Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the UN, Federico Gonzalez talks with Nosh Nalavala on the universal nature of SDGs
Nosh Nalavala: The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a visit to Paraguay in February this year called on the government of Paraguay to join forces with the United Nations and forge ahead in framing the Post-2015 agenda for a new generation of sustainable development goals, noting that the country had “an important role to play across the board.” What role do you foresee Paraguay playing towards the implementation of the SDGs?
Ambassador Federico Gonzalez: Yes, the Secretary-General came to Paraguay in February and what he said was a challenge. Paraguay is an LLDC and we have always emphasized that the sustainable development goals, under the umbrella of the UN, must include our ideals: universality and improvement for all. We want to make sure that the SDGs include everyone — developing and developed countries, but also those countries with special needs and challenges.
Q: How did you fare with the MDGs?
A: It was a challenge for all countries. We succeeded in education and access to public health, sanitation and water. We were able to reduce poverty. However, our landlockedness has created social and economic problems. We now have a National Development Plan. Our Plan is the basis for negotiations on SDGs and climate change.
Q: As you mentioned, today more Paraguayans are enjoying better access to education and health care and an increasing number of families are gaining access to clean water and sanitation. What areas will you focus on towards successfully achieving the SDGs?
A: We will continue to focus on these issues because we are not there yet. As we continue to deal with these issues, we also include civil society, people with special needs and indigenous people.
Q: Indigenous people as well?
A: I must again emphasize universality. SDGs must be universal. So we are also focusing on indigenous people. We are the only country in South America with two official languages: Spanish and an indigenous language, guarani.
Q: What is the situation with indigenous people particularly those living in the rainforest; are they migrating to cities as a result of the impact of climate change?
A: Their welfare is a priority of our government. The indigenous people are migrating to the cities, but not for climatic reasons. They are moving into cities for economic reasons. Out of a population of 7 million people 400,000 are indigenous. We are giving them the best opportunities to grow. If they migrate to the cities, it is because they want to and not because of necessity.
Q: Your country, like most LLDCs, is not a large contributor of emissions, but Paraguay will suffer from the damaging effects of global warming. Are you optimistic that LLDC members will get funding towards mitigation and adaptation efforts?
A: Yes, I’m confident that LLDCs will get funding for mitigation and adaptation. We are landlocked and have also suffered from excessive rain and an assault on our ecosystem. We too are suffering from the impact of climate change. The Almaty Program of Action did not deal with these issues, but now we are actively negotiating on these environmental issues with all the stakeholders and are securing financing towards the alleviation of the impact of climate change.
Q: Since LDCs are asking for 50% of the total SDG fund, will LLDCs get financing from the Green Fund?
A: Several LDCs are in the LLDC group and we work together. We share all our resources and are willing to work together to achieve the sustainable development goals. Paraguay has played a leading role since 2003. We are the coordinators and chairman of the LLDCs in Geneva and in New York Paraguay is the vice chair of the LLDC group. As an LLDC we have our constraints. For example, to send out any product by sea, we pay nearly 40% more. We suffer not only on trade but also on social and economic issues because of our landlockedness.
Q: Do you see the Paris climate conference in December adopting a meaningful, universal agreement to tackle climate change?
A: Participants must realize that this is the last opportunity they have. All of us will need to be responsible. I have talked to most of my colleagues at the UN and they are willing to compromise. I’m optimistic that something good will come out of the Paris Summit.
Interview first appeared in the UN publication THE COMMITMENT
Photo: Nosh Nalavala