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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
What's New
  FEATURE STORY

Number of Delegates Surpasses Expectations, Underscoring Importance of Sustainable Development


Sandton Convention Centre
  The Sandton Convention Centre

New York, 19 August— Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai said that interest in the World Summit on Sustainable Development has far surpassed expectations, with over 20,000 people currently registered to attend.

The result is that the number and size of delegations, particularly those from NGOs and other major groups, will place a strain on the meeting venue and all logistical support.

"In all the conferences that I have worked on before, we have never had to cope with this sort of problem," Desai said. "We have more than 15,000 NGOs registered at close of pre-registration. These will add to the more than 5,000 government delegates and an estimated 2,000 media representatives."

Despite the logistical challenges created by such high numbers, Desai welcomed the surge in interest in the Summit and in sustainable development. He attributed it to increased reporting on the issues, a genuine desire for change from "business as usual", and the fact that people see the Summit as a major opportunity to steer the world toward a different, and better development path.

"The enormous demand to attend the Summit highlights the importance of Johannesburg. People really see this Summit as an opportunity to address some of the world's most insidious problems: poverty and environmental stress."

Desai added, "The Summit is drawing far more than the usual conference delegates. It is drawing over 100 presidents and prime ministers, 50 CEOs of major global corporations and 60 chief justices interested in developing and applying environmental law, in addition to the thousands of NGOs and community leaders who will help promote sustainable development on the ground on a grand scale so that everyone benefits."

The Sandton Convention Centre normally has a capacity of 10,000 people, but for the Summit, the number will be less due to reconfigurations to meet the needs of the meeting. At peak times, Desai said, it will be necessary to limit the number of people inside the Centre, since "there is no way" that all the NGOs in particular who have registered can physically be accommodated in the building at the same time. Desai said a special pass system may need to be implemented so that the numbers can be safely managed without interfering in the negotiating and plenary sessions of the Summit.

Nevertheless, UN officials say that although well over 20,000 people have sought accreditation, not all delegates need to be inside Sandton Convention Centre at anyone time as much of the action in Johannesburg will be held outside the Sandton Convention Centre where the official Summit is being held. Close to 600 parallel events will be taking place at the Ubuntu Village, the Civil Society Global Forum and other venues for parallel events. There will be a stakeholder forum and special conferences for parliamentarians, the business community, jurists, youth, and scientists - to name but a few. There will also be a WaterDome hosting numerous events tackling crucial water issues and IUCN, the World Conservation Union, is hosting over 100 events during the Summit at their Environment Centre.

The South African government has estimated that the total number of people participating in the official United Nations Summit, together with people who only participate in other parallel events, could approach 60,000 people.



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24 August 2006