February 8, 2002



    The Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the Second Delhi Sustainable Development Summit here today. Union Environment and Forest Minister Shri T.R. Baalu, DG, TERI, Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Chairman, TERI, Dr. Arcot Ramachandran were also present on the occasion.

    Following is the text of the Prime Minister ’s speech, on the occasion.

    "I am happy to be here with you this evening at the Second Delhi Sustainable Development Summit.

    To start a good initiative is commendable in itself. To sustain it is even better. TERI deserves our congratulations, among other things, for showing its commitment to make the Delhi Summit a useful and sustainable event in the global debate on this vital subject.

    The importance of this event in 2002 is even higher than that of last year because it is taking place six months before the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. If we look back, we see several important milestones in the global movement for sustainable development. At each new milestone, the movement has shown expansion. It has also shown its effectiveness in influencing developmental thinking in governments and in other key constituencies.

    The Stockholm Summit of 1972 had only two Prime Ministers attending it. I am proud to say that one of them was the Prime Minister of India. In contrast, the Rio Summit a decade ago was a big event.

    Most of the critical issues in sustainable development have been widely debated in these and other international, regional, and national forums. Solutions to several problems are known in greater clarity now than before. What the world needs is far greater commitment, especially, from industrialized nations. I shall comment on this matter later in my address.

    What I wish to underscore right at the outset is the common hope that all of us here share that the Johannesburg Summit will help in concretizing such consensus for action. My own hope from the Delhi Summit is that it presents the issues on the agenda for Johannesburg in as clear and unambiguous terms as possible.

    Long before the Rio Summit, we in the Government of India have taken several steps to bring environment and poverty alleviation into the ambit of decision-making in all aspects of public policy. In this period, there has been a healthy growth of non-government initiatives. The proof of this is that TERI, the organizer of this Summit, is itself a non-government research institute.

    Civil society in India is therefore, fully engaged and involved in developing our agenda for the future. I assure this distinguished audience that we will further encourage and strengthen the partnership between the Government, NGOs, and the institutions of civil society in every area of development. A small but important step in this direction was the recent adoption of the Wildlife Conservation Strategy 2002.

    All of us assembled today, both in government and outside have an over-riding aim, that is, to remove poverty and want throughout the world in general, and in India and other developing countries in particular. Of course, we need to do this in a way that is sustainable in terms of the environment as well as social justice. In this endeavour, we should learn the lessons of thirty years of action since Stockholm. We should also benefit from the new reality of globalization that no country can escape from.

    Friends, we need to make both sustainable development and globalization work for the poor. Poverty is multidimensional. It extends beyond money incomes to education, health care, skills enhancement, and political participation at all levels from the local to the global. It is also determined by access to natural resources, clean water and air, and advancement of one’s own culture and social organization. However, as we all know, alleviating poverty requires much more resources than now available to poor and developing countries.

    Agenda 21 emanated from the Rio Summit as a unique effort by the global community to come up with a plan of action to re-orient development in the direction of sustainability. The Secretariat of the Rio Summit had estimated that $600 billion would be required to implement Agenda 21 in developing countries.

    Poor countries are expected to generate two-thirds of these resources themselves. The balance has to come from the developed world. However, they are not even fulfilling this lesser obligation. Clearly, they must give more resources, directly through higher aid, and indirectly by opening their markets to poorer nations. This form of indirect support is one way of making globalization work for the poor.

    Therefore, imposing environmental or labour restrictions on the free movement of goods and services, in the name of selective aspects of sustainable development such as the environment or child labour, will only intensify poverty in the developing world.

    Instead, we can make both sustainable development and globalization instruments to raise resources to remove poverty if we use innovative means. These may include specific multilateral levies on global natural resources used by rich countries, such as the electromagnetic spectrum or marine fisheries, to support sustainable development in poor countries.

    Last year in this Forum, I had also suggested a levy on capital transactions across industrialized countries, and capital repatriations from developing countries for several specific poverty-alleviation initiatives. In view of the crisis in the Asian region a few years ago, I believe that this idea deserves to be debated widely and seriously.

    Thanks to gatherings like this one, the necessity for transferring more resources from developed countries for poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability is now being accepted by opinion makers in these countries. Recent articles in the international press have also highlighted the advantages of doubling official development assistance by the richest nations. Many sessions of last week’s meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York also discussed steps to make globalization work for the poor.

    We cannot make the poor and the deprived wait any longer in their aspiration to live a better life. This is the first and foremost task in sustainable development. Our conferences and debates are pointless without a clear recognition and acceptance of this ultimate ethical responsibility for those of us who have been voted into government by the poor and for those in business and the professions whose privileges are sustained by the labor of the poor.

    The flipside of poverty in the developing world is the huge environmental toll of consumerist lifestyles in the developed world. The per-capita consumption of natural resources in developed countries, as compared to developing countries, is generally of the order of twenty to one. In both absolute and relative terms, such consumption of natural resources is inherently unsustainable.

    I am aware that several developed countries have adopted public policies aimed at greater use of renewable energy, recycling of materials, mass transport options, cycling, increased energy efficiency, organic farming, and the like. Such policies and practices need to be adopted more widely, and with greater rapidity. I understand that political support for them has been growing swiftly.

    In the area of climate change, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities requires all developed countries to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the slow and inadequate progress of operationalizing the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol and its ratification leaves several doubts on the seriousness of leading industrialized countries to mitigate this problem.

    We in the developing world would suffer the worst impacts of climate change. For example, every year I go to Manali, a resort town in the Himalayas, and I am concerned that, over the years, the place has been receiving less and less snowfall. This has affected the apple orchards that employ many poor people.

    We in India have taken many steps to reduce pollution and thereby lessen our contribution to climate change. In particular, we have extensively supported the use of renewable energy. Other developing countries are also chipping in. However, unless the biggest polluters take effective steps to curb emissions, the effects of climate change can only get worse.

    Going beyond the harmful effects on our natural environment, we need to extend the concept of sustainable development to encompass the rights of all peoples to conservation and furthering of their cultural heritage, comprising their history, their historical treasures, their arts, their languages, and their societal and family organization. The global trading regime, and multilateral development agencies, should respect, and indeed further, this broader concept of sustainable development.

    Friends, no purpose will be served by focusing only on failures of the past. We now need to move ahead. The Johannesburg Summit should come up with priority actions and a consensus for harnessing the forces of globalization and the regime of sustainable development to the goal of abolishing poverty. This alone can lift a large part of the global community from unsustainable livelihoods into globally sustainable development.

    I am happy that this Summit is attended by distinguished persons from all over the world whose voices I hope will be heard in Johannesburg. My only advice while inaugurating this major event is to recall Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of "Antyodaya", which means taking care of the last, of the most underprivileged and deprived. If we focus on the challenge faced by the most deprived communities in the world, the world would surely become a better place.

    Thank you."