Top US official at Johannesburg calls sustainable development a security imperative

Colin Powell, US Secretary of State and head of the US delegation at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), has stated that sustainable development is a compelling moral and humanitarian issue.

Writing in a special edition of Our Planet magazine dedicated to the Summit, and to be handed out to attending world leaders, Powell states that sustainable development is also a security imperative. “Poverty, environmental degradation and despair are destroyers – of people, of societies, of nations. This unholy trinity can destabilise countries, even entire regions,” he said.

However, there is real cause for optimism, he states. “Despite the stories and images of trouble we read in the newspapers and view on our television screens, this is a time of great opportunities to expand peace, prosperity and freedom. The spread of democracy and market economies, combined with breakthroughs in technology, permits us to dream of a day when, for the first time in history, most of humanity will be free of the ravages of tyranny and poverty,” he says.

Other leading figures writing in the magazine include UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer who argues that failure at Johannesburg cannot be contemplated as the risks are too great. “Unless a new course is chartered for planet Earth we risk a new ‘Iron Curtain’, dividing not East and West, but the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, with all the ramifications of increased tensions, jealousies and hatreds between and within countries.”

Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, the host country for the Summit, notes the need for resource efficiency. “If the Chinese citizen is to consume the same quantity of crude oil as his or her United States counterpart, China would need over 80 million barrels of oil a day – slightly more than the 74 million barrels a day the world now produces,” he observes.

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