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Sustainability begins at home

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Policy of Malta Lawrence Gonzi addresses the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Following are extracts from his speech, in which he highlights Malta’s drive for sustainability

"Jekk tiehu minghajr ma trodd anki s-swar thott."

This ancient Maltese proverb warns that unless the exploitation of resources is backed by replenishment, even the most durable and abundant resource will be squandered to the point of destruction.

Malta has come a long way socially and economically. Investment in human capital has compensated for the scarcity of natural resources typical of micro-states. But there remains a sense of vulnerability.

This has prompted Malta to play a pivotal role within the United Nations, alerting the international community to its obligation to protect the patrimony of common resources - albeit in a differentiated manner. Malta’s initiatives on the deep seabed and climate were aimed at the economic and social advancement of present and future generations. We have ratified the major multilateral environmental agreements.

Since Rio, we have taken significant steps to safeguard Malta’s fragile natural environment and its rich historical heritage. We have overhauled Malta’s legal framework and administrative structures, backed by capacity building and measures to ensure implementation and compliance. We have introduced and empowered local Government.

We have vastly improved access by civil society to information and to justice on environmental matters.

In particular, we have worked hard on the management of our most vulnerable and scarce resource: Land. Its use nowadays involves serious assessment - a delicate balancing exercise - which aims to integrate environmental, social and economic needs. Whilst this has often been politically unpopular, it has promoted fair access to this basic resource, now and for the future.

In the coming months, a newly set up National Commission will make recommendations to its chairman, the Prime Minister, for a National Strategy for Sustainable Development. The experience of this Summit will be instrumental in its preparation. The Commission has also identified four projects, which it is presenting here as Malta’s national progression targets for the next five to ten years. These projects envisage urgent action on:

(a) The rehabilitation of Valletta, our capital city, a world heritage site

(b) Coastal Zone management

(c) Transport, and

(d) Waste Management

On behalf of the Maltese Government, I am also proud to announce that Malta is launching a three-point plan to build capacity for Overseas Development Assistance. This plan reinforces Malta’s long tradition of solidarity, and entails:

(a) A National Development Co-operation Policy backed by a Secretariat for International Development;

(b) Increased technical assistance to developing countries, particularly on governance; and

(c) Enhanced participation of Maltese nationals in overseas development projects.

And yet, we consider our most important step towards sustainability has been the decision to accede to the European Union. Government sees the harmonisation of our environmental policy and legal framework with that of the Union as one of the major benefits of accession. EU enlargement will contribute to more sustainable patterns of growth throughout the region.

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro provided a singular vision for a better world. Here in Johannesburg, we have had the opportunity to evaluate our experiences and to translate this vision into action, bringing us closer to Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals.

Sustainability begins at home and Malta will continue to do its part. But to work together is to work better in achieving the mandate given to us by this Summit.


Copyright © Network Publications Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07, Malta
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt