World Summit on Sustainable Development

By Dennis Brutus

The World Summit on Sustainable Development--the WSSD--will be an event of major, indeed global significance.

It is being held August 26-September 4th in Johannesburg, South Africa. In discussing sustainable development we are also discussing the fate of our planet. There will be over 100 heads of state, sixty thousand registered delegates, multiple sessions and much hoopla. But there will also be serious issues taken up.

Some may dismiss the WSSD as just another talking shop, but the fact is that there may be truly serious decisions that will be sneaked by us if we are not careful.

Coming ten years after the last summit in Rio De Janeiro, the assessment of progress will be truly gloomy. Compared to the goals set out in Agenda 21 at Rio the report sheet will show that that there has been little or no progress. The condition of the planet, the pollution of land, sea and air, has grown steadily worse. The corporations are still recklessly concentrating profits and resisting legislation which would try to curb them, and with most lawmakers comfortably bought via campaign contributions, they can safely defang laws which would try to restrain them.

Some examples of what is happening:

• A block of ice, a thousand square miles in extent, has recently broken off the antarctic land mass, following another somewhat smaller piece, at astonishing rapidity;

• The oceans are rising; Pacific islanders have been forced to leave their homes and move elsewhere;

• Peasants in India are forced to give up lands and homes as the Indian government approves expansion of the Narmada dam.

The United States continues to be the greater polluter of our world, so the U.S. will be a major target, especially after reneging on the Kyoto Protocol and cutbacks on pollution of the atmosphere. But for the continent of Africa there will be an issue of more pressing importance, an effort to foist on the people of Africa a new form of colonization called NEPAD - the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

NEPAD is something of a variant on the African Growth and Opportunity Act, what Jesse Jackson, Jr. called "the new recolonization act." NEPAD is designed to tie Africa to the developed world in a relationship of dependence; already in South Africa some are calling NEPAD "KNEEPAD"--it will bring Africa to her knees. Africa will need all the allies it can get from the rest of the world to resist this new cruel enslavement.

The brainchild of Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's President, he hopes that this act will give him the mantle of international statesman once worn by Nelson Mandela and make him the blue-eyed boy of the west. His cronies include Obsanjo of Nigeria and Bouteflika of Algeria, who hope also to benefit from the largess of the West.

Despite current fractiousness, the forces struggling for true freedom in Africa - as opposed to current cosmetics in South Africa and elsewhere -will get it together in time to mobilize for a peoples grassroots summit - as opposed to the ministerial summit - to challenge this agenda and declare the peoples' opposition. August-September looks to be a lively time. In all sincerity one can say that the fate of the planet itself will be under discussion. The heedless, destructive rush of the corporations for profits and the fierce destructive competition of the capitalist system which drives the present world order in what we broadly call the process of corporate globalization--this itself must be brought to judgement. There are some seeking pretexts to duck this confrontation, but all who care about the survival of our species, of all species, and of the planet itself, must seek to be engaged around these issues.

There will be many ways to be involved: by helping others to participate, by sending messages of support, by contributing funds for those mobilizing in defense of us all. This is a rallying call, a call to action to defend Africa, to defend the planet. It's time to get involved.

Dennis Brutus can be reached c/o Jubilee South Africa, 185 Smith St., Box 31471, Braamfonteir 2017 South Africa,

Posted: Thu - August 1, 2002 at 05:28 PM