H.E. DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC), TO THE WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to address this historic World Summit, which is being convened in this great African country to deliberate on a crucial issue that will largely determine the future of the planet on which we live, as well as our future and the future of generations to come. To begin with, I am delighted to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and in my own name, on your election to chair the proceedings of this Summit. I am certain that your customary wisdom and insightfulness, your knowledge and experience, and your sagacious stewardship will more than help us in reaching a successful conclusion to our proceedings for the sake of all humanity. I should also like to avail myself of this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to the government of South Africa for its generous hospitality in hosting this conference.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Everyone of us realizes that what we are looking to do today is an ambitious, onerous task and an intricate equation entailing difficult commitments and concessions, which are nevertheless possible if we keep in mind the crucial nature of our mission.
The Brunedet Land Report was drawn up in 1985 and since then we have realized that man’s quest for progress and development must be governed by a set of standards which are not just aimed at achieving the sustainability and durability of development but also at preserving and protecting the environment and at keeping it safe from all harm.
In June 2002, the OIC convened a Ministerial Conference on the Environment and its Correlations with Development. The Conference expressed the concerns of the 57 Member States at the continued deterioration of environmental conditions in many parts of the world and stressed that Islam holds a principled and unequivocal position on ecology and ecological balance which consistently urges respect of the natural environment.
The position of the Islamic religion on this subject was indeed articulated fourteen centuries ago on the basis of two considerations: (1) The idea that the natural resources of the earth are limited and therefore should not be wasted, since the Holy Quran clearly states "Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure" (LIV: 49); and (2) The idea that the use and exploitation of natural resources must be approached with the appropriate methodology so as not to deplete or harm nature in any way that is detrimental to the interests of future generations. In this respect, the Holy Quran is also explicit as it says "Had God expanded His provision to His servants, they would have transgressed beyond all bounds through the earth; but He sends down in measure whatsoever He will" (XLII: 27) and again "They hasten about the earth, to do mischief there; and God loves not the workers of mischief" (V: 64).
These two examples along with many others from the Quran exhort the respect of the two tenets described above, which also happen to be endorsed by the 1985 Brunedet Land Report.
The Report has woken up man to the gravity of the harm that has been done to the natural environment he lives in after nearly four centuries of wanton and reckless abuse in the arbitrary exploitation of natural resources in the different parts of the world—this being done largely by the advanced countries.
What is needed now is for the advanced and third world countries to sacrifice certain development programs for the sake of preserving ecological balance, keeping the environment safe for future generations, and developing a world partnership for the achievement of sustainable development through the work program carefully worked-out in Agenda 21, which was adopted by the Rio de Janeiro Conference in 1992.
Wisdom makes this requirement reasonable and even inevitable given the imperatives of preserving the collective future and common interests of earth’s population. Yet, wisdom also dictates that the starting position of developing countries cannot possibly be placed on a par with that of the advanced countries, since this would mean that the latter get to keep the earlier advantages that enabled them to achieve progress and prosperity while the backwardness of the former is perpetuated by enforcing new conditions to impede their development programs in the name of environmental considerations that were not imposed upon the industrialized countries when they were building their economic development.
Therefore justice requires that major rectifications be introduced in this equation through concessions on the part of the party standing to gain if such injustice were to be inflicted upon the developing countries by applying those conditions, because the countries of the developing world still need to do a lot of work to feed their populations and improve their social and developmental conditions.
This conclusion was confirmed by the United Nations Report on World Population for the Year 2001 when it stated that half the world population of 6.1 billion people are still living on less than two dollars per day. Is it reasonable that more than 3 billion people should today live in utter and abject poverty at a time when the developed world is not overly concerned with seeking to find a solution to the over consumption and arbitrary squandering that mark its way of life? Is humanity ready to have 6 billion poor people by 2050 as United Nations figures indicate?
It would seem that the developed world is not really preoccupied with these grave matters and even the principles and objectives of the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit have regrettably not been adhered to. In addition, no significant changes have been introduced in the consumptive and wasteful production model, which prevails in the West and which it wants to export to the rest of the world.
