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In this address to the June 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, His Majesty King Hussein emphasizes Jordan’s commitment to environmental protection. Jordan was the first country in the Middle East to have adopted a national environmental strategy, in May of 1992, and King Hussein outlines some of the initiatives involved in the “National Environment Strategy for Jordan” in the address.

Jordan’s efforts for wildlife conservation extend back to 1966, when the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) was founded. It was the first non-governmental organization of its kind in the Arab world, and its primary concern is the preservation of wildlife. To date, six wildlife reserves have been established by the RSCN, covering 1.4% of Jordan’s total area. Six more are planned. The RSCN also carefully regulates hunting, and works to increase public awareness of the importance of protecting nature.

Jordanians from a wide variety of backgrounds have become involved in the environmental cause. In addition to governmental bodies such as the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs & Environment, Jordanians are active in such NGOs as the RSCN, the Friends of Environment Society, the Jordan Royal Ecological Diving Society and the Jordan Society for the Control of Environmental Pollution.

His Majesty’s message to the Rio “Earth Summit” was delivered on his behalf by a member of the government.


Address to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

Rio de Janeiro

June 2, 1992


I would like to begin by thanking Mr. Maurice Strong and his colleagues at the UNCED for their impressive organization of this Earth Summit, and President Fernando Collar de Mello and the government and people of Brazil for their concern and efficiency in holding it. The conference has also been enriched by many private sector groups, NGOs and individuals that have participated in preparatory meetings or in activities in Rio de Janeiro. To all of them we extend our thanks and appreciation.

Many people have compared the state of the earth today with its condition twenty years ago, when the first Earth Day was held in Stockholm. I would like to share with you my own perspective, formed over the 40 years during which I assumed my constitutional responsibilities as leader of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In the four decades since 1952, the world’s population has increased from 2.5 billion to 5.5 billion. The total estimated number of the world’s absolute poor has increased to 1.2 billion and 100 million, women and children are homeless today; the total area of the world’s tropical rain forests has decreased to roughly six percent of the Earth’s land surface, about half of the original cover; the percentage of people living in urban areas has increased to about 43 percent of the world’s population; and the foreign debt of the developing countries is almost $1.3 trillion; we have suffered measurable damage to the earth’s protective ozone layer; water shortages and desertification continue to plague many arid and semi-arid regions, and we confront the potential catastrophe of global warming.

These trends highlight the speed and extent of the recent deterioration in living standards, life expectations, and environmental conditions that have caused the lives of hundreds of millions of people to be characterized by a chronic cycle of stress and deprivation. In less than two generations, we have come face-to-face with today’s shocking reality: a world in which the twin ravages of economic and environmental degradation fuel a spiral of physical decline and a widening gap between rich and poor. This, in turn, leads to a loss of dignity and hope among people whose life prospects appear increasingly precarious and grim, in the North and South alike.

In the mid-1960s, a combination of socio-economic disparities and political frustration triggered rebellion and violence in cities throughout North America and Europe; at the same time, similar factors sparked warfare and destruction in the Middle East. It is disheartening, but perhaps not so surprising, that a quarter of a century later, North American and European cities continue to suffer the consequences of disparities and inequities; and the Middle East remains engulfed in a chronic cycle of violence and waste.

This spiral of injustice, despair and violence is not an isolated phenomenon. It is the spectre that haunts the lifetimes of our children. It is also the inevitable consequence of continuing apathy and neglect.

Our earth is vulnerable today because of our collective negligence during the last half century. We show greater urgency here today because we have been unable to muster the political will required to deal with chronic global problems such as rapid industrialization, urbanization, toxic pollution and over-exploitation of finite natural resources.

The sectoral issues we address today are sustainable development and environmental protection on a global scale. The parallel political and personal challenge that we face is that of our responsibility as leaders—our obligation to act forcefully for the sake of future generations, regardless of the immediate financial costs or the political pressures that we may encounter.

