Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
9 - 11 July 2001


1.      At its Millennium Session in 2001, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to undertake a ten-year review of progress in the implementation of the outcomes of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).  This review will take place at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa in the year 2002 – the Johannesburg Summit. However, an important challenge is to ensure that the outcome of the Summit is not limited to a review but leads to new visions, commitments, partnerships and plans for practical implementation to make sustainable development real at all levels.

2.      As a unique and major feature of the preparations for the 2002 Summit, it was agreed that the main issues for the Summit would arise from participatory national and regional assessments and discussions drawing from all segments of society and regions of the world.

3.      The global inter-governmental process, which will involve three preparatory meetings to be held in the first half of 2002, will benefit from Regional Inter-governmental Preparatory meetings (“PrepComs”) to be held in all regions in the second half of 2001. In order to support this process and to take advantage of the views of experts, the United Nations is convening independent Regional Roundtables of eminent persons and leaders of civil society in the five regions of the world.

4.      The East Asia and the Pacific Eminent Persons Regional Roundtable was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 9 to 11 July 2001. This report attempts to capture the key concerns expressed and proposals for action made by the participants.   The participants attended in their personal capacities and provided their perspectives on the progress achieved and the obstacles and challenges faced by the region, major constraints on sustainable development as well as proposals for action to address the specific issues identified.

5.      The report is intended to help in the preparatory process leading up to the Summit with new ideas, based on the participants’ practical experience and interest in sustainable development, to develop a platform which outlines key policy issues, priorities and follow up actions for the region as well as at the global level.

6.      This report will be forwarded to all of the regional and sub-regional PrepComs.  It will also be made available to the global preparatory meetings.  Furthermore, the Roundtable report will be posted on the Johannesburg Summit web site.

7.      The East Asia and the Pacific Roundtable was organised by the Secretariat of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Government of Malaysia The Roundtable was chaired by Tan Sri Razali Ismail.  A full list of participants is attached as an Annex to this report.

8.      At the opening of the Roundtable, introductory statements were made by Dato Haji Zainal Dahalan, Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, on behalf of the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment and Ms. JoAnne DiSano, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, United Nations. 

9.      The report of the Roundtable will be made available to governments of the region prior to the regional intergovernmental preparatory meeting, which will take place in Cambodia, in November of this year.  The Roundtable directed the Chairman to present this report to the  regional intergovernmental preparatory meeting, which will take place in Cambodia in November this year and to participate in all segment of this meeting. Participants of the Roundtable were urged to submit the report to their respective constituents.  The Secretariat for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development will post the report on its website, which can be accessed at www.johannesburgsummit.org.      


A.  Characteristics and Challenges of the East Asia and Pacific region

10.  The East Asia and Pacific region has special characteristics that affect conditions for implementing sustainable development objectives in the various countries of the region.  Prior to the financial crisis in 1997, countries of the region, each in its own way, were attempting to address the challenges of sustainable development. In the aftermath, however many of the issues have re-emerged in more critical form and the capacity of the countries to address these challenges has been diminished.

11.  Many issues, in particular environmental issues, faced by the countries of the region are trans-boundary in nature and national actions often have profound regional and global implications.  This is particularly true with regard to environmental degradation and resource depletion that has intensified in the region since Rio. There is an urgent need for more accountability among nations in the region to pursue effective measures of regional co-operation.

12.  The East Asia-Pacific is among the most diverse regions of the world, and thus faces particular challenges in sustainable development.  Although many problems faced by the various countries or sub-regions are similar there are no “one size fits all” solutions. 

13.  Countries of the region cover the full spectrum of economic development. While in many countries of the region, absolute poverty has decreased, income inequality has increased. According to UNDP’s Human Development Index, the state of social development varies considerably. There is also wide political diversity ranging from authoritarian states to constitutional monarchies, to strong parliamentary systems, and evolving democracies. The region possesses an extremely rich diversity of cultures, being the birthplace of some of the world’s oldest civilizations.  The natural environment is the source of life, identity and spiritual values for the East Asia and Pacific region where many people still depend on subsistence living.

14.  The increase of militarisation in the form of increased military activities, involvement of the military in civil affairs and unaccountable military budgets continue to escalate in East Asia and the Pacific is a matter of great concern and has led to an increase of small arms trade and military bases being set up in the region.  This has negative effects on sustainable development and social welfare.

