Speech at the Rio Conference on Sustainable Development by The Special Envoy of the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, José RAMOS-HORTA, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1996)
Rio, 20-22nd June 2012
Madam President Dilma Rousseff,
Heads of State and Government,
Majesties and Highnesses,
I bring you warm greetings from President Taur Matan Ruak, who cannot be present and so gave me the honor of being his Special Envoy to Rio+20. I also bring greetings from the President of our National Parliament, Fernando La Sama de Araújo, Prime-Minister Xanana Gusmão, and the President of our Supreme Court, Cláudio Ximenes.
We gather in Rio, in the midst of an unprecedented financial, economical and social crisis that began in the US in 2008, spread into Europe, and is affecting other world economies. In Copenhagen, Monterey and Durban we did not reach a substantial, binding agreement that could meet the great challenges of climate change. Under the wise leadership and mediation of our friend President Dilma Rousseff and Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, we have avoided the polarization of Copenhagen and other Development and Climate Change meetings.
We have a comprehensive agreement entitled The Future We Want but we all know that it is next to impossible to bring all parties to agree on a binding international agreement that entails deadlines and costs. So pragmatism and realism tell us that in order to avoid failure we must lower our expectations to the lowest possible common denominator. The truth is that the financial, economical and social crisis that affects the US and almost all of Europe, have conditioned the political willingness of the rich countries of the North to contribute substantially to any bold sustainable development program to fight poverty in the world to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Even before the crisis that began in 2008, that is still being felt with no light at the end of the tunnel, most rich countries were never able to mobilize the political and humanist will to allocate 0.7% of their GDP for development aid. And aid pledges made in international conferences was rarely kept and when it was, it was not always effective for the benefit of the receiving countries.
But not everything was negative: the path taken for the past decades in the relationship between rich and poor countries, between North and South, had ups and downs, with much waste and mismanagement, based on wrong concepts, wrong assumptions and wrong policies. But mistakes were not only on one side of the relationship; donors and recipients shared in those mistakes and lost decades. There is abundant academic literature on the matter, the flaws of international foreign aid policy. I will not elaborate further on this matter.
Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies,
It seems that everyone is pleased with the document outcome of this conference, even if it is way below the urgent global action needed to counter the alarming rate of climate change. Dare we ask, instead of attempting to negotiate and achieve an international agreement without much substance, wouldn't it more realistic, practical and effective to think of Agreements and Plans on a regional level? For instance, shouldn’t Asia consider an Asian Road Map for 20-30 years for an integrated, equitable, sustainable Human Development, targeting eradication of poverty, illiteracy, TB, malaria, HIV/Aids, etc. and restoration of our forests, rivers and seas? Asia, with half the world population, extracts a lot more from our Planet to satisfy our needs of survival and development than any other region in the world.
For our own survival, by solidarity with our brothers and sisters from other parts of the world, we must act with vision and determination, we must do a lot more to free our people from extreme poverty and save our common Planet. China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, together have an unparalleled pool of know-how and enough financial resources to transform Asia in a prosperous, peaceful and happy region for the 4 billion that live in our region that spreads from Istanbul to Jakarta, Timor-Leste and the Pacific Islands. Africa, the Middle East and Latin America should and could do the same. Each region in the world should adopt its own Road Map for Sustainable, Equitable, Integrated Development, adapted to the conditions of each region and sub-region, mobilize regional resources and if/when needed seek additional funding from other partners.
Our American and European brothers are making heroic efforts and enduring painful sacrifices to overcome a deep financial, economic and social crisis that has been lingering since 2008. We sympathize with them and believe that the USA and Europe will rise stronger from this crisis. The USA and Europe still lead in Science and Technology and they should invest even more on education, research and new technologies for the benefit of their own peoples and of the world. Our brothers and sisters in the USA and Europe should contribute with know-how, technology and financially to the programs in each region or sub-region. But Asia should create its own Fund, the Asian Fund for Sustainable Development, that can be managed by an existing institution such as the Asian Development Bank, in partnership with UN Specialized Agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, WHO or NGO's with solid regional or international reputation such as OXFAM. Each country should mandatorily contribute to such a Fund, according to its GDP. The total funding can be decided later but we believe that with vision and political will, Asian countries can easily mobilize US$100 billion to be invested during the next decade
Asia's industrialized nations such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, China, India or natural resource rich countries, i.e. oil, gas, gold, diamond producers should lead by example and contribute 0.7% of their GDP to this Fund. Asian private sector would also be invited to contribute. Asia's poor, low income countries with little or no mineral resources, vulnerable to climate change, would qualify to benefit from this Fund, to develop programs targeting extreme poverty, illiteracy, TB, malaria, HIV/Aids, etc. and reforestation as well as cleaning up our rivers, lakes and seas. Asian leaders should rise to the challenges of the 21st Century, to the dreams and hopes of a peaceful and dignified life for our people, and lead with vision and courage. Asia is the most populous region in the world: we represent half of all mankind; the largest, oldest, richest civilizations appeared and met in Asia, but 50 years ago our region was extremely poor. Today Asia emerges as a center of world power and the 21st century could be Asia's century; we have the brainpower, advanced technology and financial means to make this dream come true.
