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[News and Views]

August 17, 2002

Why "these people" will always be poor. The Times is not the paper it once was - but its op-ed page plumbs surprising depths today, with the loathsome article This is why Africa gets the leaders it deserves.

Written by ex-Conservative MP, now political journalist, Matthew Parris, it uses the experience of queuing for an Air Gabon flight at a London airport to warn that Africa will always be poor.

Why?

First, because Africa's elite is volatile, rapacious and brutal - but also infantile in their mood swings ("momentarily warm, momentarily cruel, suddenly kind, suddenly innocent, suddenly corrupt").

They have no taste ("I have seldom in one place seen a collection of luggage at the same time so ostentatious, so expensive, and so gross").

They cheat as a matter of course ("Found out, the capacity of these people to affect innocent shock and apparent ignorance of every rule was astonishing").

And worst of all they don't know how to queue ("We started in a queue - three whites scattered among the Africans - but by the time the whites got anywhere near the check-in desk we were the last three in line").

And second, because "the little people, the common people… let themselves down; by letting their leaders let them down."

They are easily-led by people, who however vile, act in a "kingly manner." When badly treated, their resentment is soon forgotten in their "wish to be part of the top dog's gang."

Parris concludes with some trademark pomposity.

"I am not confident about the New Partnership for Africa's Development in which the Prime Minister is putting so much trust," he sighs. "I wish he and Clare Short had been with me in that queue."

So, this is serious journalism? God help us all.

David Steven | 08:32 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


President Thabo Mbeki believes that the summit "must proceed from the basis that all humanity is committed to a shared prosperity. It should be inspired by the knowledge that the resources exist within the global human society to achieve this objective."

However, he tells ANC Today that the "environment is the very first condition for human existence itself. It is a natural gift we have a duty to protect now and for all time in the interests of all human beings. As these human beings, we have an obligation to interact with our planet in a manner that preserves the planet."

Mbeki also warns South Africans to beware of "careless remarks and actions that communicate negative messages about our country and people."

As a role model for how not to behave, the president cites Pieter Van Zyl, the drunken thug who attacked the referee at a recent South Africa-New Zealand rugby match, and dislocated his shoulder.

David Steven | 07:51 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


The US and the rest, part 2. "The respect Americans once accorded to Europeans' culture, wisdom and manners has not just disappeared, it has turned into an aggressive contempt," writes John Lloyd in the FT (subscription required). "The US, at least at the elite level, and perhaps more widely, has become seized by the idea that we Europeans are weak, whingeing and hopeless; ungrateful, mean and ignorant; guilty, cynical and exhausted. And anti-semitic. Especially anti-semitic."

Another (see yesterday's post) interesting primer on what may be Joburg's key faultline - the relationships between the United States and the rest. Next up, Daily Summit will try and bring you something on how things look from the other side of the Atlantic.

David Steven | 03:56 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Jargon-buster: don't know your ecological rucksack from your MIPs. Think Factor 10 is only useful on the beach?

Then turn to the IISD glossary of sustainable development neologisms...

David Steven | 03:14 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


WTO boss thinks world trade regime is tragic, was an attention-grabbing aside in a John Humphry's article, summarised by Daily Summit on Sunday.

We contacted WTO's press office and they helpfully pointed us to the source of this remark. According to Moore, the tragedy is subsidies to farmers in rich countries.

"The globalised economy is still full of contradictions. Today, the world sugar market contains some of the largest and most blatant forms of trade protection. Having exploited developing poor countries for generations, the north now keeps their products out of their markets. Protectionist policies distort prices and therefore economic incentives, leading to wasted resources and environmental degradation. Subsidies lead to over production which drives prices down and provides incentive to dump surpluses on world markets, which in turn puts agriculture producers in the developing world at a severe, and deeply unfair, disadvantage."

David Steven | 01:18 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


In other news Youth radio to be the voice of the world summit. As well as Bush, The Australian PM is under pressure to attend the Summit. Petition from 2 million people to be presented at the Summit. Emergency services are tested in advance. Politicians not being included in delegations doesn't just happen in the UK. Killer water diseases on the rise.

And finally, not content with urging Bush to attend, Leonardo diCaprio will be making an appearance himself

Jane Frewer | 11:29 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

August 16, 2002

Bush Watch Latest -  Apparently President Bush has decided he will not go to the summit because he is planning a major trip to Africa next year. So, the word is he'll be on the ranch in Texas, poring over an atlas. Which is nice.x

David Steven | 11:26 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Europe's flood havoc concisely summarised by UNEP, with an accompanying map...

