Gro Harlem Brundtland
Special Envoy on Climate Change, U.N.
02:46

Rich Country, Poor Country

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Wealthy countries have to pay for part of their debt to the planet by helping developing countries have a chance for sustainability.

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland was the youngest person and the first woman ever to hold the office of prime minister in Norway. With two other periods as prime minister from 1986 to 1989 and 1990 to 1996, Dr. Brundtland was head of government for more than 10 years.

Throughout her political career, Dr. Brundtland has developed a growing concern for issues of global significance. In 1983 the then United Nations secretary-general invited her to establish and chair the World Commission on Environment and Development. The Commission, which is best known for developing the broad political concept of sustainable development, published its report Our Common Future in April 1987.

The Commission’s recommendations led to the Earth Summit—the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Dr. Brundtland finally stepped down as prime minister in October 1996. In her successful bid to become director-general of the World Health Organization her many skills as doctor, politician, activist and manager have come together.

Dr. Brundtland was nominated as director-general of the World Health Organization by the executive board of WHO in January 1998. The World Health Assembly elected her for the position on May 13, 1998.

Transcript
Question: What responsibility does the wealthy world have to countries that haven't yet added to the greenhouse gas buildup? 

Gro Harlem Brundtland: Well, it has been clear to me since the time of the commission that I led in the '80's, that no doubt the historic responsibility for where we are and where we were already in the '80's due to naturalization that has to be basically borne or taken on by those countries that have industrialized. And that doesn't mean only that they have to change their development patterns, which is happening and has to happen even more, but they have to be "paying" part of that debt to the planet and to the rest of the world by helping them have a chance for sustainable development and overcoming of poverty and building their development the right to development is something that all peoples, not only aspire, but I think we have to accept that it's just going to happen. And the less we participate in bridging the divide and paying these kinds of bills, we will not find a solution. 

Question: If we are approaching a tipping point in the climate change, will developing countries have to accept sacrifices? 

Gro Harlem Brundtland: I think the pattern of development in developing countries will have to be different than the pattern that we had been through because there's no need to use, and not a good idea to use the old fashioned technologies that brought us to where we are. So, developing countries don't need to go through the polluting stages of industrial development that we had done. But to help them be able to develop in another pattern and in a sustainable way, we have to be investing and helping them by paying some of those debts to nature that we have already taken on. And in that way, I believe that a sustainable development happen can give developing countries the benefits of a good development pattern and can look into the future of a greater prosperity and more equity and overcoming of poverty. I don't doubt that this is possible. 

Recorded on February 26, 2010

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