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Stating the Case for Nature

Interview of former Prime Minister of France, Michel Rocard
by Gianni Carta

Former Prime Minister of France, Michel Rocard, states that although Brazil “is not a good pupil when it comes to the environment,” it will play a critical role in saving the Earth at Rio+20 in 2012. Read the interview he gave to CartaCapital on September 1, 2011 ...

Photo: Michel Rocard, © philippe grangeaud / solfé communications, Parti socialiste

Rio+20 will be a key moment, once again, in the attempt to solve the climate problems of the planet. This event in 2012 will have the participation of Michel Rocard, the most popular former Prime Minister of modern France. On a visit to Brazil for a few days, France’s ambassador for Poles and Climate Warming, held meetings with five ministers in Brasília. For what purpose? “[w]e are asking the Brazilian government if, in the Conference discourse, we can propose a Charter of Universal Responsibilities in the Brazilian and international agenda,” replied Rocard in an exclusive interview to CartaCapital. “If Brazil does not take this chance, we can be sure that the Rio+20 Conference will fail,” he added. Charismatic, Rocard said more than once “that he [didn’t] like some of questions [we were] asking,” but agreed to address them. In fact, he touched on subjects other than climate; he spoke of former president Lula, Social Democracy, and of his now legendary relationship with François Mitterrand.

CartaCapital: Do you believe that Brazil is an example for the world when speaking of climate warming—or is this a strategic country from which to launch a world ethics campaign on the relationship between society and nature?

Michel Rocard: This is a completely strategic country in the world arena. It has accounts to settle with the major powers that are blocking decisions, as much on the climate issue as in the financial sphere. Brazil depends on no one. It is a powerful country. It is proud of its culture, it is prepared to fight. But Brazil, we need to be clear about this, is not a good pupil when it comes to the environment.

CC: In what sense is it not a good pupil?

MR: Look, I am quite a regular in international relations. It is not in my habits to criticize friendly nations. So I don’t like your question. But well, it is obviously true that deforestation is continuing.

CC: You are in Brazil to speak of Rio+20, but the main idea is to move beyond that and to also talk about the Declaration of Human Rights, which is now more than sixty years old … You are proposing a Charter of Universal Responsibilities.

MR: That is not how I would put it. I am an old timer in politics, and honestly, I’m very connected with the work of civil society and NGOs. There is, in the realm of political ethics, work to be done for the recognition of the interdependence among nations. It is work on the statement of the collective responsibility of nations facing the state of the world. Enormous work, which has been accumulating for fifteen years. That’s what I’m in. I write here and there, I am party to this. I did not come to Brazil to place all my dreams. In Brazil, on the occasion of the Rio+20 Conference, we are asking the Brazilian government if, in the Conference discourse, we can propose a Charter of Universal Responsibilities on the Brazilian and international agenda. We are not imposing anything. We do not have the means, nor the indiscretion, to do so. We are offering our support to a number of world networks of militants, at the level of the intellectual drafting of such a declaration. This is Brazil’s responsibility. It is difficult, and good reason to make enemies.

CC: Why Brazil?

MR: It’s big. It’s not nuclear. We shouldn’t have a nuclear power leading a world movement. There is too much suspicion around this issue. Because it is not a former colonial power. Because it is young, because it believes in its future, and also because this emerging country wishes to get rid of that colonizing world that has weighed upon it. And, despite having been a colonized country, Brazil has good communication with the countries of what we call the “First World.” Brazil, in this context, is better positioned for all this than China. And what is Rio+20 about? The world has a date, in Brazil, to take stock of what has been done in twenty years to protect our environment, and the balance is bad. Not only in Brazil, but all over the world.

CC: And Brazil is not doing well in this context, is it?

MR: I have great respect for the Brazilian government. World leaders make decisions. But so far, all conferences of this type have gotten no results. Documents are signed, then there are dates, the documents are approved and nothing changes; then people say that that’s a shame! This adventure is extremely burdensome and difficult. We have to change that. We respect, truly, I repeat, the Brazilian government. It simply seems to us that it has an opportunity before it. It can decide not to seize it. It has, I repeat, enemies to make, including enemies among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. But if Brazil does not take this chance, we can be sure that the Rio+20 Conference will fail.

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CC : Lula, photo Aloizio Mercadante Oliva

CC : How, as a politician, a Socialist, a former Prime Minister, do you view the governments of Lula?

MR: Again, I don’t like this question very much. I do not come to a country to speak badly of the balance of its governments. In fact, there is nothing bad to say. Lula’s balance is after all strong in the fight against poverty and for having built the international dignity of Brazil. The world is listening to Brazil.

Editor’s note: the rest of this interview has not been translated. Click here to read the full interview in French.

Published on: 17 October 2011
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