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Michael Dorsey
Matt Thomas
Tladi John Ndlovu
Lloyd Anderson



[summit says: instant interviews]


Subject: Michael Dorsey, environmental activist

Does the World Summit process currently have the support of the NGO movement?

The Sierra Club is highly concerned about the role played by corporations in this meeting.

Governments have colluded with corporations to offer “partnerships for sustainable development.” 

But we refuse to even sit at the table with these corporate criminals. Shell, for example, has murdered activists in Nigeria. Monsanto has actively forced genetically modified products on countries. Enron has run amuck financially and has undermined energy policy around the world, literally costing people’s lives.

None of these people have made accountable or paid in any meaningful way for their criminal activities. There must be resistance to a process that forces civil society to be partners in crime with such corporations. There’s no room for discussion or debate on this.

So the Summit is going to be a failure?

Only to the extent we can move away from the agenda of public/private partnerships with corporate criminals, can I have some faith in the outcome. 

Governments need to make moves to accept the responsibilities they were elected for. They can’t simply pass off their obligations to a host of unaccountable institutions.

But we can’t predict what is going to happen. There are signs, for example, that some governments seem prepared to accept language on binding corporate accountability.

What do you think of the position of those – like Clare Short – who believe that globalisation can be made to work for poor people?

Ms Short clearly has no sense of the absolute negative effects of globalisation on the world’s poor. She is out of step with Mary Robinson who told us that, not only is globalisation bad for the poor, but it exacerbates environmental racism – the disproportionate effect of environmental wrongs on marginalized peoples. 

Globalisation will not save us. Indeed, even the operatives of globalisation are beginning to recognise its severe deficits, not only for those on the margins, but for those at the centre as well.

Bringing together unsustainable neo-liberal economic policies, with conditional aid as a means for financing development, with a half-step effort to sustainability will take us backwards. It won’t be Rio+10, it’ll be Rio-20.

You were a member of the official delegation ten years ago, what is your reading of the US position at this summit?

America’s position at the summit will be one of compromise and back-pedalling. We already have intelligence that the US has been leaning other countries to discourage them from supporting moves to make meaningful commitments.

And what about the role of Colin Powell?

Colin Powell is a gifted statesman. However, we seen repeated attempts by the White House to undermine the State Department and undermine Secretary Powell. 

We’ve also seen his inability to change policy making coming out of the White House. There are lots of individuals in the White House who would like to see Secretary Powell relieved of his duties. They therefore put him into situations where he is only playing second fiddle. I think he is well aware of this, and there isn’t really anything he can do short of resign.

So we appreciate him coming, but we don’t really expect much from him.

Will this summit see a growing rift between the US and Europe?

The rift is already there: on the environment, climate change, and situation in Iraq. The WSSD won’t resolve any differences of opinion between Brussels and Washington.

While the US government doesn’t look to Europe for leadership, US NGOs do – very much so. 

Within the Sierra Club, we are always looking at the innovative environmental practices of US governments and NGOs. We look particularly at the regulations that the member states are putting on the book and enforcing, and to Europe in general for leadership in the whole domain of environmental problem solving.

A lot of our lobbying is to European member states. In particular, we are encouraging them to get behind binding language on corporate accountability and to make strong Type 1 agreements. 

The Commission is critical, because it coalesces member states. The role of the UK is important, because of the relationship Mr Blair has maintained with different US administrations. 

And we also believe the Nordic countries see a larger role in sustainable development for governments and citizens. That is exactly where we want to go, away from having corporations lead the process.

What about the role of developing countries?

I suppose, on a certain level, some credit should be given to South Africa, if only for trying to exercise leadership to make the summit successful. 

We are not in favour of their endorsement of NEPAD activities and their promotion of neo-liberal economic policies as a means to secure sustainable development, but we applaud their efforts to make this meeting a success, especially in the interim meetings between Bali and here. 

Coming to Joburg, we heard lots of anecdotal evidence about how disorganised the conference was, but overall, it’s been a lot smoother that many people expected.

However, here in Johannesburg, we have seen the oppression of demonstrators who were simply exercising their rights to argue for a clean and healthy environment. 

We stand against the repression of the Landless People’s Movement by the South African government. It’s outrageous that the South African government should act against a peaceful demonstration.

24 August 2002





Who?Michael Dorsey
Where?Sierra Club

“Governments have colluded with corporations to offer partnerships for sustainable development. 

We refuse to even sit at the table with these corporate criminals.”

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