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Rich nations tried to dump their burden on us: André Corrêa do Lago

Author: Shobhan Saxena
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 24, 2012
URL: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-06-24/all-that-matters/32393099_1_sustainable-development-sustainable-patterns-g-77

Andre Correa do Lago, Brazil's chief negotiator at Rio+20, led the team which prepared the final draft of 'The Future We Want', the new blueprint for sustainable development that was adopted by the UN summit on Friday. The diplomat tells Shobhan Saxena that close work by India, China and Brazil got a good deal for the G-77 group of developing countries at the crucial meeting. Excerpts:

Q.: The Rio+20 document is being hailed as a big victory for G-77 countries. Why?
A.: The document incorporated the main concerns of the developing countries. These concerns were about the preservation of the Rio principles, strengthening of the idea of sustainable development and the notion that countries can choose their own path for sustainable development. There were some concerns among the developing countries that if the idea of green economy was too strong in the document, it would look like there was only one way of going about sustainable development. Also, the document states very clearly that the main international concern has to be eradication of poverty. This is the number one issue. This is also the key issue because if India, China and Brazil have to be successful in their effort of eradication of poverty, we have to have sustainable patterns of development.

Q.: So, there is nothing in this document for the developed world?
A.: For developed countries, the document incorporates many things. They will not be forced to announce new commitments to financial resources. They haven't been forced to have new commitments in the transfer of technology. But these are areas where developing countries are frustrated because they would like to see more work. It's a balanced document.

Q.: Why is it important for countries to choose their own path on sustainable development?
A.: None of our three countries has progressed in the past 15 years because of international cooperation. We progressed because we did the things we thought we had to do. Today we are recognized as relevant and successful not because we followed the rules that were indicated to us but because we found our own way of solving our own issues. This document reiterates very strongly that the countries have to choose by themselves the ways they are going to follow.

Q.: Has this meet led to better understanding between the BRICS countries on climate and poverty?
A.: China, Brazil, South Africa and India have been working very closely on the issue of climate change. We have the BASIC group that articulates our position on climate change. Here, China, India and Brazil worked incredibly well together. We were close from the beginning to the end to make sure that we will keep the G-77 united and at the same time we could have our priorities addressed.

Q.: But French President Francois Hollande, the only G-7 head of state here, publicly said he was not happy with the document because it failed to upgrade UNEP to a specialized agency which can monitor the environment.
A.: Europe created expectations about a kind of upgrade of UNEP but we could not reach consensus on converting it into a world environmental organization. The developing countries have been fighting for 40 years to keep environmental issues integrated into development issues. So, if you isolate environment again, you are going backwards 40 years in the debate that looks at environment only from the point for view of natural resources. This is a discussion we do not favour because we think it has to be an integrated discussion. Our main issue is eradication of poverty and improving the quality of life. So the environment has to be integrated into that process.

Q.: But the West says the emerging economies blocked the conversion to green economy...
A.: The big difference between us and them is that they dealt with economic growth for a century, then they started dealing with social issues for a century, and then they started dealing with environment. So they think of these issues in inevitably separate ways. We have the three agendas at the same time.

Q.: Have the emerging economies made some commitments on sharing the financial burden of a green economy with the rich nations?

A.: We are still not developed countries. Far from it. We are in transition from developing to developed, and we cannot have the same obligations as the developed countries. The rich countries tried very hard to have wordings in this declaration that would give us a part of the share of their responsibilities. This is something we were together to avoid. We are going to do a lot, but the rich countries have to fulfill their obligation.
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