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The Millennium Summit

Environmental issues featured prominently during the United Nations Millennium Summit hosted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York in 2000 (see box below). While recognition of the importance of environmental issues at this summit was encouraging, the actual progress report was not. The Secretary-General was blunt in his comments regarding environmental management, stating that the international community was failing to provide future generations the freedom to 'sustain their lives on this planet. On the contrary', he said, 'we have been plundering our children's future heritage to pay for environmentally unsustainable practices in the present' (UN 2000).

UN Secretary-General's key proposals presented to the Millennium Summit

Freedom from want: the Development Agenda
Heads of State or Government are urged to take action in the following areas:

  • Poverty: to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the world's people (currently 22 per cent) whose income is less than one dollar a day.
  • Water: to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to safe drinking water (currently 20 per cent).
  • Education: to narrow the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2005; and to ensure that, by 2015, all children complete a full course of primary education.
  • HIV/AIDS: to halt, and begin to reverse, the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 by:
    - adopting as an explicit goal the reduction of HIV infection rates in persons 15 to 24 years of age, by 25 per cent within the most affected countries before the year 2005, and by 25 per cent globally before 2010;
    - setting explicit prevention targets: by 2005 at least 90 per cent, and by 2010 at least 95 per cent, of young men and women must have access to HIV-preventive information and services; and
    - urging every seriously affected country to have a national plan of action in place within one year of the Summit.
  • Clearing the Slums: to endorse and act upon the Cities Without Slums plan launched by the World Bank and United Nations to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

A sustainable future: the Environmental Agenda
Heads of State or Government are urged to adopt a new ethic of conservation and stewardship; and, as first steps:

  • Climate Change: to adopt and ratify the Kyoto Protocol, so that it can enter into force by 2002, and to ensure that its goals are met, as a step towards reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Green Accounting: to consider incorporating the United Nations system of 'green accounting' into their own national accounts, in order to integrate environmental issues into mainstream economic policy.
  • Ecosystem Assessment: to provide financial support for, and become actively engaged in, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a major international collaborative effort to map the health of the planet.
  • Earth Summit +10: to prepare the ground for the adoption of concrete and meaningful actions by the world's leaders at the 10-year follow-up to the Earth Summit in 2002
Source: UN 2000