15.  The region’s diversity is particularly evident in its biological resources and, consequent environmental challenges. With countries from small island States to landlocked countries, the region possesses a wide diversity of eco-systems and natural resource endowments, including coastal and marine resources, agriculture and forest-based economies, and rich mineral deposits. 

16.  Dynamic economic developments in the region in the last two decades have led to rapid urbanization due to high rates of rural/urban migration, with East Asia having several of the world’s mega-cities, with populations exceeding 10 million. Mounting ecological imbalances have resulted in increasing air and water pollution, elimination or pollution of mangroves and wetlands, forest destruction, soil erosion and land degradation, climate change, increasingly prevalent natural and man-made disasters, and problems in water resource and solid waste management.  

17.  Atmospheric aerosols, produced by the burning of biomass and industrial emissions have reduced crop and ecosystem productivity with consequent impacts on food security and biodiversity. Reduced vegetation cover has affected the amount of rainfall produced by the Asian monsoon with consequent effects on agricultural productivity. At the same time, agricultural development in the river catchments has tended to increase the amount of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus reaching the region’s coastal zones. These land-based effluents, by stimulating biological activity and changing eco-system processes, have had an impact on the atmosphere and marine systems.

18.  In addition, in the past 30 years, East Asia has lost half its forest cover, along with countless unique animal and plant species.  Desertification in Mongolia and other countries of the region as well as deforestation in both East Asia and the Pacific are rapidly increasing.  A third of the continent’s agricultural land has been degraded. Over-fishing in East Asia and the Pacific has caused a rapid depletion of fish stocks, which not only compromises the natural recovery of such fish stocks, but also causes extreme hardship on small fishing families and coastal people.  Indigenous peoples in particular have been further marginalized.

19.  Small islands in the region have been particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Small island states have limited capacity to respond to or recover from natural disasters. While small island states contribute the least to environmental degradation, they are among those nations most threatened by global climactic and environmental changes, such as sea level rise.

B.  Progress Towards Sustainable Development in the East Asia and Pacific region

20.  In the post-Rio period, some countries in the East Asia and the Pacific region have actively responded to the challenge of sustainable development as addressed in Agenda 21 and the other outcomes of Rio.  These responses, however, reflected limited progress in sustainable development and in the implementation of Agenda 21.     

21.  Many nations in the region have established initiatives to increase progress towards sustainable development. These include public policy initiatives such as economic incentives, education, caps on resource consumption, some impressive examples of participatory management, conservation strategies and legislated limits on pollution. In the private sector, voluntary targets for reducing resource consumption are slowly spreading and awareness of environmental issues has increased. About 26 countries have prepared  ‘National Agenda 21” or “Green Vision 21” statements. National Councils of Sustainable Development or their equivalents are becoming platforms for dialogue among stakeholders on the planning and implementation of sustainable development.  For example in Thailand, the Chulabhorn Research Institute has focused much energy on the improvement of  people’s quality of life by protecting the environment.  This includes reforestation as well as teaching young people to create “community forests.” The CRI has also established the International Centre for Environmental and Industrial Toxicology (ICEIT).   The All-China Women’s Federation has been carrying out a project called “March the Eighth Forestation Project” since 1990.  

22.  At the regional level, the “Regional Action Programme on Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development, 1996-2005” specified numerous programme areas, which provided a basis for transforming the principles of sustainable development contained in Agenda 21 into specific action; that would also guide future actions, including improving the urban environment through a network of cities in the region.          

23.  Corporate social responsibility has increased resulting in an accelerating trend  toward “green business” or “green management” including an increase in the number of companies achieving certification under the ISO 14001 standards. Green purchasing both by companies and consumers has increased along with the construction of “zero waste” plants. Investment instruments such as “eco-funds” have also been more widely used within the region.

24.  Civil society has emerged as an important factor in promoting sustainable development. Civil society, including non-governmental organizations and other major groups, have been instrumental, albeit unevenly, in challenging development paradigms, creating new knowledge bases and initiating tripartite partnerships with governments and business in pursuit of sustainable development at the local, national and regional levels.

