Responding to the appeal for action rather than lofty talks at the ongoing World Summit on Sustainable Development, the European Union (EU) announced additional economic aid of 22 billion euros (US$21.4 billion) to developing countries over the next five years.
It is surely a big help for countries thirsty for money for various projects such as energy, sanitation water and biodiversity, which are key to sustainable development.
In third world countries, poverty is the root cause of environmental deterioration. So it has ceased to be an internal problem of any country, but, rather, is a common challenge confronting the international community.
To provide development aid for poverty-stricken countries is a moral imperative for developed countries. The latter's long-time colonial rule contributed greatly to the former's backward economic development.
Furthermore, the production activities and living style in Western countries have been consuming much more resources than developing countries do. As the biggest beneficiary, developed countries have the obligation to contribute more in curbing environmental degradation and achieving sustainable development.
Aiding developing countries also serves the practical interest of developed countries themselves - we share the same planet.
Disappointingly, developed countries have done far less about fulfilling their obligation to aid the poor.
As far back as 30 years ago, the United Nations set the target for developed countries to provide Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries. They were to give the equivalent of at least 0.7 percent of their gross national product.
In 1992, agreement was reached on setting 2015 as the deadline to achieve the 0.7 percent target. But today, the average level of ODA is only 0.22 percent.
While ignoring their obligation to aid developing countries, developed countries also adopted discriminative policies in trade and market access, which has further marginalized third world countries.
The summit is expected to generate more actions in relieving the poor and healing the planet. A global human society characterized by islands of wealth, surrounded by a sea of poverty is unsustainable, as South Africa President Thabo Mbeki said at the opening session.
(China Daily August 30, 2002)