Newsletter # 7
July 31, 2002
Table of Contents:
Taking the US to democracy 2
How to organize our work in Johannesburg? 3
The Rocky Road to Johannesburg 4
Uganda NGO calls for the World Summit on Sustainable Development 6
Getting set 6
Access to information 6
Sustainable energy is needed for sustainable development 6
Good governance matters 7
Basics for food security 7
The Salvadoran Government facing Rio+10 8
We are creating a broad movement in Mozambique 9
Thorns in the Side 10
In-conclusive talk in Bolivia 11
Namibian Preparation Process 12
Awareness raising campaign 12
Johannesburg, Summits, United Nations and Poor Countries 13
List of the sub-regional co-ordinators 14
It’s time to focus. It’s time to concentrate our last efforts to ensure that all the
work done in every country will make a difference at the Summit.
“So much said, so little done”, should be the governments’ slogan. They have been self-
interested, neglecting the welfare of the whole world. But this is not going to deter us
from playing an active and constructive role ourselves, fighting for what needs to be
mended and protected.
This is why, with a month to go before the Summit, it’s crucial to focus, to intensify
the work within our national networks, to present a united and enthusiastic civil society
in Johannesburg, facing the issues of concern to everyone. The enclosed newsletter
contains many good stories about the NGO work in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
We expect the next Newsletter to be ready Mid-August, please send your contributions as
soon as possible!
Silvia Salerno and Liliana Hisas
FEU, Buenos Aires
Taking the US to democracy
by Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment, India
In matters of global affairs today, there is one question that is never directly asked.
But it is on everybody’s mind, if not on the tip of the tongue. People don’t ask it
simply because they don’t have an answer. The question defies a solution in current
times. So, it is best to bury it, knowing fully well that there is no progress without
resolving it. The question, if you have not guessed by now, is just how the world will
deal with the waywardness of the US? How will the world’s most powerful nation – both
economically and militarily – be made to be a more responsible member of the community
Why do I say this? The US government’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol – the legally
binding multilateral instrument to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the industrialised
North – is just one example. But it is key as combating climate change is perhaps the
largest enterprise humankind has ever embarked upon and it demands global cooperation.
When the largest polluter turns renegade, by arguing, selfishly, that efforts to control
global warming will impact on its economy, it shirks its responsibility to others who
will suffer the disastrous consequences of its wilful disobedience.
Then, this month, the George Bush administration, took the unprecedented step to
“unsign” the global treaty creating an international criminal court of justice – set
up to try individuals who commit heinous crimes against humanity, but evade prosecution
in their own nation. The court’s jurisdiction begins this July. The Bill Clinton
administration had already signed the treaty. But now Bush says that the court could be
misused to charge American soldiers with war crimes, forgetting the strong safeguards
already in place. But how can the world’s most powerful nation be subjected to global
jurisprudence and scrutiny?
The renunciation has even wider consequences. As it means that the US will now assert
that it is not bound by the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which requires
nations to refrain from taking steps to undermine treaties they sign, even it they do not
ratify the agreement. This virtually means rewriting the basis of global common law that
has evolved over the past many years.
The US strategy on global negotiations is single-minded obsession for its own national,
or corporate well-being. “The US way of life is non-negotiable,” said George Bush
senior when pushed on the issue of climate change. This remains the abiding basis of its
foreign policy, with no exceptions. Its negotiation tactics are well established. First,
the country will work extremely hard with huge contingents of experts and negotiators –
to craft global conventions, as they will. The threat will be implicit: do as we say or
we will not sign. Then when the world has caved in more or less to deliver an agreement,
acceptable to the US, it will walk out of the agreement. Then the effort would be to work
towards total submission with a new agreement, rewritten by the US.
In the negotiations for the Law of the Seas agreement – to manage another global common
like the atmosphere, the oceans – the US refused, after it had participated actively in
the negotiations, to concede to the final agreement. The convention was adopted, without
the US, and came into force. The US then worked doggedly to “persuade” developing
countries to reopen the negotiations and finally ten years later got a new agreement,
which would “nullify the provisions in the original agreement that had not been
universally accepted”. “Universal” being the euphemism for the US. The agreement now
makes sure that the US has the control of the decision making process to exploit the
seabed’s mineral wealth.
The Kyoto Protocol is another such example. It is no secret that the protocol is an
extremely pusillanimous agreement, riddled with loopholes, which have practically
rendered the agreement ineffective, if not worthless. The US worked hard to get through
each one of the agreement’s fatal flaws. Then, when the final compromise – the nail on
the coffin – was crafted, all to get the US to consent, the country walked out. Now it
is working overtime to ensure that it can undermine the protocol and create conditions
for the world to accept its formula that developing countries must also take on legally
binding cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.
