said developing countries face a common challenge on the road to development, so they should fully cooperate with each other. The Egyptian delegate suggested that the declaration issued at the end of the conference be regarded as the foundation of co-operation among developing countries.

Ezan Akele, minister of environmental construction and urban planning of Cote d'Ivoire, said that his country would participate in more international environment cooperation projects, and foster close ties with other countries in order to eradicate poverty. A Chinese delegate pointed out that although the meeting was but a dialogue among developing countries, it should pave the way for enhancing cooperation with developing countries in seeking a new solution for mankind’s common progress. Some delegates of developed countries expressed their intention to co-operate with developing countries.

The Beijing conference was a milestone on the road toward the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. The meeting ended successfully with the Beijing Declaration, which provided the guideline for third world countries in dealing with global environmental and developmental issues. This conference played an important role in promoting international cooperation, seeking solutions to global environmental problems, and realizing sustainable development.

The Ministerial Conference of Developing Countries on Environment and Development was held in Beijing on June 19, 1991. XIN HUA

The Ministerial Conference of Developing Countries on Environment and Development was held in Beijing on June 19, 1991. XIN HUA

Trees wither as a result of a seriously polluted river. XIN HUA

Trees wither as a result of a seriously polluted river. XIN HUA

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