David Steven | 09:06 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Thanks for the links to Polizeros, Blo.gs, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, The Weekly James, and the British Embassy in Jakarta

Jane Frewer | 06:33 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


UK Round-Up 6: Business Initiatives For the past 18 months, Tony Blair has been pushing five business initiatives as part of UK preparation for the summit.

The Sustainable Finance initiative recognises that someone has to pay for sustainable development, with long-term investment desperately needed. Outputs so far: the London Principles and some corporate responsibility guidelines.

The Sustainable Tourism initiative has got most of the UK package holiday industry on board, and plans to develop a worthy (but dull?) "structured communications plan with UK tourists", and is set to establish a "Responsible Tourism Foundation."

Water and Sanitation focuses on providing water to poor people in smaller towns in South Africa, Nigeria and Uganda. The idea is to involve the private sector in "identifying innovative financing arrrangements for water supply and sanitation services directed at the poor."

The Energy initiative should lead to a Global Partnership for Sustainable Energy at WSSD. UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy, meanwhile, is calling for clear targets for introducing cleaner energy, government support for these targets, the removal of subsidies for other forms of energy, and support for developing an international sustainable energy market.

The Forestry initiative, finally, aims to combat illegal logging, ensure public money is only spent on right-on timber, promote forest certification, create a business-led sustainability strategy, build international partnerships on forest restoration, and create a clear government position on forestry for WSSD. This initiative is currently "out to consultation".

More information on the initiatives, at the government's sustainable development site

David Steven | 04:50 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


In other news Has Michael Meacher's moment finally come? (subscription required). Time for the EU to take the lead? Ten years after Rio, the show moves to Johannesburg. US & Canada urged to take more responsibility for the environmental damage they are causing. South Africa is too expensive for some protestors, but others are ready to have their say

Jane Frewer | 01:01 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


"Economic Reasons for Conserving Wild Nature,"  is the title of an interesting paper recently published in Science

It comes up with four main findings.

First, there isn't much data comparing the value of natural habitats and habitats "converted to human use." (Question to academics: why not?)

Second, the few studies available seem to show "conversion" offers short term gains, but that these are outweighed by the cost of longer term losses. Often, however, there is a clear private interest in the gains, but a more diffuse public one in the losses.

Third, a very very rough estimate of the global losses through conversion is $250 billion in a year.

Fourth, that around $45 billion should be spent on conserving land and sea habitats, which should deliver benefits 100 times over.

"We are not arguing against development," the paper concludes. "However, current development trajectories are self-evidently not delivering human benefits in the way they should… Our findings show one reason why this is the case: our relentless conversion and degradation of remaining habitats is eroding human welfare for short term private gain."

The full paper is here (but you have to pay $4 to download it).

David Steven | 12:57 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Members of the British delegation have briefed the media ahead of the summit.

"There is no shortage of agreements and texts," says John Ashton, for the Foreign Office, "but there is not a very good record of turning these into delivery." He believes "there is too much cynicism about multilateralism. The summit must show that it can work.”

Sheila McCabe, at DEFRA, argues that "a cut-down in lifestyle is difficult because no government likes to take such measures." But she believes that developed countries must lead the way in exploring more sustainable consumption patterns. "

Adrian Davis, DFID, focuses on where European development money is spent. ”We believe this aid should be made more effective in its delivery and disbursement, and we are trying to work with the relevant agencies in Brussels to improve that.”

David Steven | 12:29 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


A row between the US and the rest, is one possible summit outcome.

A recent New York Times review of Joseph Nye's latest book is a good primer on the anti-US position.

"The US is quite literally its own worst enemy," writes Tony Judt. "It is when pandering to domestic constituencies that American presidents most often alienate foreign opinion. Bombastic rhetoric and unilateralist posturing go down well at home and may even intimidate foreign foes (though this seems uncertain). But they surely terrify and estrange a third constituency, America's many friends and admirers abroad."

David Steven | 11:17 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

August 15, 2002

Daily Summit scoops CNN CNN is today reporting that President Bush is being lobbied not to go to the summit.

Just remember - you heard it here two days ago!

David Steven | 09:04 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


"America more of a global threat than Iraq" - The Times.

As Daily Summit reported, Michael Meacher got into hot water for criticising UK progress on the environment.