But the challenges we face in Asia are immense and complex. I would dare say that our region is the most dangerous in the world, the most militarized, the most nuclear, with complex land and maritime border disputes, regional rivalries, ethnic and religious conflicts that have exploded frequently in and among states. But we cannot continue to demand from the aging and impoverished Europeans and from today's less powerful USA to come to our rescue and lead. If it is an established and obvious truth that our European and American brothers and sisters contributed the most to the environmental degradation of our Planet in the last 100 years, truth be told, they also contributed the most towards advances in Medicine, Science and Technology to all of Humanity’s benefit. We Asians, from this vast region that extends from the doors of Constantinople to Dili, a region of great civilizations, religions and cultures, of great challenges and great possibilities, should unite and act responsibly to correct the mistakes inherited from the past and those of the present and adopt a Road Map to build a Future of Peace, Freedom and Prosperity. My country, although young and with modest resources has given examples of solidarity. In the past 5 years we have contributed a total of about 10 million USD in aid to some countries affected by natural disasters such as Cuba, Brazil, China, Portugal, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Myanmar, and to some UN specialized agencies.
Our people have shown that we are and will be ready to contribute as much as possible to make the Asian Road Map a reality, through a Fund for Sustainable Development. Meanwhile, as we wait with great expectation for a Global Agreement and Plan to come out of Rio +20 or any Regional Agreement and Plan, in Timor-Leste we are already implementing our Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. We are determined to achieve all of the Millennium Development Goals and become a high-income country in the next 10-20 years with a per capita income of US$10,000.
Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies,
Since independence in 2002, Timor-Leste has ratified the three Rio Conventions, namely the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). In response to these conventions, under the leadership of the Ministry of Economy and Development, Timor-Leste has produced three strategies and Action Plans, namely,
- National Adaptation Plan of Action for Climate Change (NAPA) approved by the Council of Ministers in 2011,
- National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) approved by the Council of Ministers in February 2012, and
- National Action Plan for Sustainable Land Management (SLM), awaiting approval of the Council of Ministers.
The Council of Ministers also approved the base law on the environment in April 2012 which has set the foundation for creating a framework to meet the international obligations and the needs of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources for Timor-Leste’s sustainable development. Timor-Leste has benefited from offshore oil and gas deposits and has established a system to define national development priorities, which have been identified through the National Priorities Process (NPP). In July 2011 the National Strategic Development Plan was launched and it is now the main strategic document identifying the national priorities up until 2030 and setting the platform for partnership between the government and development partners.
Timor-Leste does not have a National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) as such, but the Strategic Development Plan (SDP) provides a road map to implement sustainable development, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to securing the wellbeing of the Timorese people. Although a secretariat or national commission for sustainable development is needed in order to implement sustainable development in an effective and coordinate manner, the National Development Agency (NDA), established under the SDP 2011-2030, provides a suitable institution for carrying out the functions of such a national commission by coordinating and monitoring sustainable development activities in TL within the framework of the SDP. Moreover SDP provides the GoTL with an opportunity to reshape and refocus its plans and policies in order to integrate various sectors within the country in line with the MDGs in a coherent manner.
Another significant achievement made by the GoTL is the Transparency Portal, which allows all citizens to access and monitor available budgets both from the government and from development partners. This program is designed to strengthen good governance and transparency, and provides a model to minimize corruption and manipulation. The GoTL also carried out the 2010 National Census of Population and Housing, to provide the Government, its own citizens and Development partners with sound information on the current status needs and priorities of the country as a whole as well as those of each of the sucos (villages) in the country. The GoTL has established a new Directorate to support and strengthen the traditional custom of Tara Bandu to protect and conserve natural resources in order to achieve environmental sustainability, as well as a means to build trust within communities, and resolve conflicts. All in all a green and sustainable development model enables economically viable growth that goes hand in hand with environmental sustainability, thus protecting the inheritance of future generations.
Sustainability is an essential and vital goal for Timor-Leste and can only be translated into tangible outcomes with a strong political will, financial commitment and joined effort from all stakeholders involved.
To conclude, Timor-Leste is currently promoting renewable energy use for rural communities and at the same time tackling poverty eradication and low carbon development initiative. This renewable energy program is also an opportunity for accessing clean development mechanism in the context of sustainable development and a green economy.
May God, The Almighty and The Most Merciful Bless and Illuminate us all with compassion, wisdom and courage to face the challenges of the 21st Century.