Youn Soon Jin (Graduate School of Environmental Studies, SNU)
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is an intergovernmental organization designated for addressing environmental issues at the global and regional level. Its mandate is to coordinate the environmental policy enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. Recently, the UNEP insisted that the whole world should aim at establishing a green economy, following the establishment of an environmental agency called the Green Economy Initiative last year. UNEP plans to publish reports on each nation's green economy policy. Recently, it announced the completion of an interim report on its first case study, the Republic of Korea, entitled "Overview of the Republic of Korea's Green Growth National Vision," the full version of which is expected to be released next year. The report praised Korea’s green growth efforts. Furthermore, based on its reputation, it argued in favor of the Korean government's green growth policy, especially the four river plan.
This interim report, however, casts doubt on what this organization really is. In light of the report, it seems dubious that the UNEP has a genuine will to realize global sustainability and the capability to evaluate environmental policy in view of sustainability. The UNEP's interim report is nothing more than a translation of the documents the Korean government previously released. It seems as though the UNEP is simply adopting the Korean government’s policies.
Before the UNEP published this interim report, I met with a writer and the staff member in charge of this report with a couple of other interested people from the Republic of Korea Federation of Environmental Movement and The Eco-Horizon Institute. The writer and the member of staff were actually investigating to see whether the resources that Korean government had offered were real. In this meeting, the participants talked about the worries and concern that civil society and academic circles had expressed over government's green growth policy, specially the four rivers plan. The report even clarified that it was engaging in consultation with several ministries and different agencies which involved the Republic of Korea Federation of Environmental Movement and The Eco-Horizon Institute. It did not, however, reflect the criticisms that the participants had raised and went on to publish an interim report which is almost exactly the same as the first draft.
The report supported the government-side argument without concretely assessing Korean government's four rivers plan. It only emphasized the importance of creating jobs using state funds. It applauded the four rivers plan despite the fact that Korea is not a developing country which needs jobs for blue collar workers which would be created by the four river plan, but instead suffers from high unemployment amongst highly educated youth. The report also fails to mention the fact that the Korean government cut down the welfare budget for the plan, which is necessary for realizing social equality, a vital part of sustainable development. The UNEP is supposed to be an environmental organization, but it does not even understand the environmental meaning of reservoirs for agricultural irrigation and dredging activities of the four river plan. Furthermore, it failed to point out that policies like the four rivers plan which had not reached a social consensus would not satisfy Green Value. The UNEP report only appreciated the fact that Korean government would spend an astronomical amount of money on this Green Growth Policy.
The UNEP did not consider the government policies that laid emphasis on the enlargement of nuclear power and tried to abolish fixed-price contracts even though it had recommended setting fixed prices for renewable energy and reduced support for nuclear power and coal in order to develop green economy and green jobs in another report-"Green Jobs.” This is a problem for the current report, since it clearly advocates the Korean government's Green Growth Policy which does not support sustainability in not only the four rivers plan but also other policies concerning waste matter, nuclear power and renewable energy, thereby encouraging other countries to repeat the Korean case. Moreover, by absorbing the government's propaganda it insulted the sincere efforts of many people, researchers, the Professors' Organization for Movement against the Grand Korean Canal and environmental and citizen's groups which have raised the issue of the four river plan and Green Growth Policy. If the UNEP does not map out a green economy which is able to actualize sustainable development with green growth as a core strategy it will lose its raison d’être and the concept of sustainable development which is supported by global consensus will be repealed. The UNEP should remember the fact that its root came from Conference on the Human Environment held in 1972 entitled "Only One Earth.” This one earth cannot afford to concentrate on each country's, individual desires, especially those of rich ones. The interim report from the UNEP only serves to damage its reputation and trust and shows us the necessity of reconsidering this organization from another perspective.
Ttranslated by Kim Yeil
Proofread by Simons Chloe Jane
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