JOHANNESBURG, Aug 30 - As the 10-day sustainable development summit heads
into its final week, U.N. officials are giving it a spin to ensure the meeting
lives up to expectations as Rio+10 - an improvement on the 1992 Earth Summit -
rather than ending up Rio "minus" 10 - a backwards slide.
One indicator they have adopted to spread that view is the number of pledges being made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to fund programmes through ”Type 2” partnerships.
Officials of the world body have been talking up the fact that the number of ”Type 2” projects - which involve numerous players such as governments, inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses - is inching towards 300.
But activists say ”Type 2” provides an escape for governments who do not want to sign on to multilateral agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which many see as the triumphs of the Rio Summit.
”The WSSD was meant to secure commitments and funding pledges in keeping with the multilateral framework of Rio,” says Martin Khor, of Third World Network, a Malaysian-based think tank. ”But now we know this is not going to happen.”
”Type 2 outcomes have been invented as a fall back option in case we don't have concrete multilateral agreements,” he adds. ”Then they can get journalists to say that something has been done at the summit. It is a public relations exercise.”
The U.N. has a different view.
”Some of the partnerships should be seen as new efforts - experiments that the world system has not thought of,” Nitin Desai, secretary-general of the WSSD, told a group of South Asian journalists. ”Partnerships can make a difference. Under it, local people will have a greater role, a seat at the (decision-making) table.”
As the week revealed, U.N. officials like Desai are not the only ones singing from this hymn sheet. On Thursday, the U.S. delegation unveiled a strategy that follows a similar line of thinking.
Washington plans to spend more than one billion dollars to alleviate poverty and fund projects that protect the world's environment - but largely as partnerships, officials told a packed press conference.
This ”new approach” to offer clean water to the world's poor and help alleviate hunger, among other aims, will involve foundations and businesses.
In announcing this package, the U.S. delegation displayed its contempt for efforts at the WSSD to strengthen a multilateral approach to securing sustainable development - a central feature of the deal struck by governments in 1992.
At summits like the WSSD, ”words are good, but only concrete action can address these problems”, said Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state.
Such an effort by U.S. officials to give Washington the political high ground was backed by declarations that the United States is ”the world's leader in sustainable development”.
Yet these collective efforts to trumpet the significance of ”Type 2” partnerships takes away from significant global institutions that emerged out of the Rio Summit, such as the GEF.
In 1992, the Fund was seen as the kind of international mechanism the world needed to push through sustainable development initiatives at the multilateral level. The Kyoto Protocol to combat climate change was another.
Governments pledged to fund the GEF - now known as a ”Type 1” solution - in four-year intervals.
The Fund received 2.9 billion U.S. dollars in initial support in 1994, 2.75 billion dollars in 1998 and this month states pledged 2.9 billion dollars to support this ”Type 1” initiative.
But the GEF's chief executive officer admits the money is far short of what is needed to fund all GEF projects in the developing world - including initiatives on biodiversity, climate change and land degradation.
”Over the last two years, funds of the GEF have not been sufficient to address all the projects in the pipeline,” says Mohammed El-Ashry. ”Even if we had 10 billion dollars, we would not be able to meet the demand.”
As the signs emerging from the WSSD reveal, the GEF - and likely other ”Type 1” funds - cannot expect more money to come its way. For on the one hand, many developed nations are averse to meet the Rio Summit pledge to spend 0.7 percent of their gross national product (GNP) for development assistance.
And on the other hand, the developed world is attempting to side step this failed promise by backing a financial initiative - ”Type 2” partnerships - that goes against the spirit of international cooperation, recognized at the Earth Summit as key to achieving sustainable development.
Little wonder that environmentalists and civil society activists here are livid at this turn of events. The vocal EcoEquity coalition, a grouping of six major international NGOs that includes Oxfam and Greenpeace, warned Friday that the WSSD could end up as ”Rio-10” a step backwards.
Copyright 2002 IPS