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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Development Summit: Was it successful?
Oxfam, the international aid agency, has attacked leaders at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg for offering only "crumbs for the poor".

The outcome of the 10-day summit saw nations pledge to halve the number of people without water and sanitation by 2015, and to seek renewable energy sources.

However, the summit has been criticised for failing to set concrete targets, and Oxfam says the agreement is "a triumph for greed and self-interest, a tragedy for poor people and the environment".

Has the Development Summit been a success? Do you feel that more could be done to improve living conditions for the world's poorer nations?

This Talking Point is now closed.

Your reaction

African leaders love spending money they can ill afford to waste

Warrick, South Africa
Why hold it in my country, where thousands of people live below the poverty line with no running water or sanitation. African leaders love spending money they can ill afford to waste.
Warrick, South Africa

I think it was a real let down, especially as the US pandered to oil companies. If our scientists told us a meteorite would hit in 2050 and devastate the Earth, they would spend a fortune to stop it happening, yet when they say that environmental action is needed to divert similar devastation - no-one seems to believe them - the change required seems too personal. We need to do more now!

The Summit failed to address the most crucial point, the growth of the human population

Wendy, England
The Summit failed to address the most crucial point, the growth of the human population. Surely it is time to follow the lead set by China and control the growth of the human population, as to ignore this point will place an ever greater strain upon resources, produce more pollution and ultimately threaten the environment for the survival of all living things.
Wendy, England

During the conference the nation of Chad spent five hundred million dollars on the purchase of weapons...not clean water, not education, not food.
Joy Kajan, USA

If it is theoretically possible for the earth's resources to sustain 6 billion people at first world standards, then we have a future to look forward to. If not, the time will come when distribution of resources will become the main political question to be addressed by the UN or its successor.
Garth, Zimbabwe

Two things to come from the summit were a) more hot air and b) more waste. Whilst the arrogant & selfish USA does nothing, the rest of the world has to suffer!
Andrew Fergus, New Zealand

We must destroy what destroys our environment, capitalism

Thomas Rich, USA
The global economic system that encourages greed and exploitation is ultimately responsible. We must destroy what destroys our environment, capitalism.
Thomas Rich, USA

I want the world to live in peace and be peaceful all of the time, where there is water free of environmental pollution and human rights to be in force.
Pantas Makmur Lumban Tobing, Jakarta,Indonesia

It seems all the efforts to achieve the ideal of a more sustainable development are being made at the local level by the people who experience first hand the consequences of short term thinking. It was a disappointment to see that our political representatives don't represent us properly. We need to reflect more on our political choices as well as our environmental ones.
Alejandra, Bolivia

The ten day Earth Summit in South Africa produced 315 tons of garbage and only 20% of it was recycled. The 45,000 delegates also generated 270,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and used over 5 million sheets of paper. Each of the 45,000 delegates also used an average of 201 litres of water each day. But the funniest aspect of this summit is that of the 192 nations that attended only 7 made donations to environmental groups.
Anduril, USA/Japan

The Summit was a resounding success

Michael, South Africa
The Summit was a resounding success. There was a certain amount of traffic disruption, but a great deal of money poured into my home town. I don't know and don't care what the delegates were talking about, but it was good for Johannesburg!
Michael, South Africa

Kyoto the stupidest international treaty ever devised will accomplish nothing except create another UN bureaucracy full of accounting types. Trading credits and counting trees does nothing for cleaner air.
Stephen, Canada

I like to think that the Summit has been used to bring together an educational pool of information that can be used as an educational resource for all humans.
James, UK

Yet again the arrogance and selfishness of the US stops the rest of the world from coming to agreement. I think the US could do with a regime change.
Bill, UK

The US has 4% of the world's population and produces 1/4 of the world's pollution

Dan, UK
The US has 4% of the world's population and produces 1/4 of the world's pollution. The US is traditionally run by men who are intrinsically involved in the energy industries. The US will continue to do nothing until its own citizens make their leadership do so - perhaps when most US cities are as polluted as Los Angeles.
Dan, UK

As far as the main objectives of poverty reduction and providing water supply and sanitation to the poor of the developing world, particularly in Africa, the summit is a success in getting commitment for action.
Vijay K Vijayaratnam, United Kingdom

Shame on America and the oil producing countries and all those who bowed to their pressure. The richest countries on Earth decided that nothing should be done so that they can feed their upper class. Very, very disappointing.
Volker, England (ex Germany)

The idea that the Earth can be saved in 10 days is stretching credulity to its limit

