North South Divide On Environment Issues Conclusion

This chapter has examined globalization, environmental challenges and north-south issues. It dealt with each of these concepts separately and attempted to link the different ideas together. Historically, there have been reasons for north-south friction arising from a colonial past. Although only a few of the Northern countries are the former colonizers, the colonization discourse has spread to affect much of north-south relations today. The centuries of colonization have cast a long shadow over the future, especially as in the post-World War II world the south has repeatedly pushed the development agenda, while the north has avoided this agenda and instead pushed the environment agenda. Against this background, this chapter has argued that although there are efforts in the theoretical and political world to see the north-south division as residing in the past, in the south, this division is seen as a very vital challenge, one that has to be confronted if global problems are to be addressed. As the power of the south continues to decline in a post-Perestroika world, the south seeks to reorganize itself as much as possible.

It is in this context that the environment and development issues become so complex. For some, development is absolutely essential before sustainable development becomes possible, while for others, the whole development concept is flawed and does not allow countries to think out of the box, while for still others, sustainable development itself is an illusion. Where the discussion is simplified into a technical discussion about whether one can decouple environmental problems from economic growth, there is increasing evidence that this may be the case where the pollutants and their impacts are local. But where the pollutants are local but the impacts dislocated from the original source, such decoupling is not easy or automatic; and every decoupling is followed by coupling as human demands increase. This chapter has also argued that there are two ideal typical schools of thought on the resource base; while one argues that in the ultimate analysis resources are limited, the other contends that the only limits that exist are those of human ingenuity. Finally, the environment versus development discussion was presented in the context of the environmental space discussion—whether such space should be shared according to existing use or "property rights" gained from appropriation, or whether such space should be shared according to human rights and equity principles. Clearly, the south would argue in favor of development before sustainable development (with a few intellectual dissenters), of the right to exploit its resource base and for equitable access to environmental space—and therein lies the north-south struggle. Introduce into this scenario the rapid process of globalization set in motion in the last decade or two and we can see the proponents of globalization see both the official processes and the autonomous processes as promoting the single surviving ideology after the end of history—capitalism and liberalism—to the world as the only way of enriching the globe, reducing the disparities between north and south while others see globalization in both its formal and informal forms as modifying but not reducing the divide, as a reincarnation of the processes of colonialism, as a process by which development in the south will be blocked through environmental legislation while doors will be opened for foreign investors to enter into the country. That this itself may imply an unintended contradiction has yet to be seen.

When one then moves to the governance arena, we see that the way problems are defined in order to put them on the international agenda are politically constructed. Once these items reach the global agenda, countries, whether rich or poor, face a number of dilemmas as to how they should deal with the inherent complexity of the environment and development debate. These dilemmas make the international negotiating process even more complicated, adding to the existing difficulties of multilateral negotiations involving more than 190 countries and the reluctant participation of one superpower. Add to that the nitty-gritty challenges facing the negotiators, in particular those from developing countries, and it is no wonder that developing country negotiators often feel extremely dissatisfied with the negotiation outcomes at the UN arena. Given that they have very little control over the autonomous process of globalization, it is no surprise that the G-77 is skeptical of the whole process and its ability to deliver in achieving solutions for the global development and environmental problems. In the years to come, the surprise factor will involve China and India and how they will perceive their role in a world of changing economic power.

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Negotiating Essentials

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