25.   While there has been progress, improvement for the region as a whole is not obvious, certainly not readily discernible. State strategies and policies in parts of the region have not been operationalized. Indeed, in some cases sound sustainable development policies have yet to be formulated or implemented. It is a matter of concern that in some parts of East Asia and the Pacific, support for implementing sustainable development policies has slipped, while natural resource depletion and environmental degradation have been allowed to continue to occur. Urgent measures need to be formulated to assist countries to better cope and strengthen commitment to sustainable development.


26.  Sustainable development also needs to be based on a sound philosophy that would benefit from being founded on local, spiritual, traditional, indigenous and tribal values and lifestyles.  In many countries, these values are under attack by increasing commercialism and consumerism that emphasize personal and individual gratification over community, cultural and environmental values. In this regard, education was seen as particularly important.

27.  It is necessary to strengthen a sense of collective ownership and responsibility for the implementation of sustainable development objectives and programmes among stakeholders at the national and local levels. In this regard, the role and commitment of governments to sustainable development remains essential.  Governments have to exercise strong leadership in co-ordination of action and encouraging participation and partnerships.  Environment and sustainable development issues need to be more effectively taken into account by Ministers of Finance, Trade and Economic Development.

Poverty Eradication and Empowerment of the Poor

28.  Poverty in its various dimensions is an impediment to achieving progress in sustainable development. While economic development is critical to poverty eradication, it is equally essential to guarantee the rights of individuals, families and indigenous communities to economic self-sufficiency.  In some countries, rapid economic growth has been accompanied by increased social inequalities and marginalization of disadvantaged groups, resulting in further social conflicts.  In some cases, rapid economic growth has failed to take into account eco-system vulnerabilities. Hence, it is essential to integrate economic, social and environmental concerns in policies targeted to poverty eradication, reduction or prevention.

Proposals for Action:


29.  It is recognized that globalisation and increasing liberalization through the WTO are a “two-edged sword”, with as many benefits as there are “pains” that have far reaching effects on sustainable development, involving not merely the economic and social aspects of human activity but also cultural, moral, behavioural, technological and environmental consequences that are not readily measurable quantitatively. Moreover, the more visible and recognizable benefits are not equitably distributed among nations and region (certainly Asia & Pacific). The consequential “pains” that have since emerged (and are still emerging) have strong negative and pervasive impact on families, traditional values and cultures, habits, and people’s way of living generally. Studies on such impact in all its facets are few and far between, especially on whether the “twin” economic efficiency and competitiveness rationales behind globalisation are consistent with the growing demand in Asia for a more caring and compassionate world, where decency, civil behaviour and protection of the weak, the disadvantaged and the uncompetitive have a place under a more and more prosperous “sun”. There is an urgent need to engage the surge in globalisation with at least 5 strategic imperatives based on the principles of rationality, readiness, representation, responsibility and self-determination.

Proposals for Action:

Capacity-Building through Education, Training and Public Awareness

30.  The importance of education, training and public awareness for capacity-building, with particular emphasis on the needs and roles of young people, as the successor generation of sustainable development, was stressed.  Related to this is the need to have a well-informed media and public communications network that promotes public awareness, informs and educates the public about key sustainable development issues. Further dialogue, research and focus on science and knowledge for sustainable development is particularly important.  

Proposals for Action:

Finance for Sustainable Development

31.  Sustainable development needs adequate financing.  UNCED recognised that sustainable development is not simply a matter of environmental protection but has economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions.  As such, some tradeoffs among objectives related to these different dimensions are inevitable.  Any tradeoffs are essentially a national matter although for Asia, regional and global priorities do matter.  Hence, the need for measured sustainable development strategies to ensure that financial and other resources are directed towards the highest priority among objectives.  Sensitivity to regional/global dimensions requires concerted and co-ordinated actions by nations and the provision of adequate global financial transfers, especially from the developed world.  While recognizing financial resources as essential for sustainable development, they are on their own not sufficient for achieving it.  Without proper policies, consumer and producer behaviour will not shift to more sustainable patterns, and the financing gap will remain wide.  Good policies hold the promise of not only being able to mobilise new financial resources but also reducing such a need.  Three major sources for sustainable development are relevant : (i) external fund flows (particularly ODA for poor nations), debt relief, foreign private capital flows, and multilateral finance (especially IMF, World Bank and regional development banks); (ii) domestic resource mobilisation through new fiscal resources, public expenditure reforms and redirection of resources for sustainable development; and (iii) promoting innovative financial mechanisms (national, regional and international) for sustainable development, including new international taxes/charges (such as, Tobin tax and international air transport levy), innovative carbon taxes/charges and tradable permits, green funds, sustainable development trust funds and swaps, etc.  Unfortunately, progress since UNCED in all these areas have been slow (indeed, too slow) due mainly to the lack of political will to boldly move forward.