But the problem is not merely about a recalcitrant bully nation. The problem is about
global democracy and how it will function, or not, in this situation where the most
powerful law-maker turns law-breaker. The world has moved towards a rule-based system of
global governance, where nations agree to take on legally binding commitments based on
lengthy discussions, consensus building and voting. But in this body of law, as with law-
making in any civilised nation, the standard of justice depends on the equality of power
to compel the strong from doing what they have the power to do, so that the weak don’t
have to accept what they have to accept. There can be no respect otherwise. Democracy is
all about this. Surely the US should know.
The US dread-factor is the dampener on almost all global negotiations today, including
the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development. Given the unipolarity in the world,
its absolute power and the disinclination of the European Union to play a countervailing
role, there is little that can change. But the answer will have to be found. Whatever the
solution; the first step is that we at least ask the question. “So how do we bring
democracy to the US?”
How to organize our work in Johannesburg?
by Hans Peter Dejgaard, Danish 92-Group
A more structured collaboration between Asian, African and Latin American NGOs has not
functioned well during the previous Prepcoms. To strengthen the influence of Southern
NGOs in Johannesburg, it would be good with more collaboration among Southern
organisations, which only can be organised through focal points from different countries
and sub-regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In this respect the Danish 92 Group
partners have certain responsibility being one of the few projects on all three
continents. However, we are discussion with the German Böll Foundation and the Ford
Foundation to join forces, as the Southern organisation should not depend of which
Northern NGO is supporting.
Based on experiences from the previous Prepcoms, it is essential to have a basic
structure for our work. This is the case for the national NGO Team and it could hopefully
be the case with the collaboration of the national- and subregional focal points. My
suggestion will be that the sub-regional co-ordinators take the lead in coordinating the
seven sub-regions in relation to the work in Sandton, exactly because we have a chance to
make a difference in approaching our structures crossing three continents.
Efficient lobbying work is very much related to clear priorities and a good organisation.
Greenpeace and Third World Network are good examples, while many African and Latin
Americans have had more limit influence in the previous Prepcoms. I very much hope the
sub-regional co-ordinators will take lead in the preparation of how we can work together
in Johannesburg. Last week’s African NGO conference in Abidjan has already done some
planning exercises. Hopefully, the sub-regional co-ordinators in Latin America, South
Asia and South East Asia can make similar plans on how to improve an organized Southern
performance during the Summit.
The present South-project would have a key-role in Jo’hannesburg to improve the bridging
between Southern networks and the international (and Northern) NGOs. Consequently, we are
considering how to link your national networks/focal points to the ECO group of
international NGOs. The ECO group has recently agreed to including 2 Latin Americans, 2
Asian, 2 African and 2 from South African NGO host in the ECO group during the Summit.
Furthermore, we are investigating how to produce an eventually two pages “Voice of the
South” as part of the daily ECO-Equity newsletter, which will be an important space for
opinions/sharp comments from national networks/focal points. The two journalists, Rasmus
from Denmark and Tolit from Uganda journalist, will act as editors aiming at helping you
with dissemination of inputs from the different sub-regions.
Finally, it would be good to have your feedback on a number of questions, which will make
it possible for the subregional co-ordinator and the Copenhagen network secretariat to
elaborate an overview as soon as possible:
a) how many NGO persons at the official governmental delegation?
b) how many NGO persons from your national network accreditated for Sandton
c) how many NGO persons from your national network accreditated for the NGO Global
d) how is the financial situation for support to Johannesburg travel. How many
supported? By whom?
e) which date will you NGO delegation arrive to Johannesburg?
f) how your national network elaborated brief position papers for the Summit?
(approved by network meeting). If so, please send these and other relevant materials to
us (and upload them to your country level of the rio10.dk website). Many focal points
have not updated this level of the website.
g) when have you scheduled briefing with national press (before going to Jo’burg).
h) brief news about the position of your government (based on your last meetings
with government officials).
These questions were sent out 26 of July, however, we have got very few replies so far.
Further information can be found in the paper “How to work in Johannesburg” that already
has been submitted to the national focal points. You are also recommended to read the
condensed guide by Thorleif Jonasson (“Written and unwritten rules for NGOs in the WSSD-
game”). You are also welcome with comments and ideas to be submitted to the other
national focal points through the national-focal-point mailinglist.
The Rocky Road to Johannesburg
by Beth Roxas and Ramon Fernan III, Environmental Broadcast Circle (EBC), the Philippines
When this whole thing of a follow-up summit to Rio was brought forward, the excitement
was clearly felt. After all, a review of the Rio Agreements after ten years was clearly
called for. The past decade saw a great deal of propaganda from governments wanting to
win points among an increasingly environmentally aware population. But, it seems now,
little else. Many of the beautiful declarations made at Rio and soon after remained just
that: Declarations without backing by concrete actions.
