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Indonesian Forum Explores Business Opportunities in Sustainable Development

5 September 2001, Jakarta-Sustainable development can be friendly not only to people and the environment, but also to the bottom line, according to representatives from business, chambers of commerce, and non-governmental organizations from south-east Asia who met in Jakarta to discuss business opportunities, partnerships and strategies as part of preparations for next year's World Summit for Sustainable Development that will be held in Johannesburg.

The meeting was organized by the Indonesian government to help marshal support in the region for initiatives that can promote sustainable development. Among the 110 participants were representatives of Toyota, Unilever, and KADIN, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.

In opening the meeting, Indonesian Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim said that partnerships between business, NGOs and the government have helped raise awareness of sustainable development in the wake of the economic problems caused by the Asian financial crisis. These economic problems, he said, have fed into poverty-related social problems and continuing environmental degradation.

"We have to fight a wrong perception," according to Ngurah Swajaya, First Secretary at the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations. "Sustainable development is not a burden, but it is an opportunity to further development. It will help business gain large benefits."

With globalization and privatization making deep inroads in the ability of governments alone to deliver on-the-ground implementation of initiatives, more countries are looking to the private sector and other sectors of civil society to achieve public objectives.

The purpose of the Forum, Swajaya said, was to highlight the idea that sustainable development meant business opportunities, and to find methods for forging lasting partnerships between business and other major groups in order to implement Agenda 21, the definitive plan for sustainable development that was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

The recommendations from the Jakarta forum will be reported to the regional preparatory meeting for Asia and the Pacific for the Johannesburg Summit, to be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, at the end of November. Swajaya said the hope was that at least one or two regional mechanisms could be developed during the Johannesburg process that could address environment and development problems in the region. Although still early in the planning stage, Swajaya said possible efforts could include an initiative to overcome the problem of transboundary haze that results from forest fires, efforts to address ways to exchange information regarding cleaner energy for sustainable development, urban planning for sustainable development and better management of marine resources. According to Swajaya, the Business Forum was significant because it marked the first time such an initiative was undertaken by a developing country.

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24 August 2006