The Jakarta Post, 9 September 2002 : HEADLINE NEWS
Johannesburg Summit results: Stealing the future
,Business Watch Indonesia,Sahid University, Surakarta,firstname.lastname@example.org We might believe that sustainable development is the only direction to which leads the history ofhumankind. Whether this is a doctrine or a cliché something looks clearer and clearer by the day: Therich are living off the resources of the poor.Researcher William Rees wrote last year that the world's total available productive land was about1.75 hectares per person. But in 2000 around four hectares to six hectares of land were used to feedthe average person in the West. The difference is called "appropriated carrying capacity" -- meaningthe West is running an unaccountable ecological deficit, either using that capacity from elsewhere orfrom future generations.Aged 12, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, a Canadian girl, addressed world leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit inRio de Janeiro. She fervently hoped they were still intent on saving the world by considering the kindof earth in which future generations would live. Her speech was unforgettable.Now 22, as a member of the UN secretary-general's counselor board, a desolate Culliz-Suzuki told theJohannesburg Summit last week that the voice of youth would be swept aside by political andeconomic interests. The Rio promises were empty. The past 10 years instead became the mostvoracious era for using up resources.The UN World Summit on Sustainable Development that ended on Sept. 5 in Johannesburg maysimply have been too complicated. The ambitious project to increase development today and rescuethe destitute from their plight without further damaging the earth's environment for future generationsended with a sprawling document that had something for everyone but few specific promises, the
International Herald Tribune
wrote.South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan are still optimistic thatthe summit can make sustainable development a reality and lead to less poverty -- a path that worksfor rich and poor, today and tomorrow. Time will tell if they are correct. Or, whether the thousands ofenvironmental and development activists who came to Johannesburg were right to despair ofgovernments that were incapable of acting for anything other than narrow, national interests.We might be able to see this tension. The world has changed politically, making a significantdifference between the Rio and Johannesburg summits. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of theCold War marks the coming of a new realism as a result of globalization. So the action plan agreed inJohannesburg is less visionary and compromises more on the current practice of globalization -- at itsheart it is driven by business practices of multinational (MNCs), or transnational companies.That is why, in the view of many pressure groups, letting giant MNCs with annual sales greater thanthe gross domestic product of many nations into the development process of countries, without anyregulation of their activities, is as dangerous as letting a wolf into a sheep pen. The summit resultswere considered to be a triumph of hard neo-liberal values, of globalization and of business as usual --citizens' rights have been replaced by corporate rights. The summit hence neglected many importantissues.Take energy. There were so many attempts to get the summit to set targets on the development ofrenewable energy sources. But these efforts were successfully stopped by the U.S. and petroleum-producing nations -- backed up by the giant oil corporations -- that have no interest in seeing oilsupplanted by cheap solar or wind power in the future.