In reality, forests continued to be logged at a rate faster that trees could regenerate.
Seas continued to be overfished. Irresponsible corporations continued to exploit the
planet for all it was worth. And people in the developed North and the developing
country elites continued in their profligate ways as the poor continued to fight for
simple survival. Even sometimes unwittingly destroying the very basis of future
consumption. But little by little, the sustainable development message of Rio trickled
down to the people, who for the most part received it with a knowing nod. After all, the
plight of the poor was to be uplifted without putting any additional stress on the
In the ten years since Rio, that has not happened. But nobody said conserving nature
while providing for the needs of people was going to be an easy balancing act. Besides,
there are strong economic and business interests that are involved here. Interests that
go down deeply into the fundamental makeup of today’s free wheeling capitalist
democracies. And so political action was never up to par with the grand rhetoric of a
better life for all.
Still, people’s expectations had been raised and the vision of a future of relative
prosperity amidst environmental sanity had been kindled, however ephemeral. Sustainable
development became a battle cry towards this alternative vision of a better future
The promise and attraction of the Johannesburg Summit was that it was going to finally
extract commitments to concrete action by governments. Actions that would realize the
vision of Rio. So what, if it was late by ten years? It was finally going to happen, or
at least that was the United Nations’ intention. Nobody, not even the most gullible,
could claim that much had been achieved in the last decade. Everyone agreed that
awareness of environmental problems had become widespread, but effective solutions seemed
unable to break out of the discussion or even experimental mode.
Besides, right after Rio and the ‘holier-than-thou’ announcements that followed it, the
world’s governments, many at the prodding of large multinationals or the global financial
and trading institutions that were kind to them, turned not to correcting past errors,
but to opening new worlds of free trade, free enterprise, and their promised prosperity.
Free enterprise and a glaring lack of accountability has brought about the current spate
of corporate misbehaviors. Free trade has caused the proliferation of unwanted
genetically modified products, exploited people’s appetites for the Western lifestyle of
unlimited consumption, and has definitely not produced the much-touted, but so far
invisible prosperity that free traders always mouth about.
Johannesburg was to right this wrong. It was to provide a fresh start to the
environmental and developmental concerns of the poor and the dispossessed. Now it seems
only something like a miracle will make our collective dreams come true. The enthusiasm
for the WSSD Summit has palpably diminished, particularly among citizens’ groups and
advocacy NGOs, and apparently even government officials. At every step of the way, the
powerful countries of the North, particularly the United States, seemed to block any
meaningful progress towards real change. The conservative administration in Washington
was concerned first and foremost with maintaining corporate profitability and preserving
the outrageous lifestyles of its rich suburbs, and only secondarily with environmental
impacts and the plight of the poor. Together with the EU and Japan, they have heeded and
hawed about time-bound commitments, preferring instead the looser arrangements of “public-
private partnerships” (so-called type 2 agreements) that may be difficult to implement
and hold accountable.
The most recent debacle was at the last preparatory meeting in Bali that left many
participants dissatisfied with the lack of consensus. Civil society participants were
dissatisfied enough to begin thinking about not going to Johannesburg. This
dissatisfaction must have affected government representatives as well, enough that South
African President Thabo Mbeki has invited twenty-five countries, including the G8
countries, to a “Friends of the Chair” (South Africa as host has assumed the chair for
the Summit after the last preparatory meeting in Bali) meeting to find “an approach that
can help expedite the process in Johannesburg.”
At this late date, it is impossible to say how NGOs and other citizen groups can hope to
turn the tide against powerful government and business interests. The hoped-for mass
support from a concerned public has failed to materialize, and many ordinary people are
not even aware of the upcoming meeting. Many governments, including those of the
developing Southeast Asia nations, apparently give a grudging nod towards Johannesburg,
and little else. The Philippine President, for one, is not bothering to attend, the
local press has not played up the Summit, and NGOs are looking towards giving more energy
towards local initiatives rather than wasting time and resources for what more and more
appears to be another global orgy of self-aggrandizement.
Uganda NGO calls for the World Summit on Sustainable Development
by Kimbowa Richard, Project Coordinator Uganda NGO Rio + 10 Coalition
With a few weeks to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Uganda NGO Rio + 10
Coalition is positioning itself in lobbying for the issues that reflect the outcome of
their assessment work. They have already done this during the just ended African
Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) that took place in Kampala, while also
taking advantage of any more than two people gathering for a workshop or meeting to
reaffirm their message.
The Coalition made of more than 50 NGOs has also secured support for at least 8
representatives from the Netherlands, Swedish, French and Danish Embassies in Uganda to
attend the Global Forum in NASREC as well as the UN track in Sandton, Johannesburg.
