Looking at the broader perspective Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
September 5, 2002

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ALTHOUGH Guyana is a small, underdeveloped nation, it commands respect and acclaim in the international arena.

This was evidenced when Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo was asked to chair one of the sessions at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Guyana is current Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and when the President addressed a plenary session of the summit, he did so as President of Guyana and as Chairman of CARICOM. As he noted before he left for Johannesburg, it was a great honour for Guyana to be asked to chair one of the sessions this week.

Some may argue that the President should not have gone to the WSSD because of the current local crime situation. While that argument may have some merit, it is necessary to look at the issue in a broader perspective and to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of Guyana's attending or not attending the summit.

It must be appreciated and understood that it is not simply a matter of attending the forum and articulating a Guyana/Caribbean position. In today's world such fora are strategic platforms for lobbying influential leaders and international organisations for greater technical and other forms of assistance, and forging partnerships and trade links in the furtherance of local long-term developmental goals.

Many of the benefits that are gained by attendance at these fora are not immediate, but come to fruition in the longer term.

In this instance Guyana's presence is also significant bearing in mind that Guyana has one of the largest pristine areas in the world set aside for the scientific study of the environment, the Iwokrama Rainforest project.

In his address to the WSSD in Johannesburg, President Jagdeo plugged several critical and pertinent issues which need to be urgently addressed.

Among these is the need for developed countries to shoulder a fair share of the burden in ensuring sustainability becomes a reality and not a mere empty word.

"It is grossly unfair though that those small and poor countries should be made to bear disproportionate responsibility for safeguarding the planet when they are so burdened by debt and other economic and social difficulties," the President asserted.

He added: "The developed countries must shoulder a fair share of the burden. It is not enough to make pledges, announce initiatives and develop action plans. One must go further to ensure that the amounts promised are fully delivered and disbursed."

The President pertinently reminded the WSSD that the Cologne debt relief that was born out of the good intentions of several developed countries, resulted in only six countries benefiting.

He also contended that increasingly there are double standards in the conduct of international political and economic affairs, while a partnership approach is being advocated.

The President correctly declared: "It cannot be that partnership and interdependence are concepts to be invoked by some countries only when they feel themselves victimised and in need of international support."

A very relevant point also made by President Jagdeo was on the nexus between poverty and sustainable development.

Since the Rio Summit, international experts have said that poverty has increased and the gap between the rich and poor has widened, despite one of the objectives at Rio being the reduction of poverty through sustainable development.

"...it would be most irresponsible to separate poverty and poverty eradication from our discussions of the environment. Accordingly the declaration and action plan emanating from this Summit must reaffirm the nexus that exists between poverty and sustainable development," President Jagdeo urged.

The President has articulated the issue of sustainability in its true perspective and the position adumbrated by him should garner support from especially the developing countries, because it captures the essence of the difficulties and dilemma these countries are faced with as regards the whole concept and practice of sustainable development.