The government has now released a transcript of the interview. It makes interesting reading.

Here is a sample exchange:

Interviewer: "America is more of a pariah state than Iraq in terms of potential global damage that they could cause."

Mr Meacher: "I notice you have some very leading questions, well no I am not going to rise to that one, they are totally, totally different situations. America is not a pariah state."

Interviewer: "But nevertheless, it must concern you, their policy."

Read the whole transcript here - it is fascinating how hard a journalist has to work to get a government minister to say what you want him to say.

David Steven | 08:03 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Clip Art Farm - Janet Kauffman sends notes from the new rural landscape via this summer's Dissent magazine.

"The livestock operations that surround my Midwest town, Hudson, Michigan, still call themselves farms," she writes. "Most are dairies, and they're all huge, all built within the last few years. In the language of law, they're Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) with a thousand plus Animal Units - that is, seven hundred or more confined cows-and open-air waste pits that hold millions of gallons of liquefied feces and urine. Like the hog CAFOs in North Carolina, Missouri, and Washington and chicken operations all over the place, they're the largest constructions on the new rural landscape: animal factories that from the air resemble airplane hangars."

These farms are major pollutors and hooked on subsidies. But they're also shielded from criticism, Kauffman believes.

"Americans have rarely questioned the moral and essential claim of agriculture, to do whatever it wants because it must or face ruin. The myth of the farm, envisioned in the clip art farm, holds powerful sway, as if the goodness of a creative God and all his righteousness had been shifted to human farmer hands. Who are we to question Agriculture, which plants and grows our daily bread, feeds creatures to be our meat?"

David Steven | 07:11 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Jane Frewer | 06:16 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


In other news, Campaigners latch on to extreme weather

Johannesburg gets ready for the summit and an elite squad are prepared to defend world leaders

UN gives further details of WSSD programme

More on delegates' CO2 emissions

Baltic States clean up their act

The official World Summit website has now been launched

And finally, the Guardian talks to Club of Rome founder, Alexander King, about Limits to Growth and his hopes for the planet

Jane Frewer | 11:47 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


If you're thinking of smoking at the summit, think again...

David Steven | 10:18 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Getting better? Getting worse? Part 6. Colin Powell thinks things are getting better.

"A decade ago, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, some 172 countries adopted a blueprint to achieve sustainable development worldwide," he said last month. "While there have been ups and downs and progress has been uneven, we have seen real improvements since Rio. For example, over the past decade, the proportion of people in developing countries struggling to make ends meet on less than one dollar a day has dropped from 29 percent to 24 percent. Not nearly enough, but it's a beginning. It's a start. Infant mortality has declined by more than 10 percent, and mortality among children under five is nearly 20 percent lower...

"We have also seen the conclusion and implementation since Rio of important environmental agreements, such as those to reduce substances harmful to the air we breathe and to control the spread of deserts. But while we have progressed along the road to hope, we have far to go in a world where one person in five still suffers in extreme poverty, and where a baby's chances of surviving to adulthood still depend on the accident of where he or she is born."

According to Powell, economic liberalization is an essential element to sustainable development. "Countries that have opened their economies have done better than those who have remained closed," he says. "It's as simple as that."

David Steven | 10:13 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


As a Greenpeace protest ship docks in Capetown, the International Herald Tribune reviews the growing influence of NGOs.

"It is clear that the Earth Summit ushered in a new era of global transnational citizen activism that is radically transforming the landscape of international diplomacy," the paper writes, quoting Earthwatch.

A Greenpeace spokeswoman, meanwhile, is cagey about what the ship's crew of 26 will be doing during the summit.

"I would like to give you some idea of what we have planned but I will not do so," she says.

David Steven | 10:08 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

August 14, 2002

Thank you for the link to Eco-Portal, Greenpeace weblog, Nobody's Doll, and the Oxford Forestry Institute

Jane Frewer | 06:42 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Poverty leads to terrorism, is likely to emerge as a summit axiom (see this Daily Summit report, for example).

Not everyone shares the assumption, however.

Shortly after September 11, Daniel Pipes popped up in foreign affairs journal, The National Interest, to ask "does poverty cause militant islam?"

Pipes quotes Shimon Peres as asserting that fundamentalism "a way of protesting against poverty, corruption, ignorance, and discrimination" - but then proceeds to argue he's wrong.