Mark, UK
Disappointment can be the only outcome when expectations have been so unrealistic. The idea that the Earth can be saved in 10 days is stretching credulity to its limit. Too much fear, too much self-righteous indignation was always going to get in the way of agreement. Hey guys, the quick fix is out of the window, time to get back to boring old politics.
Mark, UK

As a teenager who tries her best to stay in tune with current events, I grow increasingly worried that dates are being set later and later without many specific goals. Soon enough, my generation will be inheriting these enormous problems that countries, or more specifically the various heads of state, are continuing to fail to seriously address now.
Caitlin, NYC, USA

I suggest those who defend the attitude of the rich countries and the US, and pontificate against 'corrupt governments' in developing countries, go and spend a few weeks living in a shanty town in Brazil, working in a sweat shop in the Far East, living in a tin hut in South Africa or in an Indian village where they have to walk miles every day just to collect (muddy) water. I suspect that, assuming they do last anything more than a few days, by the end of their 'experience' they will be more than ready to go and hurl stones and abuse at 'Developed countries' policy makers.
Cristina, UK

Andy, UK has obviously failed his courses in European history if he thinks that the US is the most selfish society that he has ever known. The US is simply saying that developing countries have obligations as well. Why should China and India get a pass when other countries do not?
Greg Burton, USA

The Summit HAS been a success.

Claire Griffith, UK
The Summit HAS been a success. This is not a reflection on the politicians, who have evaded the issues in a disgraceful manner, but a reflection on the rest of us. The Earth Summit has got the man or woman on the street talking and thinking about issues that perhaps for a long time haven't been considered. It is up to us to keep the pressure on the politicians to make the change - with enough people-power, they are going to have to start listening sooner or later.
Claire Griffith, UK

Stephen Andrews, England and Maureen, Canada, you are both correct. In Africa, inefficiency, nepotism and avarice are all blamed on colonialism. With Africa being the poorest continent we can only live in hope. We need not only to sustain the planet but to aggressively renew it. Replacing immoral and corrupt leadership will be a start.
Colin, South Africa

Nothing except maybe to boost the already over inflated ego's of politicians and of course their stomachs.
Bill, UK

This summit is a victory for the cynics who said it would achieve nothing

Ron, UK
Sadly this summit is a victory for the cynics who said it would achieve nothing and that the problems are far too great to solve. It truly is a victory for greed and short-term self interest; although in the long term we will all suffer the consequences - and quite frankly we deserve to. Personally I think Blair should tell Bush where he can shove his war against Iraq until he signs up to the Kyoto agreement.
Ron, UK

Nothing except maybe to boost the already over inflated ego's of politicians and of course their stomachs.
Bill, UK

I personally think that the summit was a success in that it showed how greedy and selfish our Western society is. We are the richest and most developed nations on the planet and yet we have missed a golden opportunity to improve the state of our planet. I think it's high time our Western leaders lived up to their responsibilities. They, over time created this mess, and they are the only ones that have the money and resources to clean it up.
David Williams, UK

It was a farce, as most such events are: a lot of theatre and an opportunity to cast more stones.
George Milton, USA and Italy

Presumably if the delegates are being wined and dined some people are being paid a decent salary for providing this service, people who will now have a little more money to spend buying goods and services within the local economies - what's wrong with that. Why mind about people earning large quantities of money as long as they are using it to employ people, which is surely better than letting it sit in a bank and gather interest
Moira, UK

Mankind *is* causing global warming. So what are we waiting for?

James Davey, UK
Tony, UK - Impartial scientists *have* studied whether or not mankind is causing global warming. These scientists represent the national scientific bodies of many countries, including the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society. The result? Yes, mankind *is* causing global warming. So what are we waiting for?
James Davey, UK

The Earth Summit, what a great idea! What a supreme way of achieving nothing at all! It is about time the UK stopped pandering to the good ol' USA. I cannot comprehend why we consistently back them when they refuse to do anything about all the greenhouse gases and pollution their "GREAT" country produces. Their cavalier attitude is ruining everyone else's efforts.
Ray Dalton, UK

It's high time our African leaders recognised that the destiny of their country's lies in their own hands. Social services like clean water and decent sanitation can be provided when they stop corruption and unnecessary spending on foreign travels, flashy cars for state officials and private jets for Presidents
Alfred, Ghana

I applaud the dialogue and the African leaders

Beth, USA
Don't you think that every country like the USA, with lots of consumables, disposables, and industries will only increase environmental degradation? The western world is rich in stuff, but increasingly impoverished in cultural and species diversity, relationships with nature, AND sustainable development. Perhaps our leaders and our peoples in the West should look at "poor" and "rich" differently. I, for one, applaud the dialogue, and especially the African leaders, who have shown themselves to be problem-solvers, conflict solvers, and highly creative in thinking!
Beth, USA

