Johannesburg, August 30, 2002 – Mysterious statues were reported today at the UN Conference Centres in Johannesburg, where government and business delegates are meeting to discuss solutions to the global problems of poverty and environmental degradation. Dozens of the recycled paper-mache figures have been spotted wearing stickers asking “Whose voice is missing at the Summit?” [1]

Photo Opportunity: Sunday 1st Sept
The Forum, UN Conference Centre,
Sandton, Johannesburg

Of course, a number of voices have been noticeably absent from the Summit so far, including that of the world’s most powerful politician, US President, George W Bush. So far, there has also been no noise from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. But the voices of business lobbyists have been much more audible.

And while powerful politicians have chosen to remain silent on solving the big issues like global poverty and environmental degradation, ordinary people’s voices have been excluded from the Summit and indeed appear to have been ignored. But it is rumoured that the mysterious statues may be about to speak.

On Sunday 1st September Friends of the Earth International launches “Hear Our Voice” – a giant audio art action outside the UN’s Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg [2]. The unveiling will be followed by speakers, including Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme and Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

Thousands of figures representing the voices of millions of ordinary people around the world will be demanding to be heard by world leaders at the Summit. And the noise they make, collected from around the world [3], will drown out the sounds of the corporate giant who has been dominating the agenda of western governments.

The figures, made from recycled materials by local communities groups around Johannesburg [4], will be calling for global rules for business to protect the rights of people and the environment.
Tony Juniper, Vice-Chair of Friends of the Earth International, said: “The Earth Summit is all about tackling the very real issues that affect millions of people around the world – issues such as poverty, contaminated drinking water, poor air quality, and the rights to land. To tackle these issues, big business needs to be made accountable for its actions.

“Yet the voices of ordinary people are not being heard at the Summit. Friends of the Earth believes that if governments want to make a real difference at this Earth Summit, they must listen to these voices. Hear Our Voice illustrates these missing voices and we hope that politicians at the Summit will pay attention. They must listen to their call for rights and for protection from the damage caused by big business. We all have to live in this world, and the interests of big business must not be allowed to rule.”

[1] Photos of the figures are available from or from the London press office.

[2] Hear Our Voice will be unveiled on Sunday 1st September at 11am at the Forum (Corner of Maude and 5th). Speakers include Klaus Toepfer, Excecutive Director of UNEP, Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), Tony Juniper, Vice Chair of FOEI, Bobby Peek, Exective Director of GroundWork South Africa, Naomi Klein (invited) and a representative of the Olievenhoutbosch artistic community.

[3] Individuals from around the world have been making a noise for the Earth Summit at and these noises will feature in the art installation.

[4] Six thousand figures have been handmade from recycled materials by groups from local communities in Gauteng province, including the Soweto Mountain of Hope Project (SoMoHo). They will be centred around a corporate giant, designed with local artists in Johannesburg.

Ian Willmore (Jo’burg) + 27 (0) 72 401 5386
Niccolo Sarno (Jo’burg) +27 (0) 72 401 5387
Press Office (London) + 44 (0) 20 7566 1649