Economic trends fail to predict countries where militant Islam will be strong and where not, he argues. The fairly well-off are more likely to join militant groups - not the poor, the alienated and the marginal. It is "highly competent, motivated and ambitious individuals" who lead radical movements, while "a disproportionate number of terrorists and suicide bombers have higher education, often in engineering and the sciences."

"Could it be, quite contrarily, that militant Islam results from wealth rather than poverty?" he asks. "It is possible. There is, after all, the universal phenomenon that people become more engaged ideologically and active politically only when they have reached a fairly high standard of living. Revolutions take place, it has often been noted, only when a substantial middle class exists."

David Steven | 05:01 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


"The thousands of delegates flocking to Johannesburg in two weeks' time," writes the Guardian today, "could emit roughly 500,000 tonnes of CO2."

This sounds painful.

David Steven | 12:25 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


John Prescott comes out fighting, in an article in the Guardian, clearly riled by the press the government, and the summit, have been getting.

"Sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - is the biggest challenge facing the world in the 21st century," he writes, "and it is at the heart of this government's domestic and international agenda."

According to Prescott, the UK government wants rich countries to "lead by example to achieve more sustainable consumption and production patterns." It also wants global targets for increasing the use of renewable energy, providing poor people with access to water and sanitation, and stemming the loss of biodiversity.

David Steven | 12:15 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


In other news today, Summit organisers are happy for peaceful marches to take place - and summit chair, Nitin Desai, is still keen to lure President Bush to the summit despite being told that "no decision has been taken on this matter"

Jane Frewer | 10:22 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Getting better? Getting worse? Part 5 Worse, according to Sunday Times.

"Ten years later, however, there are few physical benefits from all those bold principles and briefing papers. Some countries, such as Britain, have succeeded in cutting greenhouse gas emissions — but most have not. America, the biggest greenhouse gas producer, has seen its emissions increase by nearly 20%.

The number of species of plants, animals and fish that have been wiped from the face of the earth has also surged.

As for tackling poverty — another Rio priority — the lack of progress has been even more notable. Half the world’s six billion people live on less than £1.50 a day: one billion have no clean water and 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation. And in many areas the situation is getting worse. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the number of people living in poverty has grown from 220m in 1990 to 300m in 1998."

David Steven | 10:13 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

August 13, 2002

Should Daily Summit be worried? Mohammed Haffejee, IT executive of the Johannesburg World Summit Company (Jowsco), believes the World Summit may face electronic attack from protestors.

"We are expecting people to try to hack us to make a name for themselves. Some could be malicious and some will be thrillseekers, but we are preparing for both," he said today.

David Steven | 08:40 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Today's thanks goes to Earthship & Mission Antartica, Letter to Slugger O'Toole and the Development Gateway for linking to us

Jane Frewer | 06:15 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Hot off the press a report which says it “highlights the disturbing toll of current patterns of development on global living standards and the Earth's natural resources.”

"Global Challenge, Global Opportunity highlights the choice we face between two futures," says Nitin Desai, who will chair the World Summit. "If we do nothing to change our current indiscriminate patterns of development, we will compromise the long-term security of the Earth and its people.”

Key issues, according to the report, are water shortages, rising sea levels, species loss, the destruction of forests, and air pollution. The report also highlights the need for more productive farming and action to improve the health of the poor.

Although there is some good news on a “small scale” – even these gains are now in danger, the report adds.

"We now have unequivocal evidence that the goals of human progress and environmental protection are co-dependent," Mr. Desai noted. "Governments, corporations and civil society must come to Johannesburg with a commitment to improve people's lives on a sustainable basis.”

"Success in achieving the target on child mortality linked to diarrhoeal diseases, and the unprecedented increase in development funding agreed in Monterrey earlier this year, show what UN Summits can achieve. Sustainable development is starting to take root in some parts of the world, but it needs to be accelerated rapidly if we are to build a future free of the poverty and instability that will come if we continue our present management of natural resources.”

Jane Frewer | 05:00 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


IMF research chief and chess grandmaster, Kenneth Rogoff has been speaking to the Economist.

He has some provocative ideas. For example:

More migration: "Isolationists in industrialised countries should stop and look at their populations' advancing age structure. As the dependency ratio explodes later this century, who is going to provide goods and services for all the retirees? There are many elements to a solution, not least allowing expanded immigration from the developing world, with its much younger population."

