Two UN agencies call for fundamental changes by governments to save environment

In a bid to arrest the accelerating deterioration of the environment and to address the crisis of global poverty, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, and the World Resources Institute, issued a new report that urges governments to include the public in decisions that affect ecosystems and to integrate environmental impacts into economic decision-making.The report, “World Resources 2002-2004: Decisions for the Earth: Balance, Voice, and Power,” also identifies public access to information from governments, business, and non-governmental organizations as a necessary precursor to improved environmental performance.”Governments, businesses, civil society and the individual citizen are more aware of what needs to be done and are certainly taking action. But, as evidenced by the continued erosion and collapse of so many of the planet’s life support systems, it is not nearly enough and more concerted, focused, action is urgently needed,” UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said.The best way to force government action is to empower citizens to demand it through increased public access to information, participation, and justice in environmental decision-making, the report states. When constituencies for the environment and for the poor have a seat at the table, the resulting decisions are more likely to promote ecological sustainability, social equity, and lasting conflict resolution.”It is a central tenet of UNDP’s work to strengthen the voices of civil society, in particularly the poor and the marginalized in shaping the policies that impact their livelihoods and the environment,” UNDP Executive Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said.The report indicates an overwhelming human dependence on rapidly deteriorating ecosystems. Some 350 million people are directly dependent on forests for their survival, yet global forest cover has declined by 46 per cent since pre-agricultural times. Nearly 41 of every 100 people live in water-stressed river basins, it notes.The report is the 10th in a biennial series published since 1984.

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