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We are told that the unity of the G77 and China group is impeding progress at Paris: Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko

Interview with the chairperson of the G77 and China group

Nitin Sethi 

Ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, the chairperson of the and speaks to Nitin Sethi on the attempts by developed countries to bully, lure and play a blame game against developing countries to break the unity of developing countries

The Penultimate draft of the Paris agreement has been approved for the next week. But we hear that developed world has not negotiated or compromised on issues close to the interest of developing countries. Please comment

Let me preface the answer by conveying to our people how responsible the has been, how it has led to make sure to get to the point where we are at. If it had not been for the suggestions of the process-wise we would have not reached the point that we have. It would have just run all over in different directions. I am proud of every one of them for how we have worked very hard coming in every morning to face challenges and then to come up and make suggestions how we proceed, how we manage the co-facilitation and the co-chairing of all of this. So where we are at, we have managed to get a party-driven text and party-driven process. But, the troubling thing in this is if you look at it you will find that a lot of the issues that are of importance for developing countries to enable them to eradicate poverty, to uplift the masses of our people, create jobs, eradicate income inequalities, we focus on the emancipation of women and we are able to provide for the youth - those issues seem to be difficult. As if it's expected of us to hand ourselves over on a plate and allow for the re-interpretation of the convention. So the biggest issue we are fighting about is an attempt to rewrite the convention and write away key principles of the convention - common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and respective capabilities, which is really important, especially when it comes to finance.

There is a report done, called the civil society fair share review, that illustrates methodically and shows the necessity for CBDR as well as the inclusion of finance as the core element in the new agreement. Now, in Durban in 2011 we decided that we needed to have an instrument for the enhancement of the implementation of the convention because we suffer the impact more than developed countries do. So, you are having floods in Chennai in India, but you can't draw resources of your economy to adjust and deal with that. It's a difficulty to immediately respond to the crisis as the Europeans are able to do. When the US had the hurricane Sandy they had the backup of their formidable economy to provide.

We agreed that we are going to do more but it's important that in the agreement we include the means of implementation so that we do not compromise the right of development of the developing countries and the right to development.

The biggest issue is the text bifurcates between attempts to re-write the convention and quite rightly a response by developing countries to say no, this is not our understanding.

We are doing our work to meet our partners half way. Every morning day we meet to say let's look at the difficult issues, how do we accommodate them? But, we don't get a sense that that is happening at their side.

As I said the second biggest issue is finance. We are impressed by the way we have maintained our unity, which not only has necessitated a change in the strategy of our partners - either to bully us or to appear as if they are doing something. We noticed when we came here that announcements started being made about the Least Development Countries Fund. We welcome that but these pledges are 10 years late. We hope they will be cashed in to monies that are utilisable. But, the world needs to know that does not mean you have actually addressed the issue of finance in the legally binding instrument. You still have to come back and address finance in the legally binding instrument.

If I read between your words, are you suggesting you have seen attempts from developed countries to break the G77?

Yes, by dangling carrots. I don't know how many phone calls my government has received saying this camp called the G77 is problematic. So we know. We have shared notes. We have heard of demands being made to remove particular negotiators - saying they are problematic?

You have heard that?

Yes. We hear that the unity of the G77 is impeding progress. When the G77 has a common position, we hear, it's difficult to negotiate. I don't understand that. Our understanding is that it simplifies work. Can you imagine the variations you would have had on what would be required on adaptation if all groups had different ideas? So we worked very systematically as a group to present one common position that must be addressed.

On capacity building and technology development and transfer there is no movement. But we are also seeing attempts to build in divisive language in to the text by introducing phrases we don't understand and is not in the convention.

Such as?

Such as, 'countries in a position to do so', 'countries willing to do so' or 'evolving circumstances'. We don't know what these terms are within a legally agreement in the context of the Convention that has an objective of what we are bound together to do under the UNFCCC to reduce greenhouse gases. As opposed to that we find new language about 'zero net carbon', 'decarbonisation' and all of that. And, you have to understand the implications for developing countries. When we look at the economies of our partners they are fully formed. They don't have to make major adjustments. On the other hand, we have hardly even begun to develop so what does decarbonisation mean?

We know from our experience that these things quickly translate into market access issues, non-tariff bodies - you are not moving enough - donor conditionalities, conditionalities on access. It is troubling for us that you are also having mechanisms in the private sector to create conditionalities for access to finance. That is why you need to solve the issue of finance in the agreement. Make sure that technology also flows and we are able to build our capacity and we are able to ensure that we afford our people a better life.

We have to look at it against the established declaration of right to development. ON finance we find that new language which is troubling and belongs to other negotiations is being filtered through here. It's as if unresolved issues or issues that our partners feel they did not get a lot out of - for example in the Financing for Development 3 conference - they want to resolve those here. And, that complicates the negotiations.