The Summit is a failure. More has to be done. In Canada's artic peoples homes and livelihoods are sinking into a melting permafrost. I think the rampant greed and self interest that is buying and driving governments has to be ended - replaced with solid international governance for the long term future of the planet.
Rupert Downing, Canada

Worthless and extravagant junket

Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK
I don't blame the politicians for achieving nothing at this worthless and extravagant junket. I do blame them for their usual stupidity and arrogance in believing that they would ever achieve anything at a gathering of this size.
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

Ten days... TEN DAYS!! People expect anything of any magnitude to come from a mere ten days is a fool beyond reproach. Regardless of whose interests were served and ignored is petty finger pointing (although I do agree that the US is certainly worth jeering). For any significant change to happen, the leaders of the world will have to be forced. A previously unprecedented catastrophe will come about sooner or later and only when it is so painfully evident what we are doing is not in our best interests will things actually change with meaningful results. Until then, both the poor and the environment will suffer.
Christopher Magee, USA

The only way this will change is by the government introducing tougher regulations

Pete, UK
Capitalism is good at creating efficient and profitable corporations, but at the moment there is little incentive to be environmentally friendly as it is neither profitable nor a customer requirement. The only way this will change is by the government introducing tougher regulations that reward corporations and give them a competitive advantage for being environmentally friendly.
Pete, UK

We, who sit at our computers in our nice comfortable offices and homes and pontificate about the wrong-doings of politicians in developing countries, should do well to look in our own backyards. We, the consumer, have created the demand that fuels foreign trade and investment in developing countries. Is it fair that their land is used to supply our supermarkets with a wide range of produce, while their people go hungry?
Jean Paton, UK

Considering that most intelligent people expected that this summit would produce a meaningless political resolution with no basis in reality and offering no real improvement in any of the areas of concern, then it has certainly lived up to expectations! On the other hand, the politicians wanted a big event to make them look important and convince the gullible that they are really concerned about the big issues, while at the same time deflecting attention away from domestic issues, then the summit has certainly been a success for them!
Bernard, UK

It has achieved what you would predict a meeting of 60,000 people would achieve - nothing except heavy air pollution, usage of valuable resources and spending over $300 million pounds which would have been better spent on Soweto for starters.
Jasper Cornell, UK

I agree with Stephen Andrews. African rulers cannot look after their countries correctly. If the US or the UK took over a country in Africa, in 50 years time it would have a stable economy and a nice place to live. Then Africa would want it back and 10 years later after African rule the country would be a mess and they would blame the US or the UK.
Craig, England

Women are putting their health at risk by having more children than their body can cope with

Mel, UK
We need to get the Catholic church involved in this argument - only when people are free to practise the religion of their choice and limit the number of children they choose to have can we talk seriously about better health provision, free trade, education etc. Women all over the world are putting their health at risk every day by having more children than their body can cope with - not to mention the pressures of growing populations on fragile eco-systems all over the world - and here I am including the 'developed' and 'developing' nations.
Mel, UK

I am happy that corrupt African leaders have decided to give the UK a verbal kicking. I will not feel a shred of guilt when I with hold the 250 yearly donation I give to African based charities.
Zak Albion, GB

This conference has been a parade of ego-maniacs, poseurs and vanity cases. Nobody in a position of power does anything for "the good of mankind" anymore. Statesmanship is dead, poverty is seen as incurable and charitable giving is like writing an open cheque to the devil. We're ALL doomed.
Max, UK

The issue that concerns me most is Washington's blithe argument that, "nothing can be done about the environment, so we might as well do nothing." They are the deadweight that will drown us all.
Benny, UK Ex-pat

Tens of millions have been spent on this summit only to return us to square one

A commitment to renewable energy was the single most important hope for this summit and that has now been ditched due to the objections of the oil-producing nations. Instead we have a commitment to providing clean water for people - fine, but on its own this will do very nothing whatsoever to avert the environmental disasters beginning to unfold. This was supposed to be a summit about "sustainable development"; it seems that the sustainability aspect was dropped altogether. Tens of millions have been spent on this summit only to return us to square one.

In a single word "AIDS"
Matthew, UK

Do we the people really have a voice? When you consider that large multinational companies can simply buy what they need.
Eric, Belgium

How do we do something practical to reduce global warming? Encourage workers to work closer to home. We need a tax allowance for workers who live within, say, five miles from home. Well Gordon?
Thomas O'Mara, U.K.

