Calls for World Leaders to Close


by Alison Raphael

January 11, 2002

Pressure on the environment and growing disparities between rich and poor people are threatening global stability at least as much as terrorism, according to a new report released Thursday by a Washington D.C.-based think-tank.

In the report, "State of the World 2002", the Worldwatch Institute --which monitors global progress on issues such as climate change, population, farming, and pollution--urged world leaders to take stronger steps to close equality gaps as a means of increasing security around the world.

According to Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin, the September 11 attacks on the United States were "powerful reminders that the ecological instability of today's world is matched by an instability in human affairs that must be urgently addressed."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a foreword to the study, called on world leaders to recognize that "the perilous state of our world is an object of genuine, urgent concern." He said they must strike a more "sustainable balance between nature and the human economy," when they meet in Johannesburg, South Africa, this September for a major UN development summit.

Current policies such as the low priority assigned to environmental issues, a decrease in foreign aid, and an increase in indebtedness among developing nations are jeopardizing global stability, as poorer countries are prevented from tackling problems such as the spread of HIV, unsafe drinking water, unequal land distribution, and illiteracy among women.

The failure of the world's nations to live up to environmental promises made 10 years ago at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, can be measured by the nine percent increase in global carbon dioxide emissions, the 17 percent increase in damage to coral reefs, and the inability of the international community to reach agreement on the Kyoto Protocol - a treaty aimed at cutting the "greenhouse gases" shown to fuel global warming.

To redress these trends, the report suggests a set of "sustainability goals" for heads of state attending the Johannesburg development summit, which has been nicknamed Rio+10.

Enforcing the Kyoto Protocol and convincing the U.S. to adopt it would represent a crucial step forward, the report says. Another step would be a commitment to reward farmers who avoid harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and a tax or other penalty on those who do not.

The report also recommends phasing out leaded gasoline, funding research on safe waste-disposal methods, and ratifying three major treaties aimed at reducing toxic substances.

Worldwatch urges funding increases for reproductive healthcare and support of the right to education for women as antidotes to unchecked population growth, one of the main factors placing pressure on the Earth's natural resources.

Addressing the conflicts which erupt in poor countries with large quantities of non-renewable resources, the report advises world leaders to agree on certification systems discouraging illegal trade, and to support stronger monitoring and enforcement by the UN.

Other recommendations include more intensive partnerships between governments, civil society groups, and businesses to work towards achieving urgent global goals and exerting control over tourism to protect people, cultural heritage, and the environment.

More Information on Inequality of Wealth and Income Distribution

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