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Poverty alleviation, the environment, sustainable development in a globalized world

Governing Council/Global
Ministerial Environment Forum
22nd Session
Nairobi, Kenya
3-7 February 2003

Highlights : GC Profiles

Interview with Minister Ruhakana Rugunda:
Face Up To It!

The New President of the 22nd Governing Council (GC) of the United Nations Environment Programme, Minister Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, is a man with a mission. In his own words, he defines his vision on what needs to be done during this session, and how to go about doing it:

The platform is set, the agenda defined, and perspective clear. The challenge for this GC is to focus on the implementation of the WSSD blueprint. We will be judged on how effectively we achieve that.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was an opportunity of great importance, in the sense that it placed the spotlight on global issues that affect all peoples, but most especially people in the developing world. An issue like poverty was given global weight and attention in discourses on sustainable development. Poverty undermines the struggle for sustainable development and the sustainable management of the environment. Our work toward achieving sustainable development must face squarely issues related to the alleviation and even eradication of poverty. The WSSD also addressed, and reached consensus, on key issues such as water and sanitation, energy, biodiversity, and agricultural production.

But, in my opinion, the WSSD’s greatest achievement was putting in place targets regarding these issues. Targets that are measurable and easy to monitor, and, hence, realistic. The global momentum was set for the WSSD outputs with the convening of earlier global meetings such as the Millennium Summit, Copenhagen Social Summit, the Doha WTO Meeting, and Monterrey Financing for Development conference.

The GC should be seen as a vehicle for the implementation of these outputs. And as much as I am aware of the challenges that face us towards achieving this difficult, yet vital task, I am also aware of the opportunities we have, and they are many. The peoples of this world, in fact, present the biggest opportunity of all. The masses, who must be empowered to play a decisive role of removing themselves form poverty. It is us, the people of the world who must accept the challenge and face up to it. This solidarity and partnership for sustainable development is an opportunity that must be seized and invested upon.

I seize this opportunity to pay tribute to Minister Anderson, for the distinguished work accomplished during his term of office. I would also like to commend the bureau and team who had worked with him to make such a difference.

I would also like to pay special tribute to the leadership of UNEP. Klaus Toepfer has provided outstanding leadership and is working with clear vision towards setting UNEP as the global environmental leader. this would not have been possible, without the support of the Secretary-General and his efforts in support of sustainable development.