If people in the developing world each emitted the same amount of waste as the average European does, the human race would need four Earth-size planets to cope with the pollution. This is according to the UNDP's 2007-2008 Human Development Report, unveiled in Moscow last week.
Ms Udovicki, who took part in the presentation, spoke to RIA Novosti about the report's main topic - climate change - and about efforts to tackle it in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Question: This time round, the UN Human Development Report focused on the implications of climate change. How was it received here, in Moscow?
Answer: I'm under the impression that not only is there a huge interest in related issues in Russia, but there's also a willingness to do something to improve the situation. Russia can therefore be a new ally of ours, and this is something that encourages me to promote further joint efforts.
Q: It is only since the start of this year that you've been working as the head of the UNDP Regional Director for Europe and the CIS. Which countries have you visited in this capacity so far?
A: I've been touring the region quite a lot as my work envisages pro-active and direct contact with colleagues and partners in various countries. The UNDP is a pretty centralized organization and its activities are mainly region-based. I've already been to five Central Asian states, three countries of the South Caucasus and to Belarus. And I traveled to Moldova and Ukraine even before I took the post.
Q: Which of the post-Soviet countries have now found themselves in zones facing the most dramatic impact from climate change?
A: Climate change is something hard to quantify. That said, however, it may adversely affect human life and activity. We are talking about what is likely to happen in certain regions if nothing is done to slow down the process. This report doesn't aim to draw parallels, nor to make comparative profiles of all the countries in the region. But the risks are already obvious, for instance in Central Asia, where they are related primarily to the melting of ice caps. This leads to changes in river flow and, subsequently, to water shortages. From this, other consequences will ensue, including damage to farming activity, human health and the natural environment. We assume that the average air temperature on the Earth will not exceed the threshold of 2 degrees Centigrade. But if it does, we may face phenomena fraught with irreversible consequences. To give you an idea of how drastic even a 2 degree temperature rise could be, let me recall that in the Ice Age air temperatures were only 5 degrees lower than they are in the modern-day world.
Some people argue there are regions that could benefit from climate change, with an increase in crop yields. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the adverse effects on the eco-systems of the north could be drastic, and that they could undermine the living conditions of local populations as extreme climate fluctuations lead to a melting of ice shields. Those who see some potential benefit to this should bear in mind that the process will also result in shortages of fresh potable water.
Q: For a few years now, Central Asian countries have been trying to consolidate their efforts to tackle desertification around the Aral Sea, but no concrete steps have been taken so far. Is this issue part of the UNDP agenda?
A: We have run several projects related to the Aral issue. One of them has involved research into the receding sea levels as well as aid for the coastal population. The UNDP is one of the few international organizations working to develop nations' institutional capacities in the field of environmental protection. This involves assistance in putting together national programs and building up local potential, as well as help with creating conditions in which governments and local agencies will be able to proceed in the right direction on their own. Also, we help to promote interstate cooperation so as to enable countries to tackle problems through joint efforts, including through the introduction of innovative approaches to integrated management of water resources.
It has already been noticed that even countries with political differences tend to team up to cope with environmental challenges. Specifically, the UNDP supports efforts to develop cross-border water cooperation in the Syr-Darya River basin, with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan taking part.
Q: The title of your report is "Fighting climate change: human solidarity in a divided world." How should that solidarity manifest itself, do you think?
A: I would like to underline that the report focuses on the human aspect of climate change. We emphasize the fact that developing countries are being hit the hardest, although their contribution to global climate change is much smaller [than that of the industrialized nations]. Which is why disadvantaged population groups need our solidarity more than others. Suffice it to say that of the 250 million people who have recently suffered from natural disasters, from phenomena related to climatic calamities, as many as 98% live in the developing world.
Out task is to identify what kind of structural and economic measures should be taken to cope with emerging challenges. Thus, for instance, in addressing the problem of carbon dioxide emissions, we seek to activate mechanisms for engaging the private sector, the business community and donor organizations capable of providing tangible aid.
We should be aware that for no one are the emissions harmless: they pollute and destroy the Earth's atmosphere; and it's common knowledge that air cannot be bought for money, nor can it be divided between the rich and the poor. Everyone will be affected. Speaking of solidarity, one should bear in mind that those with the least amount of resources to protect themselves are victims of extravagant energy consumption in developed countries. And there is a need for additional investment to fund the purchase of cleaner technologies capable of reducing hazardous emissions and slowing down the resultant destructive processes.
Q: How important is it to you to see environmental issues figure on the agenda of CIS presidential summits and of the Commonwealth's various integration bodies?
A: No doubt, heads of states and regional organizations are among the key players in this arena. EurAsEC [the Eurasian Economic Community] has already signed a cooperation memorandum with us, expressing a willingness to take concrete collaborative actions. We pin high hopes on the meeting that is now taking place in Bali.
Officials from almost all the member countries have come to Indonesia for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference, and regulatory measures are expected to be taken there to alleviate the impact of climate change and to control hazardous emissions.
Q: What other issues faced by transition economies, primarily in the CIS and Eastern Europe, are in the focus of the UNDP's activities?
A: Our main goal is to protect the least advantaged and to mobilize human and economic resources in order to support national leaders' political measures aimed at reducing poverty. Speaking of transition economies in Europe and the CIS, they have in the last decade accumulated substantial experience in reducing poverty.
But we do run our own programs here as well, making sure that no one is left on the sidelines of the process, that development opportunities opened up with the advent of new economic methods become accessible to all population groups and that economic growth comes with social justice. Nor do we stay away from the shaping and development of management institutions, with the old system largely destroyed. We see our mission as helping nations that have been through dramatic times to return to normal again.
Q: And when man-made disasters occur, does the UNDP offer aid to those affected?
A: I would like to point out here that the UN continues to address this problem proactively. Medical help and aftermath management were the key priority in the initial stages, whereas now we are focusing more on efforts to develop the economies of affected communities. I wouldn't say the traditional aspects are no longer relevant, but our current work is aimed primarily at the psychological, social and economic rehabilitation of [affected] regions and their populations. If a person feels victimized, he or she will hardly be able to compete on the market and his or her opportunities as an individual will be constrained. Our objective is therefore to help people restore confidence in themselves and fulfill their potential by giving them access to information, education, and opportunities for economic activity.
Q: Ms Udovicki, before taking up the UN post, you worked in several high-ranking positions in the government of Serbia. Did you see any similarity between processes going on in countries of the former Yugoslavia and in post-Soviet states?
A: I did not realize how much we actually have in common until those processes began, you know. Even while still a member of what was known as the Socialist bloc in the past, Yugoslavia already had some elements of a market economy. This was its key difference from the Soviet Union. Also, the disintegration of Yugoslavia was a very painful process, accompanied with bloody military conflicts. The republics of the former Soviet Union were luckier in this respect, with the exception of some regional trouble spots. It was the period of transition that brought us closer together, making evident a need for reintegration with the countries that had broken apart to establish their national identity.
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