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Brazil's Lula Lashes Out At Rich Nations
Published on Tuesday, March 28, 2006 by the Inter Press Service
Brazil's Lula Lashes Out At Rich Nations
by Haider Rizvi

CURITIBA, Brazil - Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva Monday castigated the wealthy and technologically advanced countries of the world for failing to live up to their responsibility in tackling poverty and environmental degradation on the planet.

"We are concerned at cutbacks in funding for development," he told a major international conference here on biological diversity, which is being attended by more than 4,000 officials, including scientists and conservationists, from around the world.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is seen during a ceremony of the eighth biannual Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in Curitiba, Brazil, on Monday, March 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Luiz Costa)
Despite repeated pledges, most developed countries have not achieved the targets set for official development assistance to poor countries. At the two-week Conference, many delegates from other developing countries have also voiced similar concerns.

In his speech at a ministerial-level meeting on biodiversity, the popular Brazilian leader, known widely as "Lula", also criticised the West for what many economists consider unsustainable patterns of consuming the world's resources, which are contributing to an alarming level of poverty. In 1980, the rich had 30 times more wealth than the poor, noted Lula. Now that ratio has almost doubled.

"The industrialised nations spend about 900 billion dollars to defend their national borders," the Brazilian president said. "But they allocate less than 60 billion dollars for development in poor countries, where hunger has become a silent weapon of mass destruction."

Lula told delegates that the developed world is willfully neglecting the widening gulf between the rich and poor because it continues to cling to a model of development that has no room for collective sharing of resources and lacks concern for environmental degradation.

"Biodiversity is our planet's greatest treasure. Anything that is contrary to its conservation and to fair benefit sharing must be rejected," Lula said. "It's time to act. It's time for change."

Last weekend, over 100 environment ministers arrived here to sort out how they can reverse the adverse effects of unsustainable development on earth's biodiversity. The U.N. Convention on Biodiversity has already set targets which are due to be achieved by 2010. The Convention's implementation requires accessibility to genetic resources, fair and equitable share in ecosystem benefits and funding for technology transfers to developing countries.

Lula's critical take on the West's attitude towards environmental rehabilitation comes at a time when delegates are still engaged in negotiations on a variety of contentious issues, including funding. Observers think that his call for funding will be taken seriously because under his rule, Brazil has taken a number of practical actions to protect the environment.

Last month, for example, Lula signed a presidential decree to place over six million hectares of the Amazon rainforest under direct governmental protection. He also launched a "zero hunger" campaign and agreed to sponsor Baze, the Brazilian Alliance for Zero Extinction, with 25 other partners.

At the conference, Brazil also led the way in maintaining a moratorium on the contentious issue of testing and marketing of some types of genetically modified seeds. On Mar. 24, the working group in charge of addressing the issue elected to keep a ban on field trials of Terminator technology, which produces seeds whose sterile offspring cannot reproduce, over the opposition of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

"Anything that threatens life is unacceptable," Lula said referring to the ban on testing of so-called "suicide seeds".

Lula's government has also been widely praised for helping the international community adopt what is now known as the Curitiba accord under the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety, which Dr. Klaus Topfer, the head of the U.N. Environment Programme, has described as "the new legal instrument of the 21st century".

"For your contributions to fulfilling the 2010 Biodiversity promise of the heads of state, I would like to say to you in my capacity as a mere citizen of the world and on behalf of my wife and two children, obrigado (thank you), Mr. President," Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention, told Lula.

In a recent interview with IPS, Djoghlaf shared Lula's concern over the question of funding for environmental protection and sustainable development in industrially developing countries. "Financing is very crucial. Is it enough? No, and no," he said.

Djoghlaf, who likes to describe the Convention on Biodiversity as the 14-year-old daughter of Rio (a reference to the 1992 Earth Summit in the Brazilian coastal city Rio de Janeiro), urged environment ministers to agree on the "roadmap" for achieving the 2001 biodiversity target.

"We are probably the last generation that still has the possibility of stopping the destruction of the living environment before an irreversible threshold is crossed," Djoghlaf quoted French president Jacques Chirac as stating at a biodiversity meeting held in Paris last year in January.

Meanwhile, for his part, Lula has expressed his disappointment with the slow pace of progress on the Implementation of the Convention, which he sees as the outcome of the lack of political will in much of the developed world. "Since 1992, how much have we advanced?" he asked. "Yes, we have signed many agreements. But they have offered nothing but protocols."

The environment ministers are scheduled to have a series of interactive dialogues for the next two days.

Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service


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