Johannesburg, September 4, 2002 – Just an hour after the world’s governments agreed their plan to save the world at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, the US insisted it was redefining the agreement. In the final plenary session, the US government spokesman said the US felt that “full development” really meant “existing”. Friends of the Earth called on the world’s leaders to club together and buy Colin Powell a dictionary.

Just minutes after the Summit formally adopted its plan, the US insisted on its highly individual interpretation of the text on big business being officially recorded. This followed a failed US attempt yesterday to get the same objection noted as a footnote – which would have appeared to have come from all governments. As reported earlier by Friends of the Earth International, that attempt failed following other governments’ expressions of outrage.

Specifically the US said it felt the paragraph of the Johannesburg Programme of Action regarding corporate responsibility and accountability referred to “existing” intergovernmental agreements andnbsp; international initiatives. This is despite the fact that the word “existing” was explicitly removed during the negotiations.

Matt Phillips of Friends of the Earth said:
“This crude attempt by the US to sneak away from better rules for holding US corporations accountable deserves contempt. The rest of the world must go ahead and develop binding rules to secure corporate accountability and put pressure on the US to abide by its negotiated agreement.”

[1] The paragraph actually reads: “Actively promote corporate responsibility and accountability, based on Rio Principles, including through the full development and effective implementation of intergovernmental agreements and measures, international initiatives and public-private partnerships, appropriate national regulations, and continuous improvement in corporate practices in all countries.”

Matt Phillips 020 7566 1660 (m) 07817 314706
Craig Bennet +27 (0) 72 406 4748
Press office 020 7566 1649