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Statement by Mr. Zhang Yesui, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, at the Meeting on International Governance for Sustainable Development
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3 September 2007

2007-09-05

Minister Celso Amorim,
Minister Marina Silva,
Distinguished Delegates,

First of all, I wish to thank the government of Brazil for hosting this very important meeting to discuss international governance for Sustainable Development. I would also like to thank the organizers for preparing a short but high-quality concept paper.

Fifteen years ago, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which was also hosted by the government of Brazil in this beautiful city of Rio and which I had the privileges to attend, reached consensus on the concept of sustainable development which has laid down important foundations for enhancing international sustainable development cooperation.

With ever growing global environment challenges and joint efforts by the international community, progress has already been achieved in strengthening international environment governance. Among the progress achieved are such initiatives as the establishment of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF), the UN Environment Management Group (EMG) and the integration process between secretariats of some multilateral environment agreements (MEAs).

However, there are visible weaknesses in the existing international environment governance system, such as ambiguity of functions, overlapping of activities and lack of coordination. This has resulted in waste of resources, inefficiency and greater difficulties for environment governance.

We support further improvement of international governance for sustainable development, and are positive towards discussing concrete and feasible options. In this connection, I wish to highlight the following three points:

First, The environment issue is ultimately a development issue. The central objective in improving international environment governance is to strike the right balance between environmental protection and economic and social development. It should be based on the Rio Principles and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and contribute to achievement of international agreed development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Monterey Consensus.

Second, improvement of international environment governance should be addressed within the UN system-wide coherence framework particularly in the economic and social sectors. The role of the General Assembly and the ECOSOC in promoting sustainable development must be further specified. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), being the only body within the UN to address economic, social and environment issues, should be strengthened to provide better policy guidance and more effective coordination in program implementation.

Third, considering that international governance for sustainable development is complex and cross-sectoral, it is important to identify what can be achieved in the short-term and what can be achieved in the long-term including consideration of making the necessary institutional changes. Among the short-term improvement measures to be taken, priorities should be given to the following:

--- UNEP's role can be further enhanced by rendering more financing and technological support, so as to raise its efficiency and capability.

---Coordination among environment agencies and multilateral agreements need to be strengthened. The coordination role of UN Environment Management Group must be improved. Consideration should be given to set up new working mechanisms to promote coordination and synergy among Multilateral Environment Agreements at both the policy and operational levels. Consistency between environment and development policies can be further promoted by setting up joint working mechanisms between UNEP and other UN development agencies, such as UNDP, World Bank and regional development banks. The implementation of the MOU between UNEP and UNDP could serve as a good starting point.

---Stable, sufficient and predictable financing has to be secured. Lack of funding has been a major bottleneck for international cooperation on environment and development. The existing environment funds such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Environment Fund cannot meet with the growing needs because of their small scale, inefficient fund-raising practices and operations. "New and additional" resources should be provided. Voluntary contributions to the Environment Fund has to increase. Measures should be taken to simplify application and approval procedures for GEF funds. The role of UNEP in guiding the allocation and use of GEF funds should also be enhanced.

---Providing advanced and environment-friendly technology in favorable terms is also crucial. The international community, developed countries in particular, should honor their commitments on technology transfer to developing countries. Policy incentives and financial support measures need to be initiated to encourage and facilitate private sectors technology transfers. It is necessary to set up an effective mechanism for international technological cooperation. It is also advisable to strengthen sustainable development centers in developing countries to promote capacity building, and to increase the participation of academic institutions, private sectors and civil societies.

Before I conclude, I wish to point out that while strengthening international environment governance, it is also necessary to improve governance at the national level. Domestic efforts to increase coordination among environment, economic and social departments and agencies are also important components to enhance International Environment Governance.

I hope this meeting will pool our wisdom together, and come up with useful and practical recommendations for future deliberations.

I thank you for your attention.

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