issue 2, March - April 2000
|Linkages between Climate Change and Desertification: Opportunities of an Integrated Approach|
|This article aims at highlighting the opportunities
of an integrated approach towards linkages between climate change and desertification, so
that further impetus is added to this endeavour and corresponding activities are
encouraged, thereby contributing to an enhanced implementation of both conventions.
linkages and why are they important?
The process of
linkages describes the endeavour of two or more entities, contributing different
perspectives and complementary expertise to achieve one overarching objective in a
cooperative manner. Joining forces on cross-cutting issues results in a win-win situation
for each separate entity and an improved situation overall, thus, creating synergies.
Linkages are vital
as they help to generate consistent, coordinated and integrated responses. They also
reduce overlaps and duplication, detect gaps, and avoid conflicts. The sharing of efforts
undertaken, different experiences, best practices and lessons learned, all help in
minimizing costs and maximizing the probability of a successful outcome.
In the context of
this article the following three areas of possible and complementary linkages are
|The Shared Rivers Initiative: Building a common vision for international river basins in Southern Africa|
|Almost half of the worlds land, and as much as 70% of inhabitable
land falls within international watersheds. Of the 214 multinational river basins in the
world, 57 are in Africa, with southern Africa possessing the Orange/Senqu, Limpopo,
Incomati and Zambezi as significant shared river systems. According to Peter Gleick
(author of The Worlds Water: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources),
the entire sub-region is mostly dependent on rainfall and runoff for water supply, with
every major perennial river being shared by two or more countries.
If the rivers
draining international basins delivered water in excess of requirements the potential for
conflict would be low. This, however, is unfortunately not the case for most of Africa, as
illustrated by the example of Mozambique, where South Africa and Swaziland constitute the
major catchment area of several rivers systems that are shared with that country. In fact
according to Gleick, "Mozambiques rivers all originate outside of its
borders in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland, and by the time they reach Mozambique
they are substantially depleted or contaminated. Mozambique has become concerned that its
neighbours, particularly South Africa, are contributing to their difficulty in growing
food and to the problems in maintaining even minimal flows in the shared rivers".
experience shows that countries that use less than 5% of their total runoff experience few
water management problems, whereas in countries using over 20%, water supply becomes a
national issue to the extent that it limits the realisation of economic potential.
Estimates from the Department of Water Affairs reveal that South Africa currently utilises
about 50% of the total runoff. Scarcity of water has thus made allocation a central issue,
in terms of allocations to sectors (e.g. domestic, agriculture, industry and environment)
within a country and between countries. This is particularly the case now that Mozambique
has acquired the political stability to promote social and economic development.
in the distribution and utilisation of water resources is therefore a critical and urgent
need for the region. The new South African National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998), together
with the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998), have been a major step
forward in establishing the principles of equity and sustainability as a basis for
decision-making and planning. An entire chapter of the National Water Act, for example, is
devoted to establishing the mechanisms that ensure the provision of water to meet
sharing a common vision
Although it is
clear that the principles of equity, efficiency and sustainability inform our attempts at
conflict resolution and consensus building, debate between unequal partners, and
particularly partners who do not share a common vision, will not yield lasting solutions.
Furthermore, political ideologies and conflicts have, until recently, prevented
collaboration between researchers in the region. Different approaches have emerged, each
characterised by a focus on national issues notwithstanding the acknowledged importance of
integration at a river basin scale. Because rivers cross political borders, it is
understood that there must be complementary capabilities (understanding, expertise,
technology, management processes and information) amongst all the affected partners.
Phase 1 of the
Shared Rivers Initiative (SRI)
It was with this
goal in mind that a group of stakeholders convened in February 1999 to discuss what
actions would be required to achieve sustainability in the management of shared river
systems. The group represented a diverse range of researchers, government officials and
interested parties. Arising out of this workshop was a team of enthusiastic partners who
all agreed that the best way forward was to devote a year towards working together to
document issues of concern, share problems, develop capacity and most importantly,
collaborate on developing a comprehensive research proposal that would meet the research
and development challenges of the forthcoming decades. The Swedish International
Development Co-operation (SIDA) generously agreed to fund this initial phase, and work
towards developing a shared vision commenced in the last quarter of 1999.
programme has both a conceptual and a geographical focus. The conceptual focus is one of
research being directed towards providing the knowledge, understanding and support
required to promote management for the environmental sustainability of shared river
systems. The geographical focus is that of research being initially focussed on one shared
river system, the Incomati. In this way researchers will develop:
|Trade and Sustainable Development|
months have passed since the breakdown of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in
Seattle. The comments on what happened in Seattle have been numerous and varied. Many
commentators, notably among the media, took the easy way out and blamed the collapse of
the meeting on the street demonstrators. They were portrayed as people being against trade
and economic co-operation and dominated by a group of violent anarchists.
