Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
20. Is not the bottom line that the US is very
cool on this conference, and without their involvement the thing
is going to be a complete flop? What do you think the chances
are of actually getting George Bush Junior there; to me, they
appear very slim? And the reason that Rio worked was, because,
and I think partly because, of pressure from the British Government,
actually George Bush Senior arrived, at the end of the conference.
And we hear a lot about the special relationship between Britain
and the US, but, in actual fact, we do not seem to see, the Prime
Minister does not appear to be getting any leverage out of that
whatsoever, and, unless we get the US on board, you can fly around
all the world, and any different capitals you like, unless you
actually make a difference in Washington, it is going to make
absolutely no difference whatsoever?
(Mr Nouhan) For what it is worth, the United States
had the largest delegation there, for those two weeks, there were
dozens of people there from the US.
21. At the PrepCom?
(Mr Nouhan) Yes; engaged in every which way you can
imagine, initiatives for Africa, global governance, they had representatives
from the EPA, talking about indicators and how they can be used,
globally and nationally. This is not just because I am American,
which you have probably been wondering, but I have gotten to know
the head negotiator, the lead person from the US delegation, who
is at every one of these meetings. What you see in the press and
what you hear at the higher level, what you hear publicly, is
one thing; that is not to say that they are not cool on this,
because they do not want to
22. I do not mean Americans, period, I mean
the Bush Administration, particularly?
(Mr Nouhan) The Bush Administration had dozens of
people there, focussing and working very, very hard to have positive
23. That is very encouraging.
(Mr Nouhan) Whether or not they have come up with
anything substantial, whether or not Bush goes, is not a question
I can answer.
24. It seems to me that since 1992 there has
been a lot of trimming; there have been some bold initiatives,
and Kyoto perhaps is something that has happened in the last ten
years, which has brought a sense of reality to politicians, and
it is still the case that Kyoto has not really moved us much further
on, internationally, although some Governments clearly have made
quite strident efforts, and I think the UK Government is one of
those. I just wonder if I could tempt you to be perhaps a little
bit risky, and ask you if you could make a prediction of what
will be the great achievement that politicians laud, in the first
weeks of September this year, as having come out of this conference,
what do you think they will be saying is the great achievement?
(Mr Phillips) I am pretty sure that it is going to
be around poverty. And what we are, in our most cynical moments,
and we are sometimes very cynical, but we are mostly very optimistic,
at Friends of the Earth, actually, despite the fact that very
often we are called just the cynics, what we were concerned about
at Rio was that some of the key issues were sidelined, and there
was this sort of deal between some of the big players in the world
to get sustainable development on the map, but some of the uncomfortable
things were put aside. The financing and the environmental governance
arrangements were not very clearly sorted out, the role of business
and industry was completely set aside, in favour of them coming
on board the sustainable development; so the UN Centre on Transnationals
was ended, and the Code of Conduct on Transnationals literally
was ripped up, in the days before the Summit started. So some
of those kind of key driving issues were not there. But at the
end of it there was the business sector and some of the world's
Governments saying, "Well, look what it is; here we've delivered
sustainable development." And what we are worried is that
they are going to do the same thing this time, they are just going
to call it `poverty'; and we are just concerned about the `business
as usual', to be honest, we need this to be a turning-point for
the world, not just a road map. It needs to be a place where the
assessments are made, the judgements are made, where we actually
appraise whether the particular route that we are taking is really
delivering or not, and that, if it is not, this has to be the
place where we make the turn. Where else is it going to be, because
we are not going to get that kind of turning-point in the WTO,
we are not going to get it in Bretton Woods institutions; therefore
it needs to be addressed within the sort of multilateral framework
that Governments can deliver, and therefore they have got to tackle
some of the issues that were not tackled before. So poverty is
going to be the headline thing that they will be talking about,
but there is going to be precious little to back that up which,
when you tease it out, it is not going to be about a trade-off
between financing, opening up some markets and making this kind
of global deal stuff, which the EU is promoting.
25. Is it your view that tackling poverty means
greater world trade and opportunities for transnationals to come
in and do things in certain countries?
(Mr Phillips) It is certainly the view that tackling
world poverty includes a fairer trade system and it includes dealing
with international global equity questions, and it does not just
mean that opening up markets is the only route for doing that,
it is like the `one size fits all' route is not a route that seems
to have delivered so far; therefore, if you look at the situation
with Argentina, and so on. So, therefore, that slavish devotion
to that particular, one route is not going to deliver, in our
view, and that is the `business as usual' agenda we are very desperately
concerned about. What we want to see instead is some of the brakes,
some of the other approaches which are necessary to start balancing
things out, so that we start to get a system which is based on
rules, yes, but based on rules of fairness and equity, and a system
which also deals with the checks and balances. So that is one
of the reasons we are promoting a Corporate Accountability Convention
as something which the Summit should seek to address.
