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Breakfast with Frost
Nitin Desai
Nitin Desai
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY SUE MACGREGOR
INTERVIEW:
NITIN DESAI
SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

SUE MACGREGOR:
Now as world leaders begin to arrive at the Johannesburg World Summit on sustainable development the key absentee of the proceedings is of course President Bush and a little earlier I spoke to the Secretary General of that summit Nitin Desai and I asked him whether the commitments made in Johannesburg made at the end of the whole thing can ever succeed without Mr Bush?

NITIN DESAI:
Yes as long as American government is there and as long as they are engaged and as long as they commit themselves to what comes out of this and contribute in the partnerships, yes.

SUE MACGREGOR:
But we don't know that there's strong commitment from Washington, do we, without the President there?

NITIN DESAI:
They have announced some important partnerships, they are fully engaged in the process and they're getting there, slowly, sometimes painfully but they're getting there.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Can you give an example of where the Americans have committed further than they did, for instance, over Kyoto or even in Rio?

NITIN DESAI:
Well actually Kyoto is the climate change was not on the agenda, here that we have an agreement, the essential point is do you ratify or not. But on energy we are going much further, I'd say on the whole issue of sustainable consumption they're agreeing to a lot of things here which were not there in Rio, for instance on marine resources we're getting there. On chemicals you have clear timetables, we are, I think we'll get there on bio-diversity also and quite a few other areas.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Well critics at the beginning, as you know, said look there are tens of thousands of delegates, there might be almost as many commitments made, it's not possible in the end to produce something really concrete with so many people and so many items on the agenda?

NITIN DESAI:
I'd say that we have focused the agenda on a few areas, on the poverty side basically water sanitation, energy for the poor, land and agriculture and health and of course on sustainable consumption some clear, clarity on timetables and we're getting some of that so I'd say that yes it is a broad agenda because things are inter-connected.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Obviously Aids and poverty are connected but the South African President, Thabo Mbeki has said in effect in the past very controversially that poverty is the only cause of Aids and he didn't admit that there was a link with HIV the virus, very controversial as I say, do you see any signs the South African government's changing its mind on that?

NITIN DESAI:
Well I was, I was, I was at a briefing the other day by the government and they very clearly talked of a connection with HIV and Aids and I'd say that quite a few people have recently announced various things that they intend to do here in this part of the world on this issue. For instance some of the corporations are providing access to treatment to their workers. The main thing we can do on this here is to focus attention because the things we need to do to address it have, were addressed in the general assembly, we have set up Global Health Fund, we are getting money for it and at least partnership in announcements, some announcements have referred to this. So I'd say that this is what we can do, we are trying to focus attention on the environmental dimension of it, you know malaria, water and sanitation and those diseases, do remember three million people die because of air pollution, five million because of water borne diseases, now that's as big an emergency as Aids is and if it were a single disease we treat it exactly the same way and I think we are getting that focus here.

SUE MACGREGOR:
I wonder by what at the end you will judge the success of the Johannesburg Summit, ten years ago Rio was a landmark conference and much more recently Kyoto tried to lay down some new guidelines, by what will you judge Johannesburg?

NITIN DESAI:
I would say I would judge Johannesburg by the specificity of the commitments for action that we get here and most important of all whether it leads to reasonably immediate action. I hope that 10 years from now, when we meet to evaluate Johannesburg we say okay we've got half way there and now let's see what's, what more we have to do because this is not a conference about ultimate sustainability. Having a number of people who don't have access to safe sanitation is only half the affair so I hope that's, we recognise this, that this is a conference which is a route plan, not a road map and that we get there.

SUE MACGREGOR:
And you hope that any further demonstrations won't knock you off that agenda?

NITIN DESAI:
I don't think the problem here is of demonstrations because the people who are here, they endure the first to free access to our facilities to participate, right they don't always succeed in questioning the delegates about their point of view but they recognise that our agenda and what they're fighting for is very similar, bringing the social and environmental dimension more centrally into policy and in that sense they're not interested in disrupting our meetings, they're interested in trying to influence our meetings, that's why our demonstrations are basically focused on issues rather than trying to disrupt the meetings.

SUE MACGREGOR:
Nitin Desai thanks very much indeed.

NITIN DESAI:
Thank you very much.

END
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