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[News and Views]

July 27, 2002

Business matrix The role of business will certainly be one of the controversies of WSSD, with Oxfam already dismissing the summit as little more than a chance to admire “the transnational companies lining up to parade their green credentials on the Johannesburg catwalk.”

For sustainable development consultancy, SustainAbility, however, business involvement in sustainable development offers significant win wins – even in developing countries and emerging markets.

According to a report published in time for the summit (read the exec summary or buy the report), ordinary businesses are achieving “higher sales, reduced costs and lower risks from better corporate governance, improved environmental practices, and investments in social and economic development.”

“There are compelling commercial reasons to take action,” the report argues “despite a common assumption that sustainability is a luxury which emerging markets cannot afford.”

According to Rafael Wong, executive vice president of Reybancorp in Ecuador, "in five years, there will be no access to international markets for companies that do not show respect for the environment. It is becoming fundamental to international trade."

SustainAbility provides a matrix, which claims to help businesses build a compelling case for investment in sustainable business practices.

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

July 26, 2002

Summit debate Head to for a debate about whether summits work for poor people.

In the yes corner, Maria Adebowale, of Capacity Global, which works "as a catalyst empowering people to find solutions to poverty that enhance social justice and support a healthy environment." In the no corner, Roger Scruton, philosopher and ex-FT columnist.

Roger: "You have to be very careful about what goes in to international treaties, because the latter by their nature are a threat to national sovereignty and therefore a limitation on the democratic decision-making process. This causes resentment, and a desire among those affected to withdraw from the process altogether, rather than subject themselves to any further diminution of sovereignty."

Maria: "You questioned earlier the value of international treaties. As a lawyer, I agree that sometimes treaties can be just words on paper. But I have worked with community groups in the UK and the rest of Europe, and treaties that are part of both national and international law have been incredibly important for them – they can use these laws within a democratic system to secure advances that in a previous era were impossible."

David Steven | 11:12 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

Sex trade Joburg: One European tourist has died and two others ended up unconscious, allegedly after being doped with Rohypnol, the date-rape drug, by sex workers they had engaged - and then robbed.

"We just want to make the public aware of this especially before the World Summit," said Vicky Nash, at Sandton Medi-Clinic.

David Steven | 10:59 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

July 25, 2002

The Human Voice The Cluetrain Manifesto, for all its fluffiness, has a powerful idea at its heart.

People want to communicate with people, it says. To them, organisations usually sound flat, boring and inhuman. They miss the human voice which is typically open, natural, and uncontrived.

Web logging – or blogging – has put this lesson at the heart of the latest web revolution.... [more]

David Steven | 06:25 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

An Engineer's Orgasm Daily Summit has only just caught up with the July 7th erection of Tensile 1, the world's biggest tent, described in loving detail by Anna Cox.

"Eyes were peeled on the first eight poles as they slowly moved upwards, rising a few centimetres at a time." "This must be an engineer's orgasm," muttered a cynical journalist.

"After about 10 minutes, the 25m-high poles were almost upright, but not without another moment of panic, as a gust of wind resulted in one pole swaying precariously, and a cable attached to it looking as though it might come unhinged. A collective sigh of relief was heard as it stabilised and the cable remained in place. The tent master continued strutting around, still allowing no one near him as he prepared for the next eight poles to go up."

The tent will hold the somewhat mysterious Ubuntu Village (apparently, it's the summit's cultural and entertainment hub)...

Update: I've now found this Ubuntu Village website.

David Steven | 03:10 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

Clare Short's financial times UK Development Secretary, Clare Short, tells the FT today that "you have to change the whole mindset on aid away from the idea that it is a little charitable pot of handouts to the poor after you've done your mainstream foreign and trade policy."

As she prepares to leave for the summit, her focus is on ensuring her department is a leading player in the international system and working for peace in Africa. She thinks it "noble to care for the poor of the world," enjoying the opportunity to "legitimately poke around in all parts of the international system."

David Steven | 12:13 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

July 24, 2002

Landless protest? "The summit, to be held in Johannesburg, provides an opportunity for victims of land removals, landless and unemployed people to take their gripes with our government to the international community," says Pan Africanist Congress general secretary, Thami ka Plaatjie, "We should seize this opportunity not because we intend being chaotic, but to highlight the ANC's failure to deliver its land reform promises."

David Steven | 05:15 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

"Tragic Farce," Oxfam Oxfam’s Senior Policy Advisor, Kevin Watkins, today dismissed the summit as a “tragic farce,” claiming it is little more than “an opportunity to exchange vague generalities about unsustainable consumption, while admiring the transnational companies lining up to parade their green credentials on the Johannesburg catwalk.”

According to Kevin, most of the summit text is “of such vacuous inanity as to make a trainspotter's diary look exciting by comparison.” The rest is little more than pitched battle between the high priests of globalisation and the rest. The holy trinity of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, meanwhile, stand accused of allowing rich countries to ride roughshod over poor country interests, cut aid, and apply trade rules selectively.

David Steven | 04:12 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

Summit Impact Following on from yesterday’s post on the summit’s own ecological impact, news reaches us that the summit has just received a nice present – 1050 luxury cars from German motor giant, Daimler Chrysler. The fleet includes 50 S-class limousines, 150 E-class, 700 C-class sedans, 100 sprinter 22-seater busses and 100 Vito panel vans.

