April 3, 2002 – As governments meet in New York to prepare the Earth Summit in Johannesburg,
Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace International, Northern Alliance for Sustainability (ANPED), Sierra Club and Third World Network have issued a statement calling upon the Johannesburg Summit to ensure that Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are not subordinated to or undermined by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The groups argue that there is an urgent necessity for governments to save MEAs from WTO takeover: Several global agreements have suffered from a ‘chill effect’ as some governments have claimed that they are not compatible with WTO rules. At the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, WTO Members decided to launch negotiations on the relationship between MEAs and trade rules. Negotiations will come to first results in mid 2003, but it is not clear whether the outcome will be positive or negative for the further development of MEAs.

With the forthcoming Word Summit for Sustainable Development, the NGOs see a unique chance for governments to:

  • Reaffirm the authority and autonomy of MEAs; and
  • Clarify that the objectives, principles, and provisions of MEAs must not be subordinated to WTO rules.

David Waskow of Friends of the Earth International said, “Multilateral Environmental Agreements must be fully recognised and strengthened as a countervailing force to WTO rules. At stake here is whether global governance will in fact protect people and the planet.”

Remi Parmentier of Greenpeace International commented, “Our hope is that in Johannesburg, Heads of State and Government will agree where trade ministries have failed, and get on with redefining a trade regime that works for all, including the environment.”

Chee Yoke Ling of Third World Network said, “During and since Rio, a number of major MEAs – including the Convention on Biological Diversity, Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, Persistent Organic Pollutants Convention, and Kyoto Protocol – have been negotiated with universal intergovernmental participation. These agreements should not be subordinated to WTO rules.”
Pieter van der Gaag of ANPED said, “MEAs are not negotiated to undermine trade rules. They are negotiated to solve the environmental problems we face. Subordinating MEAs to the WTO would limit our ability to protect our planet.”

Ruth Caplan of the Sierra Club said, “MEAs are essential for sustainable development – we should not allow the WTO to weaken them in any way.”

David Waskow, Friends of the Earth International: + 1 202 258 1348
Remi Parmentier, Greenpeace International: + 31 653 504 702