Speech

The Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen’s opening remarks at the OECD-meeting concerning Sustainable Development Paris 17 May 2001

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

I am delighted to welcome you to this session of the Ministerial Council Meeting. As you know, my Foreign Minister, Mogens Lykketoft, chaired the first part of the meeting yesterday. I have noted with satisfaction, that progress was achieved on trade issues and in our dialogue with some key non-members.

This morning we must tackle Sustainable Development. This joint session is a rare, if not unique opportunity for Economic and Finance Ministers and those with environmental responsibilities, to participate together in an extended discussion on how to close the gap between our shared economic, social and environmental policy goals and our action.

Allow me to open our discussion:

Economic development, social progress and environmental protection should be mutually supportive. That is why it is necessary to approach policy-making in these three areas from an integrated perspective, including the full participation of the private sector. With comprehensive strategies, carried out through well-designed and coherent policies, they can reinforce each other and thereby enhance human welfare and quality of life on a sustainable basis.

The long-term sustainability of economic growth itself depends on maintaining basic ecosystems services, a healthy environment and cohesive societies. As pointed out in the policy report a key challenge is to de-couple a range of environmental pressures from economic growth.

Therefore I see the work that the OECD has carried out for the last three years as very important for Sustainable Development.

We all agree that there is an urgent need for addressing a range of problems on a global scale – problems like climate change, freshwater resources, biodiversity, pollution and deprivation together with poverty eradication.

The social challenges of sustainable development are equally demanding. Countries need to address problems related to poverty, environmental impacts on health, social exclusion and the consequences of aging populations. Investments in social and environmental outcomes are often complementary.

For example, improving social conditions provides greater scope for trading off short-term economic benefits for long-term environmental gains. Providing equal opportunities for education, training and health care, and developing well-functioning labor markets, are essential means for developing such a society.

These very important matters are not fully integrated into the OECD strategy. But I believe its time to act in our OECD-co-operation. Our common knowledge and understanding of the facts and necessity to act on sustainable growth is there. I therefore urge these considerations to be included in the next stages of the OECD work on sustainable development.

The OECD countries have a special responsibility. We have the resources and the capacities to turn the development in the right direction. We have to show that it is possible to provide the resource efficiency needed to bring our production and consumption patterns in line with sustainable development.

The Secretary General of the OECD has provided us with a thorough report on sustainable development. However, the follow-up is important. We have to define the role of the OECD. Today we should ask the OECD to continue its work on sustainable development by presenting indicators that can support the member countries in achieving sustainable development and de-coupling. The measurement of sustainable development and de-coupling should be presented in conjunction with the economic analyses of the OECD. This is essentially about the fundamental integration of economic policies and environmental policies.

A substantial increase in our resource and energy efficiency and a corresponding lowering of our overall pressure on the environment is one of the signs of our commitments to sustainable development that the world is looking for.

We should seize this unique opportunity to present at the World Summit meeting in Johannesburg next year a set of indicators to measure sustainable development and de-coupling. These indicators will show the political commitment of the rich countries to measure progress in their own countries.

We have to start to consider what could be the outcome of Johannesburg. A result, A Global Deal on Sustainable Development must be based on common but differentiated responsibilities. A deal should include agreement on how all countries, rich and poor proceed towards Sustainable Development. An essential element in a Global Deal from our side could be the indicators. I suggest that we, Governments of the OECD countries, call upon all countries to contribute to a Global Deal in the further preparation of Johannesburg. We must aim at a result that will secure our common future.