More 3rd world debt: "One desirable element has to be for the industrialised countries to save abroad by running large current-account surpluses vis-à-vis the developing world. These cumulated surpluses, while facilitating much-needed investment in poorer countries right now, could later be drawn down as the baby-boomers stop working... Right now, the system cannot easily tolerate such giant debt accumulation. We have to make it work better."

Fewer currencies: "I believe that at some point later this century, there will be consolidation, ending perhaps in two or three core currencies, with a scattered periphery of floaters. Getting there, and managing macroeconomic policy with less exchange-rate flexibility, is one of the major political and economic challenges of the next era of globalisation."

He is also pessimistic about Africa's prospects. Countries need macroeconomic stability, he argues. But Africa relies on the export of commodities, which suffer "extraordinary price volatility" and international, which is "extremely unpredictable." Shielding the economy is an understandable temptation, but this stops it adjusting, while encouraging inefficiency and corruption.

"Many parts of Africa have made great progress in lowering inflation, liberalising markets, and resuming growth. The IMF has helped," he says. "Still, the challenges ahead are formidable, and require further rethinking of standard macroeconomic prescriptions."

David Steven | 04:25 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


The British papers are tireless in their determination to squeeze every last drop from the junketing story - now the Daily Mail (not online) is outraged that the BBC is spending £120,000, "sending up to 70 staff to the controversial Earth Summit."

"When it comes to squandering public money, the BBC takes some beating," it editorializes, dismissing the summit as a "hot air jamboree."

David Steven | 11:20 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


The Civil Society Forum, due to start this coming Monday, has just been given a cash injection of over US$7 million, according to reports.

Trevor Gozhi writes that the forum is intended to raise the concerns of "civil organisations" at the summit.

The Daily Summit expects that many uncivil voices will also be heard!

David Steven | 11:11 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Leonard di Caprio wants Bush to go the summit, urging the President to "look towards the future," especially as the US is the world's greatest polluter.

Steve Sawyer, climate policy advisor, feels some sympathy for the president.

"He'll be pilloried if he does come and pilloried if he doesn't," he says.

Daily Summit sticks to its prediction that Bush will be at the summit - even if only for a couple of hours.

David Steven | 11:00 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


A fax to President Bush reaches the Daily Summit, applauding his decision not to attend the summit and urging him not to give into pressure from “so-called environmental groups” to change his mind.

The summit “will provide a global media stage for many of the most irresponsible and destructive elements involved in critical international economic and environmental issues. Your presence would only help to publicize and make more credible their various anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalization, and anti-Western agendas.”

The problems of developing countries are largely caused by “oppressive and incompetent government,” much development aid is wasted, and often serves merely to “prop up brutal, rapacious regimes”.

The best outcomes from Joburg? Progress on providing poor people with clean water and sanitation. And steps to ensure economic growth, which will in turn lead to environmental improvement.

The worst outcomes? New international treaties or international organizations, such as a World Environmental Organization.

Bush is also asked to make sure global warming is kept off the negotiating table and “out of the spotlight.”

The faxes signatories are: Fred L. Smith, Jr. and Myron Ebell, Competitive Enterprise Institute; Paul M. Weyrich, Coalitions for America; Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform; David A. Keene, American Conservative Union; Eric Schlecht, National Taxpayers Union; Craig Rucker, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow; Thomas P. Kilgannon, Freedom Alliance; Cathie Adams, Texas Eagle Forum

You can read the whole thing here (pdf).

David Steven | 10:51 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


UK Round Up 5: Yesterday, we looked at devolved administrations. Today, UK local government.

93% of UK local authorities had Local Agenda 21 Strategies by December 2000 (see case studies here and here - or download a global survey of Local Agenda 21 here), while a new Local Sustainable Development Unit has just been set up.

The Local Government International Bureau and the Local Government Association Environment and Regeneration Executive will be represented on the UK delegation, promoting a declaration (pdf) that highlights the importance of communities in achieving sustainable development.

The Local Government Information Bureau has a Joburg website here.

David Steven | 10:11 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


In other news today.. The Scotsman reports that some companies are richer than countries in the UN list. Drug smugglers are now earning money trading in endangered species and toxic waste.
And according to the Times (registration required), the Conservative Party are calling on Tony Blair to lead protests at the Earth Summit against President Mugabe's behaviour over the land re-distribution programme.

