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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.
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!
During the conference the nation of Chad spent five hundred million dollars on the purchase of weapons...not clean water, not education, not food.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Nothing except maybe to boost the already over inflated ego's of politicians and of course their stomachs.
Nothing except maybe to boost the already over inflated ego's of politicians and of course their stomachs.
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.
It was a farce, as most such events are: a lot of theatre and an opportunity to cast more stones.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a single word "AIDS"
Do we the people really have a voice? When you consider that large multinational companies can simply buy what they need.
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?
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.
I would like to see all corruption in all governments eradicated before 2010, when this happens we can start to clean up this planet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?"
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I would like to see politicians put aside their posturing and tell the TRUTH about he issues raised.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
03 Sep 02 | Africa
03 Sep 02 | Africa
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