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WSSD outcomes: Be the judge

31 October 2002, Posted in News

The United Nations’ (UN) World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) has come and gone. In many people’s minds, the question is – what impact will the gathering have on the millions that are poor? Given its agenda, there is also concern whether the world will be an environmentally better planet as a result of the decisions taken at the summit. Numsa Bulletin compares the outcomes of the WSSD with the social, economic and environmental demands of raised by civil society organisations in the run-up to the summit. Prefacing the comparison is a newspaper advert placed by the South African government, lauding the summit as a major success.

To allow you to assess the WSSD outcomes, the comparison of civil society demands and the WSSD resolutions are arranged in scorecards. For each demand, we ask you to give each outcome a mark out of 10 points. Please send your score to the editors. You, be the judge!

Social & political scorecard:

Demands of civil society

WSSD outcomes

Out of 10

1.Rights to land, jobs and basic services are fundamental to sustainable development.

Endorsement of the UN Millenium Development goals such as halving poverty by 2015 as well as establishing a world poverty fund. A new goal of reducing by half of people without sanitation by 2015 is set.

2.International human rights conventions to be ratified and enforced by all governments.

Only refers to ILO Convention 182 on addressing the problems of child labour.

3.Public disclosure on all transactions and agreements that governments enter into and that affect people’s lives.

Principle 10 of the 1992 summit declaration endorsed. The principle calls for public access to information.

4.Divert massive spending on armaments and war to development initiatives.

Not dealt with.

5.More development aid than that committed at the Monterrey finance summit. No conditionalities on this aid. Developed countries to increase aid from 0,7% of GDP – a decision in Rio and which few countries honoured. The US to stick by its announcement to increase its aid.

“New and additional financial resources” to those pledged in Monterrey by developing, are called for. Developed countries are urged “to make concrete efforts towards the 0,7% target” although World Bank estimates suggest an increase if the Millennium Goals are to be met by 2015. “Means and timeframes to achieve this target still to be examined”.

Economic scorecard:

Demands of civil society

WSSD outcomes

Out of 10

1. The right of developing countries to protect their resources against foreign competition and dictates of the WTO.

WSSD supports the free trade agenda of the WTO.

2. Trade rules to be subordinate to environmental agreements.

Although the clause that would have subordinated multilateral agreements to trade rules was scrapped, the question of the relationship of environmental agreements and trade rules is to be decided in the next WTO ministerial meeting in September 2003. With its track record, the chances of environment agreements being declared as barriers to free trade by the WTO are great.

3. An acknowledgement of how subsidies by developed countries to industries and farmers blocks market access for developing countries.

No acknowledgement of this. Only a welcome of the Doha Ministerial Declaration which promised to put the needs of developing countries at the centre of the WTO’s new round including the issue of “enhanced market access”.

4. As a means of redistributing wealth, rich countries to reduce their excessive consumption of the world’s resources.

With developed countries taking the lead, all countries must change their patterns of production and consumption. Instead of looking at the 10-year timeframe agreed at Rio , there is a decision about developing “a 10-year frameworks of programmes” to shift consumption patterns.

5. Formulation of legally-binding global rules to regulate multi-national corporations (MNCs).

Companies are “encouraged to improve social and environmental performance through voluntary initiatives”.

6. Debt owed by developing countries must be cancelled. Developed countries must pay reparations to developing countries for underdevelopment, exploitation and ecological debt.

The issue of debt deferred to “appropriate and relevant forums” such as the Paris and London Clubs. No recognition of ecological debt owed by rich countries to poorer ones.

5. No privatisation of natural resources and basic services such as water, sanitation, health, education and housing.

Although there is commitment under the social section to do something on halving poverty and providing basic services, these are not recognised as public goods.

Environmental scorecard:

Demands of civil society

WSSD outcomes

Out of 10

1.Conserve different life systems on the planet, so that bio-diversity is enhanced.

By 2010, countries must aim to reduce the rate of loss of the world’s plants and animals.

No agreement on measures to halt biodiversity loss by 2010 that had been agreed six months before the WSSD at the Hague Biodiversity Convention talks.

2. Stop use of genetic engineering until specified uses are proven safe.

Countries invited to ratify the Cartegena Protocol on Bio-safety but silent on life patents.

3. Phase out the use of energy sources such as coal and oil that lead to global warming and climate change. Set targets (10%) and timeframes for use of renewable sources of energy – wind, hydro and solar.

4. Ratification of the Kyoto protocol by countries who have not done so. The protocol aims to reduce carbon emissions in the air – a cause of global warming.

“Developing countries to give financial and technical assistance” in relation to use of renewables and “cleaner” sources of energy. No global target for use of renewables. No target and programme of action for providing energy services to the world’s 2-billion people without such services.

4. Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by countries who have not done so. The protocol aims to reduce carbon emissions into the air – a cause of global warming.

Countries who have not ratified the Kyoto protocol are urged to do so. No timeframes set.

5. Phasing out nuclear reactors.

Nothing on this. Dangers of radioactive materials are dealt with in relation to their transportation, in the section on ocean and seas. Even the section on subsidies does not deal with subsidies that govts provide to the nuclear industry.

6. Change in unequal ownership of marine and coastal resources so that there is equitable use by communities living next to the seas.

1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that aims to restore depleted fishing stock is reiterated, but now as “voluntary” and to be implemented by 2015 “where possible”.

Call for elimination of subsidies that contribute to illegal and over-fishing. Marine protected areas by 2012, are called for.