Leader of Rio Conference Predicts Success
MAURICE STRONG, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, was interviewed recently in Geneva by Pierre Haski, a staff writer of the Paris-based newspaper, Liberation, on behalf of the World Media Network. The conference, also known as the Earth Summit, is set to begin June 3 in Rio de Janeiro. The following are excerpts from the interview:Skip to next paragraph
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What will, in your mind, make the difference in Rio between good intentions and real commitments?
Two and a half years of preparations and negotiations which have yielded some 98 percent of the proposals we have put to governments have already reached agreement. The 2 percent that is left is, of course, extremely important, but I believe we have a good chance to bridge those gaps.
Isn't the absence of a gendarmerie in the follow-up to the summit the main weakness of the whole operation ?
That is a reflection of the state of our world. We do not have a central world government, and if we are going to insist that you set up a central world government and a central world gendarmerie before you deal with environment problems, the planet will be dead. We have to work with the system we've got, which is nation states working together through the United Nations, which is the only global organization that can perform that function.
Isn't United States reluctance during the preparation of the earth summit a bad omen?
First of all, the US reluctance has got a lot of attention because it's been concentrated on a couple of issues, particularly on its unwillingness to accept firm targets on CO2. But the US has been extremely active and cooperative on a tremendous number of issues.
Are they prepared to contribute financially?
We don't know that for sure, but in principle they have now crossed that bridge. In practice they have even made $75 million available as a good gesture to start with.
It's not a huge amount of money, but it's not unimportant as a starting point.
Isn't Japan becoming the real "environment superpower?"
Yes, I think there is a real movement in that direction from Japan. What I call Japan's second miracle is the way in which it has so dramatically reduced air and water pollution in Japan itself. The rest of the world doesn't know much about that. They look at Japan's environmental record in terms of fishing, damage to the tropical forest, whales - the kind of things for which the Japanese have been widely criticized. But ... Japan is in the process of developing a national consensus to project its nation al performance into its international activity.
How do you evaluate Western Europe's contribution to the preparation of Rio de Janerio?
It is mixed. The [European] Community itself has been very positive, in some ways more positive than some of its members. The membership varies in terms of the degree of their activity and preparation for Rio, but all have been actively engaged. There is not a homogeneity in the position of the Community at this stage, but there is a high degree of commitment. The Commission of the Community, in addition to its members, has played an extremely active role.
Has Eastern Europe, after having realized the damage made to its environment, introduced this preoccupation in its development strategies?
Again, you cannot give an absolute answer across the board. Eastern Europe is no longer a homogeneous whole. There are great differences from country to country.