Johannesburg, August 26, 2002 –  Friends of the Earth today exposed the intense lobbying being carried out by the US and the EU at the Earth Summit to push free trade policies ahead of tough targets on poverty and the environment. Developing countries have sent a large number of trade negotiators to the Summit, while most developing nations have only environment and
development experts.

The accusations come as business leaders at the Summit are promoting partnership agreements which they claim will encourage sustainable development. But Friends of the Earth fears the partnerships are no more than a cover for business as usual unless tight corporate accountability rules are introduced to protect people and the environment. The power of multinationals has increased massively since the last Summit in Rio, but with no clear benefits to the world’s poor, and a growing gap between the have and have-nots.

The UN has warned that if we do not tackle environmental degradation and poverty, the world will become a more dangerous place, with increasing risks of international terrorism. The USA, together the Canada and Australia, are working against targets to tackle these problems.
Friends of the Earth has a number of experts in Johannesburg tracking progress. We have also launched a website, providing daily reports from the talks, and featuring examples of multinationals damaging the environment and people’s health.

Tony Juniper, Vice-chair of Friends of the Earth International, said: “The Earth Summit must prioritise action on poverty and environmental degradation. Instead rich countries are pushing the WTO’s free trade agenda despite evidence that current trade rules are responsible for many of the problems we face. This Summit desperately needs political leadership if it isn’t going to fail. Tony Blair must fly out here soon and work with other leaders to get these talks back on track.”

Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, said: “Western multinationals are destroying livelihoods of communities in the third world. If these corporations were as responsible as they pretend here in Johannesburg, they should all be signed up to a binding corporate accountability convention which would make them legally liable for irresponsible behaviour”.

In Johannesburg: Daniel Mittler, Earth Summit Campaign Coordinator, +27 72 401 5394,
Ricardo Navarro, Friends of the Earth International chair: + 27 72 4015392,
Tony Juniper, Friends of the Earth International vice-chair: +27 72 4015393
In London: Mike Childs, 0207 566 1649