Memories of Rio minus 20
CHRISTIAN DAVID, UNOG
EDITED BY SARAH JORDAN
1992: Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy Executive Secretary for UNECE, was present at the fi rst conference in Rio 20 years ago.
How did you come to participate in this conference?
Well in fact, it was sheer coincidence that I was posted as a delegate for my government’s mission in New York around the same time as the Brundtland Commission report was published. Immediately, all discussions about sustainable development became very important at meetings of the General Assembly in New York. In a way I was lucky, as I was involved in the negotiations around the Brundtland Commission report, leading to Rio, in the General Assembly and later in the Preparatory Committee for the Rio Conference and then, just before the conference, my term with the mission ended and I was invited to join the Secretariat of the Conference as a consultant on institutional issues… That’s how I came to the conference.
And what were the origins of the conference?
The Brundtland Commission report was not unanimously accepted. The concept of sustainable development was pretty controversial at the beginning. It immediately created a lot of waves in the UN discussions. In a way, it was an offshoot from development, to include environmental aspects in the development paradigm in addition to social ones.
This led to much ideological debate – many poor countries were saying that most of the environmental problems were created by the rich in the first place. Why should they join wholeheartedly when they had their own challenges? Why should they pay for the degradation of the environment?
Some had a feeling that sustainable development was a concept which would require developing countries to conserve their resources in order to maintain the level of consumption in the north. Of course, that was not the intention, but that is how it was perceived by some.