THE EARTH TIMES
MAY 27, 1994
Long years of commitment to assistance
By Ashali Varma
Soft-spoken, gracious but with a determination borne of conviction, Baroness Lynda
Chalker, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Minister for
Overseas Development Administration (ODA) for Britain, has a commitment to the
Rio process that is outlined in the overall objective of the ODA’s aid program. “I feel
that the process of annual sessions of the CSD will make an important contribution to
the Rio process,” the Baroness said Thursday afternoon in an interview with The
Chalker has been head of ODA for 6 years and is particularly interested in working toward making the promises of Rio a reality. She spoke of seven priorities areas; promoting economic reform; good government; undertaking projects that directly benefit poor people; enhancing productive capacity; human development; the status of women; and helping developing countries tackle national environmental problems.
In 1991 she launched a population initiative for the British AID program entitled, “Children by Choice,” with a budget of £100 million. The program was so successful that they have 17 new projects all over the developing world. She has always been interested in population issues, and has been an active participant in the promotion of the Rio Agenda. She is also a strong supporter of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).
The Baroness is especially supportive of NGOs and their participation in sustainable
development. “We provided £20,000 to Southern NGOs to enable them to attend
this meeting,” she said.
NGOs have also been helpful in giving direction to the UK AID program. Of the CSD meetings she said, “I hope we can be positive. Look at the distance we have come in changing people’s minds. Even developing countries are committed to sustainable development.” Chalker feels that as far as resources are concerned, “a great deal can be done for less money” and we have to make the existing resources go a longerway by being more environmentallysensitive.
On the question of providing resources for the environment she said: “the crunch comes when the same people are asked to do many things on parallel tracks: Sometimes we expect too much from out of a Conference. The reason that Rio was relatively successful as a population and development Conference was that there had been a great deal of preparatory work done before to highlight the important issues.
She added, “This wish to see action and not rhetoric is fair.” She spoke of the need for the UN system and the Bretton Woods institutions to reassess their goals.
The ODA has an annual budget of £2.3 billion, 55 percent of which is for bilateral
programs, and 80 percent of this is used for programs in the world’s poorest countries,
where the GNP per capita is less than $765. India and Bangladesh are the two largest recipients.
The Baroness gave the interview in the Indonesian Lounge at the United Nations.
She had just flown in from Washington and despite a frantic drive from the airport into
Manhattan, appeared composed and enthusiastic. Prior to the interview, she was consulted by numerous developing country officials who seemed to have AID on their minds. Chalker said that on June 6 she will give a speech at the Royal Geographical Society, entitled “Turning Rio into Reality.” and it will focus on the international aspects of the Rio Agenda and the objectives of aid programs. The key sectors according to Chalker are forestry management, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, population and energy efficiency.
Her final words on the future of the Commission on Sustainable Development were that the “CSD should become a mechanism for getting donors and recipients to work together. These annual meetings are a positive way to get together to make change for the better.”