26. I was very pleased and relieved that we
are not without hope, and I am wondering how hopeful we might
be. There would seem not to be, from your experiences at the pre-conference,
good grounds to be optimistic, but hopeful; that, I think, though
is worthwhile. I am just interested to try to get into your minds
about a particular view that I hold, it is to do with the language
and the way in which language describes and manages realities,
sometimes. I personally dislike intensely the word `stakeholder',
I find it an objectionable word. I have a view that it tends to
describe and admit the existing distribution of wealth in the
world, and that there are some people, for example, who have got
a 60 per cent stake, and they are going to hang on to it, and
some with a lot less than that and they are going to have to stick
with it. Whereas I think that what we havethis is a long
sort of preamble, I am sorry about that, Chairis a world
which inevitably is going to be having to manage a universal view,
which would be a sort of comprehensive and continuous recognition
of a shared, equal interest. Now that being the case, I am delighted
to hear, and I would just like some confirmation of this, that
poverty eradication, I gather, looks like being the central issue,
and, if it is, it may be the beginnings, Chair, of the steps towards
improving the degree of benefit that may accrue to one country
from world trade as opposed to the present situation; and we might
then see the stakeholders, as it were, levelling up, so that there
could be some prospect of agreement amongst so-called stakeholders.
Is that a view that you might share, that we have to eliminate
and build a better, equal distribution of the world's wealth?
(Dr Jefferiss) That would be my aspiration, I would
share that aspiration; whether or not this Summit is likely to
deliver that, I am not sure. I would agree with Matt that poverty
alleviation, in some respect, is likely to be the keynote issue
of the Summit, and it is likely that we will emerge with the conclusion
that poverty alleviation is very important, for all sorts of reasons,
including that it will take pressure off natural resources, and,
by preserving natural resources, we will be better able to alleviate
poverty, that there are synergies, and so on. I think the crucial
question though is how the international community decides to
achieve poverty alleviation, and I think there is a real danger
that it will devolve to `business as usual', either in the form
of more trade, rather than fair trade, or in the form of bilateral
donor agreements for development aid, rather than a kind of international
community set of agreements. I think there will probably be quite
a lot of reliance on voluntary measures, there will be lots of
piecemeal efforts. So I would be concerned that, although it is
a useful aspiration and it will likely be the focus of the Summit,
the Summit probably will not deliver concrete mechanisms for achieving
27. Could I ask you just one or two specific
questions about the UK Government's preparation. Do you think
there are any particular Government Departments which could make
a greater contribution?
(Mr Nouhan) The Departments which one might think
were the obvious candidates, what is now DEFRA, the Department
of Trade and Industry, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and
DFID, are the four Departments, and I am sure you are aware of
that. With the recent election, and now that we have DTLR, they
certainly were not represented in New York, as the others were.
All the four Government Departments I have mentioned were represented
in New York and the Cabinet Office had a representative there
28. So that is five that were there?
(Mr Nouhan) Five were there; but, if I could say,
there should be more engagement, I am not sure why it is not the
case, perhaps because it is new, but DTLR, especially because
of its role with local government, and the Education Department.
29. They were not there?
(Mr Nouhan) They were not there; and one of the big
themes that is emerging in New York has been education for sustainable
development, it has been emerging here in the UK, UK UNESCO is
focussing on that, a number of other stakeholders, pardon the
phrase, we are so used to saying it, we are stuck with it, to
be honest with you. So, off the top of my head, those two, and
I think there is an effort to get them engaged, but it is also
getting a bit late; once the third PrepCom is over, the agenda
is pretty well set.
30. Can I just follow that up, if I may, Chair.
In terms of local authorities not being represented there at the
New York conference, sorry, DTLR not representing local authorities,
how crucial do you think that is, and what scope do you see for
them being involved; what should have happened?
(Mr Nouhan) I am not the best person to answer that.
I would suggest that, the next session, when Mike Ashley, from
Local Government, is going to be sitting with you, he would be
the best person to answer that question.
31. What impression do you get of DFID's role,
in preparation, the Department for International Development?
(Mr Nouhan) Very active; DFID is very, very active.
(Dr Jefferiss) I would frame it slightly differently,
in that my impression has been that DEFRA has been so active,
as the lead Department, that its activities, to a large extent,
have overshadowed the activities of other Departments, so that
it has been hard to discern what others are doing. DFID is probably
the exception, they have certainly been active as well; but the
activities, at least to my knowledge, of Foreign Office and Cabinet
Office have not been as clear..