Jane Frewer | 09:43 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

August 12, 2002

Thanks for the links.... go today to Nathan Heard, Dev-zone.org, Gert and Cath Snow and to all the visitors from the British Council

Jane Frewer | 06:37 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


The Prime Minister at the World Summit will have "in addition to health, education, crime and transport, the environment and Africa....on his list of priorities." It was also confirmed that he will be there from "2nd to 4th September" according to today's lobby briefing

Jane Frewer | 05:48 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Daily Summit had never expected to see Coca-Cola in anything other than its trademark red – but at the Eden Project – Cornwall’s “green Disney” – the company’s drinks machines sport a striking green.

“Cola nuts have been part of the indigenous landscape for centuries and the indigenous people found many uses for every part of the tree,” they tell us. “In 1886 John Styth Permberton, an Atlanta pharmacist included extracts in his secret formula to produce the refreshing flavour that is coca cola, loved and enjoyed throughout the world.”

The message: “The Coca-Cola company aims to protect, preserve and enhance the environment by making environmental excellence and sustainable development a priority in the daily operation of our business.”

Same old red cans, of course.

David Steven | 05:26 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


In other news The BBC reports on the brown haze that is covering parts of Asia, affecting the weather and the economy not only there, but also the rest of the world, according to the Independent.

Update....but it looks like it's possible to solve the problems the pollution is causing

Also: the Earth Summit is creating a boom time for Johannesburg and making it a better place to live....and the new Scottish parliament building that Jack McConnell built may not be as eco-friendly as he promised.

Jane Frewer | 11:30 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


UK Round-Up 4: Last week, we looked at UK government activity. Today, a brief overview of what the UK's devolved administrations are up to.

Scottish First Minister, Jack McConnell will lead a delegation that includes the CEO of Scottish Power, the heads of environment, social justice and international development NGOs, a local authority representative. He is also taking 12 year-old Earth Champion, Stephanie Wiseman with him and together they plan to visit a Scottish school. The Scottish Executive has recently set up a Sustainable Development Forum, which brings together business, unions, public sector, voluntary organisations and the public to explore sustainable development and environmental justice.

Uniquely among EU nations, Wales has sustainable development build into its constitution, measuring its environmental policy through the Welsh Ecological Footprint. In April, the Welsh Assembly and WWF ran Wales and the World in preparation for the summit. What is described as a "small delegation" will be heading to the summit.

The Northern Ireland Executive sees sustainable development as providing common ground for working for a peaceful, prosperous and fair society. In particular, it is working in partnership with community groups on a range of urban and rural development programmes that combine economic, environmental and social goals. The first minister will lead Ireland's delegation.

David Steven | 10:21 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Getting better? Getting worse? Part 4. In the UK, things are getting better - at least according to the government's sustainable development indicators.

Since 1990, one economic indicator (economic output) has improved, while two (employment and investment) remain unchanged.

Of the social indicators, poverty, health and housing have stayed the same. Education has improved and non-violent crime decreased. But violent crime is on the up.

For the environment, the news is good on climate change, air quality and river water quality; bad on farmland birds and waste; and neutral on road traffic and land use.

So that's six indicators improving, three deteriorating, and seven unchanged.

David Steven | 10:02 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


The New Statesman has a forthright perspective on the ongoing Meacher hoohah.

"To those who work closely with him," it editorializes, "Tony Blair has made no secret of being thoroughly bored with environment issues. He is unconvinced that human activity can exert an irreversible, negative effect on the earth's climate... and he is irriated by those whom he considers to be evangelistic, sandal-wearing purists. Technological advance and men and women of goodwill willsave the planet - not the green lobby....

"But there is an important point at which Mr Meacher and Mr Blair make contact, and that is in their ambitions for the world's poorest people. Both believe that poverty, particularly in Africa, is a scourge on the civilised world. Both believe that access to clean drinking water and non-polluting energy are among the continent's urgent priorities."

More here (paid subscription only).

David Steven | 09:58 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Canada keeps teasing over climate change, with today's news that it's finding it too difficult to make a decision over ratification.

"This is the most complex issue the international community has ever faced up to," says Environment Minister David Anderson. "Ending the Second World War was not as difficult."

Presumably Mr Anderson is referring to the decision to use of nuclear weapons to force Japanese surrender. Daily Summit finds this a very odd analogy.

David Steven | 08:47 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

August 11, 2002

Asia's "brown cloud" sets scene for summit...

David Steven | 09:35 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


A never-ending New York Times Magazine article has ruffled feathers.

Author Jack Hitt is, by turns, jarringly cynical and mock naive as he visits Cambodia to describe the work of WildAid, a charity that "provides direct protection to wildlife in danger".

