Johannesburg, September 3, 2002 – Friends of the Earth’s art installation “hear our voice” (inside sandton security zone, corner of maude and 5th), with 6,000 mute witnesses and a 6 metre high corporate giant, has been specially adapted for the end of the earth summit.

After nine days of talks, the Earth Summit is finally winding to an end. We have analysed the final text of the Programme of Implementation and found precisely TWO new and specific targets in the whole thing:

  1. To halve by 2015 the proportion of people who … do not have access to basic sanitation (para 7), and
  2. Establishment of marine protected networks … including representative networks by 2012 (para 31c) – which is really half a target, but we prefer to be generous in our praise.

And that’s it. In every other case, existing commitments are simply reaffirmed, watered down, or trashed altogether. Paragraph 5(a) promises to “urge the developed countries … to make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7% of GNP as official development assistance”. Paragraph 19(e) contains the disgraceful promotion of “clean” fossil fuels, a betrayal of the Kyoto Protocol to combat climate change (although the announcement of ratification by both Canada and Russia this week is a welcome step). Paragraph 22 talks about dangerous chemicals but is only “aiming to achieve by 2020 that chemicals are produced in ways that lead to the minimisation of significant adverse effects on human health” (!). Paragraph 42 talks of “a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity”, a clear step backwards from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. We could go on, but the list of weasel words and lost promises is nearly endless. Do not believe Government spin doctors who claim success for this Summit. It is by any objective test a failure.

Friends of the Earth International has strongly supported the Earth Summit. We desperately need binding international agreements to fight environmental threats to our common home, and such agreements require negotiations, open to media and civil society. But the so-called Programme of Implementation agreed at this summit barely begins to deal with the scale of the problems the world faces. It is a betrayal of hundreds of millions of poor and vulnerable people and their communities around the world. Governments have failed to set the necessary social and ecological limits to economic globalisation.

The chance to stem the tide of damage caused by the neoliberal economic ideology that dominates the developed world and institutions such as the World Trade Organisation has, for now, been missed. Instead many references to the WTO and its rules have been included in the Programme of Implementation. Even campaign victories such as preventing an unprecedented statement that would have made all commitments to environment and development subservient to WTO rules cannot change the bleak picture. The relationship between multilateral environmental agreements and world trade rules will still be left to the WTO to decide.

One important success was achieved by Friends of the Earth – the inclusion of clear language on the need to establish corporate accountability. However, the US is still attempting to undermine these words through squalid manoeuvres around a “Letter of Interpretation” from Ambassador Ashe. FoEI now calls for a UN conference on corporate accountability by the end of 2003. This conference should be included in the Political Declaration. The draft text produced by the South African Government would place the issue before the UN General Assembly.

FoEI is disappointed with what was achieved here in Johannesburg. But we will continue its campaign for trade justice, rights for communities and rules for big business. We will also continue to call on developed countries to acknowledge their ecological debt to the developing world. FoEI will now be taking its campaign “Don’t let big business rule the world” to the Cancun WTO Conference.

Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, commented:
“The Earth Summit should have been about protecting the environment and fighting poverty and social destruction. Instead it has been hijacked by free market ideology, by a backward-looking, insular and ignorant US administration and its friends in Japan, Canada, Australia and OPEC, by a timid and confused European Union, and by the global corporations that help keep reactionary politicians in limousines. So, after nine days of waffle and posturing and horse-trading we have only two significant new targets to protect the environment and fight poverty and deprivation.

Daniel Mittler, Earth Summit Coordinator, commented:
This is a betrayal of the millions of people around the world who looked to this Summit for real action, and particularly of poor people and vulnerable communities in the South. It is an indictment of the world leaders who came to this Summit and posed for photographs but lacked the vision and commitment to face the scale of the world’s problems. A world where the economy runs beyond the capacity of political institutions to regulate and control it is in a deep crisis, and can never be fully secure or at peace. Nothing could make us more determined to fight on for the radical environmental action the world needs. See you all in Mexico!”

Ricardo Navarro (FoEI Chair, El Salvador) +27 72 401 5392
Tony Juniper (FoEI Vice-Chair, UK) +27 72 401 5393
Daniel Mittler (FoEI Summit Co-ordinator, Germany) +27 72 401 5394
Carol Welch (US) +27 82 858 6073
Yuri Onodera (Japan) +27 72 401 5391
Ian Willmore (Media) +27 72 401 5386