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Second Committee of the 50th General Assembly

Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Sustainable Development and International Economic Cooperation, Human Settlement and HABITATNew York, November 15, 1995 Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentNew York, October 30, 1995 Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky,

  • Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Sustainable Development and International Economic Cooperation, Human Settlement and HABITAT
    New York, November 15, 1995

  • Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Environment and Sustainable Development
    New York, October 30, 1995

  • Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Agenda for Development
    New York, October 19, 1995

  • Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Macroeconomic Policy Questions
    New York, October 18, 1995

Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Sustainable Development and International Economic Cooperation, Human Settlement and HABITAT

Mr. Chairman,

The development of human settlements and problems of the housing sector are complex. They have economic, social and environmental dimensions and are closely related to issues such as population growth and migration, poverty alleviation, health care, sanitation and sound environmental management, land-use and urban planning etc. Besides, they strongly affect various aspects of public-private relations and often turn into hot political potatoes. General prerequisites for tackling these problems include good governance, appropriate institutional and legal environment, prudent and stable macroeconomic policies, etc.

Obviously, most human-settlement development problems should be dealt with at the local and national level where the most efficient solutions can be found. National governments and local authorities must be the main policy-shaping and guiding forces in this respect, though not necessarily the main actors. Nevertheless, there is a large domain where international cooperation and assistance can be of considerable importance, even irreplaceable, like disaster relief and other emergencies.

We welcome the attention paid to HABITAT issues during this GA session. We consider it very appropriate for the GA to regularly review the main HABITAT-related activities including the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 and the preparations for HABITAT II. However, when reviewing the results of the UN activities in the area of housing and settlement development, we have mixed feelings. Today we see that expectations raised by the Vancouver conference in 1976 were exaggerated and that some other agreed-upon bold objectives fall beyond the reach of international community. One may well be critical of the performance of UNCHS and of the Centre in Nairobi but a part of the responsibility is with the governments' lack of political will and limited support.

We should therefore be careful and very realistic in preparation of HABITAT II. There are at least two potential risks for this conference:

(a)an effort to give the agenda the highest possible profile, i.e., to formulate too far- reaching goals which - even if adopted - would hardly be implemented. Setting modest but realistic and well-targeted objectives would serve the purpose much better.

(b)timing, at the end of the current series of global UN conferences. These conferences have become less popular than they were few years ago and the messages they produce get blurred. However, this should not be a reason for a priori undervaluing the HABITAT II.

My delegation thinks the HABITAT II preparations are going in the right direction. The conference agenda and related documents, as they are being developed, give an impression of conscientious work, neatly assembling all relevant features. However, negotiations of such crucial elements like institutional arrangements and commitments are yet to be completed. We hope that our discussion here will also contribute to the adoption of a strong, focussed, well-balanced and realistic document in Istanbul.

Mr. Chairman,

In the period of transition which my country - and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe - is undergoing, housing and urban problems have proven to rank among the very difficult ones. The partial withdrawal of the state from supporting housing construction (which has resulted in the sharp decrease in the housing provision), privatization of the housing stock, introduction of a market with land and gradual introduction of a housing market, new aspects of city planning - all these factors render this sector very sensitive.

It is also why the Czech Republic seeks international cooperation in this sector. We appreciate opportunities provided by the UN and other bodies in areas such as exchange of information and experience, training or direct participation in implementation of specific projects. We look for cooperation and assistance, but we are also increasingly prepared to provide support and to offer our experience.

To date we have been active in this area mainly at the regional level - in the Committee on Human Settlements of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. I take this opportunity to praise the UN ECE for paying attention to these issues. The regional level is the natural platform for the international coverage of settlement/housing issues (when discussing and comparing, for instance, housing policies, measures for sustainable development of settlements, urban renewal measures, etc.) and a strong point of departure for the global debate. The reports of regional commissions will, no doubt, be among the most valuable contributions to HABITAT II.

Mr. Chairman,

The Czech Republic, interested to contribute further to the international debate on housing and settlement development, was elected to the UN Commission on Human Settlement and our membership will commence in January 1996, the year of HABITAT II. Accordingly, we want to be active in the preparatory process for this Conference. In view of this the Czech Republic has recently pledged, for the first time ever, a voluntary contribution to support HABITAT II activities.

Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Agenda Item 96: Environment and Sustainable Development

Mr. Chairman,

despite all the hardship accompanying the recent transition processes in my country, the environmental issues and problems have not been lost of sight. Obviously, not all the burden of the past environmental damage could have already been remedied. There are even new environmental risks resulting, for instance, from large-scale changes of ownership, from yet rather limited capacities to enforce fully the environmental legislation etc. However, there is encouraging evidence of gradual improvement in this sphere.

