Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from the Department for International Development (DFID)

Letter from the Secretary of State to development ministers in the OECD


  As you will be aware the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) is now less than a year away. Preparations are underway both in South Africa and around the world through regional preparatory processes and conferences. As momentum towards WSSD develops, I thought I would take the opportunity to share with you my thoughts on the importance of the summit for development.

  The events of September have focused the public eye on the need to work cooperatively to build a better future for the world's poor. There is a renewed awareness of the responsibilities of the rich countries in offering opportunity and hope to the 1.1 billion living in absolute poverty. WSSD provides us with an important opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to them, commitments we have already made, most recently through the Millennium Declaration of September 2000, and to seek concrete measures that will make a real difference to their lives.

  The agenda of the Summit is likely to be very broad, I am concerned that up until now the OECD countries have left the running to Environment Ministers and that the dominant perspective has been a concern for environmental conditions in our own countries with too little focus on guaranteeing development to the poor within a sustainable planet. I believe the summit provides an opportunity to increase public understanding of our mutual dependence and increase commitment to sutainable development for all.

  It will be crucial that we work closely with our developing country partners, and particularly South Africa as the host, to achieve a successful event with constructive high-level dialogue and commitment, which avoids the polarised debate between North and South, which has characterised many previous set-piece international negotiations.

  As Development Ministers, I hope we can endorse and unite behind Minister Vali Moosa's proposed Summit theme of "Poverty Eradication through Sustainable Development." This theme brings poverty eradication to the very centre of sustainable development.

  Apart from this over-arching theme, there are two specific areas on which I believe we should focus our efforts. These are:

    (i)  to set out the links between poverty reduction and more effective management of environmental resources. This is a complex relationship which remains poorly understood, yet it is the key to mainstreaming the environment into national development and poverty reduction processes; and

    (ii)  to gain support for the work we collectively approved last April at the DAC High Level Meeting on the guidelines on planning for sustainable development. This also focuses on a different aspect of integration, in particular ensuring that poverty reduction strategies are developed in a participatory way, have strong national ownership and political commitment and are focused on outcomes.

  I also believe that WSSD should pay particular regard to the needs of Africa. We should seek to work through African led processes, such as the New Partnership for African Development, in order to promote sustainable development on the continent.

  During the months leading up to WSSD, I hope that Development Ministers will play an active role in the preparatory process. With Vali Moosa, I will be co-chairing two ministerial round tables orgainsed by the Global Environment Facility on financing environmental sustainability. I will also accompany Tony Blair to the summit. I hope you will also engage with the preparatory process and be able to attend the summit and that we can encourge attendance by as many heads of government as possible.

  The summit will take place exactly a year after the attacks on the World Trade Centre. This coincidence is likely to be widely noticed and give the global community a chance to show that it can act together decisively in the fight against poverty.

Clare Short

29 November 2001

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