Most of the things decided upon are a waste of time and money

Brenda Pope, Lumberton, USA
Frankly I think most of the things decided upon are a waste of time and money. The delegates are housed and fed expensively. They could be housed and fed according to the poorer nations and let the richer nations know how it feels. I, also, think some of the things that talk about are good, especially global warming, but the rest, in my opinion, is a waste of time. Brenda Pope, Lumberton, USA
Brenda Pope, United States

What is most important to me would be forcing America to act in the interests of the whole world instead of just its own economy. I have never known of a society as selfish and destructive as the US.
Andy , UK

I would like to see all corruption in all governments eradicated before 2010, when this happens we can start to clean up this planet.
BB Uiler, UK

We need to dramatically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions

Gabriel Millsom, Wales
We as human beings need to dramatically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions if we are to ensure our survival. We have over the last twenty years seen changes in weather patterns, Climate change will affect our lives, however the effects it will have on future generations will be far more severe. Change may be radical, but feasible renewable energy sources already exist and need to be utilised along with a dramatic reduction in the use of fossil fuel guzzling motor vehicles. Such radical measures are the only way to stabilise the planet and help eradicate what is surely the biggest threat to the human race.
Gabriel Millsom, Wales

There seems to have been a singular lack of discussion at the summit about population growth. Of course, we need to urgently address disease and the resultant death rate in the developing world - but they also need to recognise that they need to place a sharp curb on the rapidly rising population, which only serves to exacerbate the problems further.
Chris, UK

Matthew, USA has it completely wrong - it is not a case of economic growth v saving the environment. What we need to realize is that a clean environment is one economic good among many, and only by creating market based institutions to trade these goods can we progress and both clean up the environment and (therefore) grow economically.
Robert, Switzerland

What's most important to me is that the delegates are all having a good time in the swish hotels and at the lavish banquets. It would be a travesty if they'd spent all that money on the conference and had nothing to show for it.
Andy GM Wood, UK (London)

Any conference with the word "development" in the title cannot be truly concerned with addressing the world's problems. In this context, it means "growth." The idea that we can continue to enlarge industry and population while also protecting the environment and individual human beings is ridiculous. These things are antithetical. Things need to get smaller, not larger and larger.
Matthew, USA

I would like to see some kind of consensus formed about encouraging political reform and participatory democracy in third world countries. Fostering more involvement at grass-roots level is central to the process of redressing social inequity.
David K, NZ

AGMs are where the battles can be won

John Michael, UK
I can think of a thousand world problems created by politicians but not one world problem that they have actually solved. The solutions are invariably found by the ordinary people getting together and placing industry under so much pressure that they have to act before they lose investors. AGMs are where the battles can be won.
John Michael, UK

This summit is a farce, it's a circus side-show, it's Eco-Cannes. Look at the disgusting waste and absurd luxury exhibited at this summit, haven't these career bureaucrats and self-serving NGO's ever heard of tele-conferencing?
Stephen, USA

All those who are worried about overpopulation, and sustainable development, take heart. In the history of this planet, this has not ever happened, Mother Nature usually steps in with some untold catastrophe and solves the problem. In this respect, we humans will probably lend a hand - probably by someone touring a nuclear facility and asking "What does this button here do?"
Susan, UK/USA

Poverty has been the greatest cause of suffering for mankind. Everybody know this fact but the developed countries are unwilling to help root out poverty from this world. Should they seriously work for the mutual benefit of mankind, this world will be a better place to live in. Otherwise poverty-stricken people will not only be the burden of the poor countries, developed countries will also suffer badly. Had the Europeans and the American realised this truth earlier, our earth would have been a more secure place. But the time is not for debate but for immediate action.
Rameshwor Kafle, Nepal

Am I missing something? Tony Blair is blaming the Americans for not contributing enough to the reduction of greenhouse gasses and yet he has given the go-ahead to the building of 220 roads in the UK over the next ten years!
Charles Morton, UK

Many developing countries are refusing to acknowledge that the main reason for their poverty is bad governance. During the 1960s and 1970s, most of Southeast Asia was also destitute, but through opening up to trade and foreign investment, some of these economies have attained prosperity.
John, Canada

The least the world with more organised economies can do is to ensure the multinationals give a fair return to the bottom of the chain for the exploitation of nature. A useful additional measure in this direction would be to remove agricultural subsidies.
Vinod Dawda, UK

Their jet plane probably produced more air pollution on that one trip

Paul W, USA
What's most important to me is to end the hypocrisy of these events. I still can't forget 1992, when Jane Fonda and Ted Turner flew down to the Rio environment summit in their private jet, and joined in the chorus of saying that people should stop polluting the air so much!!! Their jet plane probably produced more air pollution on that one trip than most people produce in a lifetime.
Paul W, USA

