Geneva, September 25, 2001 – The Governments of Europe and North America agreed at a formal UN meeting in Geneva today [1] that they are not prepared to go beyond commitments made at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) concluded that the positive elements of a statement crafted by environment ministers have been overwhelmed by putting trade priorities above people and the planet.

Governments failed to agree on the EU’s proposed Global Deal [2], which was the only substantive new idea at the negotiations. Instead of moving forward, negotiations focused on issues such as the long-standing commitment by Governments to increase development aid to 0.7% of GDP, the precautionary principle and targets for renewable energy, all of which were not agreed.

On the other hand, the statement exposes a corporate libertarian stance from the Governments, which want the Summit to “support” the current international trading system. This reduced the credibility of positive themes the region wants discussed at Johannesburg, such as poverty, and improving democratic processes.

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) wants to see the governments of the ECE region honestly assess why unsustainable development continues and develop a new set of actions to turn the tide of social and environmental degradation. FoEI believes governments should use the Johannesburg meeting to establish rules of corporate accountability, environmental rights, a just trade system, effective environmental governance and agree action by over- consuming countries on their ecological debt to the South.

Daniel Mittler of FoEI said: “There’s a real danger that Rio Plus Ten will actually be Rio Plus Zero. Some governments and the EU have made a welcome commitment to targets and actions, but the final Ministerial statement is short on the kinds of responsibility this powerful and wealthy region should be demonstrating. Nine years of continued unsustainable development are more than enough. It is time to move beyond Rio and deliver timetables and targets.”

Contact in Geneva:
Daniel Mittler or Matt Phillips on +49 173 923 4747

[1] Formal preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio + 10) are now under way and Ministers from Europe and the US today agreed a Ministerial statement of what they aim to achieve at the Summit. The meeting is the main input from the UN ECE region (which includes the whole of Europe and North America) and it indicates what the main parties want from the Summit.

[2]The Global Deal includes debt relief and market access for developing countries, a commitment to break the link between economic growth and environmental degradation, increased development assistance and reaffirmation of adherence to the ‘Rio Declaration’ and other international environmental agreements such as the Kyoto climate protocol.