We have not brought new issues. Consistently when you look at the text provided by developing countries. We have not sought to redefine anything nor to import in to the negotiations unresolved issues from other negotiations where we have structures to deal with those kind of things. It's inconceivable. We all said there is no way after a majority of us having come out of struggles would have any difficulty with human rights…

…are you are referring to the EU proposal on including conditions on human rights issue in adaptation?

The conditionality and the linkages that are being drawn we hope our people understand they are not reaffirming the rights of the people in our countries but they are creating mechanisms that will impede and constrain the ability of developing countries to address key and critical issues of how we all consolidate the gains we have all achieved under since de-colonisation.

But quite apart from that, we cannot fight issues that are being dealt with in Geneva. If that were the case we would be discussing here issues that are outstanding at the WTO. We would insist on all of those. But, we have exercised restraint.

It's troubling that there is no commitment to Loss and Damage, it's troubling to hear their comments on response measure - a legitimate area that we need to take in to account that there will be adverse economic impacts of measures to taken to address What do you do to assist developing countries that are impacted in that way? Loss and Damage, response measures, adaptation - on the whole our colleagues want to just have a mitigation-centric approach in the manner that would devolve their historical responsibilities to us.

Developed country partners say they have allowed self-differentiation in mitigation and that is their acceptance of differentiation. Do you agree with that?

No. You have to understand that the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs are a lesser vision of the developing countries. When we came out of Durban we said we shall develop an instrument to enhance the implementation of the convention. But to accommodate a particular group that has difficulties we allowed the concept of INDCs - it was not us developing countries that introduced all of this - because we are reasonable. We have to take in to account that are countries whose political systems work in a particular way. That is a huge concession we have made.

You are referring to the domestic politics of the US?

I will not name a country or countries. The concept of the INDCs is tailor-made a particular situation. It's a perversion of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). When you look at the range of INDCs that we presented, as the report I was talking about says, we are much more ambitious than our partners. The convention lays a legal obligation in accordance with historical responsibilities for finance. How can you apply the concept of INDCS to finance? You still have to have the principles of the convention going forward enabling us to harvest the mitigation potential in developing countries which are doing a lot already and enable to do more while the legal obligations continue. We have heard that argument that we have no problem with CBDR because we are already on a path of self-differentiation - that is a perverse interpretation of CBDR.

On loss and damage, the US' informal proposal and EU's support to the proposal that in future developing countries shall never raise compensation and liability issues under Loss and Damage provisions of the new agreement, what are your views?

Let me go back a bit to history. A year ago they would not even address Loss and Damage. They would not allow it to be discussed anywhere. I remember in the early hours of the morning in Lima the developing countries affected by this being bullied to keep quiet. So we have done a lot of work. My suggestion is you talk a little more on this to my colleague Amjad because I don't want to complicate the additional work they are doing to get traction on this issue. But it is troubling that the US would negotiate through red-lines. We have not adopted that style of red-lining and saying "No text". That is not a reasonable way. Leadership and power, as Nelson Mandela said, I would judge a country's ability to lead by its ability to listen and carry as opposed to bullying the smaller countries.

We hear in media that some developing countries are opposed to the 1.5 degree Celsius target in the new agreement? Tell us about that

You must understand that it's been difficult for parties to reach a point where we have a text and for parties to explain themselves. But extreme positions are being articulated to cast countries as unreasonable and this is being also done by trying predetermine this discussion in the media. The result of the SBI and SBSTA that was to process the expert dialogue report that was mandated in Cancun to look at what needs to be done and what needs to be done. Parties need to process that and discuss that. So what is the outcome of that this is where we are at. This is not as simple as its cast in the media. This is done to actually lift and villanise certain countries. India is a legitimate member of the G77 and its needs are recognised and respect and yet it has played a constructive role at Paris. So are other BASIC members.

You know I had a beautiful discussions with the leaders of the delegation at lunch time (on Saturday). I was saying now that we have a text I need you to do more and understand that at some point we have to make concessions. Everybody recognises that but we have not got to the point yet in the text where we discuss those issues. But already, to divide the group certain members of G77 are being villainised and being cast as if they are stuck. Everything here is dependent on many things. People leverage things to be able to get progress on the other But, that has to be understood in the context of the bigger discussion to know what bigger things are happening in the relation to the principles of the convention. You just can't fix a goal out of nothing and not revert back to the convention.

What do you expect from the French presidency as it takes over the negotiations next week?

On the whole we expect transparency, exclusiveness and predictability. We need to know what is going to happen next. The G77 has said that it is important that we do not escalate issues that need to be worked by negotiators to ministers. We need to clean up the text and that role belongs to negotiators. You can't ask ministers to clean up the text. As we say in South Africa we don't delegate up the ministers delegate to us. So we expect that we shall have a transparent process that is inclusive where all parties are responsible for the final outcome. It can't be two countries - that will not be acceptable.

…are you talking of US and China?

..It cannot be ten countries or five countries, all countries must have a sense that they are responsible for the final outcome. We have been assured by the French that there will be no text flown in and that they will allow the process to unfold.

First Published: Sat, December 05 2015. 23:45 IST