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Honour 9/11 by implementing Johannesburg

10 September 2002

Speaking at a local government conference on Wednesday 11th September, Jonathon Porritt, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, will urge people to
keep the lessons of the Johannesburg Summit at the front of their minds even as
they pay tribute to the victims of last year's atrocities in New York.

'The single most important message to emerge from the World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg is that the long-term security of the
world depends first and foremost on resolving today's most pressing
environmental and social issues in the world's poorest countries.

It's just one week since the Summit ended, but the depressing sound of the
Johannesburg agenda being slid onto the backburner can already be heard.
Given the looming crisis over Iraq, that may seem reasonable, yet for ten days,
politicians and business leaders filled our newspapers and broadcast media
with eloquent statements as to the overarching importance of sustainable

'The key characteristic of today's world is its interdependence. Your
problem becomes my problem. One country's war becomes another
country's asylum seekers. One country's pollution becomes another
country's floods.
(Prime Minister, Tony Blair)

'Poverty, environmental degradation and despair are destroyers - of
people, of societies, of nations. This unholy trinity can destabilise
countries, even entire regions.'
(Secretary of State, Colin Powell)

'A global human society characterised by islands of wealth surrounded
by a sea of poverty is unsustainable.'
(President Thabo Mbeki)

'If the Summit fails, it will be measured in death, misery and
degradation for millions of kids because this world that could organise a
force against terrorism couldn't provide them with clean water.'
(Deputy Prime Minister,
John Prescott)

There's an even more important connection between terrorism and sustainable
development: in many parts of the Middle East, the kind of 'nothing to lose'
despair brought on by chronic poverty, a degraded environment and the
oppression of human rights, provides an all too fertile seed bed for the
cultivators of terror.

Whilst many European leaders now understand the impact of such linkages, the
US Administration remains intransigently hostile to looking at anything other
than the symptoms of such problems - as demonstrated so often and so
destructively in the positions it took in Johannesburg.

Any 'war on terror' cannot be pursued in isolation. Securing genuinely
sustainable development is a precondition of achieving peace and security. By
the same token applying basic standards of social and environmental justice to
decisions in the global economy is not some fad for fans of fair trade: it's one
of the best insurance policies we have against extremist fanatics.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute we can pay to the victims of 9/11 is to
rededicate our own lives to eliminating the kind of economic, cultural and
religious divides of which terrorism so hungrily feeds.

Notes for editors:

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) is the Government's independent
sustainable development advisor, reporting to Tony Blair and the devolved
administration leaders. www.sd-commission.org.uk

SDC's remit is to advocate sustainable development across all sectors in the UK,
review progress towards it, and build consensus on the actions needed for further
progress. SDC is currently working in the areas of climate change, energy policy,
food, health and agriculture, and regeneration.

Sustainable development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to
enable everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life, while
ensuring that the natural resources upon which they depend are maintained and
enhanced, both for their benefit and for that of future generations.

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