Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Lake Toba summit aims for sustainable development

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Leaders from 43 countries have confirmed participation in the three-day Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development conference in North Sumatra with the theme, "Global Partnership on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Post-Disaster Settlements".

The leaders, including East Timor President Xanana Gusmao and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, are scheduled to attend the summit, which will be opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on March 10.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was earlier reported to be coming, could not make it due to a schedule conflict.

North Sumatra Governor T. Rizal Nurdin said some 400 participants from 43 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, would be attending the event.

"Some foreign ministers have also confirmed that they will be attending the event. This is interesting because apart from governors, businesspeople and academics, many foreign ministers will also speak during this meeting," he told The Jakarta Post.

The event is being organized by the North Sumatra provincial administration with support from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, the United Nations Human Resettlement Program and the United Nations Environment Program.

It will take place in three areas of the province, Medan, Brastagi in Karo regency and Prapat in Simalungun regency. A business forum will be held in Medan, while government officials will meet in Prapat and the academics will meet in Brastagi.

Rizal said the event was expected to strengthen communication as well as serving as a forum to share experiences in implementing sustainable development programs.

The network was first set up in 2002 in Johannesburg, with 38 member countries -- both developed and developing countries -- across the world.

Since it was set up, the network has held conferences in several countries, with the first in San Sebastian, Spain in March 2003 and the second in Freemantle, Australia in September 2003. The third conference was held in Cardiff, Wales.

"In the upcoming summit, the participating governors will announce the Lake Toba Call declaration," Rizal explained.

During the summit, the leaders are also expected to take part in a regreening movement, he said. Citing examples, he said that the leaders were scheduled to open the United Nations Park in Muara, Tapanuli Utara regency as well as a research and education park in Aek Nauli.

"For the regreening project in Muara, they will plant 100 trees from 10 different species and 100 trees from 26 species in Aek Nauli at a research and education center," he said.

Ninety percent of the summit's preparation was complete, including infrastructure and security. Some participants started arriving in the city on Tuesday.

Chief of the North Sumatra police, Insp. Gen. Iwan Panjiwinata, said he would deploy over 3,500 officers to safeguard the summit.