There was indeed
violence on the streets and certainly there were anarchists among the protesters but the
vast majority of the protestors, however, were disciplined and peaceful. Representing
human rights organisations, labour activists, farmers, indigenous people, forest activists
and environmentalists, they questioned the wisdom of launching a new trade round, not
because they were against trade and economic co-operation, but because they felt that the
trade system of today is unfair to people and detrimental to the environment. Listening to
ordinary people though, has never been the WTOs strong point. The WTO has been
concerned with one thing only: namely the expansion of trade. In this vein, trade
liberalisation has been viewed as bestowing benefits to all involved parties, with any
negative consequences been either sidelined or dismissed completely as being irrelevant.
Governmental Organisation (NGO) protestors in Seattle were of great significance. Although
they certainly focussed attention on some of the obvious shortcomings of the WTO it would,
however, be wrong to claim that it was them that caused the collapse of the meeting. As
the WTO Director-General Mike Moore commented in the European Parliament: "We did
not need help from the outside for the meeting to break down". The tensions among
WTO members were sufficient for the meeting to collapse; tensions between the US and the
EU, but even more so between the North and the South.
Undoubtedly it is
a well-established fact that nations that have opened up their borders to trade and
competition have done significantly better in terms of growth than those countries that
have chosen not to. Trade, however, is merely a means and not an end in itself. Our common
vision for the future should be one of sustainable development, i.e. harmony between
economic growth, social development and concern for the environment.
There are many
opportunities for trade to support sustainable development, but this will not happen by
itself. Certain rules or framework conditions have to be put in place first. Surveying the
past record of the WTO, serious shortcomings clearly present themselves from the point of
view of sustainability.
expected the Seattle round to be merely a meeting on multilateral trade. It soon, however,
became a meeting on globalisation. Trade can no longer be viewed as a sector issue. The
inter-linkages with poverty, development, debt issues, environment, human rights etc. are
just too obvious to ignore. Seen from that perspective, Seattle became the first
inter-governmental meeting at a high level to deal with globalisation and its inherent
opportunities and risks. It was clearly evident that the WTO was ill prepared for such a
Much of the
criticism levelled against globalisation and the WTO emanates from the poor results it has
had so far for many developing countries. When one focuses on the poorest countries, there
can be no doubt that they have been the losers of the Marrakech agreement in 1994. Their
share of world trade has gone down and the same is true for their share of the Foreign
Direct Investment (FDI).
to a new trade round therefore should not have come as a huge surprise. A few months
before Seattle, the Group of 77 had given the WTO formal notice that they would not agree
to further liberalisation measures without prior application of the three Rs:
"review, repair and reform" of the WTO. They felt that the pace of change was
too fast, that the full consequences of the Marrakech agreement had not been properly
assessed and that the agenda for Seattle was dominated too much by northern interests.
to the WTO was amplified by the difficulties most of the low-income countries experience
in participating fully in the WTO. Many members lack diplomatic representation in Geneva
where the headquarters of the WTO are located and are therefore put at a clear
countries reacted strongly against having environment on the agenda of the proposed trade
round. They saw it as yet another obstacle for their exports that rich countries were
putting in place; a sort of protectionism in disguise. Such sentiments are understandable.
There are indeed many examples of double standards from the industrialised world as
regards to trade and the environment. Their opposition does also not end there. Developing
countries feel that the support pledged before the Rio Conference to help them address
Agenda 21 and the Rio conventions has not been forthcoming. Their first priority, they
claim, has to be one of poverty alleviation and therefore environmental protection will
have to wait. For anyone genuinely interested in protecting the global environment, it
should be clear that environmental issues cannot be dealt with separately from the issues
of development and poverty reduction. The inter-linkages are certainly obvious.
between trade liberalisation and the environment is a complex one. Increasing trade can
improve environmental quality by increasing efficiency and by facilitating the transfer of
environmentally benign technologies. A more integrated world economy would also provide
strong arguments in favour of international co-operation to protect and safeguard the
expansion could also have negative effects for the environment by shifting production to
regions where environmental protection is currently insufficient. There are many examples
where increased trade has overwhelmed environmental governance. The concentration, pace
and scale of international demand offers large incentives to use the environment in an
unsustainable manner in many poor countries. Current examples of this include shrimp
farming in Asia, timber logging in many tropical countries, the conversion of virgin
forests to palm oil plantations and exotic vegetable growing in South America, to mention
but a few.
problem concerns the relationship between the WTO rules and Multilateral Environmental
Agreements (MEAs). It is presently unclear as to what extent WTO rules have priority
vis-à-vis MEAs or vice versa. A further problem relates to the way in which the WTO
has specifically dealt with environmental issues. For many years in fact, environmental
issues were not recognised at all. In 1995, the environmental community was encouraged by
the re-establishment of a committee on Trade and Environment. Very little progress has,
however, been made and it became obvious to many that the Committee was seen as nothing
but a distraction from the real agenda.
