Earth Summit launches controversial partnerships
JOHANNESBURG - The United States and other nations will showcase public-private partnerships at the Earth Summit yesterday meant to fight poverty amid criticisms that they will help businesses more than the poor.
Delegates at the 10-day summit, meanwhile, will also make a new bid to end a wrangle over poor nations\' calls for rich states to phase out vast subsidies to farmers after making progress on other aid and trade issues this week.
The United States was set to roll out several partnerships yesterday, redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars in resources from existing programmes and funds to schemes meant to meet summit goals of halving poverty by 2015.
U.N. organisers say that partnerships - getting governments to work with local communities, non-governmental organisations and businesses in solving the planet\'s ills - could be a big innovation by the 10-day Johannesburg summit.
But many environmentalists are sceptical, saying they are likely to be poorly monitored and may be a way for governments to shirk responsibility for services like affordable drinking water or electricity.
\"Thirst for profits...multinationals are unfit to deliver water to the world,\" Friends of the Earth said in a statement.
It said that privatisations of water supplies in nations from Bolivia to the Philippines had meant higher prices. Nearly one in five people or 1.1 billion of the world\'s population have no access to drinking water.
Among U.S. projects will be one to expand efforts to protect Congo basin forests with an additional $53 million over four years. Another multi-nation project will get $43 million to provide energy for poor communities.
Environmentalists\' scepticism about the projects is another example of the United States taking the brunt of criticisms at the August 26-September 4 World Summit on Sustainable Development.
President George W. Bush will not be among more than 100 world leaders attending the summit\'s finale next week to launch ways of stopping the spread of AIDS and malaria, protecting fish stocks or promoting environmentally friendly agriculture.
In talks lasting into early Thursday, negotiators failed to unravel issues of trade, aid and globalisation after making progress on many other details in a draft text on aid to the Third World.
\"We will meet again tomorrow for a new session,\" one delegate said after talks broke up after midnight.
Delegates from up to 200 nations are deadlocked over calls by poor nations for an end to farm subsidies in rich nations totalling about $300 million a year, or about six times aid payments to poor states.
By one World Bank official\'s estimate, subsidies for a cow in a rich state are about three times the average earnings of the poorest people on the planet.
About one in five of the world\'s population, or 1.2 billion people, survive on less than a dollar a day.
Many delegates said the United States was leading resistance to any new targets going beyond a world trade deal struck in Doha last year to phase out export subsidies and to make \"substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support\".
Delegates were also divided over how to refer to \"globalisation\", a term associated with the spread of Western multinational corporations as well as booming world trade.
The United States wants the final text to preach the benefits of globalisation while groups ranging from developing nations to the European Union are more wary and want the text to show that not all have benefited.
Story by Alister Doyle
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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