32. I am interested to hear your opinions on
whether or not you think that the Government has been sufficiently
active in raising the profile of this Summit, both at home and
abroad; do you think it is enough, what the Government is doing,
or should we hope for more?
(Mr Phillips) Just a couple of comments on that, because
there have been two or three comments now, in particular, also,
about public awareness generally. I can look at this, from one
side, from a campaigning perspective, and, Friends of the Earth,
we are not going to start raising the issue of the Earth Summit
too early, because we will have to spend half our time explaining
what it is all about before we can get on to saying, "Well,
this is what we think it needs to be about." So there is
a point at which you can expect a lot of the public momentum around
this issue to be sort of back-loaded to the month or so preceding
the Summit, whereas probably most of the real negotiating business
will be concluded, or not concluded but as good as concluded,
33. That is a very unfortunate dislocation,
is it not?
(Mr Phillips) Yes; indeed, the negotiation will take
place in Jakarta.
34. Because in reality it will take place before
the Earth Summit?
(Mr Phillips) Yes. We are worried about that, too,
because what that means to us is that the sort of public pressure
for change might not actually be taking place, as you say, exactly
when the change needs to take place, so the politicians who really
want to get something out of this Summit which is really positive
and forward-looking are not necessarily going to have the political
momentum behind them that they feel they might need. That is why
there needs to be, perhaps, a little bit of attention-grabbing
from the UK Government, a little bit before, and especially before
Jakarta; because if there are a lot of Ministers going to go there
35. And how could it do that?
(Mr Phillips) I think this is going to come down to
the high profile Ministers making it an issue and also making
it a debate.
36. And are they doing that, at all, at the
(Mr Phillips) I think there has been a little bit
of activity from Michael Meacher, that I am aware of, but I have
not really seen very much. The Deputy Prime Minister is supposed
to be co-ordinating the work, so let us see him active.
37. Moving forward a little bit, and I think
we have touched on this, about the tensions between International
Development, and I think it is very interesting hearing particularly
from Friends of the Earth about how poverty is getting high on
their agenda, whereas generally they are seen as environmental
battlers, more than anything else. But at the WWF's conference
last year Clare Short was saying, at that time, that the environmental
movement must move away from policing development to harnessing
the positive benefits that better environmental protection and
management can offer to poor people. I suspect you may agree with
her, but, if not, please tell me. Are you taking this approach,
in practical terms, and have you any UK examples of projects which
would demonstrate this support between better environment and
better situations for all poor people?
(Dr Jefferiss) May I answer that, from the perspective
of the RSPB. I think that there needs to be a recognition that
there is, in reality, a balance between and synergies between
poverty alleviation, on the one hand, and natural resource conservation,
on the other. If you manage natural resources sustainably then
it provides a means of income, particularly for poor people, who
depend on natural resources for their livelihoods; that is the
basis behind the International Development Target of reversing
declines in natural resources by 2015. Globally, eco-system services,
environmental goods and services, appear to provide about the
same amount of monetised value, annually, as GDP does, globally;
conversely, I think it is equally true that, if you achieve poverty
alleviation, that is actually the best way of conserving natural
resources, because poor people then need to depend less heavily
on their environment, and therefore there is less pressure to
degrade it. So I think everyone is agreed that there are synergies
and there needs to be a balance. I think DFID agrees that, certainly
in recent publications on environment and poverty, and on biodiversity
specifically, that has been the balance they have talked about.
In terms of the work that we do, it is certainly a balance we
try to strike, both in the work that we conduct in less-developed
countries, in Africa and elsewhere in the world, and within the
UK. And there is plenty of evidence to show that investing in
the natural environment, conserving natural resources, does lead
to economic benefits; some of those economic benefits are quite
direct, in that it creates jobs, it draws in tourism, it creates
employment in the local economy. It also serves as a foundation
to expand local economic activity, because businesses are attracted
to areas which are managed sustainably from an environmental point
of view. If you are interested, the RSPB has done an analysis
of the precise value that we can calculate, that comes from nature
conservation in the activities in the UK.
38. That would be very useful.
(Dr Jefferiss) So there is plenty of evidence that
that is the case.
39. I would like to ask a question directly
on that. I would be very interested to see those figures, too,
and the study that you have done; do you have a sort of matching
set of figures and studies that you may have done about the damage
that might be done by people travelling to take part in the tourist
industry, long-haul flights, etc?
(Dr Jefferiss) Such analyses do exist. We have not
conducted those specifically.
2 `Conservation Works ... for local economies in the
UK', together with a summary, published by RSBP, August