The Coalition’s five thematic assessment reports on the progress of Uganda in
implementing the Rio outcomes, the emergent four common positions, and other information
are available on the Internet: www.rio10.dk – Africa (Uganda).
Since October 2001, the Uganda NGO Rio + 10 Coalition has carried out an assessment of
progress that Uganda might have made in implementing programs that were agreed upon
during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The assessment was carried out
under five agreed thematic areas namely: biodiversity, Climate and energy, sustainable
agriculture, sustainable economic and social development and integrated freshwater. Each
thematic group has had one volunteer NGO coordinating the assessment work as well as
networking, training and other activities.
After their assessment, which revealed loopholes and shortcomings in meeting the Rio
obligations, the Coalition developed common positions on energy, good governance and
participation for sustainable development, and access to information legislation for
Uganda and food security.
Access to information
In the area of access to information legislation, the Coalition calls on Government to
speedily pass and operationalise the law on access to information, to mainstream gender
in generation and transfer of information and to ensure timely access and provision of
“The call to access to information is not unique to Uganda; more so as the multifaceted
globalization takes root. Access to environmental information is even more important as
Africa seeks to protect its natural resources from the open-ended commercial interest
groups and Corporations”, said one of the coalition participants during the launch of
the Positions in Kampala in May 2002.
Sustainable energy is needed for sustainable development
Uganda’s energy consumption trend indicates that woody biomass caters for over 90%, 5%
petroleum and 1% electricity. However, the high tariffs imposed on electricity means
higher fuel wood use, further diminishing the natural forest cover from the current 3% of
Uganda’s land area. Moreover, less than 2% of Uganda’s new and renewable energy
potential except biomass (includes solar, wind, geothermal, bio-energy, etc) is
The Coalition therefore calls on Uganda Government to formulate policies that enhances
private sector investments in renewable energy such as solar and geothermal energy for
which undoubted potential exists. They also advocate for Government to adopt small
hydropower stations that are more environmentally and socially conscious in providing
cost effective power.
Good governance matters
Under good governance, the Coalition has called upon Government to put in place a
polluter tax, which would be paid by companies and individuals that cause environmental
degradation. They also advocate for more transparency in the selection of Environmental
Impact Assessment Consultants by project proponents.
Uganda should also ensure compliance with the national and international rules and
regulations governing research and trade (such as medicinal plants, wildlife resources,
The Coalition also calls upon Government to stem out the trend of corruption and
political interference in natural resources management especially forests, water,
wetlands and other issues concerning sustainable development at national, district and
Concerned about the need to balance environment and development priorities, the Coalition
calls upon the Government of Uganda to start the process of developing National
Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSSD). This was a commitment in Agenda 21 and is
further stated in the UN Millennium goals (by 2005). These strategies ought to be
integrated into the current Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP).
As per Chapter 27 of Agenda 21, the only way to achieve sustainable development is by
including the public in planning and decision-making at all levels
Basics for food security
In order to secure food security, the Coalition calls upon Government to develop a
comprehensive food and nutrition policy agreed upon by all stakeholders. Women focused on
packages, for example, in agriculture technologies, crop selection, extension messages
created and delivered; research priorities should be an integral part.
They further call for a centralized arrangement among farmer groups, Government and NGOs,
which is essential for effective joint market accessibility.
The Coalition also calls for access and prioritizing energy and labor-saving technology
to sustain the natural resource base and to reduce the time burden of domestic work which
can in turn be used for other productive purposes. For example, women move an average
loading of 26 metric ton for a kilometer per year (especially water and fuel wood),
compared to less than 7 metric ton for a kilometer for men. Similarly, the coalition has
identified the need for establishment and support for farm stores for agricultural inputs
and produce, transport means and networks, agricultural processing units, especially in
the vicinity of isolated rural communities.
The Coalition has noted that peaceful resolution of conflicts in the various affected
parts of Uganda is paramount in order to enable us to settle down for development
activities and reduce on the Internally Displaced Persons and refugees. Access to cheap
and affordable medication for the increasing number of persons living with HIV / AIDS in
order to prolong their lives for a continued labor force that contributes towards
national food security was also noted. Finally, the Coalition also identified the need
for more capacity building for the farmers in appropriate and environmentally friendly
farming practices, including dissemination of the available relevant information.
The Salvadoran Government facing Rio+10
by Dagoberto Gutiérrez, Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña (UNES), Focal Point El Salvador,
The Salvadoran Government has not fulfilled the commitments agreed at the Earth Summit in
Rio de Janeiro in 1992. At this event, governments, companies, environmentalists,
scientists, autonomous communities and theologists discussed the magnitude of the Earth’
s environmental deterioration, identified the causes and, in the middle of a serious
discussion, they agreed on international treaties and periods to review results.
