Amb. Daudi N. Mwakawago
Developing nations have met their Rio commitments, says G-77 Chairman
UNITED NATIONS, May 30 (G-77) - The chairman of the Group of 77 Ambassador Daudi Mwakawago of Tanzania has said that the upcoming Special Session of the General Assembly scheduled for mid-June will be a valuable opportunity to reassess the outcome of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.
How has the Earth Summit contributed to the protection of the global environment? What are the problems developing countries have encountered in implementing some of their national plans and programmes? How many of the commitments and pledges made by donors in Rio have been fulfilled?
In an interview with the JOURNAL OF THE GROUP OF 77, Ambassador Mwakawago said one of the important things about the Special Session is that it will help underscore the interdependence between developed and developing nations. ''You may be developed or you may be underdeveloped. But at the end of the day we need each other,'' he said.
''We need to depend on each other in a positive way. It is not just sentiments. After serious bargaining in Rio, donors made certain commitments,'' he said.
''The developing countries, especially the least developed countries (LDCs) were asked to restructure their economies. And they have been doing it for the last five years since the Earth Summit. What we are saying is that we have fulfilled our part of the bargain. And correspondingly, we are waiting for a response from the developed countries,'' he added.
Excerpts from the interview:
JOURNAL: What else is expected to surface at the Special Session?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: The emphasis on the linkages between the environment and development. Sometimes they are seen as a dichothomy. They are really two sides of the same coin. The vast majority of my members look at the Special Session, not just as an attempt to frustrate development needs of our our countries in favour of environment per se but rather we see it as an important event that will focus on these parameters. We have to underscore the linkages between the two.
JOURNAL: What are the signals you are getting from industrial nations in the run up to the Special Session?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: We are encouraged by recent developments in the UK which has a new government with a clear mandate. The UK is an important member of the Group of Seven (G-7) industrial nations. It has already announced it will return to UNESCO. The Group of 77 thinks it is a very important signal. We welcome their return to UNESCO.
JOURNAL: Are you expecting other countries like the U.S. to follow suit? And do you expect some of these countries also to return to UNIDO?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Absolutely. I don't want to say there is a domino theory. But it certainly is an important signal. We hope UK's return will also have an important impact on others.
JOURNAL: Official Development Assistance (ODA), as you know, has been declining. But there are some who say that this is not really so. What is declining they say is multilateral aid while bilateral aid is on the increase. Is this therefore a question of erosion of multilateralism. Or is it really a question of declining aid?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: This reminds me of a story in my country about three blind men who encountered an elephant. Each one was holding a piece of the elephant. One was saying it was like a snake, the other was saying it was like a stick and so on. Let's be serious. ODA has been declining. Currently, it is at its lowest: at 0.25 percent. There is a dispute over whether it is really 0.25 or 0.27 percent. But it does not make a difference. The decline in ODA is not just a criticism. It is a reality. ODA is Official Develoment Assistance. It is not question of bilateral aid. ODA helps all the develoing countries, especially the LDCs. Bilateral aid is how negotiations go between two friendly countries. What we are talking of is the global impact of ODA.
JOURNAL: What about the criticism that ODA has been misused?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Yes, there has been criticism that a lot of the monies have been misused by corrupt dictators, corrupt officials and corrupt governments. There is no excuse for that. But the Group of 77 is willing to go beyond that. What we are saying is that some of these very same dictators and some of these very same corrupt governments were bolstered by the Cold War. We don't want to mention any names. The people did not want these corrupt governments and dictators. But the powers-that-be wanted these dictators in power. Why condemn the people? The people don't have to be condmened because these things were beyond their control.
JOURNAL: What is your reaction to the argument that private sector financing is the answer to the economic problems of developing nations?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: We are told the emphasis now is on private sector financing. Fine. It is true that where the private sector has moved in there have been significant developments. But private sector financing by its very nature is very selective. It only goes to where returns-- and good results-- are assured. The needs of the majority of the developing countries, especially the LDCs, our needs are infrastructural necessitating long term investments. And the private sector is not interested in this. They are seeking quick returns. That's why ODA is so critical to developing nations.
JOURNAL: And the worst affected are the African countries?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Absolutely. Why we are saying that Africa is the most affected is that $235 billion were transferred from the South to the North. And only a small percentage came back.
JOURNAL: Do you think donors are playing politics with development aid?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Yes, partly because of the pressures of the Cold War. But the Cold War is over now.
JOURNAL: Do you think it was better to have continued the Cold War-- from the point of view of developing nations?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Well, it's just like saying that a thief who brought you some food is a good thief. (laughs). The principle that the end justifies the means.
JOURNAL: There is a proposal to set up a World Environment Organisaiton (WEO) so that all the environmental bodies, including UNEP, Habitat, the Conventions, call all be brought under one roof? A sort of a supra body for environment. What is your reaction to this?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: If there is such a proposal, we certainly have not seen the blueprint. We will judge on the basis whether it addresses our environmental concerns. If it is meant to protect the consumption patterns and the production patterns of the North, I am sure it will be difficult to sell to the Group of 77. It will also depend on whether such an Organisation will benefit the developing countries. Let's wait and see.
JOURNAL: There is also a proposal to consolidate the functions of four U.N. bodies-- UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and WFP-- under a single U.N. Development Group? What is your reaction to this?
JOURNAL: So the Group of 77 will not be taken for a ride?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Absolutely.
JOURNAL: Under the current restructuring, do you think some of the U.N.'s economic and social bodies would be eliminated?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Since the U.N. was set up, the world has changed. And you cannot maintain the same structure when resources are depleted. You have to tailor the structure to your needs. And then you have the question of development chasing the same resources. We may need to revisit some of these U.N. bodies. We have no holy cows. We have to see how some of the bodies relate to our work, how they communicate decisions, their programmes, etc. But you have to be cautious. You may criticise some institutions out of ignorance, or out of ideological positions. There is certainly a case for re-examining U.N. bodies. But if you start on ideological grounds that a particular U.N. body should go, we will make our position known in the strongest possible way.
JOURNAL: The cash crisis is one of the major crises facing the United Nations. And there are proposals to impose sanctions and penalties on countries that do not pay their dues. What are your reactions to this?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: Every discussion inevitably touches upon the nonpayment of dues by certain member states. The U.N. Charter obligates all member states to pay their dues in full, on time and without conditions. Unless you pay your dues, the U.N. cannot have business as usual.
JOURNAL: What about penalties for those who do not pay?
AMBASSADOR MWAKAWAGO: At some point we will have to discuss these issues. In the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), if you do not pay your dues, you will not be given the right to speak. Even in this country, if you don't obey the traffic lights, you pay a fine. If you break the law, you get penalised.