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Switzerland takes lead role for 2002 earth summit

Foreign minister Joseph Deiss will be the spokesman for Europe and North America at the summit Keystone Archive

Switzerland has taken a leading role ahead of the 2002 earth summit in Johannesburg, with the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, named as the president of Europe's preparatory meeting in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday.

Representatives from the United Nations “European” region, which includes both the United States and Canada, will meet in Geneva at the end of September to discuss preparations for the 2002 summit.

Under the leadership of Deiss, the preparatory meeting aims to reach an agreement among member countries on proposals that will be presented to the earth summit in a year’s time. Deiss will also act as European spokesman at the Johannesburg meeting.

“We want to make sure that we can bring our experiences to bear,” Beat Nobs, Switzerland’s ambassador for the environment told swissinfo.

“We want to keep up the pressure on the international community so we can see a rapid ratification of all the multilateral environmental agreements which have been negotiated over the past few years and which have not yet been ratified,” he added.

Sustainable development

Switzerland’s proposals are brought together under the banner of sustainable development but are made up of six different areas.

“We have sustainable development of mountain areas, then sweet water
resources, then social development and poverty reduction and then trade related issues,” Nobs said. “Then environment related issues such as climate, biodiversity, forests, chemicals and things like that. These have been on our agenda since Rio ten years ago.”

“In close connection with this, we also have the question of governance both at the national as well as the global or international level,” he added.

Nobs explained to swissinfo that these six areas are general topics and that the Swiss delegation are engaged in identifying what they mean in detail so they can be translated into concrete action.

One way that Switzerland aims to do this is by raising awareness of sustainable development issues at next year’s national exhibition, Expo 02.

The fragile environment

“Some of the exhibits are geared at answering the question and need of sustainable development in the new millennium,” Nobs said. “In Murten, there will be a special pavilion that will focus on biodiversity and agriculture and there will be the palace of equilibrium in Neuchâtel which shows how fragile the earth is.”

Nobs believes that Switzerland is well placed when it comes to sustainable development as it is one of the only countries in the world where the issue is laid down as a goal in the constitution under article 73.

In addition the Swiss government has launched a new internet site,, which gives the general public an insight into what contribution Switzerland can make to the earth summit and why sustainable development will be the Swiss delegation’s key focus.

It offers information and opinion from experts and gives examples of how sustainable development is being implemented both at home and abroad.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR