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  FEATURE STORY

New UN Report Highlights Urgent Need to Address Damaging Trends


Critical Trends Report
Critical Trends Report
Global Challenge, Global Opportunity


New York, 13 August— If current patterns of development continue, nearly half of the world's people will suffer from water shortages within the next 25 years, the use of fossil fuels, along with greenhouse gas emissions, will grow, and the world's forests will continue to disappear, according to a new United Nations report issued today by the Secretariat for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development.

With projections indicating that the world's population will grow by about two billion people by 2025, the new report, Global Challenge, Global Opportunity, underscores the need for greatly increased efforts to support sustainable development to better manage global resources in a rapidly changing world.

"These problems are urgent and must be addressed now," according to Nitin Desai, Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General. "We have to change, from the present model of development to sustainable development or else we risk further jeopardizing human security everywhere."

According to the report, air pollution kills three million people a year, 300 million suffer from malaria, 1 billion lack access to clean water and 2 billion lack access to proper sanitation facilities. There are over 2.5 billion people who depend on fuelwood for cooking and heating-a major cause of indoor air pollution—and people in developed countries are using up to 10 times as much fossil fuel as people in developing countries.

Agricultural production is expanding to feed more mouths, yet this expansion has heavily contributed to deforestation, and further expansion is limited by a lack of freshwater resources.

Not all the news is bad, however. The report also points to promising trends, such as the decline in the rate of population growth, which often means smaller families and a greater investment in children's education, nutrition and health care. Income poverty is declining in Asia and Latin America, and hunger is slowly declining in all regions. The standard of living in many Asian countries is slowly catching up with developed countries.

Desai said the purpose of this new report was to provide background information on the key issues that will dominate the World Summit on Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September. The Summit is expected to result in a new global implementation plan to accelerate sustainable development, as well as the launch of a series of innovative partnerships to promote sustainability.

Many of the world's political, business and non-government leaders, including over 100 presidents and prime ministers, have indicated that they will participate in the Summit, a fact, Desai said, shows "that they are sufficiently committed to come to the Summit and make a difference."

Among the Summit's objectives, Desai, said, was to get the world to undertake sustainable development projects on a grand scale. "We have seen many highly innovative small scale initiatives, but we need to go to scale if we are going to really benefit from sustainable development."

He also said the Summit must make it clear that many problems, and their solutions, are connected. "If you want to improve children's health, you can't do it unless you also address problems of water and sanitation," he said. Likewise, recent news of the Asian Brown Cloud, a three kilometer thick layer of haze over much of South and Southeast Asia, he said, was a problem that must be addressed on many levels, including energy .

Desai said that 75 per cent of the Summit's implementation plan had been agreed upon, including several highly substantive commitments on water and sanitation, energy, natural disaster mitigation, and production and consumption. He was confident that the remaining differences would be reconciled quickly.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the Summit to focus on actions that address water and sanitation, energy, health, agricultural productivity, and biodiversity and the protection of ecosystems. "These are five areas," he said, "in which progress would offer all human beings a chance of achieving prosperity that will not only last their own lifetime, but can be enjoyed by their children and grandchildren too."



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24 August 2006