Earth summit to help recycling - of old promises
JOHANNESBURG - The Earth Summit will recycle old, broken promises and do little to fight poverty or protect the planet, many experts say.
The 10-day summit in Johannesburg will end with about 100 world leaders making pledges to halve the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by 2015 - a goal set two years ago and which has already slipped behind target.
In an ecological spirit, around 40,000 delegates will wear identity tags around their necks emblazoned \"made from recycled bottles\". Many environmentalists say governments\' main task will be to dress up old pledges as new.
One failed goal of a big hike in development aid, for instance, was first agreed in 1970. And the United Nations said this week that a 1996 goal of halving hunger by 2015 is unlikely to be reached even by 2030.
\"It will be another big talk shop,\" said Madoda Cuphe, a manager of the Development Action Group that seeks to promote low-cost housing in South Africa.
\"We didn\'t see that anything of importance came out of Rio so we have no reason to believe that Johannesburg will be any different,\" he said. The first Earth Summit was held a decade ago in Rio de Janeiro.
\"Johannesburg looks totally shambolic. Planning started hopelessly late,\" said Stephen Peake, a lecturer at Britain\'s Open University and an environmental expert.
COULD DO BETTER-ANNAN
Even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that progress in the past decade has been \"far from satisfactory\" in goals such as cutting poverty, protecting forests or slowing global warming.
The Johannesburg summit, held in a gleaming conference centre just a few km (miles) from some of Johannesburg\'s wretched slums, will seek ways to improve policies on water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity as part of an assault on poverty.
About 1.2 billion people, or 23 percent of the planet\'s total, live on less than a dollar a day. That is down from 1.3 billion or 29 percent of a smaller world population in 1990.
To help fight poverty, a draft declaration says, for instance, that rich nations should make \"concrete efforts\" to raise annual aid donations to 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP), about $210 for each of their citizens.
That aid target, agreed by the U.N. general assembly in 1970, was met by just Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Luxembourg in 2000.
Most nations fell well short with average donations amounting to just 0.22 percent of GDP, a total of $54 billion or $67 each person, the cost, perhaps, of a restaurant meal or a night in a hotel. Aid has sunk from 0.33 percent of GDP in 1990.
By contrast, oil giant ExxonMobil\'s 2001 turnover was $214 billion.
Even though aid is no magic wand, the U.N. Development Programme says that a rough doubling of aid would mean the world would reach all millennium goals agreed in 2000 - including halving poverty or halting the spread of AIDS.
The United States, even after a hike in aid announced by President George W. Bush in May, will remain among the smallest donors per capita with about 0.14 percent of GDP in 2006. Bush will not attend the summit.
\"I doubt that the summit will have a large effect on American political debate,\" said Isaac Shapiro, an aid expert at the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. \"But it can\'t hurt.\"
Story by Alister Doyle
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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