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Post-Rio Sustainable Development and the Summit

Maurice F. Strong

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New Dimensions of Cooperation

This calls for a series of special measures. It has never been feasible simply to look to more foreign aid as the answer to the external resource needs of developing countries. The traditional foreignaid syndrome must be shed, and NorthSouth relationships must be examined in a totally new context of enlightened, mutual selfinterest, and common and shared, though differentiated, responsibilities. Special measures are necessary to reduce the debt burdens of the poorest countries. Innovative new mechanisms and instruments for transfer of financial resources and technologies are also needed. For example, a global system of tradeable emission permits is one of the most realistic and potentially acceptable means to channel funds for environmental protection to the places where they can be used most costeffectively. And these places will, to a large degree, be in the developing world.

A particular imperative is the need for all governments to make radical changes in their policies and expenditure priorities. Traditional systems of incentives and penalties by which governments motivate the economic behaviour of individuals and corporations, must be reoriented. Without that, the objectives of sustainable development will not be achieved.

Environmentalists must make the hard case (as well as the more distant security case) for the environmental and sustainable development. The soft case is a valid one; but it is not sufficient. For example, the case for energy efficiency is a winwin situation. The developing countries simply will not be able to meet their needs for new investment and energy on the traditional basis. In many countries, the necessary funds are not available to meet projected capital needs for energy alone. Energy efficiency is one of the primary answers. The initiative to create a global energy efficiency collaborative is one of the possible responses to the hard case for sustainability.

The environment cannot be left to environment ministers, even less can sustainable development. One of the disappointments of Rio is that the Commission for Sustainable Development has become largely a gathering of environment ministers. Environment ministers are necessary. But environmental ministries alone cannot care for the environment. They make an important contribution; but it is through economic and sectoral policies and the management of economic life that the environment is truly affected. And that is where the real changes have got to occur. Environmental ministries and agencies have to sit at the table and help provide the environmental input to that process. But they are not going to be able to exercise the power required to implement the changes that are necessary.

Nations everywhere are increasingly being forced to recognize the limited capacity of governments to meet the expectations of the electorate, an electorate which, in many cases, is unwilling to accept new taxes, and which insists upon a greater degree of costeffectiveness, transparency and accountability from government. Such concerns are directly related to the movement toward more democratic forms of government that has taken place throughout the world.

A series of paradoxes is developing which will soon confront both industrialized and developing countries with some very painful tensions and challenges. While efficient and competitive economies produce more gross national product, the benefits accrue disproportionately to the minority who have capital and knowledge to deploy. This class is highly mobile and those in it can move their assets and activities across national borders. They will exercise these options when they have to bear too great a burden of taxes to support the cost of maintaining a disproportionately large and costly government, and of providing welfare for the elderly, the needy, the underskilled and the unemployed. The latter are, largely, not mobile, and, indeed, there are more and more barriers to their movement.

Migration will become an issue of growing importance in the world community, and an issue of growing controversy. It is appropriate that it be on the Halifax agenda, as it will likely be on the international agenda for a long time. The fact that modern, competitive, industrial societies require proportionally less labour and more capital and knowledge will, ultimately, lead to a widening and entrenchment of the richpoor gap, not only between nations, but within industrialized nations.

Democratic market capitalism must find ways of dealing with these emerging dilemmas or risk becoming the victim of its own success. It must become just as effective at meeting society's needs as it is at generating economic growth. Where large sections of society are denied the ability to participate in the benefits of the prevailing economic system, that system will not be sustainable.

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