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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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Action Agenda Comes Into Sharp Focus as Prepcom II Concludes

{short description of image} Mr. Emil Salim, Chairman of the CSD10 Bureau   8 February–The international community has moved one step closer toward engaging governments, business and civil society in delivering action to promote economic growth and social development while protecting the environment. The progress came after two weeks of intensive talks, as the second

session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held from 28 January to 8 February, came to a close.

The issues for the Summit are now clearly in focus. Building on a process that began at the country and regional levels, and after dialogues among all the major groups at the global level, Preparatory Committee Chairman Emil Salim of Indonesia issued a summary identifying key topics to be addressed in Johannesburg. The topics are clustered under the foci of poverty eradication, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, sustainable management of natural resources, and the underpinning need to make globalization work to promote sustainable development. For each broad topic, there are several dozen recommendations for immediate action.

The Summit, which will be held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September this year, is expected to result in three outcome documents: a political declaration that expresses new commitments and direction for implementing sustainable development; a negotiated programme of action that will guide government implementation; and a non-negotiated compilation of new commitments and partnership initiatives for specific actions.

The Chairman's text, which will serve as the basis for negotiations at the next Prepcom, to start on 25 March in New York, and ultimately the basis for the Summit programme of action, was warmly received by delegations. Prepcom participants roundly applauded the Chairman after he presented the text to the meeting today.

Venezuela, speaking for the G-77, the group of over 130 developing countries, said it was pleased with the Chairman's text, particularly on how it dealt with poverty eradication and the issue of unsustainable consumption and production patterns.

At a press conference, Salim noted that his text came to a mere 21 pages, taking after the magic number in Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development that was negotiated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

"The intent is not to talk about lofty ideas-there have been too many speeches already," he said. Rather, "we have to say, 'look fellows, we are not changing Agenda 21. We are building up implementation in a globalized world.'"

Salim said the text only contains realistic, achievable suggestions, and that "anything that could not be implemented was thrown out the window." He added that the recommendations that remained were not strictly environmental, economic or social efforts, but merged all three elements.

With 90 per cent of the growth in world population projected to take place in developing countries that are on the road to becoming more developed, Salim said it was necessary to ensure these countries did not follow in the footsteps and the mistakes of the industrialized countries. Production and consumption patterns must be changed, he said, in order to use less energy and produce less waste, within the limits of what natural ecosystems and resources can bear.

Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai said the Summit was all about generating action proposals and promoting the notion that partnerships between various major groups could lead to more effective implementation. But these partnerships, he said, "are not a substitute for action by governments."

The release of the Chairman's text capped a two-week period of intensive discussions, including sessions, one of which was held in the General Assembly Hall, that were dedicated to dialogue among governments and the nine major groups identified in Agenda 21: farmers, scientists, non-governmental organizations, business and industry, local authorities, trade unions, women, indigenous people and youth. Many of the suggestions of these groups have been incorporated into the Chairman's text.

During the Prepcom, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for the Summit, Jan Pronk, reported that the word he was receiving from national capitals was that the Summit should deal with issues that were not addressed in Rio, such as globalization, insecurity, the underlying causes of terrorism, technological progress in the areas of communications and genetic engineering, and failed States.

The Prepcom also heard from a panel of media executives and journalists who warned that the concept of sustainable development was still not in the public consciousness, and that the Summit had to result in tangible results if it was to receive widespread coverage.

Most NGOs saw the developments at the Prepcom as generally positive. Daniel Mittler of Friends of the Earth International said the right issues have been put on the agenda, notably the issue of globalization. He called governments "courageous" for taking up the issue, as it was a topic that governments had dodged in the run-up to Rio. He also said that efforts to improve international governance for sustainable development had seemed to move forward. Still, he felt the process had a clear bias towards free trade, and worried that whatever happened in Johannesburg would be subservient to the present trade regime fostered by the World Trade Organization meeting in Doha last year.

A number of NGOs are calling for a legally binding agreement on corporate accountability. Michael Dorsey of the Sierra Club pointed out that corporate voluntary rules had not worked over the last decade, and that corporate profits had grown by some 300 per cent while job creation had gone up only marginally. He added that corporations themselves were willing to engage in discussions on regulation, but that governments were dragging their feet.

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24 August 2006