BY H.E. MR. YASHWANT
Permit me to congratulate you on the successful organisation of this historic Conference in this vibrant city of Johannesburg. Permit me also, to thank you for the warm hospitality of the Government of South Africa and your people which we have deeply appreciated. The issues on the agenda of the Conference are crucial to the future of mankind. What is the philosophy which should guide us in their resolution? Mahatma Gandhi, the enduring symbol of our common legacy of struggle, had this advice to give to policy makers ". "Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his life and destiny?"
This call encompasses the philosophy of what is recognized today as essentials of sustainable development - man has to be at the center of all development efforts; his control over his life and environs assured to him by the State. In the convening of this Conference, all of us gathered here are still seeking means to translate that idea into action.
Mr. President, the preparatory process which carried us to this Summit could have been more productive in terms of results. I am aware of the "cautionary approach" with which delegations have participated in the deliberations. However, while glancing through the draft Programme of Implementation, I have been struck by the richness of the debate which the process has generated.
There, within less than a hundred pages, was the product of efforts to list, define and recommend action on every aspect of human activity which impacts life on earth. With poverty eradication given unquestioned priority, the document also scrutinizes unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, which bear the greater guilt for degrading the environment through profligate use of finite resources, than do teeming numbers of the impoverished. Because we focus on sustainable development, we underplay the fact that the real problem is unsustainable consumption and the pressure it generates on the earth's finite resources. It is this attachment to unsustainable consumption patterns, and a determination to preserve and raise levels of prosperity at any cost, that breeds resistance to any meaningful reform in the financial and economic structures that underpin global society today, and results in the neglect of the development agenda.
The poor are not the biggest consumers of the world's resources; the rich are. The concept of sustainable development puts an unequal burden on developing countries as their developmental aspirations are considered potentially threatening to the prosperity of the developing countries and come under close scrutiny. On the other hand, the developed countries who by definition have transcended the challenges of development, pursue growth and increased prosperity without similar scrutiny with regard to sustainability. Issues such as good governance, democracy, debt reduction, poverty alleviation, social and health questions, of primary importance in themselves, are being used to maintain undue focus on the problems of developing countries and deflect attention away from the core responsibilities of the developed world.
The process has also highlighted the truth that sustainable development requires governance that is democratic both in form and substance. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has used the experience of India to illustrate this. A sub-continent plagued by famine during its colonial history changed its destiny after opting for democracy - it continued to experience crop failures, but never a famine. Democratic governance with all its elements has to be accountable to its people.
Mr. President, while this process has thrown up pertinent issues on which we must act together, it has also sadly underscored a fundamental gap in the understanding of the legitimate needs of developing countries. It is difficult to pursue enlightened approaches to development in a world where ODA levels are falling, protectionism is on the rise, terms of trade are stacked in favour of the rich, debt burdens have spiralled, corporate governance need urgent redefinition, and the volatility of international capital transfers has affected productive investment flows to the South. Thus, according to the Human Development Reports of 2002, 2.8 billion people still live on less than $2 a day and the richest 1 % of the world's people receive as much income each year as the poorest 57%. Industrial country tariffs on imports from developing countries are four times those on imports from other industrial countries. In addition, as is well known, OECD countries provide about $1 billion a day in domestic agricultural subsidies which is more than 6 times what they spend on ODA for developing countries.
All of us in the developing world realise that the principal responsibility of development in a country has to be that of the country itself. But those of us who remember Rio recall that the commitments for `sustainable' development, taken in good faith by the developing countries, were premised on the availability of new and additional financial resources and transfer of environmentally-sound technologies by developed countries on a concessional basis.
India has taken its own national responsibilities seriously. Sustainable development has become an integral part of our planning process. The Government has published an assessment of 10 years of Agenda 21, based on the Indian experience, to commemorate the Johannesburg WSSD. I am happy to inform you, Mr. President, that India deposited its instrument of accession to the Kyoto Protocol on August 26 in New York and we are now preparing to host the 8th
Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. India's commitment to sustainable development is second to none.
Mr. President, sustainable development was conceived as a unifying philosophy. It was born of our combined idealism at Rio where we had pledged, each one of us, on the basis of our common but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities to act in a concerted manner for the greater good of mankind and our carrying planet.
Let me conclude with an invocation from the ancient Indian text Atharvaveda,
composed 3200 years ago in 1200 B.C.