2002 News Story

Commerce minister comments on Johannesburg summit

Minister of Commerce Osama Faqih, who is leading the Saudi delegation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development currently in progress in the South African city of Johannesburg, has commented on reports assessing as not satisfactory and sometimes disappointing, the results of plans drawn up by the first earth summit in Rio de Janeiro ten years ago, and expressed the hope that this second earth summit would do better. In a press statement yesterday, he drew attention to the fact that advanced countries, with 20 percent of the world's population, consume 85 percent of the world's gross product. Saudi Arabia, he said, feels that developing countries deserve greater attention and more assistance to enable them to reach a minimum standard of living, adding that the Kingdom has a long and rich experience in the field of development, not only at the local but also at the international level.

Asked about the Saudi delegation's priorities and the issues it plans to defend, Minister Faqih said that given the fact that the Kingdom is a desert country lacking water, and that it is the world's largest producer of energy, preservation of the environment and protection of natural resources are of the utmost importance; also, Saudi Arabia is concerned that the products of developing countries are able to reach the markets of advanced countries without obstacle, and are given the chance to compete fairly with foreign commodities.

Today the summit is focusing on ways to bring fresh water and sanitation to those who lack access to them. According to the United Nations, 1.1 billion people are without clean drinking water and 2.4 billion lack access to sanitation. More than 2.2 million people in the developing world die each year from problems associated with lack of water and sanitation.

Yesterday, there was discussion on making new agricultural technologies available to poor farmers to help feed the developing world. Delegates have already reached agreement on protection of the world's oceans and restoration of depleted fish stocks by 2015.