Letter From Johannesburg


| August 30, 2002 Issue

T he opening day of the earth summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, featured plenty of rhetoric and discussion--and the promise of political fireworks, reports Tom Turner for the Environmental News Network.  

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki began the conference on a serious note, with a statement that Turner, senior editor of the Oakland-based Earthjustice, suggests the American government--post Kyoto Treaty, and absent from the Johannesburg meeting--could take as a direct message: "It is no secret that the global community has, as yet, not demonstrated the will to implement the decisions it had freely adopted."

The major issues under discussion, Turner notes, include "corporate accountability (or lack thereof), the so-called 'precautionary principle' (which asks: must a technology be proved safe before being put to use, or is the burden of proof on the worriers?)" and "whether the summit should endorse Type 2 agreements, or voluntary partnerships between business and governments with no formal or enforceable oversight or control."

But the biggest issue reported in local press is the restricted access to the event. Some 25,000 observers with passes have been turned away (attendance is limited to 6,000).

Turner says that secuirty is "tight as a tick, partly because of all the inviting political targets soon to arrive here. According to published reports, Saturday's big protest march will feature President Mbeki, Fidel Castro, and Yassir Arafat. The police have reason to be nervous."
--Julie Madsen
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