Trading and industrial activity were submitted to a critical check to discover and reveal
their lethal role in the destruction of nature, and as a result, large European or
American companies were cast as predatory threats to planetary life. Bio-piracy and
indigenous knowledge and resources were discussed and, finally, they agreed on
international treaties on biodiversity, desertification, climate change, and persistent
organic pollutants (POPs).
During these ten years, El Salvador’s government has ratified important treaties as
mentioned before, except the one related to POPs, which has only been signed, but not
ratified. However, it has not at all complied with their contents. Let us see what has
Salvadoran governments have operated – and nowadays operate even more – as the management
agencies of large companies (national and foreign). Their work is to ensure a healthy
development of the biggest businesses. This is what the neo-liberal jargon calls
International Market Integration, which means that if the country wants to export to this
promising market, first it must open its economy, its society and its natural resources
to the large producers and investors. In fact without thinking about things such as
environmental devastation or environmental treaties that protect the nature. In other
words, the assumption is that the country lacks internal forces or possibilities to solve
its own pressing problems, that the solution to so-called “development” is abroad, by
means of selling goods and offering nature. This vision is completed with the idea of
“export-processing zones”, employing the plentiful and cheap manual labor, without
having to pay decent wages, recognize labor rights or adhere to environmental policies.
We are thus facing two dramatic opposites within an overwhelming reality: On the one
hand, the country, its poor people and their natural resources, and on the other hand,
the national and foreign capital. In the government’s opinion, nothing should be done to
disturb or annoy that capital trying to be absorbed, because this situation will thwart
investment or possible export sales. Of course, the country does not receive much
investment, nor do the exports exist in the expected and professed quantity and quality.
The ratified or agreed treaties from Rio de Janeiro are examined and/or set aside,
precisely because they contain tools to defend biodiversity or national genetic resources
from the large companies’ greed. For the Salvadoran Government, the World Trade
Organization’s (WTO) will and US President Bush’s decisions are the final word on
economy and environment. “Economy is more important than ecology”, Bush has said.
Due to Rio+10 to be held in Johannesburg by the end of August and beginning of September
of this year, the executive prepared a report on Sustainable Development and the
fulfillment level of Environmental Treaties. The Environment Minister, Ana Maria Majano,
submitted to discussion the first draft; but she was unexpectedly dismissed, and the
Rio+10 issue was passed to the Foreign Office. This transfer means that Rio+10 is not an
environmental, but a foreign policy problem, then it is a market problem, and it has to
be subjected to the wishes of the mastter of the White House.
A deadening silence surrounds the Rio+10 issue. Some say that the Foreign Office has
formed special groups to discover dangerous issues hidden in the Environmental Treaties.
They have achieved to isolate, as in a laboratory, the Precautionary Principle and
barriers to patents, but they continue working with enthusiasm. They communicate their
discoveries to the White House trade chief, and they are consulting on whether to travel
to South Africa or not. The Kyoto Protocol document has been burnt in large bonfires with
dances all around as in the times of the cavemen, but they keep asking whether to make
the trip or not. Above all, they want to know if the Vice-President or the Chancellor can
go. It all depends on the White House.
Just in case, a memorandum is being prepared about the environmental treaties’ hazards
to international trade, and they are preparing a proposal to present it to the American
Congress, declaring nature as a “universal good”.
As it can be seen, the Salvadoran Foreign Office is exerting much effort on the Rio+10
issue, but up to now the White House has not answered their consultations on current
trends in Johannesburg, nor the possibility of the Vice-President making such a long
trip. As heard in the Salvadorean Foreign Office: “It all depends on Washington”.
We are creating a broad movement in Mozambique
by Jan Nikolai Kristensen & Tolit Olwor-Atiya
It is the first time a network of NGOs and popular movements from all over Mozambique
participate in the preparations for an international summit. It has never happened
before, says Norberto Mahalambe. He represents the Mozambican organizations ABIODES
(abbreviation in Portuguese for Organic Farming Bio-diversity Sustainable Development
Mahalambe is a busy man, he has spent most of the day meeting with the Ministry for Co-
ordination of Environmental Action to discuss the Mozambican government’s official
report for the Summit. Now, while the sun sets behind the Bay of Maputo, the spokesperson
for the Civil Society process turns on his computer. 83 new e-mails are shown on the
screen. Mahalambe sighs, “It’s hard work to co-ordinate summit preparations.”
