Press release
Ministry of the Environment
8.3.2002

Women leaders' environmental meeting discusses globalisation and poverty

The Meeting of Women Leaders on the Environment in Helsinki, Finland, on March 7-8, assembles 20 women Ministers of the Environment and 40 other important environment leaders. The main themes of this meeting are globalisation and poverty, especially with a view to the environment and women. The meeting will present proposals for action which will be discussed during the preparation for the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September. The Summit agenda will be worked out after numerous preparatory meetings, by June this year.

The meeting is chaired by Ms. Satu Hassi, Finland's Minister of the Environment and of Development Cooperation, and co-chaired by her South African colleague, Ms. Rejoice Mabudafhas. Dr. Massoumeh Ebtekar, Vice President of Iran, and the President of the Republic of Finland, Ms. Tarja Halonen, also attend the Meeting of Women Leaders on the Environment.

During Thursday morning, the participants have discussed the importance of globalisation for the environment and the developing countries, in particular women in these countries. In her keynote speech, OECD Director for Environment Ms. Joke Waller-Hunter statedthat globalisation may, under certain conditions, even promote sustainable development. A precondition is that the developing countries are supported to build up the required administration, that there is an integrated leadership in environmental and social issues, that public administration and the private sector work together, and that there is sufficient support for the civic society. Among the new opportunities Ms. Waller-Hunter mentioned the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms, and of these, the opening of a global carbon dioxide market, the clean technology mechanism in developing countries, and the importance of agricultural lands used as carbon dioxide sinks.

EU Environment Commissioner Ms. Margot Wallström stressed the importance of Agenda 21, agreed in Rio de Janeiro ten years ago. So far, implementation has not been rapid enough. She said women have a key role in ensuring that the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development succeeds. This meeting, says Ms. Wallström, should work as an "alarm clock" for the implementation of globally agreed environmental targets. The world leaders should, at the September meeting, specially focus on energy and water (the sufficiency of world water resources and of energy resources, and their safety), health, especially improved health for children in developing countries, and the alleviation of the problems in Africa (the Africa initiative).

The keynote speech of Dr. Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, discussed a more equitable utilisation of natural resources. She said that biological diversity is the very groundwork of all human wellbeing. Loss of biodiversity is not only an environmental problem, but an economic and political one as well: it is one of the main factors causing poverty, social inequality and violence, especially in developing countries.

The afternoon will be devoted to new issues. The main theme is poverty, which is, together with the growing populations, a main reason for the environmental problems in developing countries. The afternoon keynote speakers are Iranian Vice President Dr. Massoumeh Ebtekar, Director Kristalina Georgieva from the World Bank Environment Department, and Ms. Ana Maria Majano, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador. The issues comprise women's rights to natural resources, enhanced participation of the poor in the sustainable use of the environment, and social and gender equality in environmental matters.

The Meeting of Women Leaders on the Environment is hosted by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and organised in cooperation with the Council of Women World Leaders at Harvard University and with the IUCN - The World Conservation Union.

The press conference can be heard over the Internet as a real audio broadcast after 1.30 p.m. under the address: http://formin.finland.fi/broadcast/viewFeed.asp?broadcastid=22

For additional information please contact
Ms. Taina Pieski, Assistant Director, Information
Phone (09) 1991 9615

Ms. Siv Dahlin Jansson, Director General, Information
Phone (09) 1991 9308