World Summit on Sustainable Development
Some of the meetings of this Summit were attended by Franz Auerbach (a host in Johannesburg), Leida Rijnhout and Honora Clemens.
A Servas report on the WSSD Summit in Johannesburg 26.8-4.9.02
I am most grateful to Servas, and especially to our Peace Secretary, Marco Kappenberger, for having invited me to be part of the Servas team to the Summit. My experience of the event would have been much poorer if I had not had the chance of attending the government summit as a "Major Group" observer.
As you may know, there were three accredited Servas International delegates: Ms Honora Clemens, Ms Leida Rijnhout and myself. In addition Dr Jannie Chew of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, met us and joined the Servas gathering arranged by Johannesburg Servas members on Saturday, 31 August.
While we saw no opportunities to put forward specific Servas views, it was a great experience to be part of the Summit, an experience I would like to share with you through Servas International News.
Apart from many ancillary events - which I did not attend - there were three main happenings. First, the main UN Summit (for which the area where it took place was formally handed over by South Africa to the United Nations before the official start). This happened at the Sandton Convention Centre. Secondly, there was the Global People's Forum, at the Nasrec Exhibition Centre, some 15 km away. Thirdly, there was the Ubuntu Village, not far from Sandton, where many organisations and nations showed many examples of how their activities have taken sustainable development into account. At the Global People's Forum many NGO's made presentations (perhaps Servas could have done so too if we had arranged this beforehand; on the other hand I know from other contacts I have that the prior organisation of this NGO event hit some major snags.) The Nasrec delegates were generally critical of the debates and decisions at Sandton. I was at the main Summit on 4 days, at the Global Forum once, and at the Ubuntu Village 3 times.
But all that is merely a boring if necessary introduction.
The Summit was a really exciting event. We met people from every part of the world; I listened to speakers from Iceland, the Netherlands and the Ukraine, from Nepal, Pakistan and New Zealand, from Madagascar, Nigeria and Egypt, from Brazil, Canada and Costa Rica... I heard top experts on agriculture and water, on energy and the role of women in Africa. I listened to wise and inspiring words by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, and I saw many wonderful examples of what people in most parts of the world are doing for peace and for the environment.
A woman in rural India saw forest degradation, planted a tree and inspired other women in rural India to do the same. Result: 20 million trees planted! I saw the film - and the ship - of Robert Swan, the arctic explorer who assembled a team of some 25 young people from all over the world to "clean up" metal debris on King George Island in Antarctica; they actually transported the ship to Johannesburg; it will return to Rio next year, where in 1992 Prof. Swan promised to do something for the environment; he reported in Johannesburg on the amazing adventure he has undertaken for several years.
Obviously I saw only a few of the items on show from the whole earth, and listened to only a few of the presentations - but the effect remains overwhelming - a once in a lifetime experience.
Without trying hard I have collected leaflets and booklets galore, and will read them over the next (few?) months. Many are most valuable documents, like UN documents on Implementation of Agenda 21 and a report on World Population 2001, a "Water Focus for Johannesburg" entitled "No Water No Future", a Framework for Action on Energy, and the Earth Charter....
The most exciting thing was to have people from everywhere on earth in one place, and for that place to be Johannesburg, where I have spent most of my life....And I am sure the other Servas representatives also feel that the Servas ideal of personal contact as a path to world peace was manifest at the Summit in so many different ways.
"Results"? I feel Kofi Annan made a valid point when he said that the division between government delegations and civil society was both artificial and unfortunate. He told NGO delegates that they should not underestimate the impact they can personally and collectively make on governments, especially in their home countries. That applies to all of us... I think that, in spite of complaints that "they" did not go far enough on some specific issues, the momentum created in Johannesburg will carry both poverty reduction and saner environment management forward to a substantial - and measurable - extent. Where the whole world and all its current and future problems are on the table, it would really be unnatural to have simple consensus on all major issues! But I admit I am an optimist; some who expected more are disappointed.
An explanation: I mentioned the Ubuntu village, the world showcase that was part of the Summit. Ubuntu is an African concept which means to "be human, to value and work for the goal of community service above self-interest, to respect other people and to be honest and trustworthy."
I am thrilled that I could experience the World Summit, and I thank Servas for letting me be an insider to it.
Johannesburg, 4 September 2002