Meanwhile, Joburg’s refuse strike is over – though conditions are reportedly pretty grim. "I've has always been believed that there were no flies in winter but this winter is different,” says Soweto’s Phumzile Ntuli. “For weeks, flies have been buzzing all over."

Thandi Davids, from the summit organisers, claims that Joburg residents will co-operate in cleaning the city up: “we are organising a big Johannesburg clean-up day at the beginning of August", which will involve residents as well. "We are confident that all the mess created during the strike will be cleared on time.”

David Steven | 01:34 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

Leader Watch Who's going to the summit? British PM, Tony Blair, was one of the first leaders to commit to going, while President Bush has said he won't show up.. Now Canadian PM, Jean Chretien, has said he'll be there too. Over the next week or so, I'm going to start to put together a list of who will and will not attend...

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

World summit, new media The Daily Summit is not alone in exploring new ways of reporting from Joburg.

Rio 10, a Danish project helping Southern NGOs take part in WSSD, claims that what governments, NGOs and activists fear most is a media blackout at the summit. It is inviting organisations to help build a "new channel of our own, bypassing the mass media via cheap e-media."

AfricaWoman, meanwhile, an online media project with British Council and DFID funding, is bringing women journalists to the summit from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Zimbabwe. They will be producing AfricaWoman online from WSSD, while using video conferencing to keep in touch with the mood back at home.

I’ll be covering the AfricaWoman initiative and trying to interview some of the journalists when in Joburg.

Update: More media preparations in the Arab Region where a media forum on environmental and sustainable development opens today. “It was noticed that little or no importance is being given to environmental issues by the Arab media,” says organiser General Majid Al Mansouri. “The forum will open the doors for the Arab media to play their roles in these issues."

David Steven | 10:44 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

July 23, 2002

Greener than before Summit organisers have clearly been awaiting the junket accusations - and have got their retaliation in first. The Greening the WSSD project aims to leave Joburg "cleaner and greener," ensuring that "minimal waste" is generated by the 60,000 delegates expected to attend the summit. Every day, the Consumption Barometer will provide delegates with an "update on how much water, paper, energy and other natural resources they have used as well as how much waste they have generated." More on how all this will be calculated when I arrive in Joburg...

The UK government is also getting in on the act - reportedly planning to plant trees to offset the carbon dioxide generated by the British delegation's flights to Joburg. More on that as details emerge...

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

Can it work? The second story attracting the UK media is the ever-interesting prospect of failure.

Alex Kirkby, environment correspondent with BBC Online, talks to environmental grandee, Sir Crispin Tickell. Sir Crispin finds it “hard to be optimistic” about the summit’s prospects and predicts that environmental catastrophe can only be averted by “leadership from above, pressure from below, or some exemplary catastrophe.” NGO commentators in the FT are similarly pessimistic. Carol Welch, from Friends of the Earth, criticises the US for blocking binding agreements, while Gerd Leipold, Greenpeace director, argues that “it’s better to have a failure than a foul compromise.”

For, Nitin Desai, the summit’s secretary-general, however, the stakes are high. He believes Joburg is “vital for the whole framework of multilateralism.”

David Steven | 07:20 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |

Junket-Watch The World Summit is getting close (official kick off is 26 August – though the word is it’ll start a few days early) and the British press is getting interested.

First up: the junket story. This ran in May at the Bali warm-up meeting when John Prescott, British Deputy PM, dismissed it as “an indication of how press prattle tends to dominate an awful lot of matters of substance.”

Returning to the attack, The Sunday Times reports (subscription needed) that the British will fly at least eight ministers and more than 100 aides to the summit, estimating the cost at £600,000. “The delegation will stay in five star hotels,” it reports, “with its most senior members being ferried the few hundred yards to the conference halls in air-conditioned limousines.” In the Sun, Richard Littlejohn is even blunter, claiming that, while the summit will end in failure, “60,000 so-called public servants will have enjoyed a luxurious free vacation in the sun, while salving what consciences they have by posing as friends of the earth.”

Back in May, however, the Independent’s Geoffrey Lean was dismissive of junket stories from “a trade not noted for its eagerness to spurn freebies.” The real story, he said, were frantic efforts at work for South African President, Thabo Mbeki, to “save the summit.” He sees the summit as a key part of Government efforts to counter terrorism by “launching the most concerted drive against Third World poverty in decades” and predicts that Prescott, who has spent the last few years building an international network of political contacts, could emerge as a key broker.

David Steven | 07:17 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) |



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THe Summit Awards
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Is sustainability good for you?...


The bottom line on corporate responsibility...


Do we live in a Malthusian world?...


The lowdown on the blogging phenomenon...



charles secrett
Executive Director of Friends of the Earth


Shahida Jamil
Federal Minister for the Environment, Govt of Pakistan


Jane Goodall
Primatologist and conservationist


Naomi Klein
Author of "No Logo"


Michael Dorsey
Director of the Sierra Club


Matt Thomas
Head of Renewables, npower


Tladi John Nlovu
Summit driver and entrepreneur


Lloyd Anderson
Director of Science, The British Council

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