Johannesburg, September 4, 2002 – Friends of the Earth’s art installation “hear our voice” (inside sandton security zone, corner of maude and 5th), with 6,000 mute witnesses and a 6 metre high corporate giant, has been specially adapted for the end of the earth summit.
It’s the picture you need for your end of Summit report!
The Bush Administration has been the single biggest obstacle toward achieving progress at this Summit. Despite Secretary of State Colin Powell’s shameless speech today, US intransigence has been obvious to the world. US refusal to agree to substantive agreements with timetables and targets is particularly egregious given the disproportionate share of global resources it consumes and environmental damage it does.On August 2, 2002, 31 right wing groups and individuals sent a letter to President Bush asking his Administration to return from Johannesburg with no new targets and timetables. The US has done its best to pander to these interests. Only two new concrete targets were agreed (1).
Undermining Corporate Accountability
The US has been obstructionist throughout the WSSD on critical issues such as global rules for business that would ensure high standards of corporate behaviour everywhere. Despite the corporate malfeasance scandals that have rocked especially the US, the Americans are still trying to undermine corporate accountability negotiations taking place in Johannesburg. Countries agreed in the negotiations to develop and implement intergovernmental agreements on corporate responsibility and accountability. But the US sought to impose its own interpretation of the text on the rest of the world by demanding a “Letter of Interpretation” from the chair of the globalization and trade negotiations. This interpretation would say that all countries agree that the agreement on corporate accountability has to do only with “existing” agreements. This is a clear attempt to scuttle any effort to develop new, binding international rules for big business. It is impossible for an interpretive note to bind all countries – which is why Ethiopia and Norway objected formally. The issue could be raised again today by the US in plenary as the White House allegedly gave orders that the US could not accept the current text without its own interpretation prevailing. Ignoring Climate Change and Imperiling the World, The Bush Administration remains opposed to real action to combat climate change, despite producing one quarter of the world’s climate emissions. US public finance institutions are subsidizing further dirty fossil fuel projects around the world. US Government inaction has led Friends of the Earth United States to file a lawsuit with Greenpeace and the City of Boulder, CO in the US District Court in San Francisco to compel the Overseas Private (OPIC) Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank (EX-Im) to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This groundbreaking legal action alleges that OPIC and Ex-Im illegally provided over $32 billion in financing and insurance for oil fields, pipelines and coal-fired plants over the past 10 years without assessing their contribution to global warming and their impact on the U.S. environment required under key provisions of NEPA.
Forcing GMOs Against the Will of Developing Countries
Friends of the Earth condemned Powell for his announcement that he deplored the action of countries that rejected US food aid that contained GMOs. The stance of the US government advances the interests of multibillion dollar biotech companies looking for overseas markets. Friends of the Earth calls on governments to respect the right of countries to decide the type of food they want to eat and urges international institutions to provide non-GMO sources when countries in need request it. Bush: Partnerships as the Solution Rather than binding action, the Bush Administration announced “signature partnerships” in the areas of water, energy, agriculture and forests. Only $20 million of the $970 million pledged to address these areas represents new money. Furthermore, the Administration is shirking Africa in other areas. For example, overall aid to Africa in FY 2003 declined by $39 million. The Congo Basin Initiative is a key example of the Bush Administration’s flawed partnerships approach. While supposedly benefiting forest protection and management in the highly biodiverse Congo Basin, the initiative will actually put more money into flawed programs that have not reduced illegal logging, empowered local communities or enabled sustainable forest management. The US has also dismissed concerns of local environmental groups about corruption in these countries and the close collusion between government officials and timber barons.
Leslie Fields of Friends of the Earth United States commented:
“The Bush Administration’s actions at the WSSD reflect a sordid pandering to corporations and far right wing interest groups. People around the world have not have had their voices heard, but corporations continue to dominate US policy at Johannesburg.”
Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International added: “Throughout this Summit, the US Administration has betrayed our environment, and the needs of the poor and the vulnerable around the world. That’s why we were protesting during Colin Powell’s shameless and inadequate speech. The responsibility of the US for the relative failure of this Summit is paramount. The whole world knows it. Nothing the Secretary of State had to say will make the slightest difference to this damning verdict.”
Ricardo Navarro (FoEI Chair, El Salvador) +27 72 401 5392
Tony Juniper (FoEI Vice-Chair, UK) +27 72 401 5393
Daniel Mittler (FoEI Summit Co-ordinator, Germany) +27 72 401 5394
Carol Welch (US) +27 82 858 6073
Yuri Onodera (Japan) +27 72 401 5391
Niccolo Sarno (Media) +27 72 401 5387
Ian Willmore (Media) +27 72 401 5386