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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Faint praise for faltering summit
Woman in India
A deal on sanitation has been agreed

As last-minute negotiations continue to finalise the programme of action at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, it looks unlikely to succeed in both its aims.

We have had some victories, but have been only partially successful

Charles Secrett, FoE
Its task is to tackle environmental problems and poverty together. Campaigners on both issues are divided over what the summit may achieve.

Few expect much help for the poor before the meeting's end on 4 September. Nobody is talking of breakthroughs, or even significant progress, on the environment.

But one delegate told BBC News Online: "It's not looking nearly as bad as it was 24 hours ago, let alone last week."

Some triumph

Many environment groups are cock-a-hoop at the decision of the conference to delete one passage in particular.

The original text would have committed countries to "continue to enhance the mutual supportiveness of trade, environment and development, while ensuring World Trade Organisation consistency".

Rubbish tip in India
There is concern that not enough has been done to help the poor

The reference to the WTO has now been removed.

With it have gone fears that international environmental agreements like the Kyoto Protocol on climate change could be made subservient to the WTO's rules on trade.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) claimed this was "a quite significant success", and said it showed the effectiveness of campaign groups' efforts here.

There is also a welcome for the draft text's language on corporate responsibility. Environmentalists believe it means they are beginning to win their battle for greater business accountability.

FoE has produced a scorecard of the summit's achievements.

Headed "Not satisfactory: must do better", it rates the accountability section at five out of ten, but no other section comes even this high.

Some groups praised other parts of the draft.

Two UK development agencies, Tearfund and WaterAid, said the agreement to halve the number of people without access to sanitation was "the first milestone in a long fight to halt the millions of deaths caused by preventable disease".

Blair speech dismissed

The summit speech by Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister, won few plaudits.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair addressed the meeting on Tuesday

Charles Secrett, of FoE-UK, told BBC News Online: "His speech had some welcome words on the need to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and to go beyond it.

"But for most of the summit the UK has found itself often supporting the US and other forces here who wish to resist real action on environmental problems.

"This summit has seen a rearguard action by campaigners like FoE and progressive governments to prevent the complete takeover of the process by the WTO and free marketeers.

"We have had some victories, but have been only partially successful."

Barry Coates, director of the World Development Movement, said: "Tony Blair gets high marks for analysis, but a failing grade for delivery.

"To arrive in Johannesburg ten years after the Rio earth summit and say that we have just begun to act is an indictment of his own failure to meet this challenge of change.

"Africa is sick of IOUs. It is time to deliver the goods."

Rio revisited

It looks likely to be almost a re-run of the 1992 Rio summit.

Johannesburg appears set so far to rate the environment above making substantial changes in the lives of the wretched of the earth.

If that sounds sweepingly dismissive of the delegates' work, it is what many here are convinced is happening.

The summit set out to show that the world could protect the poor and the planet. It has little time left to persuade the many doubters.

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See also:

02 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Sep 02 | Africa
28 Aug 02 | Africa
28 Aug 02 | Africa
28 Aug 02 | Africa
27 Aug 02 | Africa
30 Aug 02 | Africa
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