UN Blocks Future Earth Summits


By Geoffrey Lean

September 8, 2002

No more summits are planned by the United Nations on environment and development until governments put into practice what they have decided to do. Instead of high-profile summits, the UN will set up an unprecedented operation to report on how governments are performing – naming and shaming those that do not do well – and campaigning for change. The move follows the disappointing Earth Summit in Johannesburg last week, which produced few new decisions. Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, said: "We do not need more big multilateral agenda-setting conferences, we need a real period of intensive implementation.''

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela – speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 which represents all developing countries at the UN – added: "We have to have a radical change in the format of these summits. There is no proper dialogue.'' And Juan Somavia, the Chilean Director General of the International Labour Organisation, added: "Repeating the format does not necessarily advance the cause. At recent international conferences, a lot of energy has been put into stopping backsliding."

The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has appointed Mark Malloch Brown – the Briton who heads the UN Development Programme – as "campaign manager and scorekeeper'' for the follow-up, to ensure that Johannesburg is not followed by a period of inaction as after previous summits. Mr Malloch Brown has begun to prepare a series of reports on developing countries to see how far they are matching a set of goals adopted at the Millennium Summit two years ago which would halve dire poverty in the world by 2015.

The first reports on 15 countries will go to the UN General Assembly in October and these are now to be expanded to monitor every country in the developing world every year. UN agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will work with the governments involved to draw them up. ''I want to be able to tell the world how many kids are going to school, for example, in each country, and what the drop-out rates are,'' he says. "This is going to be a revolution in implementing decisions.'' He draws inspiration from the Rowntree report on poverty in York in the early years of the century which produced reforms by Churchill, Lloyd George and Beveridge, and which eventually led to the establishment of the welfare state in Britain.

The new push – which is being funded by the Department for International Development, together with Norway and the Netherlands – will also have a campaigning team that will try to mobilise public opinion, particularly in rich countries. Mr Malloch Brown says he plans to draw on the success of the anti-landmine and anti-debt campaigns in drawing up his strategy.

And the effort will be underpinned by an expert taskforce chaired by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, who has been a partner of Bono in the pop star's successful attempt to persuade the Bush administration to increase aid.

More Information on the Johannesburg Summit

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.