Proposals for Action:

Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology

32.  Technology transfer for sustainable development is usually focused on three issues:  first, using limited public resources both to support research and development directly, and to leverage private sector investment in environmental technology; second, encouraging the development and transfer of industrial process technologies that increase efficiency in input use and reduce the production of waste products (shifting the focus from end-of-pipe pollution control to pollution prevention); and third, developing new financial incentives to achieve these two goals.  From the private sector perspective, the fundamental barriers to the development, transfer and commercialization of environmentally friendly technology include suppliers’ perception of low rates of return and several types of market imperfections, such as: (a) the need for environmental technologies to be tailored for particular uses, making it difficult for potential buyers (particularly for small and medium enterprises) and suppliers to identify each other; (b) the need to ensure technology suppliers adequate returns without unduly restricting access to such technologies; and (c) limited public and private funding constraining development and dissemination of environmentally-sound technologies.

33.  As a result, there has been little progress since the Rio Earth Summit in this vital area, which urgently needs a clear and implementable solution.

34.  Another emerging issue is the increasing trend for commercialization of technologies for agricultural production and environmental management which for the most part had previously been undertaken under the public domain.  Such trend threatens  to severely restrict: (a) access to potentially beneficial technologies, and (b) public knowledge on their environmental impacts.

Proposals for Action

Public Participation and Governance

35.  To ensure that the needs of the people are truly met, it is essential to involve the public in the entire process of policy development, including planning, implementation and monitoring of sustainable development strategies and action plans.  Civil society must be considered active partners of governments in decision-making for sustainable development, even as they retain their essential role of advocacy. The effectiveness of multi-stakeholder dialogues and the readiness of national stakeholders to participate depend on the quality of leadership and direction that governments can provide.  There is a need for new governance schemes. In such schemes, governments would retain their essential responsibility for planning, coordinated action, guidance to other stakeholder as well as establishing appropriate legal frameworks. Implementation action would be increasingly delegated to local communities. In this regard, indigenous peoples should be guaranteed the democratic right to be guardians and overseers of their own resources. 

Proposals for Action:

Developing National Strategies for Sustainable Development

36.  Greater progress in sustainable development has to be achieved on the basis of well-focused national strategies or their equivalents.  Each country needs to identify its own priorities in sustainable development, consistent with the needs of the people, long-term economic development objectives and environmental requirements.  In identifying national priorities, it is important to apply a bottom up approach and to involve all national stakeholders to ensure that their interests are met and they are committed to participate in implementing those priorities.

Proposals for Action:

Food Security

37.  Soil and water resource degradation, conversion of agricultural lands due to population and commercial pressures and increasingly liberalized international trade in agricultural products threaten food security. In this context, there is a need for a collective and multi-lateral approach to food security in the region.  While overall food supply is generally adequate within the region, it is often allocated for commercial purposes rather than being available to meet peoples’ basic needs.

Proposals for Action:

Population and Migration

38.  While population is growing in all parts of the world, it is a particular issue in East Asia and the Pacific region. For several countries, both internal migration, rural to urban, and migration between countries within the region present a range of social and economic problems that are a challenge for countries of the region. These include rapid urbanization, marginalization of indigenous populations, unemployment and related social conflicts and health problems.

Proposals for Action:

Environmental Health and Safety

39.  A healthy environment is essential to a healthy population and essential for sustainable development. The link between health and environmental degradation is becoming increasingly apparent in all regions of the world.  In the East Asia and Pacific region, major water borne diseases such malaria, dengue fever and cholera and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS  and TB are increasing rapidly along with health problems related to industrial growth and environmental pollution. Waste management is an issue of growing concern throughout the region. Both fish and livestock are threatened by the wide use of antibiotics and growth hormones. In the East Asia and Pacific region, a large proportion of the poor population work in the informal sector without the benefit of health insurance coverage

40.  Work place safety and environmental standards are also being compromised by the concessions that governments are frequently required to make to attract national and international private sector investments.

