First of all, I would like to thank all of you for coming to the launch of this important publication, World Resources 2002-2004: Decisions for the Earth � Balance, Voice and Power. This is the tenth in a series of biennial reports on key aspects of environmental management, this time focusing on the issue of governance. The document echoes and reinforces many of the themes and recommendations of last September�s very successful World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, as well as of the landmark United Nations Conference on Environment and Development ten years earlier in Rio de Janeiro and other major international meetings over the past several decades.
I would also like to thank and congratulate our partners, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environmental Programme for their contributions and, especially, the World Resources Institute for its leadership in this ongoing initiative, with which the World Bank has had the opportunity to collaborate since 1988. From the Bank�s perspective, given our mission to combat poverty and promote sustainable development, together with the commitment we share with UNDP, UNEP, WRI and other agencies to help our client countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, this publication is very timely and relevant. The poor are particularly harmed by environmental degradation and their empowerment through improved access to information and other means is essential to enable governments and civil society to deal more effectively with the problems and social costs associated with the misuse of natural resources and ecosystems and to ensure the future of the planet.
World Resources 2002-2004 likewise further elaborates many of the conclusions and recommendations contained in several recent World Bank “flagship” documents, including the World Development Report (WDR) for 2003 entitled “Sustainable Development in a Dynamic World: Transforming Institutions, Growth and Quality of Life,” published last summer and prepared as a contribution to the Johannesburg Summit, and Greening Industry: New Roles for Communities, Markets and Governments, released in 2000. Its messages are also fully consistent with the philosophy that underlies the Bank�s first ever explicit environment strategy entitled Making Sustainable Commitments, launched in 2001.
The 2003 WDR, for example, affirms that misguided policies and weak governance in past decades have contributed to environmental disasters, income inequality and social upheaval in some countries, while many poor people continue to depend on fragile natural resources in order to survive. As a result, development policies need to be more sharply focused on protecting natural and social assets and new alliances are needed at the local, national and global levels to better address these problems. In addition, according to the WDR, governments in the developing world must become more accountable and transparent and ensure that poor people are able to obtain secure land tenure, as well as access to education, health care and other basic services. Perhaps most importantly however, as World Resources 2002-2004 also stresses, poor people must have a greater say in the processes that shape their lives and determine the quality and fate of the natural systems on which they often closely depend. For this to occur, decisions need to be taken in an inclusive and participatory manner that recognizes the views of poor people while at the same time providing them with greater control over their own resources.
Greening Industry, in turn, emphasizes the power of public information, ideally in combination with both market-based and traditional regulatory mechanisms, in controlling pollution. Based on experience in Indonesia and elsewhere, this report observes that, since the poor are less able to protect themselves from industrial (and other sources of) environmental contamination, their communities particularly value public information that tells them which companies pollute and the impact of these discharges on public health. This is especially important where local enforcement agencies are weak. In such situations, public disclosure of inadequate environmental performance can, in and of itself, serve as a major positive force for change.
The Bank�s recent environment strategy, finally, which focuses heavily on environment-poverty linkages, highlights several key objectives: enhancing natural resource and ecosystem-based livelihoods; preventing and reducing environmental health risks; reducing people�s vulnerability to environmental hazards, ranging from natural disasters to the potential impact of climate change; supporting the policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks for sustainable environmental management; supporting sustainable private sector development; and protecting the quality of the regional and global commons. Enhanced citizen participation in public sector decision-making and better access to environmental information are essential to the achievement of these objectives.
World Resources 2002-2004 provides many examples as to how improved environmental governance � decisions taken with greater transparency, stakeholder participation and public accountability � can and does contribute to more desirable environmental (and social) outcomes. It also alerts us to the implications – again with the poor in developing countries being those most at risk – of failing to make substantial progress in the decades ahead, and reminds us of our shared responsibilities. As the Foreword to this very rich and informative document, signed by the heads of all four participating agencies, concludes:
We recognize the urgency imposed by the Millennium Development Goals �. including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability. We affirm our conviction that these human and environmental goals must be integrated, just as people and ecosystems are woven together in the web of life. We cannot alleviate poverty over the long term without managing ecosystems sustainably. Nor can we protect ecosystems from abuse without holding those with wealth and power accountable for their actions, and recognizing the legitimate needs of the poor and dispossessed. This is the balance we must strike in all of our decisions for the Earth.