"To put it mildly, it won't be easy for this poacher to tell his boss that he just lost an $800 chain saw," he writes at one point. "Maybe both of them will find some other illegal trade less harmful to this habitat: drugs, Angkor Wat artifacts, teenagers."

At another: "Throughout the raids, I see that puzzled look on many faces. I wonder if an earlier generation of my countrymen in this neighborhood hadn't seen the same expression, too. Of course, the consequences of WildAid's interventions are slightly different: getting your moped seized for 10 days is not quite like getting napalmed. Still, there are moments (like punishing a lady for having a turtle while abandoning child prostitutes) that history's repetition here seems especially farcical."

Blogger, Instapundit, is not impressed. For him, the subtext of the piece is clear: "military style operations are fine when you are protecting animals and tropical hardwoods... no matter what hardship it might produce for locals just trying to eke out a living. But don't get distracted by trying to help, you know, actual people."

But WildAid is unhappy too. They think the piece is sensationalist and ignores the worthwhile work they do providing local communities with alternative sources of income (memo to PR: what did you expect?).

"We are first and foremost a wildlife conservation organization, with our scope limited by our charter, modest budget and in many instance by law (our Mobile Unit’s remit is strictly limited by Cambodian law)," they say. "We have found that, with the few hundred thousand dollars a year we have to spend in Cambodia, helping a country to conserve one of its great national assets as a future resource while providing employment to several dozen people is the best use of our abilities."

The emphasis, in all poor countries, has to be on the word "resource".

"Africa can't afford the luxury of preserving animals for the sake of it. Or preserving them simply for rich people's enjoyment," George Hulme of the Chiredzi River Conservancy once said. "The local population has to benefit."

Lyson Masango, a teacher at the Mahenye School in Zimbabwe, makes a similar point: "The people thought wildlife was for white people. Now they realise it’s also for us, because they see the benefits come back. It used to come back as a cost. Now it comes back as a benefit."

Postscript: How did Ritt's editor let him get away with using the word "unmaintenanced" to describe a road?

David Steven | 08:28 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


And now it's a ministerial spat, with International Development secretary, Clare Short, hitting back at her colleague, Michael Meacher.

"This isn't an environmental summit. It's a summit about sustainable development," she told the BBC, in reponse to Meacher's criticism of the government's green credentials. "The biggest challenge to the world is to guarantee to the poor of the world development in a planet that we keep sustainable."

David Steven | 07:47 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Welcome if you're just finding us for the first time.

With a week to go until launch, we're settling in nicely. Hopefully, you'll make the Daily Summit your first port of call as the summit approaches (what's that? we think Tim Blair sums it up rather nicely).

For now, we monitoring progess as the World Summit approaches - while from 23rd August, we'll be live from Joburg, trying to mine some sense from the chaos.

Get in touch with your tips, gossip, advice - or simply to tell us how well/badly you think we're doing. There'll be a comments feature on every post sometime next week, and you can email us at any time...

David Steven | 07:27 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Rio, Anglo and the Observer - Following Daily Summit's earlier post, a reader gets in touch to say, sure Anglo-American have done well on AIDS, but Rio Tinto are very cavalier operators.

He cites their enthusiasm to pursue what MiningWeb describes as "one of the world's most controversial mining projects - a titanium mine in south east Madagascar."

Friends of the Earth reckons that Rio severly "underestimates the likely impacts of the dredging project on bio-diversity and forest loss; of the port construction and operation on marine life; of the proposed weir on both human and saltwater species; and of the new roads on local people," while failing to evaluate the impact a horde of incoming mostly single, mostly male, mostly young miners could have on the area.

Daily Summit, however, is still AGHAST that the Observer could give a story a swathe of its front page, serve Anglo-American some harsh criticism, and not even mention the AIDS connection - when it was a big story ONLY LAST WEEK!

I've read the piece again and again just to make sure I haven't missed something - but there's simply nothing there...

David Steven | 05:18 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Finally, in the Sunday Times, John Humphrys (former UK journalist of the year, self-confessed "brilliant" after dinner speaker, and crusader against those who are corrupting the English language with "Americanised jargon and meaningless business non-speak") weighs in.

