Governments discuss sustainable development, trade and new economy

OECD Council at Ministerial Level, May 2001

Sustainable development, the new economy and prospects for a new round of global trade talks were high on the agenda when OECD ministers gathered for their annual meeting in Paris in May.

For the first time, OECD environment and economy ministers met together in the same plenary session to discuss sustainable development and how to make economic growth and environmental conservation more consistent with each other. Areas like global warming and action to cut emissions pollution received particular attention.

Under the chairmanship of the Danish prime minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, ministers asked the OECD to work to develop indicators of sustainable development, measuring economic, environmental and social impacts, and to report progress ahead of the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development in September 2002. Ministers also agreed that sustainable development should be an overarching theme of the OECD’s work.

This year’s ministerial calendar was particularly busy, with an environment ministers’ meeting immediately before the full annual ministerial. They endorsed a new environmental strategy for the coming decade aimed at ensuring that continued economic growth is not accompanied by continued damage to the environment. This decoupling involves improving information and measuring progress through indicators and maintaining ecosystems by efficient management of natural resources.

On the trade front, OECD trade ministers met with ministers of eight non-member countries (Brazil, China, Indonesia, Mali, Romania, Russia, Singapore and South Africa) to discuss their concerns ahead of a WTO ministerial meeting in Doha in November to launch a new round of world multilateral trade talks. In another first, Danish environment minister, Svend Auken, reported to the joint environment/economy ministers’ session on the civil society debate at the OECD’s Forum 2001 meeting on the theme of sustainable development and the new economy, thereby making the Forum an integral part of the OECD process.

©OECD Observer No 228, September 2001

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