Proposals for Action:


41.  The diversity and richness of the region’s eco-systems were highlighted as being unique. However, many environmental problems that the countries of the region face have regional dimensions and impacts. Hence, in deciding on specific actions at the national level, the regional and global implications have to be carefully assessed so as to avoid that their implementation is not at the detriment of other countries. 

Proposals for Action:

Military Expenditures and the Proliferation of Small Arms and Weaponry

42.  The proliferation of small arms, land mines and high tech weaponry and the spread of violence, internal conflicts and piracy are having a detrimental affect on sustainable development in the East Asia and Pacific region. These arms damage the physical and communal environment, destroy families and communities and tear at the very fabric of society. Reduction in overall military expenditures throughout the region would provide substantial financial resources to support and advance sustainable development programmes.

Proposals for Action:


Proposals for Action:

43.  Participants stressed the need to identify specific mechanisms that could be used to more effectively implement sustainable development. These included such things as:



Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 9-11 July 2001



Tan Sri Razali Ismail  

Malaysia   President of the fifty-first session of the General Assembly; Chairman of the first session of the CSD; former Malaysian Ambassador and High Commissioner  
Mr. Oliver AGONCILLO   Philippines Research Associate, Institute of Philippine Culture; working with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Indigenous Peoples  
Mr. Neth BAROM   Cambodia Vice-Rector, Royal University of Phnom Penh; serves on number of Boards and Working Groups  
Mr. Dashiin BYAMBASUREN   Mongolia Professor, Mongolian Academy of Management and Khan Uul University; President, Mongolian Development Foundation  

Prof. Dr. HRH
Princess Mahidol CHULABHORN  

Thailand President, Chulabhorn Research Institute, Mahidol University, Thailand
Prof. Ron CROCOMBE   Cook Islands Professor emeritus at the University of the South Pacific  
Dr. Cielito F. HABITO   Philippines Former Secretary of Socio-economic planning, Philippines; Chairman of the sixth session of the CSD  
Ms Nurul Almy (Emmy) HAFILD   Indonesia Executive Director of WALHI (NGO umbrella group in Indonesia); environmental activist  
Prof. D. Nordin HASSAN   Malaysia

Fellow, Science Academy of Malaysia

Mr. Edwin T.F. KHEW   Singapore Executive Director of Vivendi Universal Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd  
Dr. KWON Tai-joon Republic of Korea Professor of Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University  
Ms LI Qiufang   China Secretary of the Secretariat of the All-China Women’s Federation; Director of the Women’s Studies, Institute of China  
Dr LIN See-Yan   Malaysia Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Lin Associates  
Ms. Motarilavoa Hilda LINI   Vanuatu Director, Pacific Concerns Resource Center, Fiji  
Mr. Kazuo MATSUSHITA   Japan Acting Vice-President of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies  
Mr. Enkhasaikhan MENDSAIKHAN   Mongolia Former Prime Minister; President, Premier International, Inc.
Mr. Promboon PANITCHPAKDI   Thailand Country Representative, CARE International and Deputy Regional Director of Family Planning International Assistance  
Mr. Govindasamy RAJASEKHARAN   Malaysia Secretary General, Malaysian Trades Union Council  
Mr. Agus SARI   Indonesia President and Director of PELANGI Indonesia, a policy research institute for sustainable development  
Mr. Mak SITHIRITH   Cambodia Environment Network Coordinator, NGO Forum on Cambodia  
Khunying Chodchoi SOPHONPANICH   Thailand   Founder and President, Thai Environmental and Community Development Association; senator in Bangkok.  
Mr. Joon-yong SUNG   Republic of Korea  

President of LG Institute of Environment, Safety and Health  



Editorial Writer, The Mainichi Shimbun

Ms. Pauline TANGIORA New Zealand   Long-standing representative of indigenous peoples; campaigner for peace, security and environmental protection  
Prof. WANG Huijiong   China   Vice-President of Academic Committee of Development Research Center for the State Council
Prof. Bob WASSON   Australia Director, Centre for Resources and Environmental Studies; Australian National University