|Sustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)|
It is indeed a great honour for me to be invited to participate in this United Nations University conference on a subject area that is professionally very close to my heart and also very much in line with my new assignment as Minister of Environment, Science and Technology. I am particularly pleased to add a word of welcome to you all. I am delighted that so many of you have come from afar to participate in this conference and also to catch a glimpse of the initial phase of the workings of the 4th Republic of Ghana. I trust that you will have a pleasant stay here and enjoy the traditional hospitality and warmth of the Ghanaian people.
Mr. Chairman, the subject of this conference is most significant and timely because, for developing countries, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, sustainable environmental development and the management of our natural resources are fundamental to our livelihood security.
The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 in many ways lifted the subject of sustainable development onto the international political agenda. The presence of so many Heads of State and Government in Rio and the general agreement reached on Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration, which placed in perspective the balance between environment and development, are all clear testimonies of the importance of politics in environmental considerations. The Summit also acknowledged the concerns of the developing countries by bringing into sharp focus the link between poverty and environmental degradation.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the messages that I would like to leave with you as you begin your deliberations is to emphasize that the attainment of sustainable development requires the concerted effort of government, the business community, the NGOs, scientific and technical organizations, and ordinary citizens in both rural and urban centres.
I am particularly concerned about the general attitude of some people who place all the responsibility for attaining sustainable environmental and resource management on the shoulders of governments. I am, however, confident that the many questions about how we are going to ensure the maintenance of our resource base and at the same time improve on our living standards through sustainable development will be answered with the total involvement and commitment of both the business community and government. It is on this premise that my new ministry, for example, will chart its course concerning the theme of this conference.
Mr. Chairman, please permit me to use this occasion to express the views of the Government of Ghana on the worldwide concerns about sustainable environmental and resource management.
Ghana, like so many other developing countries, has produced environmental strategy papers as well as various action plans within the context of our development programmes. In fact, since my own involvement in environmental protection at the technical level in Ghana, we have always felt the need to encourage the business and industrial communities to involve environmental considerations, from the very beginning, in their development plans. Unfortunately, the implementation of these strategies and national plans has been slow and limited because of other pressing financial commitments in our socio-economic development.
Although the Government has been most eager to develop the natural resources of the country, and is also fully aware and concerned about the environmental impact of rapid development in certain key sectors, it has not been easy to provide the right kinds of incentive packages to encourage the business and industrial communities to invest in environmentally sound technologies. Further, it is becoming increasingly evident that the right kinds of technology are not only environmentally friendly but also cost effective.
The Government therefore intends to work closely with industry to ensure that the most appropriate technologies are used in the conduct of their activities. In addition, my ministry will intensify its relations with each rural community by assisting to monitor constantly their local environment.
It is my hope that the donor countries and the multilateral funding agencies will work closely with us and assist us in funding a number of our environmental and technological programmes that have national, regional, and global significance.
In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my hope that the various papers that will be presented during the next few days will focus attention on the need for greater involvement of our people in all matters pertaining to sustainable development. Such action will hopefully result in an improved physical, social, and economic environment for the future of Sub-Saharan Africa.