Mr. Chairman,

the Czech Republic is supposed to join the OECD soon. This fact underlines the necessity to harmonize some of our basic environmental regulations and standards with those of the OECD countries. We have already triggered the process of harmonization of our environmental laws and standards with the European Union. Our gradual approaching EU and OECD is paralleled by our growing sensitivity to the issues of environment and sustainable development. The latest in this direction is the Government´s decision to adopt the comprehensive strategic document - the State Environmental Policy, which is comparable to similar documents in other developed countries. Within the general principles of this document there is a clear reference to major global activities in the area of environmental protection and sustainability.

My delegation is speaking about the agenda item "Environment and Sustainable Development" within the context of the above mentioned development. My country strives to be more involved in the international endeavour to tackle the global, regional and transboundary environmental problems. We want to take part in the appropriate activities of relevant international bodies. We note with satisfaction that most of these international agencies are increasingly aware of the urgent issues of environment protection and sustainable development, specifically UNDP, the World Bank and others.

On the other hand, Mr. Chairman, we are somewhat concerned as regards the current development in a number of multilateral bodies including, for example, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It looks like these bodies are under more or less strong pressure - a pressure undermining full exploration of their potentials as well as the possibilities to proceed with the reform steps. Mr. Chairman, we appreciate the work carried out by UNEP so far and we strongly hope that UNEP will receive enough support in its effort without sacrifying important activities because of budgetary restrains. We are not blindly uncritical supporters of UNEP or other international agencies and we stress that the improvement of its or their performance is possible and necessary. We see distinctive signals of positive trends in the work of UNEP. Indeed, the Czech Republic seeks to extend its cooperation with UNEP and to be more active in shaping its activities and reform efforts. Our attitude towards environment protection and sustainable development resulted in presenting our candidature to the UNEP Governing Council. More importantly, it has also resulted in modest augmentation of our voluntary contribution to the Environmental Fund.

Mr. Chairman,

finally, let me turn to the question of UNCED´s follow-up in general and to the work of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development in particular. I underline firm opinion of my delegation that the Commission for Sustainable Development has an utmostly important role to play in reviewing and coordinating the follow-up activities of the Rio Conference. Its mandate is not easy to fulfil, especially as the message from Rio (and the very concept of sustainable development) has to compete with other burning issues and problems stemming from the subsequent global UN conferences. The Commission's work might be somehow less visible nowadays, but it is going in the right direction. We strongly support the following priority concerns: economic and financial instruments and mechanisms for environmentally sustainable development, trade and environment relations, production and consumption patterns and transfer of environmentally sound technologies. We welcome all the symptoms of progress achieved in sectoral issues, in particular the establishment of the panel on forests. Naturally, education and public awareness of the issues of sustainable development are among the key problems the CSD should deal with.

We note with appreciation that the CSD commission approved the detailed work programme on the further development of the indicators of sustainable development. We have been actively involved in this task and we will continue in it. We especially appreciate the work done by the SCOPE programme in this respect and we fully support its continuation. We are of the opinion that the inter-sessional activities of the CSD belongs to the under-depleted features of the CSD's work. These activities, if encouraged and well coordinated, may refresh and inspire the work of the Commission, directly involve greater number of governments in such activities and provide substantial inputs to the CSD's agenda as well as to addressing crucial elements of sustainability.

Such a challenge has already got a strong response from our side. The Government of the Czech Republic contributed to the preparation of the 3rd substantive session of the CSD by organizing the Workshop on Economic Instrument for Sustainable Development. The workshop took place in Prague in January 1995 and we believe that the proceedings of this meeting represent a benchmark text in the field of economic instruments in environmental protection and achieving sustainability.

Mr. Chairman,

at the 3rd session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development earlier this year the Czech Republic announced another initiative. In cooperation with UNESCO and the UN DPCSD, the Czech Republic will sponsor and organize Workshop on Education and Public Awareness for Sustainable Development on expert level in Prague in December 1995. This workshop is intended to provide input to the in-depth review of Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 ("Education, Public Awareness, and Training") during the 1996 session of the CSD. We are confident that the results of this workshop will contribute substantially to a progress in this rather neglected field of the CSD's work and that in general, it will help to outline a work programme for the implementation of Chapter 36 of the Agenda 21.

Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Agenda Item 99: Agenda for Development

Mr. Chairman,

The Czech Government monitors with considerable interest the implementation of the GA resolution 47/181 on the Agenda for Development and appreciates the progress achieved so far. The elaboration and adoption of such a fundamental document reflecting new realities of the world and paving a way for a reformed UN in the economic and social area, is one of the most crucial tasks for the United Nations in 1990s.

Indeed, the World has changed dramatically during recent years. New opportunities as well as unprecedented problems have emerged. The end of the Cold War era shed a new light on global geopolitical and security issues. With the ongoing globalization of economy and internationalization of trade, the world is more interdependent than ever before. Consequently, more and more problems and issues compete for global attention, be they local conflicts and wars, social emergencies, natural hazards or environmental damages - to mention just few.

We have also witnessed growing diversity among countries and their groups. Hardly any of the conventional geographically-based group of countries can nowadays be considered as a homogenous bloc. There are diverging development trends in the countries of Asia, Africa or Latin America as well as within the group of countries with economies in transition. Some of the developing countries in the South are more developed than some countries in the North, while many others (for example in Africa) cannot get out of troubled waters.

The "new realities" of the last decade of the 20th century call for genuinely innovative approaches to conceiving, structuring and coordinating the multilateral agenda. They call for a new conceptual frame of development-oriented activities and for a fresh look at the UN´s "development mandate" itself. In our view, the recent work on the Agenda for Development adequately reflects on this new stage setting and rises hopes for generating such a frame.

The "synthesis paper", elaborated by the Secretariat and scrutinized by the ad-hoc Working Group, is really a good working paper. The "setting" is well described and one can hardly disagree with the "objectives". The "policy framework" encompasses all the major relevant to development features and problems in a concise and sophisticated manner. The document also indicates steps to be taken in future. Yet, the main merit of the text is in putting various pieces together: it is a good description and a good diagnosis. As soon as it comes to the "means of implementation", one feels where the "least common denominator" is. This segment of the report should be given more prominent position within the overall structure of the text (not just appended to the Section II). Perhaps it should be relocated to the Section III and reconsidered. One would wish it is there and touching upon such sensitive issues like institutional reforms, where the diagnostic approach would give way to a clear indication of therapy.

Mr. Chairman

it is our firm belief that the full "synthesis" text of Agenda for Development should be completed without any delay. The text should become a launching pad for far-reaching reforms within the UN system. The new comprehensive vision of multilateral development cooperation and partnership must be accompanied by a vision of institutional reforms and means of implementation. We need a vision of action which would guarantee human-centered development and which would create "conducive environment" for it to take place. The Agenda for Development must outline clear priorities and define tangible objectives. The Agenda should also embrace potential development capacities and resources and trigger concrete, possibly also new activities. Admittedly, this will be very difficult to achieve. It is unlikely that this can be achieved at once. The Agenda therefore must be an open and flexible document, not just a static snapshot of a single moment in history.

We should not forget all the reform proposals referenced so far in relation to the Agenda for Development. They should be studied and elaborated further. The reform and revitalization of ECOSOC is first in line. ECOSOC should become the genuinely supreme steering body for all UN-based development programmes. ECOSOC should also facilitate achieving synergy of different UN bodies involved in development issues as well as the coherent implementation of major UN conference recommendations. ECOSOC should produce strong policy guidance with respect to other measures promoting development. We are confident that the new development challenges can be better and more efficiently addressed under the leadership of ECOSOC rather than through new global conferences. Within ECOSOC itself there is number of opportunities for streamlining and more efficient arrangement and management. Furthermore, my delegation is also of the opinion that regional commissions have an important role to play. However, the most crucial challenge for development strategy lies in systemic upgrading the cooperation and coordination of development effort with the World Bank, IMF and WTO, including a new fair division of labour and responsibilities among these organizations and all UN bodies.

Mr. Chairman

The Czech Republic belongs to the countries referenced as "countries in transition". Indeed, profound transformational changes have taken place recently in my country . After some rather hard times the Czech Republic is now entering, what we call, the post-transformation stage of development. The transition period has been successful - also because of support and assistance of our friends for which we are very grateful. The Czech Republic is now about to join the OECD and is striving for EU membership. This new position will imply number of new obligations and we will gradually assume our appropriate share of responsibility for global development. The first steps in this direction were taken earlier this year when the Czech Government approved a concept of foreign development assistance. The Czech Republic will gradually ceases receiving the external assistance and graduate into a position of "emerging donor country". We will play a more active role in the overall development setting and we want to increase our cooperation with developing countries. Our active participation in the UN bodies and organs, including ECOSOC, towards which we will seek election, facilitates us to meet our share of responsibility.

