[VIEWPOINT]Contribute to sustainable goals

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[VIEWPOINT]Contribute to sustainable goals

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, attended by more than 100 nations, began in Johannesburg, South Africa on Aug. 26.

The summit's focus is on improving people's lives and conserving natural resources.

The summit will be a search for concrete plans to preserve the environment of Earth and to fight against famine, starting from one basic idea: There is only one Earth. Without environmental preservation and sufficient food for mankind, all human lives will be at risk.

There are 1.2 billion people in the world who live on less than $1 per day, and about the same number of people in the world who suffer from malnutrition. The United Nations reported a shocking estimate that 1.5 billion humans are experiencing water shortages, and by 2015 at least 40 percent of the world's population will be extremely short of water or completely dry.

The global greenhouse effect is causing calamitous disasters like floods, drought and heavy snowfalls, and vast areas of land in Africa are becoming desert annually due to the same effect. It is more than high time that the world got together to find a solution.

But finding an answer as to how to protect the Earth is still a fond hope. The world leaders met 10 years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and came to general agreement on preventing the destruction of the environment and conserving the ecosystem, but for the past decade, the emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of the greenhouse effect, have not been reduced -- on the contrary, they have increased. The world has failed to find an effective way to deal with the destruction of the environment or on what steps to take to improve the lives of the world's poorest human beings.

Unfortunately, the Johannesburg World Summit 2002 does not seem to be capable of finding answers to these questions; pessimism was dominant even before the conference opened, pessimism that the world summit would end in just talk this time as well.

The reason is that the United States, the most influential country in economic scale and in the emissions of carbon dioxide, has a passive attitude toward these problems. It is more disappointing that U.S. President George W. Bush is not participating in the conference in Johannesburg, after he refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that imposes reductions of carbon dioxide emissions.

One good thing is that the Bush administration confirmed its plan to increase its foreign aid funding, reassuring the world that the United States recognizes the dangers of famine in the world.

No matter what agreement this world summit in Johannesburg might reach, there is one thing each individual country can do; it has to preserve natural resources. The effort should start in everyday life, like using less water and energy.

What can we do to support this effort? Our government can prepare itself to abide by the Kyoto Protocol and set up a proper pricing system for natural resources to help reduce the amount of water we use and raise the efficiency of natural resource usage, which is far lower than in other advanced countries.

The current funding South Korea provides to underdeveloped countries is only about 0.06 percent of its gross national product, only a tenth of the United Nations standard of 0.7 percent of GNP agreed in 1970.

The government can prepare annual plans to increase its funding of foreign aid programs steadily. Well thought-out standards for choosing countries that would receive our aid funds and the method of disbursing them should be arranged as well. The standards should include whether the country is corrupt or law-abiding, whether it defends human rights and invests in education and health care and whether the country's market system is functioning so that there is assurance that the aid provided will have its intended developmental effect.

All of these points should be considered so that aid funds should not be distributed just among those few in power.

Now, as a member of Earth's society, South Korea should also be a part of preserving the environment and fighting famine.


The writer is the chairman of the Institute for Global Economics.

by Sagong Il

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