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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Summit diary: Waiting for the Hogs
Paper in a conference room at Johannesburg summit
Swimming in paper - despite a photocopying limit

Day eight of Alex Kirby's diary from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, in which he finds the infrastructure defective, but the acronyms in fine shape as the NGOs wait for the Hogs to roll in.

The other day I went to a meeting here, and was asked: "Are you an NGO - a non-governmental organisation?"

I was quite taken with the idea of being a one-man organisation of any sort, but replied truthfully: "No, I'm a press."

That got me what I wanted, so all was well.

But I'm glad I'm not an NGO, or even part of one.

Life for them is probably more chaotic than it is for us.

Chinese NGO group in Johannesburg
NGOs have condemned "spray-on infrastructure"
I discovered today that if you want to duplicate, say, a briefing (as the NGOs here often do), you can photo-copy only 99 at a time.

If you want more than 99, tough - you have to keep your finger on the button, or reset it to do another 99, or whatever.

It's probably all of a piece with the fact that the telephones in the press centre won't take incoming calls, which does make our lives more difficult than they need be.

In my case it's a bit worse than that, because with the summit two-thirds over, I've yet to find a way of getting a telephone there to make an outgoing call.

And persuading one to let me link up my laptop to the outside world is the stuff of dreams.

Developed country

In most other parts of the continent, people would say it was just a case of AWA (Africa wins again).

But South Africa is not a developing country: it's a highly developed one, and has been for years.

So it doesn't need excuses making for it, and there shouldn't be any attempt at excuses.

What one of my (NGO) friends defines as "spray-on infrastructure" really isn't good enough.

The fact that I found a staple in a sock returned from the laundry which neatly impaled my toe probably comes into this category, but it wasn't much comfort at the time.

Bring in the Hogs

Anyway, all that is very soon going to be by the way, because we are now moving into a new and exciting phase: the arrival of the Hogs.

Almost certainly that does not mean what you think it does.

Tony Blair
British PM Tony Blair: One of the Hogs awaited in Jo'burg
It means the eruption on to the scene of the Heads of Government, but this being Acronym City we should not expect to get away with calling them that.

I expect their infrastructure will be much more integrated than ours.

It had better be, because with only five minutes' speaking time each they will not be wanting to waste time anywhere.

The expectation is that they are coming here to kick some ass, and that when they hit town things will start happening, things in particular being the political declaration and the plan of action that will mark the end of the summit.

If they're not in the mood to kick subordinates, perhaps we should not expect too much to emerge on 4 September (or whenever the summiteers decide to call it a day).

I expect all the Hogs will enjoy their time here, anyway.

But it might be best to think hard about the route chosen to deliver them to the conference centre.

On one approach road, a less than enthusiastic advertiser has put up a billboard which reads: "Castro, Gaddafi, Mugabe, Blair: There goes the neighbourhood."

It's a Hog's life.

Read earlier instalments in Alex Kirby's summit diary:

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31 Aug 02 | Africa
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