Powell Jeered as Earth Summit Settles Pact
Published on Wednesday, September 4, 2002 by Reuters
'Shame on Bush'
Powell Jeered as Earth Summit Settles Pact
by Alister Doyle and Ed Stoddard
 

JOHANNESBURG - Protesters jeered Secretary of State Colin Powell on the Earth Summit's final day Wednesday, accusing Washington of blocking meaningful action in a summit blueprint to help the poor and save the planet.


The reaction to Colin Powell's speech is a very accurate reflection of the anger of non-governmental organizations for the role played by the United States at this conference.

Remi Parmentier, political director of Greenpeace
Many governments gave a muted welcome to the summit plan meant to attack global problems from AIDS to depleted fish stocks, which was agreed in overnight talks by almost 200 states at the 10-day World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Many environmentalists branded it a waste of time and a sell-out to business interests favored by President Bush, who did not attend.

Even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that people's expectations had been too high.

Hecklers chanting "Shame on Bush" twice interrupted Powell as he defended U.S. policies from criticisms that the world's richest country and biggest polluter does not really care.

"Betrayed by governments," read a banner held up by the protesters, most of whom appeared to be Americans.

Seven of them were hustled out by guards from the main summit hall in Johannesburg as they whistled and booed. Most of the 100 world leaders who had attended the summit had already left.

"Thank you, I have now heard you. I ask that you hear me," Powell replied, breaking off from his prepared speech as South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairing the meeting, banged a gavel more than a dozen times in disapproval.

Powell was first jeered after talking about famine in southern Africa and singling out Zimbabwe for criticism.

Shame on Bush
Delegates hold a protest banner while U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell addresses the Earth Summit, in Johannesburg September 4, 2002 Some of the protesters were rapidly hustled out by security guards as they whistled and booed and shouted slogans critical of U.S. President George W. Bush. REUTERS/Dean Harmison
BOOED

He was booed again when he said Washington was taking firm action to combat global warming.

Bush, an ally of the oil, coal and logging industries, has been widely criticized for rejecting the Kyoto pact meant to fight global warming. Scientists say emissions of greenhouse gases from burning oil and coal are raising temperatures.

The United States denies the charge and has used the summit to unveil dozens of projects with business that aim to clean up the planet.

"We have plans to end the despair and offer hope. Now is the time to put those plans into action to expand the circle of development to all God's children," Powell said.

His spokesman said Powell was unruffled by the protests and was mobbed by well-wishers outside the hall.

Activists slammed the summit for setting few firm targets and for failing to raise aid. Some staged a walkout of the tightly guarded conference center in protest Wednesday.

"The reaction to Colin Powell's speech is a very accurate reflection of the anger of non-governmental organizations for the role played by the United States at this conference," said Remi Parmentier, political director of Greenpeace.

"We're proud to be from America but embarrassed by American policies," said Michael Brune of the Rainforest Action Network.

New targets set Wednesday include halving by 2014 the 2.4 billion people without sanitation in the Third World -- minimizing harmful effects from chemicals production by 2020 and a pledge to halt the decline in fish stocks by 2015.

But they include scant fresh cash. Current aid from rich nations totals about $54 billion a year -- or $67 for each of their citizens. The United Nations reckons that goals like halving poverty by 2015 could be solved if it were doubled.

NO MIRACLES

"We have to be careful not to expect conferences like this to produce miracles," Annan said.

"Obviously people came to Johannesburg expecting us to solve all the problems here. This is just a beginning, but it's an important beginning," he told a news conference.

Yet all delegates know that many of the promises made at a first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, staged amid great optimism after the end of the Cold War, have been broken.

The European Union gave a cool welcome to the summit's blueprint and said it might be the last in a line of giant summits trying to resolve planet-wide issues.

"We cannot be happy with everything" agreed in Johannesburg, said Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

Among disappointments, he singled out a deal merely urging a "substantial" increase in the use of renewable energies like wind and solar power. Under pressure from Washington and OPEC the goal was stripped of any clear targets.

Rasmussen said the EU would push ahead and set targets of its own. "I don't think that mega-summits are the way to secure effective implementation," he told a news conference. He added that the world should not start planning a follow-up summit in five or 10 years' time.

Overnight, diplomats resolved their dispute over a clause linking human rights to healthcare to hammer out a 65-page action plan that leaders are due to adopt later Wednesday.

But the text's formal approval by delegation chiefs was unlikely to be a simple rubber-stamping at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT).

Many delegations said their heads of state or ministers would like to make formal statements, which may include serious reservations about parts of the final declaration.

Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd

###