Letter from the Secretary of State for
the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to All
Members of Parliament
UK PREPARATIONS FOR THE WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE
In September world leaders will come together
in Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
This crucial event will take stock of progress made since the
Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and set out some concrete outcomes on
where the world canand mustgo next. I am writing
to you now to let you know the UK's current thinking and to seek
to involve you, and your constituents, in that process. Although
September may seem a long way off, when we assess progress since
Rio, the message is very clearly that there is much work to doit
will be upon us before we know it.
The Prime Minister was the first world leader
to commit to attending the summit. Indeed the UK has been a key
force in leading the preparations in Europe and globally.
On the international stage, preparations for
the Summit are gathering pace. Five regional meetings have been
held to identify priority areas for the Summit's agenda. A considerable
degree of consensus has emerged on key issuespoverty and
environment linkages, Africa, Official Development Assistance,
resource efficiency, institutional reform and the sectoral issues
of water, sanitation and energy. And Dutch Environment Minister
Jan Pronk has been appointed as Kofi Annan's Special Envoy on
the Summit, charged with engaging other world leaders and adding
pressure at the political level as well as through the formal
But we have long espoused the view that if practical
action is to come out of Johannesburg the Summit needs to involve
more than just Governments. The involvement of the private sector,
civil society, young people and local authorities is vital and
we are already working closely with some of these groups and looking
for opportunities to involve others. In March last year the Prime
Minister invited business leaders and NGOs to develop initiatives
in several key areas. These were finance, tourism, energy, forestry
and water. He recently hosted a seminar at No 10 Downing Street
to assess progressat this meeting we engaged with key businesspeople
and non-governmental organisations and it was clear, again, both
that some excellent work is being progressed, and also that there
is lots more to do. A separate progress report on these initiatives
Another example of this "partnership"
approach is the WWF "Our World" project which my Department
is funding in conjunction with DFES and the Devolved Administrations.
It is aimed at raising young people's awareness about the Summit
and of sustainable development in general. Four "Earth Champions",
one from each of four winning schools in England, Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales, will attend the Summit and play a real and
active role. BBC Newsround are covering the competition and we
hope that it will provoke real interest in the Summit amongst
Last Summer we also ran a discussion forum to
find what people wanted on the agenda of the Summit and what they
thought the UK's aims and objectives should be. You can find information
on this and the UK's preparations for the Summit on the Government's
Sustainable Development website at http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk/.
The next eight months will see a number of important
international events that will feed into the Summit. Of particular
importance are the Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey,
Mexico in March and the reconvened Children's Conference in May.
These will serve as a reminder that the Summit is not just an
environmental conferenceit is about addressing global sustainability
in terms of environmental, economic and social factors. In particular,
combatting global poverty remains a priority for the UK, and examining
the links between poverty and environmental degradation. It is
the poor who contribute least to environmental degradation, but
suffer most from its effects.
In your constituencies you may expect to be
contacted by "green groups", but I would like to encourage
you to engage locally with non-governmental organisations on the
development, as well as environmental side, to establish if there
are elements they think there are important issues which do not
yet appear to be high up the agenda for Johannesburg. You may
also like to hold some events for local representatives of development
and environment NGOs, and invite views from constituents through
your local media.
Above all the Summit needs to be about finding
practical solutions to the global challenges we face. I believe
that the emphasis we have placed on partnership, on the involvement
of all stakeholders, and on action not words, is the right approach,
and will ensure that we leave Johannesburg with a clear route
forward for implementing sustainable development.
I look forward to working with you to that end.