WTO Dispute Settlement Panel has all but ignored environmental and social concerns. In
most environmental disputes that have come before the WTO Dispute Panel whose
deliberations are secret the ruling has been for business and against the
environment. The whole Dispute Settlement System is under severe criticism, both for its
lack of transparency and its narrow interpretation of social and environmental issues.
A great deal more
could be said about the WTO and the environment. No doubt, there are obvious tensions
between trade expansion and environmental sustainability, the resolution of which would be
of interest to all parties, developing countries included. Environmental provisions are
introduced first and foremost out of a genuine concern for the rapid depletion of forests,
fisheries and other natural resources, as well as the grave consequences of increased
pollution, and not because of a primary interest to put up barriers to trade.
interested in the strengthening of the multilateral trade system it should be clear by now
that trade discussions in the future will have to take into account a whole range of
issues. An integrated approach is needed. This means that trade cannot be dealt with
separately from issues such as development, poverty reduction, human rights and the
The world needs a
rule-based trade system and it needs reform both as regards its working methods and
procedures and its content. In order to support sustainable development and in
order for the multilateral trade system to benefit all its members a number of
things have to happen:
working methods and procedures have to be changed. Secrecy has to give way to
transparency. Poor member countries have to be assisted so that they can participate fully
in the work of the WTO.
Secondly, most of
the poor countries currently have little to offer the global market except for farm
products, textiles and commodities. For WTO members from Africa for example, more than 75%
of their export earnings are derived from commodities. Hence, any new trade round has to
start with addressing the priority issues for the least-developed countries. This would
entail dismantling trade barriers for farm products, textiles and leather and for the EU
to do away with its agricultural export subsidies.
related to the other points, are the supply constraints and capacity needs experienced by
most developing countries. One particular problem is related to information and
communications technologies (ICT). ICT provides a host of opportunities for people all
over the world, including the poor. Properly designed, ICT can help to advance human
development and reduce poverty. Things like distance education, health information, trade
promotion, participation, etc. can all be vastly improved through ICT.
Most countries in
the world today have access to the Internet. For the majority of developing countries,
however, connectivity is limited to a few locations in their capitals. We must bear in
mind that more than 70 percent of the worlds population has never used a telephone
and more than 2 billion people lack access to electricity.
To correct the
present situation would require some kind of crash programme that would develop
infrastructure and connectivity and support institution building. Very little of this
capacity building is, however, actually taking place. We can hardly expect the private
sector to be actively engaged in such efforts. This is primarily the task of the public
sector. In most developing countries though, the public sector is badly organised and
poorly financed. Well-targeted development assistance is desperately needed to strengthen
governance as well as capacity.
environmental concerns have to be mainstreamed into WTO policies and procedures. The
Dispute Settlement Mechanism has to be rethought. Disputes that are environmental in
nature should first and foremost be resolved within the respective environmental
conventions with respect for the precautionary principle being guaranteed.
Anders Wijkman, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-President of GLOBE International
|The XVth GLOBE International General Assembly
(GIGA 15)This year's GIGA was convened on 7-9 April in Otsu next to Kyoto
in Japan. The General Assembly was organised in conjunction with the G8 Environment
GLOBE members from
all over the world attended the GLOBE conference. Among them, Gwen Mahlangu, member of the
South African National Assembly, who represented GLOBE Southern Africa. She was
accompanied by Francis Caas, Executive Director of GLOBE Southern Africa.
produced a declaration, which was handed to the Environment Ministers of the G8 Group. The
Declaration highlighted the need to increase the role of legislators in global
environmental governance, as well as reiterated the necessity of dealing rapidly with
climate change and urged the G8 Ministers to create linkages between trade and sustainable
On climate change,
GLOBE members appealed to developed countries to promote the transfer of efficient, clean
and affordable energy technologies to developing countries. They also urged developed
nations to ensure that the Clean Development Mechanism is used as a tool for the promotion
of sustainable development and is supplementary to existing development aid.
On trade and the
environment, GLOBE members present in Otsu urged the G8 Ministers to ensure that the new
WTO round takes into account the social, development and environmental concerns of its
members, that WTO decisions do not contradict existing Multilateral Environmental
Agreements and that the WTO's working methods and procedures should be improved so that
secrecy gives way to transparency.
The GLOBE General
Assembly was divided into three sessions addressing the following issues: climate change:
energy resources for the new millennium, trade and the environment: biotechnology, natural
resources and food security, and global environmental governance: the role of legislators.
Various action agendas were adopted, namely on Energy, Climate Change, Trade and
Sustainable Development and Global Governance. Two Memorandums of Understanding,
respectively with the World Conservation Congress (IUCN) and the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP) were discussed and adopted. A Working Group on Nuclear Energy
and the CDM was also created.
GIGA will most probably take place in Los Angeles in August 2001 and will be convened by
the GLOBE International General Assembly can be accessed at: http://www.globeint.org/
You can also contact the GLOBE International Secretariat: Tel: 32-2-282 4920/25/26, Fax +32-2-230 9530, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org