Friends of the Earth international calls for change of direction to rescue Earth Summit negotiations

April 8, 2002

New York: Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) today slammed governments gathered at UN Headquarters in New York for failing to respond to the widespread global concern over globalisation.

FoEI accused the United States, Canada, Australia and the OPEC countries of trying to ruin the historic World Summit on Sustainable Development to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa this August ( 1 ).

The US and its allies blocked meaningful targets and timetables being inserted into the negotiating text for the Summit, which FoEI believes must set clear social and environmental limits to globalisation. The US, Canada, Australia and the OPEC countries must also take most of the blame for two weeks of chaotic negotiations resulting in a long document, strong on platitudes but weak on substance. The EU and the majority of the G77 developing countries meanwhile failed to show the necessary leadership in the face of US obstructions. They failed to offer concrete actions. The EU was unwilling to respond to G77 concerns on finance and trade in the wake of the Monterrey and Doha negotiations on these issues ( 2 ). FoEI calls on the EU to take a leadership role on the road to Johannesburg, as it did in the global climate negotiations.

Friends of the Earth International has made constructive proposals throughout the preparations for the Johannesburg Summit. One of the great achievements of the Rio Summit in 1992 was the opening of the United Nations to civil society inputs. But governments have been unwilling to respond to civil society concerns, especially on the key issue of globalisation. Governments have ignored the massive public outcry on corporate misbehavior in the wake of the ENRON scandal. All they are willing to offer on corporate accountability are voluntary initiatives, which fail to establish rights for the communities affected by corporate abuses ( 3 ). Governments also continue to make the sustainable development agenda subservient to the trade agenda pushed forward at the WTO. A call by Friends of the Earth International and other major NGOs to make it clear that Multilateral Environmental Agreements should not be subservient to WTO trade rules only gained the clear support of Switzerland ( 4 ).

Daniel Mittler, WSSD Coordinator of FoEI said: "Governments must commit to meaningful action now. Targets and timetables with money attached are key if the Johannesburg Summit is still to succeed. Governments must start taking the voice of civil society seriously instead of trying to sell a corporate-led free trade agenda as sustainable development. At Johannesburg governments will have to tell the world whether they are with us or against us, when it comes to saving the planet."

Friends of the Earth International believes that governments are hiding the unacceptable negotiation results by putting special effort into pursuing "partnership initiatives", especially with business.

FoEI opposes this "privatisation of implementation" and insists that UN processes must be about governments fulfilling their global responsibility ( 5 ). The UN should not become a market place for individual initiatives put forward by self-interested entities such as transnational companies.

Daniel Mittler of Friends of the Earth International said: "The proposed partnerships are having a 'chill effect' on negotiating meaningful multilateral agreements rather than helping the necessary implementation. The Johannesburg summit will only be a success if governments agree an ambitious implementation program for which time is running out."

Notes

1. The current meeting in New York started on March 25th and is scheduled to end on April 5th. It is the third global meeting preparing the Johannesburg Summit, the Summit will take place from August 26th to September 4th, and will review progress made on sustainable development in the ten years since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The negotiating text and all official information can be found at www.johannesburgsummit.org

2. The "Financing for Development" conference took place in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002, but was judged a failure by most civil society groups. The Doha WTO Ministerial meeting took place in November 2001 and agreed a negotiating agenda for further trade liberalisation. FoEI believes the Doha agenda represents clear risks for people and planet and calls for an urgent assessment of the social and environmental impacts of trade liberalisation. See www.foei.org

3. Friends of the Earth International has launched a global campaign for a Corporate Accountability Convention which received widespread civil society support at the New York meeting. A more detailed document setting out the need for binding corporate accountability and key elements of the proposed convention can be found at www.rio-plus-10.org .

4. A statement calling for the autonomy and authority of Multilateral Environmental Agreements to be clearly established at Johannesburg was published jointly by Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace International, Third World Network, ANPED and Sierra Club on April 3rd. See www.foei.org

5. FoEI does not oppose all partnership agreements, but calls for them to follow clear guidelines and be transparent. FoEI especially supports initiatives agreed between a number of countries that address the root causes of unsustainable development and help to achieve stricter targets than can currently be agreed to globally.

For further information contact:

Daniel Mittler
FoEI WSSD Coordinator
Ph: +49 173 923 4747
Email: daniel.mittler@bund.net

Craig Bennett
FoEI Corporates campaigner
Ph: +1 347 682 0967
Website: www.rio-plus-10.org