Right questions, wrong answers?
New York, March 25, 2002 – Friends of the Earth International welcomes the willingness by governments to address economic globalisation, corporate accountability and unsustainable production and consumption patterns at the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg (1). However, Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is alarmed that governments seem to be giving the wrong answers to the right questions and seem hell-bent on making sustainable development subservient to the WTO´s trade agenda. FoEI calls on governments gathered at a formal UN meeting in New York starting today to commit to the necessary targets and timetables to achieve meaningful change.
Friends of the Earth International welcomes some positive ideas in the negotiating text but is concerned that governments view the new WTO negotiation agenda agreed in November 2001 as ensuring that global trade will serve sustainable development. FoEI argues that there are serious social and environmental consequences of the new WTO agenda and calls on governments to launch an assessment of the social and environmental impacts of trade liberalisation. Friends of the Earth International also calls on the WSSD to establish the principle that Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) always take precedence over trade rules.
Friends of the Earth International expects governments to commit to starting a negotiating process for a binding multilateral mechanism on corporate accountability at Johannesburg (2). It would be a real failure, if governments did not respond to the widespread global concern over irresponsible corporate behaviour. Voluntary initiatives, which are praised in the current negotiating text, are not sufficient to achieve meaningful change in corporate behaviour worldwide. In the wake of the ENRON scandal, FoEI believes that the urgency for further action is most evident.
Ambitious targets to change unsustainable consumption and production patterns – especially in industrialised countries – need to be included in the negotiating text, according to FoEI. At least 12 % of all energy consumed in industrialised countries should come from renewable energy sources by 2010, for example. Targets for developing countries must be supported by adequate funding.
Friends of the Earth International is further concerned that the “stakeholder partnership initiatives”, which UN Under-Secretary Nitin Desai wants to be an important outcome of the Johannesburg Summit, could start the “privatisation of implementation”. FoEI welcomes concrete partnerships addressing the root causes of unsustainable development. But FoEI insists that UN processes must be about governments fulfilling their global responsibility. The task of negotiating and delivering on global social and environmental rules must remain with governments. The UN should not become a market place for individual initiatives put forward by self-interested entities such as transnational companies. FoEI is also concerned that partnership initiatives may take the pressure off governments to negotiate a progressive Summit document. FoEI will therefore judge the results of Johannesburg by the quality of the multilateral agreements achieved.
Daniel Mittler of FoEI comments: “At Johannesburg, governments must grasp the opportunity to set meaningful social and environmental limits to economic globalisation. Trade must be made subservient to sustainable development goals not vice versa and global corporations should receive responsibilities to balance the extensive rights they currently hold. We call on governments to agree meaningful targets and timetables with money attached. Otherwise, the Johannesburg Summit, like Rio de Janeiro in 1992, will fail to halt the negative social and environmental trends worldwide.”
Friends of the Earth International´s detailed comments on the negotiating text are available from daniel.mittler[at]bund.net.
Daniel Mittler, FoEI WSSD Campaign Coordinator, +49 173 923 4747
The current meeting in New York runs form March 25 th to April 5 th . It is the third global meeting preparing the Johannesburg Summit, which will take place from August 26 th to September 4 th . The current negotiations are based on a text drafted by the Chairman of the process, Professor Emil Salim.
Friends of the Earth International has launched a global campaign for a Corporate Accountability Convention which received extensive support at the second global preparatory meeting in February 2002.