Thabo Mbeki: To survive, we need to co-operate

From the speech by the South African president at the opening of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg

In the last 30 years, the torch of sustainable development has travelled from Europe to the Americas, through Asia, and now burns in Africa. After a protracted journey, it has arrived in the continent that is the cradle of humanity.

The fact that we have convened at this cradle of humanity emphasises the obligation we all face to respond with all seriousness and with a sense of urgency to adopt a meaningful Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Sadly, we have not made much progress in realising the grand vision contained in Agenda 21 and other international agreements. It is no secret that the global community has, as yet, not demonstrated the will to implement the decisions it has freely adopted.

The tragic result of this is the avoidable increase in human misery and ecological degradation, including the growth of the gap between North and South. It is as though we are determined to regress to the most primitive condition of existence in the animal world, of the survival of the fittest. It is as though we have decided to spurn what the human intellect tells us, that the survival of the fittest only presages the destruction of all humanity.

As we deliberate and work on a way forward, we need to take stock of the inertia of the past decade and agree on very clear and practical measures that will help us to deal decisively with all the challenges that we face. This is the central task of this summit.

There is every need for us to demonstrate to the billions of people we lead that we are committed to the vision and practice of human solidarity, that we do not accept that human society should be constructed on the basis of a savage principle of the survival of the fittest.