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Honourable Minister Anderson, President of the Governing Council of UNEP, Honourable Ministers, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to Nairobi, the Environmental Capital of the World and welcome to the 22nd session of the UNEP Governing Council. It is a particular pleasure to welcome you shortly after the conclusion of a widely acclaimed, democratic and transparent election process that has brought with it a new wind of optimism and hope.

We begin our work today in a difficult and uncertain international environment. We continue to face the risks of accelerating environmental degradation as well as the challenge of minimizing the risks of globalization while taking advantage of the opportunities.

However we are meeting at a time of great opportunity. The international community as a whole has now defined a comprehensive agenda for sustainability, development and equity in a series of landmark processes. The outcome of the Doha meeting of the World Trade Organization provides us with an important opportunity to ensure the mutual supportiveness of trade, environment and development. The Monterrey Summit on financing for development gives us a new and dynamic perspective on financing and international cooperation. The outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development provides us with an implementation centered road map for the sustainability of the planet, and the conferences on least developed countries and Small Island states gives us a convincing basis to address the serious problems of the most vulnerable amongst us.

All these development taken together define our central challenge of achieving sustainable development and responsible prosperity for all. This is the new horizon for the world community. The demand for implementation that will lead us to this new horizon must begin with us here today.

We meet for the first time as the Governing Council of UNEP since the Johannesburg Summit. We have with us the strong support and impetus the Summit provided to UNEP. We also have the full endorsement of the Summit for the thorough process of International Environmental Governance and the hard work undertaken by the Intergovernmental Group of Ministers established by the Governing Council two years ago.

We are now equipped with a comprehensive and coherent regime of international environmental law, we have a comprehensive body of policy guidance for environment and sustainable development, and most importantly, the outcome of the Johannesburg Summit, and we have succeeded in clarifying and strengthening international environmental governance arrangements. Our challenge and historic responsibility today is to begin the process of implementation and change. The world community expects no less.

All our work on global environmental assessment has confirmed that the crushing burden world's population together with over-consumption and wasteful use of resources by the rich are two fundamental drivers of environmental degradation. A successful environmental strategy must take account of this relationship and the need for a capacity building initiative for developing countries. Our discussions on support to Africa and NEPAD provide us with a concrete opportunity to address this question.

We must match our work in addressing poverty and the environment with sustainable patterns of consumption and production. These are the linkages that must be addressed at this session in order to meet the theme of the Johannesburg Summit of "Responsible Prosperity for All". If we allow these unsustainable gaps to continue unchecked, the very basis of our future will be undermined.

Sound environmental action must be based on a sound scientific knowledge base. Our GEO process has made great progress but the implementation of the recommendation of Cartagena, particularly on the Intergovernmental Panel on Global Environmental Change hold even greater promise for the future. One year after Cartagena, we must decide on how we strengthen this capacity. Particularly in the context of this International Year of Freshwater, we need to radically increase our ability to monitor and map environmental change as a basis to avoid conflict and enable international cooperation on an informed basis.

At this session we must also harness the potential of the rapid advances in technology for the benefit of the global environment. We must ensure that advances in bio engineering and genetic modification are implemented in a safe and equitable manner to ensure that the potential of disastrous consequences for developing countries is avoided in line with a precautionary approach.

We must also address the opportunity that the Doha outcomes provides to ensure that trade and environment are mutually supportive and that the benefits of trade liberalization and globalization are shared with the poor. It was Prime Minister Tony Blair following the tragedy of September 11, who reminded us that if globalization only served the rich it would not succeed but only multiply the risks and division along us.

At this session, we must also use the opportunity of constructive dialogue based on clear information to reduce old tension and find new solutions. This is the context in which we should approach the conclusion of our study on the environmental situation in the occupied territories in Palestine.

At the end of the last millennium, the Secretary General presented his vision of the United Nations in his Seminal report entitled "We The Peoples". In this world characterized by increasing tensions. Conflict and growing inequality which poses dramatic risks to our common future, we have to define our contribution to the unifying call of "We The Peoples".

This year will be the largest ever assembly of nations and delegates in the history of the UNEP Governing Council. Over 160 countries have confirmed they will participate. We expect over 100 Ministers or Secretaries of Environment to attend and well over 1,200 delegates and observers from all parts of society to be with us. Of the 53 African nations, 49 will participate with more than 40 at the Ministerial level. We consider this not only a vote of confidence, but a compelling realization in all countries of the importance of our agenda. It is all the more important that we organize our time effectively and concentrate on the most important issues.

Let us go forward together, today and establish the concrete basis of implementation that will take us to our new horizon of hope.

Thank you.