World Council of Churches -
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2 September 2002
With only three days to go, Ecumenical Team says global trade interests dominate Earth Summit
cf. WCC Press Release, PR-02-22, of 22 August 2002
An Ecumenical Team coordinated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) fears that over the next three days, when heads of state gather in Johannesburg to conclude the World Summit of Sustainable Development (WSSD), global trade interests will win out over efforts to combat poverty and protect the environment. Even the precautionary principle - one of the cornerstones of the 1992 Rio Agenda 21 that says you should avoid doing something if there are signs that it could be unsafe - may fall under pressure of commercial and financial interests, the Team warns.
Rev. Dr Martin Robra of the WCC's Justice, Peace and Creation team says that business lobbies at the WSSD are querying the feasibility of putting the precautionary principle into practice, thereby casting doubts on its effectiveness. Robra also notes that language in the draft declaration has changed over the past few days. For example "good references to corporate responsibility have now been left out or are far weaker". The Ecumenical Team concludes that the links between poverty eradication, people's livelihoods and the environment are still not being taken seriously enough by governments.
The Team continues to emphasize that sustainability requires cancellation of international debt, the right to water, land and food, the reduction of over-consumption by the rich countries, and the re-orientation of economies towards people and their livelihoods. A legally binding framework for corporate accountability, it says, must be adopted to ensure that global economic governance serves all people and not only the wealthy and powerful. And it stresses that the UN should re-institute (under ECOSOC) a Commission on Transnational Corporations to establish regulatory mechanisms that address relationships between corporate policies and practices and international obligations.
Meanwhile, on 31 August, representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) marched through the streets of Johannesburg to express their concern and discontent with the turn of events at the Summit. South African Council of Churches (SACC) general secretary Molefe Tsele, who heads the Ecumenical Team, led a broad spectrum of South African groups and WSSD delegates on a nine-kilometre march from Alexandra Township stadium to the towers of Sandton City. The peaceful march was open to diverse groups and allowed full freedom of expression.
On arrival in Sandton, the main Summit NGO coalition - "Global Peoples' Forum" - presented a memorandum entitled "A Sustainable World is Possible" to South African Defence minister Mosiua Lekota as the official representative of the Summit chairperson, president Thabo Mbeki.
For the Ecumenical Team, the march was a strong message for the negotiating parties and, at the same time, an enriching experience of solidarity.
On Sunday 1 September, the Ecumenical Team participated in a worship service at Christ the King Anglican Church in Sophiatown. Focussed on HIV/AIDS in Africa, the service also lifted up environmental concerns through a prayer for creation.
This material may be reprinted freely.
Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.