Building on Monterrey, Johannesburg Summit Preparations to Hammer Out Action
||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
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
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
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
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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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006