For those of you not prepared to take up the Times's offer of a free subscription, here's a summary of his piece:

(1) The fuss over Meacher was a "load of rubbish" - how could one person among 65,000 be missed? (2) It probably makes sense for Bush to stay at home. (3) Can the rich get richer without the poor getting poorer? Our leaders says yes, but they're wrong. (4) Free trade has been manipulated to suit the selfish interests of the rich. We have many ways to keep our "boots on the windpipe of the Third World," such as forcing governments to privatise water so we can take over and push up the prices for the poor. (5) Subsidies for farmers kill two birds with one stone - we get rich, they get poorer. (6) Even Michael Moore, head of the WTO, believes US trade policy on cotton, coffee and sugar is "tragic." (7) Will Johannesburg change of this? Will it hell?

David Steven | 02:50 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Today's Observer front page criticises the news that corporate bosses will be joining environment and development campaigners in the UK delegation, quoting an unnamed Friends of the Earth spokesman as saying "this is further evidence that Blair is determined to cosy up to big business."

Delegation members under attack include the head of Thames Water (guilty of polluting UK waterways and operating in Indonesia), Rio Tinto (accused of disregarding human rights and devastating unique environments), and Anglo American (under attack for its operations in Peru and Zambia).

Disappointingly, the Observer neglects to mention the main reason Anglo-American has hit the news in the run-up to the summit: its decision to give anti-retrovirals to HIV-positive employees.

Update: Of course, there are alternatives to Anglo-American's generosity. For example, this prosperous driving-instructor turned preacher who, according to the New York Times, claims that "his healing hands have pulled the rains from cloudless skies, exorcised wayward spirits and, most important, cured dozens of people suffering from AIDS."

David Steven | 02:00 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


The Sunday Times continues its summit coverage in a Focus piece (free subscription required).

According to the paper, innocent trees and grass verges have been sacrificed to transform a "characterless suburb into a gleaming imitation of a western city." The conference will be run by 27,000 staff in "designer uniforms" and protected by police on a mission to keep beggars and street people out.

But it will all be for nothing. At least, according to those who the public might expect to be fervent supporters of the process.

A leading environmentalist - Mike Childs for Friends of the Earth - is on the attack.

“The outlook is very poor," he says. "George Bush isn’t going; Tony Blair is flying in for a day. There is a complete lack of top-level leadership. Leaving it to junior ministers and civil servants just guarantees confusion and disagreement.”

He's joined by a development lobbyist - Kevin Watkins for Oxfam (who last week described the summit as a "tragic farce").

“The northern governments have just turned it into a giant public relations exercise,” he claims.

Finally there's Felix Dodds, of the Stakeholder Forum, which (a) says it dreamt up the idea of holding the summit, (b) has been a "catalyst" for UK summit preparation, and (c) receives the vast majority of its money from UK, European or international public funds (see last year's annual report in pdf).

He thinks it would be wrong to give up hope, but that "in many ways, those of us fighting for sustainable development have already lost. The amount of damage done and lives ruined just seems so immense."

David Steven | 12:50 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |


Michael Meacher hits the headlines here in the UK once again - with a Sunday Times interview (subscription needed) that has now been picked up by television and radio.

Last week saw a rumpus about whether the Minister would be going to Joburg, now he says he is determined to push the government into accepting a green agenda.

"There are areas where I am a force in the government to push policy in a different direction, particularly on the environment," he told the paper. "I make no bones about it. I don't think the government as a whole is yet ready to take the magnitude of the decisions I think are necessary."

The Sunday Times reckons that events of the last week have made Meacher's position in the government "even stronger." Surely, this is wishful thinking. The Daily Summit expects the summit to be Michael's swansong.

David Steven | 11:51 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |



 

[sidelights]

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THe Summit Awards
Our prizes for the people who made the summit...
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DAMMING DEVELOPMENT
Is sustainability good for you?...
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WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY
The bottom line on corporate responsibility...
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FURNACE OR BONFIRE
Do we live in a Malthusian world?...
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A HUMAN VOICE
The lowdown on the blogging phenomenon...
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charles secrett
Executive Director of Friends of the Earth
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Shahida Jamil
Federal Minister for the Environment, Govt of Pakistan
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Jane Goodall
Primatologist and conservationist
[more]

 

Naomi Klein
Author of "No Logo"
[more]

 

Michael Dorsey
Director of the Sierra Club
[more]

 

Matt Thomas
Head of Renewables, npower
[more]

 

Tladi John Nlovu
Summit driver and entrepreneur
[more]

 

Lloyd Anderson
Director of Science, The British Council
[more]

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