Minister of the Environment of Brazil: Speech at the 2011 UNDP Global Management Meeting

27 Jun 2011

2011 UNDP Global Management Meeting Speech delivered at the Opening Plenary by H.E. Izabella Teixeira, Minister of the Environment of Brazil

Your Excellency Mr Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General,
Your Excellency Mrs. Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by congratulating the Secretary-General on his reelection. You can count on Brazil, Mr. Secretary-General, for a very productive and successful second mandate.

Let me also greet Mrs. Helen Clark and express our appreciation through her to UNDP, for being an essential partner in the Brazilian development process. My greetings also go to all UN Resident Coordinators and UNDP Resident Representatives, through Jorge Chediek, presently serving in my country. We congratulatC',l\1r. rhediek for his very effective and much appreciated work.

Brazil looks at the United Nations with a sense of respect ann responsibility. Respect for its undeniable role in promoting the wellbeing of humankind, and responsibility, as a Member State, because we are convinced that whatever we achieve in the multilateral system is the result of what we, Member States, do.

This meeting will explore ways by which UNDP can better help countries to address the challenges of a world experiencing deep transformations in its economic, political, environmental and social context. This is not an easy task, for which I fear that most Member States and the whole United Nations system are not yet fully prepared. It is no longer a choice of either/or, but a transformation into something completely different from what we see today.

It is thus with this sense of political responsibility that Brazil will host the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the Rio+20. I would like to invite this very unique and diversified group to share with Brazil the great responsibility for a successful Rio+20. A task I know UNDP is already involved in, through its engagement in supporting a number of countries in the preparation for the Rio+20 Conference. I appreciate this effort because I am convinced that no global initiative will succeed if countries do not have the capacity to translate it into their national policies and plans. Our challenge is, while respecting the legacy of Rio-92, to create the right conditions for bridging the implementation gap of important multilateral agreements and to build a shared vision of sustainability for the coming decades.

In the process leading to Rio+20, Brazil is aware that many developing countries face limitations which prevent them from properly engaging in the process, offering their views, perspectives and needs. This situation hinders the desired balance in the discussions. No other institution is better prepared to support these countries than UNDP, with its comprehensive network in almost all UN Member States and its detailed knowledge of national capacities, priorities and perspectives.

However, when we discuss the work of UN institutions around the world, the reference to a "country driven process" has become a cliche. The challenge here is to make the idea of "country driven" more than a buzz word. This process UNDP is engaged in, thus, is not about the United Nations, it is about each nation, so that each country can not only actively participate in the preparatory process for Rio+20 but also, more importantly, recognize its outcomes as reflecting their own circumstances, capacities, needs and priorities. It is with this view that I invite you all to look at the preparatory process.

On the road leading up to Rio+20 it is important that each country can benefit not only from its outcomes, but from the process itself. In my country, our eyes are not set only on the Conference, as an international process. Whatever happens in Rio+20 - and we are worldng hard for it to be a most successful event - Brazil will inherit a significant and expressive legacy, resulting from the comprehensive dialogue and debate in which the Brazilian society is already involved, guided by the principles of a green economy strategy oriented towards poverty eradication.

The Brazilian Government is deeply committed to eliminating extreme poverty in my country. This is the main governmental objective in Brazil, translated into the Program "Brazil Without Extreme Poverty". This program includes an important component, the Green Grant, which provides income for those people who live in and protect the forests. Besides that, in the last years, social and economic policies led to a better income distribution which resulted in a significant movement from lower to middle class. In this context, producing and consuming without compromising our natural capital is at the same time a challenge and an opportunity for Brazil.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rio+20 Conference has to do with everything that will be discussed here during the next days. If the United Nations and its agencies are to make a difference in this process, it will be important for you to reflect on what we have achieved since 1992 and the reasons for such a low level of implementation ofthe important agreements we reached during Rio-92. Among many reasons for the general feeling of failure of the present development models is the lack of an economic paradigm that considers environmental risks, ecological scarcities and social disparities. In this context, it is important to realize that many developing countries do not exhaust their natural resources because they feel they have the right to do so, or because they are allowed to repeat the mistakes that rich countries made. They do that simply because they don't have accessible and affordable alternatives.

Lack of political commitment in the last 20 years has pushed consideration of sustainable. development into the background in a way that not only harmed the environmental conditions of the planet, but also impacted the economic stability of the system and increased social disparities. We are clearly paying the price for unsustainable production and consumption models.

I am a Minister of the Environment, but I understand that Rio+20 will be focusing on sustainable development, not on the environment in isolation. I understand that global problems sometimes viewed as environmental in nature are actually development problems, which require a more integrated approach in their solutions. In the same way that it happens at the national level, global environmental problems are basically development problems. This creates the opportunity and the need for a complete review of the institutional frameworks of both the environment and of the sustainable development at the United Nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the main themes for Rio+20 is "green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication". So far, this issue has been very divisive in the international community. Many countries still feel that the discussions around the concept of green economy are against their own interests and priorities. This is something I strongly want to highlight: Rio+20 will not have a successful result if all countries do not see themselves, and their needs, included. Any approach which increases the gap between developed and developing countries will be unacceptable, rendering impossible the necessary consensus for a successful Conference in 2012.

The concept of sustainable development has allowed us to overcome the false notion of a contradiction between protecting the environment and eliminating poverty and hunger. This represents real progress, which cannot be lost. Thus, we must maintain a clear understanding that a "green economy" is not an alternative to, or an updating of, the sustainable development paradigm.

The recently issued UNEP report "Toward the Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication - A Synthesis for Policy Makers" is definitely an important contribution for this debate. As it is refined, this UNEP contribution must help us consider green economy as one of the tools for achieving sustainable development, to be defined and used by each country according to its specific national circumstances, not as a universal and prescriptive set of parameters and solutions for all countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The multilateral agenda in recent years has been contaminated by a perverse north-south divide that leads nowhere. The fingerpointing exercise by both developed and developing countries has proved unproductive. We definitely need new standards for north-south relations, in a world in which southsouth cooperation can also be seen as a key driver for sustainability. Brazil strongly believes in the possibility of countries working in partnership, without foregoing their sovereign rights to make their own choices based on their particular circumstances, capacities and needs.

On the road to Rio+20, it is important to recognize the need for innovative and creative solutions for the economic, social and environmental crisis our planet faces. If in 1992 we laid all our expectations in intergovermnental multilateral solutions, present times must include a much broader range of actors which not only are influenced by, but also can deeply influence the ways in which we will be moving. The role of civil society and of the private sector cannot be underestimated at the cost of deepening the gap of implementation of governmental and intergovermnental decisions. On the particular issue of green economy, no progress will be made without the engagement of the private sector in a substantive global economic transformation.

The group gathered here can provide a great contribution to this debate. The experiences of participation of major groups in UN processes has proven to be mere legitimizing processes, which do not actually contribute to the global decision making process. This is the challenge I suggest that you think about: how to make creative and effective links between what the nongovernmental world is doing and the government-driven multilateral processes?

Most of these concerns are also being taken into account by the UN High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, in which I have the honour to participate. The Panel was convened by his Excellency the Secretary-General, to suggest options to find a way out of the sustainability crisis the world faces, which in his own words, "reveals the weaknesses of our governance structures and our outdated development models. It shows the limits of our current approach, which continues to deal with individual symptoms rather than the causes and their inter-relationships".

The Panel will do its part, offering our view on how to move from where we are to where we want to be. The core challenges are of an enormous dimension and include issues as green growth, markets, governance (local, national, global), gender and women empowerment, access to energy and tecnology, food and water security, employment, among others. The options are many, but we Members of the Panel share a main consensus: the way we run the planet cannot continue. The route to the more sustainable world we have to find lies in looking at economic development, social equity and environmental protection as single faces of the same problem.

I feel particularly worried when I see that all discussions aiming at a reform of the world's financial architecture do not effectively and seriously look at the issue of sustainability. In that sense, the main indicator of the success of the Panel's report will be if it can touch, access and influence minds of Finance Ministers and finance institutions. We don't want to make another report for people like us, who are somehow already "converted".

It is usually said that "we can't manage what we can't measure". This is a language that the financial world understands. We need a new way to measure progress, something different from the GDP formula which does not take into account social and environmental externalities. This IS something both the Panel and the Rio+20 process should be looking at. Finding new ways to measure progress is another area in which the UN System and particularly the UNDP can do a lot, building upon experiences as the Milleninum Development Goals and the Human Development Index. Both experiences provide information on where we are and where we want to go and they must be reinforced, developed, enhanced.

One of the possible outcomes of Rio+20 which has been increasingly discussed is the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals, looking beyond 2015. The MDGs are a way to tackle many development problems and to measure progress in doing so. They are concrete, quantifiable targets. However, they lack the enabling conditions for the ambitious targets to be met. A new discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals will only be effective if there is a serious and committed discussion on ways to achieving them and we are confident we can do that. UNDP is certainly an important actor in this process. It is also important that the scope is broadened to include developed and developing economies alike.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the host of a second world summit on sustainable development, Brazil is committed to significant results in Rio in 2012. But we must work hard for that. Time is short and so far we have been able to see more what divides us than what unites us. It is time for us to understand the complexity of the crisis and work towards its solution.

An important finding by the UNEP Report on Green Economy is that "there is no trade-off between environmental sustainability and economic progress."

This finding is particularly important for the issue of making the discussion inclusive for both developed and developing countries, The UNEP report is clear in affirming that green economy is not a luxury that only wealth countries can afford, However, it is also clear in highlighting that there is a need to establish new enabling conditions for this process to happen.

This is where the Rio+20 Conference can make a difference: in assuring that all countries will be in similar conditions to implement whatever decisions we might take in Rio, If there is one important learnt lesson from these last 20 years is that the meaningful results achieved in Rio-92 have not been accompanied by the political will and the necessary funds, technology and capacity building that lead to implementation, We don't necessarily need new commitments, we need new ways of looking at those we have already agreed to.

Brazil is willing to work towards a successful Conference in 2012 but we are aware that no results will be achieved without a strong political commitment from all parties, An unforgettable memory of Rio-92 was what was coined as the "spirit of Rio", It is with the same spirit that we should be working on the Road to the Rio+20 Conference.

Thank you.