UN, South African Flags Raised Over Sandton Conference Centre in
Johannesburg, 23 August South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma
symbolically handed over the Sandton Conference Centre, the site of the World
Summit on Sustainable Development, to the United Nations today at a flag
The raising of the UN and South African flags in front of the Centre marked the
official start of the UN presence in Johannesburg, with the Centre assuming the
status of international territory.
Calling the Summit "one of the most important conferences," Zuma,
speaking at the ceremony, said the Summit would determine "how this family
of humanity will deal with our common heritage."
The Summit, Zuma said, was not only about putting together a plan for action,
but also for establishing a mechanism for sustainable development, with the
necessary financing. "At the end of the day, it is about
Accepting the handover on behalf of the United Nations, Johannesburg Summit
Secretary-General Nitin Desai praised the South African government for the work
they have done to prepare for the Summit. "They have done a fantastic job.
They pulled out all the stops." Thanking South Africa for their efforts in
Zulu, he said "Ngiyabonga South Africa, Ngiyabonga Johannesburg."
Desai pointed out that much had changed since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de
Janeiro. "Ten years ago when we met at the Earth Summit, South Africa was
not even present. Today it is the host country."
More than 100 presidents and prime ministers, along with thousands of
government representatives, NGOs and business leaders, are expected to attend
the Summit, which marks an historic opportunity to commit to actions that will
improve people's lives and protect the environment.
The official opening of the Summit will take place on Monday, 26 August, with
an address by South African President Thabo Mbeki. Mr. Desai will then formally
address the plenary, followed by United Nations Environment Programme Executive
Director Klaus Topfer.
There will be informal consultations among delegations on the Johannesburg Plan
of Implementation over the weekend, but official negotiations will begin
immediately after the opening session.
In a departure from traditional conference practice, special plenary sessions
that will take the form of "moderated conversations," will be held
starting on Monday dealing with issues where the Summit is expected to bring
results, such as in increasing the number of people who have access to clean
water and proper sanitation, increasing access to modern energy services,
improving agricultural productivity, and ensuring the protection of the world's
biodiversity and natural ecosystems.
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006