Halving the number of people without clean water would be a small step forward. If this were achieved by halving the number of people it would be a giant leap. With this in mind, I'd like to see effective birth control methods properly explained and made freely available to those nations whose problems stem from poverty caused by an inability to support their rapidly increasing numbers.
Chris B, England

Save the last areas of intact forest wildernesses that contain the richest biological diversity, particularly in Sumatra. Place pressure on governments to end the corruption that undermines hard won protection for these places. If necessary, direct international funds to purchase these places.
Peter MacDonald, NZ

I would like to see an end (or at least a serious decrease) to the barriers to world trade. By exposing Third World countries to western culture through trade, the embargoes on information (by which many dictators remain in power) would be broken. This would force an industrial revolution, which over the course of a few decades would modernise countries and provide such luxuries as clean water and enough food etc.
Richard Murray, London, UK

Education is the one remedy that will bring down population growth sharply

Brian, UK
The rich are consuming the planet because they are greedy; the poor are eating the planet because they are needy. Education is the one remedy that will bring down population growth sharply. The key question for mankind is; "Can the appetites of the rich and the aspirations of the newly educated poor be sufficiently constrained to ensure the planet's ability to replenish itself is not put in complete jeopardy"
Brian, UK

To try and get reasoned debate on energy usage, and impartial scientists to do research on whether global warming is caused by man or is a natural occurrence.
Tony, UK

I would like to see politicians put aside their posturing and tell the TRUTH about he issues raised.
B.W.Moore, UK

Unless you first tackle corruption all other money spent will be WASTED

Rob Read, U.K.
The most important issue has to be CORRUPTION! All of the other problems are caused by this cancer on humanity. Focusing on corruption, by not doing deals with those who indulge will do more to allow the poverty stricken peoples of the world to improve their situation. Unless you first tackle corruption all other money spent will be WASTED!
Rob Read, U.K.

More clean water will reduce the death rate and increase the world's population and is thus a bad thing overall [but it wins votes]. Human rights are only philosophical concepts and are thus a waste of time. Trade is controlled by financiers and corporations and only benefits the greedy. Energy is dominated by the oil industry: all honest discussion is prevented. The environment is therefore the only topic worth considering but will have to fight against the usual politics and self-interest publicity machines. What a waste of resources to keep 60,000 snorting little piglets happy on an international holiday.
Frank, England

The main thing is to keep nature "free"

Niiles Punkari, Finland
The main thing is to keep nature "free". Forests outside our towns shouldn't be just clinical parks where the only animals are those that are wanted by rich game hunters. We Finns should stop trying to control animals and the nature; forests should be ruled by the law of the jungle not human politics.
Niiles Punkari, Finland

Why should I worry about Africa, it is corrupt and its despots blame colonialism for their own appalling management - not one African country was destitute when they were handed over they all had thriving economies but now they all are ruined.
Stephen Andrews, England

With regards to the comments of Stephen Andrews: Yes, I'm sure the African economies were thriving by the end of colonialism. Certainly, African nations were immediately compensated for all their exploited resources and peoples. And none of those greedy despots were ever supported by colonial powers (they must have been an entirely separate phenomenon). My goodness, why couldn't Africans just live peacefully in the arbitrary borders (carved out for them by the colonists) like Western Europe has for centuries? Oh wait, that only came after WWII and the total destruction of Europe.
Angelly, USA

I agree with Stephen Andrews. Africa's current problems are due to the corruption, greed and incompetence of the leaders of the various African countries. One hears much talk about removing Saddam Hussein. Why has nobody removed Mugabe?
Maureen, Canada

There will be no gain without some pain, and maybe misery

G Marshall, UK
I would like to see ALL countries (that includes the US) sign up for the Kyoto treaty but with yearly milestones, and the imposing of sanctions such as the reduction of flights by citizens and governments of the offending countries that do not meet their targets. There will be no gain without some pain, and maybe misery, which is something people in the richer countries have forgotten about.
G Marshall, UK

There are many, many things that should be and can be fixed. Everyone in the world should have enough food to eat, a safe place to live, sanitation, a job. Unfortunately, those who are super rich, or run the mega corporations need an underclass, they need people to exploit, so that their profits can grow and grow. Unfortunately we will never see world peace and an end to terrorism because none of these aims are profitable.
Vish, UK

Development Summit: What's most important?

Clean water


Human rights



3838 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

03 Sep 02 | Africa
03 Sep 02 | Africa
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