Erik Solheim, who took the helm of the club of major patrons of developing countries in January, described Korea as an “inspiring example for the rest of the world,” highlighting its rapid economic ascent and increasing climate efforts.
The seasoned Norwegian politician said he would put top priority on promoting environmentally-sustainable development while seeking to boost investment in clean energy and other green industries.
“To make this link between promoting environment and development is an absolute priority,” Solheim said in an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul during his first overseas trip since taking office.
“Another priority is to link business and investment as important as we need both, and also to encourage nations to increase their efforts for the development of the poor world.”
Solheim, 58, was Oslo’s minister of environment and international development from 2007-12 and international development minister from 2005-07. He also currently serves as the U.N. Environment Program’s special envoy for environment, conflict and disaster.
During his two-day stay here, he discussed President Park Geun-hye’s official development assistance and environmental policy with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. He also visited the Global Green Growth Institute in Seoul and met with officials including Shin Boo-nam, ambassador for green growth.
“I wanted to make Korea the first destination as new chair because Korea is the most successful development nation in the last half century,” Solheim said, citing its brisk economic growth, democratic dynamism, high human development level and advanced green policies.
|Erik Solheim, chair of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
“Korea was as poor as Africa in the 1950s. I still member Secretary-General Ban (Ki-moon) speak about how he learned to read with candle light.
“I want to promote that positive example as development cooperation is not just about money but also about practices.”
Solheim expressed confidence in the newly expanded GGGI and the forthcoming Green Climate Fund, which he forecast would boost Seoul’s role in global environmental efforts.
The GGGI was launched by the Korean government in 2010 as a “think and act tank” to bridge aid donor and recipient countries to share experiences and technological knowhow for eco-friendly development. It became an international organization in October with Norway among the 18 founding members.
Incheon was selected last year to house the secretariat of the GCF, which plans to mobilize as much as $100 billion a year to help emerging nations adapt to global warming and slash greenhouse gas emissions.
“Time has long past where all global institutions can continue to be in the U.S. and Europe,” Solheim said.
“They must go to other parts of the world also including your neighbor China, which is a huge nation with very few global institutions. The fact that now Korea has these two is a very, very positive step.”
The chairman pledged support in particular for the GGGI, stressing the need for “much more innovative, new practices to bring environment and development together.”
“This is exactly where the GGGI comes into the picture by giving advice on the best practices,” he added.
Despite Korea’s much-lauded transformation from aid beneficiary to donor, Solheim called for greater official development assistance commitment and streamlined channels.
During his ministership, he was credited for Oslo’s sharp increase in its ODA disbursements to 1 percent of gross national income, far above the 0.35 percent rich-world average. The Nordic country is one of the world’s top donors on a GNI basis along with Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Seoul, in contrast, aims to jack up its figure from 0.12 percent to 0.25 by 2015 yet the goal is deemed unfeasible by many.
Its policymaking has also been fragmented among conflicting plans and goals of state agencies, fueling tension and eroding efficiency. Experts and relief groups have also criticized a lack of specialized workforce and short-sighted strategies focusing on loans rather than grants.
“Clearly grants are normally better than loans but our view is that both grants and loans may be beneficial for developing nations,” Solheim said.
“It’s for Korea to find a way to do this but our recommendation is a strong coordination and increase (in ODA) and also to play a role linking the environment through the GGGI and GCF.”
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)