NGO Forum for Johannesburg Back on Track, Say Organizers
Johannesburg, 11 April Organizers of the NGO Forum for the World Summit
on Sustainable Development say the disagreements between competing factions of
South African civil society that were widely reported are behind them and they
are now completing plans for the gathering, which will be one of the largest
meetings ever of civil society.
Bheki Ntshalintshali, Deputy General Secretary of the Congress of South African
Trade Unions, one of the main organizers, confirmed that there had been some
disagreements among groups. But, he said, "I can now confirm that there is
one civil society of South Africa that comprises all the major groups."
"There are quarrels in any family. There will always be
disagreements," Ntshalintshali said, adding that there are no guarantees
that the future of the Forum will be quarrel-free. But he emphasized that the
in-fighting will not detract from the event, and that all South Africans are
now "on board." He commented, "People will be asking whether
Africa can host a Summit of this nature," and said everyone had to rise to
the occasion. "We have to manage it successfully. We do not want South
Africa to be a bad example."
The Forum, organized entirely by South African civil society, will take place
at the Expo Centre (formerly known as NASREC) from 19 August to 4 September.
Organizers say the site is a ten-minute drive from the official Summit, which
will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre. While the Forum is completely
independent of the UN event, and accreditation to the Forum will be separate,
organizers say the Forum will allow citizens groups to let the world leaders
who will be attending the Johannesburg Summit know what people want the Summit
Forum officials say they do not know how many people will attend, and called
for groups to register early, either on printed forms or electronically, on a
web site that will be up in mid-April at the address
The Forum organizers said the decision to hold the event the week before the
Summit will allow civil society to adopt a declaration that can influence the
decisions made at the official meeting. Ntshalintshali said the idea to have a
separate process will help build solidarity within civil society. "We will
be able to speak with one voice and we will be able to influence the
Speaking to a gathering of NGOs and delegates, Ntshalintshali said that other
allegations that the Forum would be government-led were unfounded. "It
will be an independent Forum," he insisted. The Forum was working with the
South African government on logistics, and the government is providing
resources for the Forum.
Organizers say that all groups will be welcome at the Forum, except for groups
that have "a blatant disregard" for the principles of sustainable
development. There will be a registration fee of $165, but Forum officials say
they are willing to work with NGOs that cannot afford the registration fee.
There are also plans to provide day passes so that local residents from nearby
Oswego can participate.
Crispian Olver of the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and
Tourism reiterated that the government was not involved in the organization or
the operations of the Forum, but had covered the cost of hiring the site, and
offered to share logistical support, such as for transportation.
"For us, the Summit is not just the formal Summit, but a multiplicity of
events," Olver said, referring to the Forum and the cultural exhibition at
the Ubuntu village. "We need a meaningful dialogue to communicate to the
entire world that we need a strong vision of where we are going."
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006