As we tackle the subject of sustainable development, one has to wonder whether it is reasonable that the two acts of destroying the environment in order to preserve a consumptive and extravagant society and of polluting the environment in order to earn a living and assure survival should be equated. The latest Report by the World Bank indicates that between 20 and 40 thousand children are still dying daily under the age of five in the developing countries because of poverty and starvation. It is also well-known that the present levels of pollution of the environment as a result of industrial and other activities in the developed world far exceed the overall level of pollution generated by the developing world.
This is taking place ten years after the adoption of Agenda 21 and of the principles by the Earth Summit which purported to eliminate poverty and guarantee food security as the two basic prerequisites for achieving sustainable development.
Given these facts, we must insist that a special and clear responsibility in this issue be placed on the advanced countries to require them to make due concessions for the sake of optimal application of the principles of sustainable development, since official indicators and statistics show that what is taking place now is the complete opposite of that requirement with official development aid extended by developed to developing countries steadily dwindling for the last decade while the debt burden has been applying an ever tighter stranglehold on the developing countries and thus impeding all their efforts at sustainable development.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The view of the world from the perspective of the Third World population, which constitutes the majority of the population of the OIC Member States, makes it abundantly clear that, especially with advances in transportation and communications, the world of today has become one society but that it is still full of contradictions and that relations between its various peoples are governed by very few rules. There are large discrepancies between these peoples as a result of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the very few due to obvious historical conditions. Moreover, those who have the financial means also have the power, knowledge, ideas, information technology, and so on. This international capital often extends far beyond the borders of the one state regardless of the conditions of other states with which no responsibility connects it. Thus it does not care much for development prospects there and does not pay much heed to considerations of liberty, democracy, or social justice in such countries, since it is no secret that the primary objective of the managers of international capitals is to reap more profits for investors in utter disregard for the interest of the peoples or the countries where such funds are being exploited.
Faced with such irresponsibility and the increasingly unbridled might of international capitals in driving the international economy, can the developing countries, under a world economy whose only driving force and goal are the achievement of the greatest profits for investors, really develop economic programs to cater for the social conditions and future prospects of their population and to protect the ecology, the environment, and life on earth at the same time?
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The logical foundation of sustainable development can now be understood on a global level. However, genuine political will for the implementation of such development by states is still uncertain, since there are no global development plans. Instead, development is being worked on the basis of a fragmented, scattered approach far away from the required level of integration and globalism. Globalization has proved that it is no panacea for development; rather, globalization has given free reign to fierce and unequal competition between the wielders of international capitals on the one hand and the developed and developing countries on the other hand in a way that adversely impacts the performance of the latter.
Therefore, we believe that in order for globalization to become sustainable and compatible in its direction with sustainable development, it must be anchored in the values of justice, solidarity, and global interdependence so that we can press ahead on our march towards acceptable and fair sustainable development under globalization. Financial institutions must also play an effective role in strengthening economic development in developing countries by adopting homogeneous and integrated policies and work programs in such fields as agriculture, industrial development, technology, investment, trade, and financial business. The aim of such policies and programs should be to help these countries prioritize environmental considerations. In addition, we must keep in mind the resolutions adopted by the United Nations during the last decade on social and economic issues, including "The Millennium Declaration for the Year 2000", the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Brussels in 2000, and the International Conference on Financing Development held in Monterrey this year.
I am confident that this Summit is capable of elaborating the ways and means to implement what was agreed upon more than ten years ago such that every party to this issue is asked to assume the common historical responsibility that behooves them for the sake of safeguarding the lives of billions of people of the population of this globe and in order to preserve ordinary life and the natural environment on earth so that it can remain a haven for our children and for future generations. Experience has shown that the fragile ecological balance on earth is not bound by geographical borders as the repercussions of any imbalance are felt around the globe and by the whole of humanity, without exception. Are we then up to the responsibility of fulfilling this mission? That is the question that our resolutions and proceedings must answer.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.