Johannesburg - Notes & Quotes
The most expensive summit… Logistical nightmare… The least expensive city… All nations of the world, except for five… 2,000 accredited journalists… And words heard during the Johannesburg Summit
* The Rio+10 Summit is the most expensive global meeting in history: at least 55 million dollars. But who pays? Most of the budget came from the coffers of the government and the wallets of the private sector of a developing country, the host, South Africa.
* A big little problem of logistics: the posh convention center at Sandton, summit headquarters, only has the capacity to hold 7,000 people (the number of official delegates calculated by the event's organizers). What happens when more people show up? And what if they all arrive at the same time? A nightmare for the firefighting and emergency services.
* Is everyone here? No, but almost all countries are represented in Johannesburg. The only five nations in the world without delegations are Chad, Nuru, St. Vincent and Grenadines, San Marino and Turkmenistan.
* Johannesburg, better known here as "Joburg", replaced Blantyre, Malawi, as the world's cheapest major city. But the taxi drivers here seem to be unaware of that fact. During the summit, fares have quadrupled.
* Approximately 2,000 journalists are accredited to cover the WSSD. Most have to fight for space, a telephone line and a computer, at the press center located in the Joburg suburb of Sandton, where the summit is taking place. A note to colleagues who have yet to arrive: There's no more room!
* While at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro there were concrete political treaties to sign (on climate change, biodiversity and desertification), in South Africa there is a plan for general action on three issues that are also general: water, biodiversity, energy, agriculture and health. In other words, everything and nothing.
* Hundreds of events parallel to the WSSD cover the most diverse topics and seem to run on endlessly. Every journalist can be assured of at least 100 offers for potential news reports each day, from NGOs, UN agencies, delegates and other interest groups.
* Journalists are busy in the early hours of the day trying to choose a topic. If their nose for news doesn't work, they can try tossing a coin. Meanwhile, the photographers can be seen yawning because there are no spectacular photo opportunities.
* Ask most representatives of NGOs and they'll tell you the Summit is neither democratic nor transparent. The negotiations are going on behind closed doors. Hermetically sealed, they say.
* "It's logical that the environmentalists are uncomfortable. They didn't invent the term 'sustainable development'." Fernando Almeida, chair of the Brazilian Entrepreneurial Council on Sustainable Development, about the strong role played by businesses and corporations at the Summit and criticized by many civil society groups.
* "Washington is abandoning the war on poverty." Jeffrey Sachs, U.S. economist and director of the Earth Institute at the University of Columbia, in New York.
* "I'm selling a lot, and I hope to sell much more when the presidents arrive." Yousouf Sofiti, a crafts vendor who normally earns 200 rand (20 dollars) a week, and is now earning 7,000 rand (700 dollars).
* "We environmentalists define the United States, Canada and Australia as the 'axis of environmental evil'." Ricardo Navarro, Salvadoran, president of Friends of the Earth International.
* "If one begins to be infected by the spirit of frustration, that nothing will come out of this, nothing will come out of this." Víctor Litchinger, Mexico's Secretary of Environment, upon his arrival at the Summit.
* "Are we at Rio plus 10 or at Doha plus ten months?" Marcelo Furtado, representative of Greenpeace-Brazil, criticizing the Summit's emphasis on trade and finance agreed at the last ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization held in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001.
* By IPS correspondents Hilmi Toros, Thalif Deen, María Laura Mazza and Néfer Muñoz.