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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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  FEATURE STORY

Building on Monterrey, Johannesburg Summit Preparations to Hammer Out Action Plan


{short description of image}   25 March, New York – From Monterrey, where new commitments were made to devote more resources to the fight against poverty, attention now turns to the next round of preparatory talks that begin today for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Picking up where Monterrey left off, the Summit which will be held in Johannesburg this August, will provide an opportunity for governments, citizen groups and businesses to launch result-oriented initiatives to promote sustainable development, or development that simultaneously promotes economic growth, social development and environmental protection.

The South African government estimates that as many as 65,000 people will come to Johannesburg for the official Summit, from 26 August to 4 September, the non-governmental forum and other related events.

In addition to new initiatives, the Summit will result in a political declaration by the heads of State and Government who will be in Johannesburg. The current preparatory meeting, the third out of four, will have a major impact in determining how much political muscle world leaders can flex to change the basic approach to development, in rich and poor countries alike

There are indications from the Financing for Development Conference that countries are recognizing the need for change. Speaking at the conference, French President Jacques Chirac said, "What is at stake in Monterrey is not only the financing for development. It is also about harnessing the world's nations in search of an answer to the gnawing question of our times: namely how to end a situation that is morally unacceptable, politically dangerous, and economically absurd."

Chirac added that the international community needed to build on Monterrey through a partnership for sustainable development. "The ecological revolution is comparable in scale to the industrial revolution. That is the challenge we must work together to overcome in Johannesburg, by inventing new modes of production and consumption."

There were other reasons for donor interest. United States President George Bush said, "We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror. We fight against poverty because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity. We fight against poverty because faith requires it and conscience demands it. And we fight against poverty with a growing conviction that major progress is within our reach."

The pledges made in Monterrey to provide additional assistance to developing countries do not add up to the doubling of aid that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said was needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals-a series of commitments countries have already agreed upon to halve poverty by 2015. But the Secretary-General told the Monterrey conference that the assistance provided by donor countries, and the substantial amounts promised, "clearly reflect a new spirit and a revival of commitment to aid."

The new spirit can provide a major boost to the Johannesburg Summit preparations, where representatives from governments, along with representatives of business, women, farmers, citizen groups, scientists, indigenous people, trade unions, local government and youth, will work during PrepCom III to consider all interests and cement a workable plan to achieve results.

Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai said Monterrey opened up new opportunities for the Summit, but that all participants needed to take advantage of the moment.

"If we think ahead and act now," Desai said, "we can change from business as usual to a new way of conducting political business, so that everyone— including future generations— can benefit." He called Johannesburg "an historic opportunity to forge a non-military alliance to secure a safer, more secure and just world."

But to achieve progress, Desai said that world leaders must demonstrate the political will to move forward, and there must be practical measures on the table that can be implemented through partnerships.

Desai said, however, that the new partnerships are not intended to serve as substitutes for government responsibilities, and should not result in the privatization of core government functions. "We need partnerships to help implement projects that government just can't do. These partnerships can bring the technical know-how, community participation, and resources together to achieve results. But they are not intended to replace government functions.

The negotiations at this preparatory meeting, PrepCom III, are expected to be challenging. While there is a consensus that Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit, remains a valid long-term vision, implementation has been sluggish and the participants maintain widely varying positions on how to move forward.

Participants at the PrepCom will use a text prepared by Preparatory Committee Chairman Emil Salim as the basis for negotiations. This text sets out ten clusters of issues that include poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, protecting natural resources such as water supplies, and protecting ecosystems.

The PrepCom will also look at the issue of international governance for sustainable development— or how countries want to manage the process in the future.

Different interests are looking for different outcomes at the Summit. Poorer countries, where 1.2 billion people live on less than one dollar a day, want the Summit to focus on fighting poverty. Small island developing States are concerned that present production and consumption patterns are contributing to global warming and rising sea levels, which threaten their existence. Environmentalists are seeking action to protect and preserve the world's ecosystems. Others want to focus on health, social development, economic growth and human rights. Some want stronger international action and others look to greater domestic responsibility.

After this PrepCom, there will be one more preparatory meeting at the ministerial level in Bali, Indonesia, from 27 May to 7 June, where participants will consider a political declaration to be endorsed by heads of State and Government in Johannesburg.




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24 August 2006