1 September 2002

SOUTH AFRICA: Last-gasp talks at the Jo'burg Summit

Officials and ministers are expected to make last-ditch efforts on Sunday to resolve outstanding issues in a global anti-poverty plan that is meant to be adopted at the conclusion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) next week.

A committee of ministers took over responsibility to forge agreement on seven of the remaining 14 sticking points. These include delivery targets on sanitation and renewable energy, and references to "common but differentiated responsibility" in the draft Johannesburg Declaration. The other deadlocked sections related to a ten-year work programme on sustainable production; the wording of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change; paragraphs regarding the depletion of natural resources; and bio-diversity.

United Nations special adviser Lowell Flanders said the remaining outstanding issues, including the developing world's call for commitments on the phasing out of trade-distorting agricultural subsidies in Europe and the United States, would remain up for debate in the contact group of officials. He was cautiously optimistic that differences on all these issues would be resolved before the Heads of State section of the summit begins on Monday, September 2.

Some of the 109 heads of state and government expected to take part in the conference arrived in the country on Saturday, but the lion's share should touch down during the course of Sunday.

United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan will visit the Sterkfontein Caves near Krugersdorp with President Thabo Mbeki before addressing a business lekgotla with international and local companies in Sandton.

Meanwhile, the media had a field day during the Social Movement Indaba march from Alexandra to Sandton on Saturday.

From early morning in Alexandra the cameras feasted on a multitude of banners and posters, ranging from "Hands off Iraq" to "Gobble Ya Own GMOs Dubya" to "Mugabe, Stop Privatisation". TV cameras also zoomed in from the back of the flat-bed truck used to lead the march, but "comrades journalists" were soon requested to get off, and then threatened with eviction if they did not do so.

Microphones gobbled up slogans like "Viva Saddam Hussein, Viva" and "Who let the bombs out? Bush, Blair, Chretien!"

A big effigy of a shark swam along over the head of Anti-Privatisation Forum member Tshepo Mulaudzi. She said it represented President Thabo Mbeki. "He doesn't deliver to the people." (Sapa)

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