Earth Summit: Sufficient Minus

The Earth Summit predictably ended with a half-hearted message by Colin Powell delivered after half of the delegates had already gone home to a background of hissing and boos. It also ended with a predictable chorus of dissatisfaction from most of the NGOs present, ranging from outrage at the Taleban paragraph to horror at the selfishness of the rich.

The Friends of the Earth announced at the end of the Summit that “the end-of-term report reads, ‘Unsatisfactory, needs to improve’ ”, while Oxfam called it “the triumph of greed and selfishness, a tragedy for the poor and for the environment” and women’s rights groups called the decision to tack on the “Taleban paragraph” to an equal rights document and not as a fundamental part of basic human rights a tragedy and an injustice.

The “Taleban paragraph” is one which originally declared that Female Genital Mutilation should be prohibited under basic human rights regulations while all women should have the right to abortion and contraception. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a practice which takes place in many African countries, in which the girl’s clitoris and genital labia are removed so that she will not derive any pleasure from the sexual act, due to the fear that this might turn her into a loose woman who will be unfaithful to the husband and seek pleasure elsewhere.

The USA and the OPEC cartel benefited from the lack of quotas being stipulated for the use of renewable energy, which would have restricted the use of petrol and would have contributed to the reduction in global warming. Champions of this cause were the EU and Brazil. There was no mention of the social or environmental costs of globalisation.

However, Johannesburg was at least a Forum for the discussion of serious issues and certain progress was made. While Colin Powell declared that the USA was committed to the reduction of Greenhouse Effect Gases (GEG), while doing nothing whatsoever in concrete terms, Russia declared that it was going to ratify the Protocol of Kyoto, meaning that the treaty will almost certainly come into force, although the USA will be unilaterally boycotting it.

Johannesburg also saw a pledge to reduce the number of people living without basic sanitation, currently 2.4 billion, by 50% by 2015 and quotas were imposed to conserve fishing stocks.

Globally, nothing was done to make huge strides to bridge the chasm between the developed and the developing worlds, forged first through colonialism and then imperialism and then continued by those who grew fat on the resources of others. The have-nots want what the haves have but the haves do not want to give it away.


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