Mahalambe explains that at the moment they are receiving reports from their member
organization in the County side some of which include; The Mozambican Workers General
Union (OTM), The Mozambican Peasants Union (UNAC), Teachers, Farmers, Women,
Environmental and Women movements. “We are creating a broad movement, which we hope
shall continue to develop after the summit in Johannesburg and this should be able to
allow Civil Societies to put more pressure on government, a thing that is lacking now,”
Preparations begun early in 2001 when LINK-NGO Forum, an umbrella organization for
Mozambican and international Civil Society Organizations, invited its members to initiate
an assessment of the state of sustainable development in Mozambique in view of WSSD. This
initiative led to the formation of a working group, but most of the members were
skeptical, Mahalambe recalls.
Nonetheless, the process took off as the working group continued to meet regularly and
eventually agreed on the principles and plans for the process. From March to November
2001, the group took considerable efforts to expand the process to organizations
representing the major identified groups, as identified in Agenda 21 and to faithbased
organizations. The process was extended to all ten Mozambican provinces and attention was
paid to make sure it was part of the regional core group for Southern Africa.
“A crucial factor in the preparation process has been the national network,” Mahalambe
says, “Each province identified a local organization to act as focal point thereby
forming a nation-wide civil society network interested in discussing sustainable
development. Each focal point had responsibility of making room for participation of all
interested organizations in an open and democratic manner.”
Organizing a national workshop, some of the major outputs were:
· Approval of the Maputo Declaration that defines the commitments of Civil
Society in the preparation process and identifies the ten main issues to be focused on in
the promotion of sustainable development.
The other was legitimization of the co-ordination group and the focal points as:
· Co-coordinators of the preparatory process.
· Also adopted was the plan of action, lobbying and advocacy plans and timing and
methodology for data collection for the assessment phase.
The working day for the spokesperson may have come to an end, but for the civil society
process its just begun with the forum gearing for Johannesburg that is only weeks away.
They have prepared a 35 strong man team that shall be at the summit and hope to press
hard on their issues.
Thorns in the Side
by Beth Roxas and Ramon Fernan III, Environmental Broadcast Circle (EBC), the Philippines
Finance, trade and globalization – terms that seem more in place in sanitized corporate
boardrooms than in the often grungy confines of NGO offices. Yet, these words have
become commonplace in civil society talk, although they often connote the exact opposite
of what they commonly refer to in World Bank and IMF discussions. They have become the
thorns in the side of the developing nations, not lethal but debilitating, nonetheless.
Ever since Seattle and the public outcry against the impact of free trade on an ever-
widening gap between rich and poor, the Northern countries have zealously guarded what
they consider to be the bottomline: A standard of living that consumes huge amounts of
resources and the profitability of their transnational corporations. In the language of
the UNEP, the choice of scenarios is either “market first” or “sustainability first”.
Finance, trade and globalization are the thorns that are making the trek to Johannesburg
so excruciating. The developing countries and their civil society allies insist that no
meaningful results can be expected without a serious consideration of these issues. They
point out that the effectiveness of actions committed to and taken to resolve social and
environmental problems depend entirely on mitigating the negative impacts that these have
had on the poor.
The deals preferred by the U.S. and its allies fall heavily on voluntary partnerships
between public and private sectors. Such arrangements are consistent with the idea of
free markets as they assume that those deals most attractive to private businesses are
those in which they expect to profit most, with environment and social equity being
secondary or even marginal considerations. In the world of free enterprise, such
arrangements define the “most efficient” allocation of resources. The problem is that
such allocation decisions are underlined by cost and profit factors rather than any
concern for the sustainable development. In effect, nature and people’s welfare become
incidental to the quest for private gain, although we are generally assured that such
welfare in fact increases in an efficiently-run society and economy. Even timelines are
not supposed to be relevant nor can they be forced – results will come about when the
markets are ready, not before.
Not everyone, of course, is enamored by the supposed benefits of free markets. It is
easy enough to point out the deficient results: an ever-widening poverty gap, resource
depletion and degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change. It may seem ironic that
NGOs, particularly those from the developing countries that have championed the benefits
of partnerships in their local work now seem to look down on them. There appear to be
two good reasons for this: one, the urgency of alleviating poverty and of preserving an
already fragile Earth; and, two, the necessity of holding governments to their word.
Only by setting definitive target dates can meaningful monitoring of progress (or the
lack of it) be made. If there is one thing that the post-Rio debacle has taught us, let
it be that. Only in this way can we be assured that another world is indeed being forged.
In-conclusive talk in Bolivia
By Fundación Tierra, Bolivia
Bolivia’s achievements in the Agenda 21 process have often been dictated by
breakthroughs and setbacks concerning the political priorities. Sustainable development,
however, will hardly disappear from the political agenda, despite alterations and
divergent interpretations of the concept made by different state entities.
