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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
24 August 2002