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Welcoming remarks by the UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Klaus Toepfer


Your Excellency Kwak Kyul-Ho, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Korea,   
Excellency Mr Ban Ki-Moon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Excellency Mr Song Hun Seok, Chairperson of the Environment and Labour Committee,
Mr Goh Chul-Whan, Chairperson of the Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development,
Mrs Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-Habitat
Mr Børge Brende, Chair of the 12th Session of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development,
Mr. Woo Keun-Min, Governor of Jeju Province,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Korea, for their generously hospitality in hosting the eighth Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum.

The uplifting environment of Jeju island -- a UN-recognized biosphere reserve -- is a perfect venue for our deliberations over the next three days.

The environment, as well as being the foundation of our good health and sustainable development, is also a platform for our spiritual well-being.

The peace and tranquillity of this place is a reminder that there is beauty and harmony on this planet -- our only home -- and that we should fight with all our power to preserve it.

We live in times of turmoil and conflict. We fear our neighbours and mistrust our friends. It is easy to lose sight of long-term objectives for improving the lives of billions of people across the globe who deserve and demand better.

Over the next three days we have the opportunity to refocus attention on the foundations of sustainable development -- for that is the only true security policy for the future.

This is the fifth Global Ministerial Environment Forum -- an invaluable mechanism for promoting dialogue among governments for protecting the environmental base of sustainable development.

Back in the year 2000, when we all met in Malmö, there was an incredibly strong sense of optimism and commitment.

Let me remind you of the conclusion of the Malmö Declaration. “At the dawn of this new century, we have at our disposal the human and material resources to achieve sustainable development, not as an abstract concept, but as a concrete reality.”

The question we must ask ourselves is: Have we capitalized on these resources? Have we done enough? Are we living up to the promise of Malmö?

In the same year as Malmö, the United Nations Millennium Survey revealed that two-thirds of people felt their governments had not done enough to protect the environment. Do people feel differently now?

In the Millennium Declaration, and more recently at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, our governments committed to a series of time-bound goals and targets. How are we doing? Could we do better?

These are the questions that must be at the forefront of our minds as we tackle our agenda over the next three days.

The list of topics has deliberately been kept focused, because focus, above all, is what we need if we are to achieve our targets and fulfil our promises.

The theme running through our discussions -- the environmental dimension of water, sanitation and human settlements -- has profound implications for the successful achievement of many of the Millennium Development Goals.

Let me single out just one, the goal to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate of children under five.

In the time that I have been speaking, 20 children have died of diseases caused by lack of safe water. That is 5,000 a day, nearly two million children a year.

All told, one out of every three people across the world lack adequate sanitation.

They are people like you and me, except that, instead of being here in Jeju, they are struggling on a daily basis to keep disease at bay while they try to earn a living and raise their children.

As we debate this issue, and consider our contribution to the forthcoming meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development, we must never forget these people.

They are our constituency. They are the reason we are meeting here this week.

Thank you.