Mr. Chairman,

We hope firmly that our deliberation will result in a clear guidance for completion of the Agenda for Development, which is to be a basic strategy document for the future role of the UN in the economic and social area.

Statement by Mr. Karel Zebrakovsky, Agenda Item 94: Macroeconomic Policy Questions

Mr. Chairman,

first of all let me congratulate you on your having been elected to the chair of our committee. I wish you every success in your work and I am confident that under your chairmanship we shall make our work not only productive and efficient, but also intellectually and emotionally rewarding for all of us. Please, extend also my congratulation to all member of the bureau.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to associate myself with the statement of the EU which we heard yesterday. In addition I would like to shed light on some specific experience of my country in the area of macroeconomic policy issues which I would like to share here with you.

There were few very principal elements of the profound economic and political transformation in my country, such as privatization, liberalization of prices and foreign trade, adherence to democratic principles etc. Privatization in the Czech Republic has been largely completed. This fact contributes to the view that the Czech Republic is entering a post-transformation phase of development. A total of 1432 state-owned enterprises valued at about CZK 540 billion were transformed into joint stock companies under this scheme. As for the macroeconomic indicators, the Czech Republic´s GDP growth is estimated at 4.2 % for this year and the forecast for the next year is about 4.8%. It is a country with a balanced state budget (in 1994 the budget surplus exceeded CZK 10 billion), with annual inflation rate about 10% and about 3% unemployment rate. The consistent restrictive budget policy has successfully prevented the rise of an inflationary spiral while the macroeconomic indicators clearly show that the Czech economy has taken off and economic revival has begun.

Liberalization of foreign trade was a principal feature of economic transformation. The Czech Republic opened its market fully to the world and is now one of the world´s most liberal countries. Opening of the Czech economy and liberalization of foreign trade is in line with the conclusions of the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiation. The Czech Republic identifies itself with the WTO principles. Obviously, its integration into the global economy also requires adoption of appropriate legislation, such as tax laws, a commercial code, property regulations and many others. In this respect the most significant law, which has recently been adopted, is the amendment to the Foreign Exchange Act. It will allow full convertibility of the Czech currency, in full compliance with the IMF Article 8.

A sensitive and well planned social policy aimed at maintaining political and social consensus plays a crucial role. It is naturally a task of a government to strive for global balance between economic and social developments in order to achieve the rapid sustainable economic development whilst maximazing the competitive advantages of a nation. In some countries, economic reforms have been accompanied by social tensions and political conflicts. By contrast, political and social consensus have constituted a firm basis for the transformation in my country.

The biggest challenge of the Czech Republic in social policy has been to shield from the impact of adverse consequences of economic transformation. The aim of the government has been to build solid grounds for an equitable social system - equitable for all citizens of the Czech Republic. One basic instrument is an emergency social network which guarantees protection during unemployment, pursues an active employment policy and protects groups most affected by the economic changes, particularly pensioners and families with children. Certain social measures benefiting both these groups have already been adopted - pensions are being adjusted to inflation, the family allowances are differentiated according to the social status of the family etc. These measures provide needed social security for citizens and facilitate economic tranformation in an atmosphere of relative social peace, without tensions, commotion and upheavals.

An efficient, well thought out and properly managed education system is another basic condition for social development and prosperity. A suitable blend of financial arrangements and incentives, both state-provided and private, is needed to guarantee both the availability of high-quality education and job training for the population and effectiveness of resource utilization. Health care policy is an area which has not been resolved to our full satisfaction yet. The health care sector is also earmarked for privatization, but the process has not yet been completed and several sticky issues have yet to be resolved.

Mr. Chairman,

So much for a brief account of our experience with transformation processes affecting macroeconomic policy. The fundamental preconditions for social, political and economic reform, as we have learned so far, are surprisingly simple and obvious - adherence to democratic principles, courageous but prudent economic reform, massive privatization, sensitive social policy and respect to human rights etc. Democratic government, good governance and full compliance with human- rights principles must be at the core of the political dimension of transformation, whilst economic transformation must be geared towards the implementation of free market principles. These - in our opinion - are the "classical" attributes of democratic countries which today include the Czech Republic, and the attributes of economically highly developed countries whose we hope to join in near future. We do not claim that our experience in profound transformation of society is the only possible and correct way. However, the lessons learned, primarily concerning macroeconomic policy issues, are lessons not thought out in theory, but experienced in life. We will be happy to share them with any country facing similar challenges.