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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Development Summit: What has it achieved?
As the Johannesburg summit draws to a close, BBC News Online asked a cross section of delegates - and an environmental protester on the sidelines - for their views on the last 10 days.

What has been achieved? Who have been the summit's 'heroes and villains'? Is there cause for optimism?

Click on a name below to read their views

John Gummer
Former UK Environment Minister and MP

The summit must be recorded a success, if a modest one. I wanted a great deal more of course, one always does.

It has got back onto the centre of the agenda issues like climate change, saving the fish stocks of the world, really taking seriously water and sanitation.

Governments ought to be shamed by the work of so many volunteers, so many businesses and so many other people in civil society who are actually getting on with the job.

Its made a real pig's ear of the whole question of energy, because we were negotiating not even with the United States, but the United States coal industry.

There is concrete progress, but of course there are compromises, that's the nature of negotiation.

I had a personal revelation when I walked round the conference complex.

It looks like a great castle defending itself against the rest of South Africa, which reminded me that unless we get sustainable development, all of us will live in protected areas where the rich will keep the poor out.

Former UK environment minister and development summit delegate John Gummer MP
John Gummer: "I wanted more"

Unless we do something about the poor now, this is a very serious future to hand on to our children and grandchildren.

What was exciting was the large number of non-governmental organisations showing what they were already doing.

Governments ought to be shamed by the work of so many volunteers, so many businesses and so many other people in civil society who are actually getting on with the job.

One of my 'summit heroes' would be Sir Robert Swan the great explorer.

He's brought a boat 1,000 miles across the land from the sea on which he and a group of young people cleared up the rubbish and cans and kerosene tins which have been left by explorers and scientists in Antarctica.

My villains are the ever-present group of American businesses led by Exxon who are determined to destroy all this for their own personal gain.

Nobody who has any interest in the future of the planet should buy Exxon or Esso petrol because they are contributing to those who want to destroy it.

Business has a huge part to play.

They are powerful organisations and we should make sure that they are allies, while demanding that as a licence to operate they conserve and enhance the environment and take the social measures which are part of sustainable development.

Teboho Mashota

Teboho Mashota, from Soweto, is a member of the South African Anti-Privatisation Forum

I don't think the summit has been successful.

We believe it's a meeting of the big bosses, the big capitalists, who only discuss how to make more money.

I don't feel very optimistic about the future ... in 10 years time we will be fighting serious problems not only in South Africa, but in the world

What I've heard from a friend of ours who was at the summit is that the only thing they were discussing was trade and finance.

The summit has not addressed the issues of poor communities.

I don't feel very optimistic about the future - especially when these people are talking about renewable energy. They were saying "no, we can't talk about it now, let's use the energy we have now, we can have renewable energy after 25 years".

But in 10 years time we will be fighting serious problems in South Africa, not only in South Africa, but in the world. I think we'll have storms and floods, like there have been elsewhere.

The summit has left me feeling less positive. But I think our job is to mobilise the masses, and make sure that we get what we want.

The reason that we are having these problems and that at the world summit they don't want to talk about renewable energy is because the UN is setting a precedent with dirty politics, because they have chosen to favour the policies of the bosses.

Roland Kupers
Vice President, Sustainable Development, Shell

There were successes and failures. The breadth of issues covered in the final government declaration is impressive.

We would have liked to have seen targets set for renewables. Shell supported the drive for renewable energy throughout the summit.

The heroes were the countless people running projects around the world making a difference in practice

There was widespread acknowledgement that responsible businesses are part of the solution.

The joint announcement between the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace on climate change was encouraging.

Whether they were heads of state, students or activists, dialogues with people on the role that responsible companies can have in contributing to sustainable development were defining moments for me.

The heroes of the summit were the countless people who were running projects around the world, and making a difference in practice.

I don't think there are any individuals who are villains, rather thorny issues that need addressing - for example, taxes, royalties and payments to governments by oil, gas and mining companies are not always used for the benefit of the people.

A lack of transparency in these payments can exacerbate poverty, corruption and poor governance, and can be used to finance conflict.

I am optimistic that with the summit more awareness has been raised and actions agreed so that efforts will continue to accelerate.

Seeing many large companies acknowledge that our mobility is not sustainable, that climate change and biodiversity must be addressed, that companies need to report transparently, is progress in the right direction.

Stuart Housden

The Johannesburg plan has been closely argued and fought over. Compromises have been made, issues fudged, and text weakened.

The result can at best be described as workmanlike. But people and the environment do not have the luxury of waiting another 10 years for action.

The talking must stop and action is now needed

For me one of the defining moments was on trade, where a lone Ethiopian diplomat late in the evening overturned text which would have placed the future of environmental protection at the mercy of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

His brave efforts prevented this summit from being a disaster.

As for the other key issues, we have seen a weakening of resolve to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

For the first time it is acknowledged that countries rich in wildlife need financial help to conserve it. But where are the funds?

On energy, a retrograde text emerged. Support for large-scale hydro-electric and fossil fuels was not matched by efforts to conserve energy and expand renewable energy sources.

The outcome is depressing, though somewhat mitigated by a number of important states committing themselves to ratify the Kyoto protocol.

So am I optimistic? We have to be.

However, the talking must stop and a concerted move to action is now needed, supported by adequate funding. Action must now speak louder than words.

Roshan Mendis
Development worker, Sri Lanka

There have been successes in some sectors, but failure in many others.

I am much more satisfied with how it is turning out now, than the way it seemed at the beginning, and a couple of days back when things didn't seem at all good.

Roshan Mendis, Sri Lankan development worker
Roshan Mendis: "The villain for me was George W Bush"

For me the moment of hope and what seemed like a breakthrough was when the Americans finally decided to agree on the sanitation targets.

I felt quite relieved, but also frustrated at the length of the process before an agreement was reached.

The hero of the summit for me would be the South African minister who called upon the delegates to put aside all of this talk and to think of the millions out there who really need the summit to make a difference.

The villain I think would be George W Bush, because he has been seen as the one who was holding back.

I think the responsibility for the future lies very much in the hands of each government, and it also lies with those of us in civil society to go back to our governments and ask them what they are going to do now - and perhaps to explain what we would like them to do.

I am hopeful that the agreements reached will be implemented.

But I'm also a little sceptical, looking at the process which happened from Rio onwards, because much of that was not implemented that's why I say it's a corporate responsibility, not just one for governments.

Bjorn Stigson
President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

I feel the summit has achieved its objectives to come forward with a plan for sustainable development. In terms of success or failure, I'm not sure how I'd rank it.

Its certainly a step forward after Rio

Surprisingly enough there has been a really good spirit of cooperation here between different parts of society.

Still on a number of occasions, we from business are being seen as a side event and not part of the core discussions.

We would hope that there would be a further step in the direction of a tripolar world where governments, business and civil society would be working more together.

There are many cases where there is a very good business case for protecting the environment.

It's a very core activity for us today, dealing with the broader issues of sustainable development. It's also a core issue in creating the long-term licence to operate, so we think criticisms of the business world are not very well founded.

We think it would be better to applaud companies that are moving forward and stimulate the good performers rather than criticise the ones that are not perfect, which we have never claimed to be.

But its certainly a step forward after Rio.

Key stories



See also:

03 Sep 02 | Africa
29 Aug 02 | Africa
02 Sep 02 | Africa
02 Sep 02 | Africa
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