Over the past decade, changes in environmental management and sustainable development
policies have been meaningful and accelerated, elaborating mainly a normative and
institutional framework. At present, it contemplates the mechanisms and instruments to
carry out integral environmental management, focused on sustainable development and
linked to the economic, social and cultural processes of the country.
In addition to reforms specifically related to environmental management, the structural
reforms of the Bolivian State within the last 10 years have had an influence, not always
positive, on the conditions of sustainable development.
The principal shift was the New Development Paradigm, involving an intentional change in
the mational planning approach. The reorientation towards a strategic and integral
approach to sustainable development pretended to begin the discussion of a new logic.
That would have to translate into practices and strategies modifying the conduct of
governmental and non-governmental actors to achieve the proposed objectives.
However, until today the instruments to apply the planning system effectively in public
investment are missing, as is the planning’s organisational set-up. The administrative
re-mapping through the Popular Participation Law has granted communities and local areas
greater decision-making powers concerning local development problems. Also, the new
process of Territorial Classification will allow, if it continues, a more sustainable
utilization of natural resources according to their useability, in line with the
Departmental land-use plans. Another change that must be highlighted is the recognition,
at least formally, of the native peoples’ rights to handle and manage the natural
resources of their Original Community Lands (TCOs).
However, and despite these relative improvements, sustainable development (and the
national Agenda 21 implementation) is not yet a permanent issue on the national state
agenda. The political discussion in the Government has suffered a regression towards
administrative and less strategic issues of public management. Sustainable development,
despite verbal affirmations, is not yet acknowledged as a state project. The Bolivian
nation-building process, which is far from finalised, is currently going through the
definition of a common project, appropriate to civil society actors and their
Namibian Preparation Process
by Anna Matros, Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (National secretariat)
The National process in Namibia started in April 2001 with an informal committee, which
was then transformed, into the National Committee after a multi-stakeholder workshop in
June 2001. This National Committee is a decision making body for the preparations towards
the Summit. It meets every month to assess the progress and it is chaired by the Ministry
of Environment and Tourism (MET), Permanent Secretary. His Excellency Dr. Sam Nujoma,
President of the Republic of Namibia, is the patron for the process. The Namibian
preparation process is of a multi-stakeholder nature and thus all relevant sectors are
working together towards the Summit. Namibia’s key issues for sustainable development
are identified as:
· Poverty eradication
· Water, sanitation
· Land Reform and degradation
· Education and health
· Employment creation
National Assessment Report
The national assessment report has been compiled and submitted to the Cabinet. The report
reflects and presents the consolidated views of a broad cross-section of Namibia society,
taking in consideration the achievements, constraints and challenges of the past 10
years. Public participation was called upon to help formulate and review the report.
Further, consultative workshops that were held brought government, NGOs, private sector,
technical experts and interested parties together. These workshops followed a year of
intensive consultation for the development of Namibia’s second 5-year National
Development Plan (for the period 2001 – 2006); Namibia’s Vision for the year 2030; a
large number of field based initiatives in all regions within Namibia supporting local
empowerment; improved natural resource management and rural development; and the MET in
conjunction with UNDP organised national preparatory workshop for Rio +10 held in June
Recognising that sustainable development is best pursued in the environment of open
discussion and debate, the Namibian Government has decided that the report should fairly
reflect both the achievements and challenges. Achievements there have been; more in the
past 10 years than the previous century of Namibia’s history. This report is now
available to the public in a short summarized 30-page booklet, also translated into a
simple understandable language.
Awareness raising campaign
· Namibia’s young representatives on sustainable development were chosen from 11
schools who were asked to write and present a speech on sustainable development.
· Namibia’s National Song on Sustainable Development called “The World we live
in” was launched on World Environment Day, 5 June 2002.
· The Namibian winning slogan from the competition (that took place in May via
newspaper entry forms) is: “Namibians, acting and striving with vision, for a
· National posters, summarizing the results of the assessment report have been
produced and are disseminated to secondary schools all over Namibia.
· Monthly newsletters are also being circulated, updating the nation on the
preparation process and also other upcoming issues related to the Summit. Electronic
versions of the newsletter are uploaded on the website (www.namibia-jwssd.org).
· Radio programs and newsletter articles are monthly featured as part of the
awareness raising campaign, to alert Namibians on the Summit issues, but most important
to promote the sustainable development message.
The work plan includes a full-scale national awareness campaign through all types of
media. The secretariat (Desert Research Foundation of Namibia), the lead Ministry
(Ministry of Environment and Tourism- Directorate of Environmental Affairs) and other
involved stakeholders are planning to arrange regional awareness workshops, which will
include drama performances (Namibian Industrial Theatre Project) as well as promoting the
Namibian song on sustainable development.
Johannesburg, Summits, United Nations and Poor Countries
by Víctor M. Campos / Centro Humboldt, Nicaragua.
In Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Earth Summit launched what could be termed the “Decade of
Summitry”. It began with a huge one, convened out of genuine concern about the fast
environmental deterioration undergone by the planet, calling for action by all the
different development agents in the world.
Though some considered the summit’s results to be below expectations, in general the
international community perceived Rio 1992 as a victory for mankind, by facing up to
global challenges in development terms. The United Nations was legitimised as a valid
scene from which to address significant global development issues, and summits were
established as the appropriate mechanism. Therefore, during this decade, we witnessed
summits on every important and sensitive issue faced by mankind (Social Affairs, Women,
Food, Racism, etc). A vast variety of thematic issues were addressed, but the United
Nations system did not seem able to establish some order of priority between them.
The Millennium Summit seemed to mark the peak of this “summit mania”. Subsequently, the
United Nations machine was put into motion to prepare the Johannesburg Summit in a
scenario of economic crisis, global governance confusion and regional free-trade
initiatives, breaking fundamental principles of protecting the most vulnerable people in
crumbling societies (mainly in poor countries). These countries are facing too many
crises to deal with so much commitment imposed by the international agenda. Often, they
do not have any real chance of solving them as they deserve, sometimes not for any lack
of interest, but because of different objective constraints.
In these conditions, as a country, it took us great pain to deal with the process towards
Johannesburg. In the case of Nicaragua, the government and some important civil society
organizations decided from the very beginning to participate jointly in a process that
would evaluate what has been accomplished since Rio, and would identify and propose
mechanisms for assessing the achievements in the area of sustainable development.
When beginning the process, we noticed that in our country the chance to move on was
particularly difficult. Given the conditions of the multilateral agencies, and being a
poor and highly indebted country, Nicaragua has been imposed the formulation and
execution of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). This will be the framework
within which the governance, the multilateral and the international development aid will
be performed, making it a document of unavoidable reference for poverty eradication – and
not necessarily for development. Therefore, this Strategy had to be combined with
commitments derived from Rio Agreements and with a new political process well accepted by
all sectors committed to building a national vision and agenda.
A definite “Poverty Reduction Strategy” establishes a narrow framework for generating
mechanisms for sustainability. This puts poor and highly indebted countries in a
difficult position, when it comes to take full advantage of their own development
potential. Despite this hard situation, different national sectors got themselves ready
to participate together with the government in the Summit preparatory process. By
attending official events as part of the national delegation, we sought to influence the
national positions in order to achieve agreements on an agenda of sustainability at the
After participating in nearly the whole preparatory process, we concluded that
unfortunately it has not been possible to achieve agreements on approximately 25% of the
Action Plan text. The political statement has not yet been finished, and at the regional
level, we would have to unite with other Central American countries in order to influence
the major powers at the heart of UN decisions (G-77, USA, European Union, etc). In our
region, Costa Rica has shown a concrete interest in the Summit. We hope that this country
can pull in the political will of the rest of the region’s rulers.
List of the sub-regional co-ordinators
When undertaking the project tasks, you can count on the support of the Network
Coordination Group, which is composed of the eight sub-regional coordinators (Subs). They
can be found in West Africa (Friends of the Earth in Togo), South America (FEU in
Argentina), Central America (CIFAFOC in Costa Rica), South East Asia (WWF Philippines),
South Asia (CSE in India), Southern Africa (EMG in South Africa), East Africa (Econews in
Kenya), and the Danish 92 Group (Copenhagen).
South AmericaLiliana HisasFundación Ecológica Universal (FEU), Argentinalhisas@feu999.org
Central AmericaSith Ying SánchezCICAFOCCosta Ricariomas10@acicafoc.org
West AfricaMensah TodzroTogo Les Amis de la Terre (FoE-Togo)firstname.lastname@example.org East
AfricaNjogu BaruaEcoNews, Kenyaenbarua@econewsafrica.org
Southern AfricaAnnie ChimphangoEnvironmental Monitoring Group (EMG), South
Africaannie@emg.org.za South AsiaAnju SharmaCentre for Science and Environment
South East AsiaJose E. PadillaWWF Philippinesjpadilla@wwf-phil.org.ph DenmarkHans
Peter DejgaardDanish 92 Group, Denmarkhp@rio10.dk
The present Newsletter is part of the “Project of Danish Support for the Participation
of Southern NGOs in the Johannesburg World Summit”. The purpose is to support the
preparatory efforts among civil societies/NGOs in about 30 countries in the South.
The Danish 92 Group has delegated all responsibility for Project implementation and
monitoring to its three member organisations: MS-Denmark, Ibis and WWF-Denmark. NGO
partners in Asia, Latin America and Africa are in charge of day-to-day execution – the
contact addresses in each country as well as further information can be found on the