This summit reflects our awareness of the challenge we face together. We should not allow our new commitment to action to dissipate in arguments about funding, past errors, or functional responsibilities. We should not allow scientific disagreements about the consequences of specific environmental threats to delay action on very real and pressing problems such as ozone depletion, desertification, or greenhouse gases.

If we failed to rise to the challenge that we first identified twenty years ago in Stockholm, we should not and must not fail again. We cannot allow ourselves to distort or to camouflage the true magnitude of the threats to our common destiny.

Unfortunately, some of the original aims of this summit have been diluted by precisely such factors as doubt, distorted priorities, or the myopic absence of political will. We would have failed miserably in our responsibilities as national leaders if twenty years from now, our children were to look back on this summit and proclaim that we raised the right issues—but were too feeble, too meek, or simply too self-centered to generate appropriate and effective responses.

If some of the agreements proposed to this summit are imperfect, we should sign them and exert greater efforts to perfect them. If some of the cost implications are problematic to some countries, we should commit ourselves in principle to a cost-sharing formula and rise to the challenge of devising acceptable new funding arrangements. If some of the proposed measures have political and lifestyle implications that are not easily reconciled with the priorities of special interest groups in some countries, we should collectively recall the reason for this gathering of world leaders: we are leaders with a legal and a moral responsibility to assure the best interests of all our people.

Our earth is ailing. In its own language, it tells us that we must act together in a sustained and coordinated effort to help it heal. It seems self-evident that we should initiate or expand domestic strategies that lead to coordinated regional and global efforts.

I assure you that we in Jordan are genuinely committed to our responsibilities in this field. Our environmental protection efforts began nearly thirty years ago, when the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature was established in Amman in 1965. In 1979, we established a Ministry for Environmental Affairs. During the last four years, we have worked closely with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to formulate a Jordanian national environmental strategy that derives from the IUCN’s World Environmental Strategy. The first of its kind in the Middle East region, the Jordanian strategy was officially launched last month after incorporating the concerns and recommendations of many government and private bodies, NGOs, international organizations and bilateral donors.

We will now exert a major new effort to implement the strategy’s key proposals. My government will introduce to Parliament, and actively support, a major new environmental protection programme. We shall seek to achieve in Jordan that which I believe we are all challenged to achieve on a global basis: not only to address the legal and technical requirements of environmental protection, but also to instill in our people and our public and private institutions an environmental protection ethic that becomes deeply embedded in our personal values and our national ethos.

Some of the policy proposals that my government will work for will include a comprehensive new environmental protection law with strict penalties for non-compliance; substantial upgrading of our relevant technical, management, and supervisory capabilities, including the establishment of a National Council for Environmental Protection and a National Environmental Impact Assessment process; the establishment of a special environmental court to deal with infractions of pertinent laws; accelerating the establishment of national nature reserves; broadening the scope of environmental protection concerns to include antiquities and cultural heritage; introducing investment, tax, and other financial incentives that would make environmental protection good business as well as good ethics; substantially expanding our existing education and public information activities; creating a new national system of urban nature parks; and establishing mandatory environmental protection and renewable energy use guidelines for all publicly-funded projects, especially in the fields of housing and public works schemes.

Our goal is to ensure that environmental protection becomes as deeply embedded in our national psyche and in our human spirit as our existing commitments to balanced development, pluralism, human rights, and regional peace based on justice and international law. We are deeply committed to this goal, despite the severe constraints of political, economic and demographic pressures on our country. We and many others in the developing world, however, could implement more effective environmental protection policies, and maximize the possibilities for successful sustainable development, in the context of mutually beneficial partnerships between North and South.

We know that a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of our environmental protection policies will confirm that we must bear the short-term costs. There is no other realistic option if we seek to reap the longer term benefits of the opportunity to achieve sustainable development. We shall willingly pay this cost, and endure the associated burdens—for we would be morally, politically, and perhaps even criminally negligent if we were to place financial profits and material comforts above the goal of the integrity of our earth, the welfare of our people, and the life prospects of our children and grandchildren.

Thank you very much.

Address to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

Rio de Janeiro

June 2, 1992