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UN Summit vs. the Civil Society Global Forum
by Anna T
The World Summit on Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa •• Aug. 27, 2002 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• Questions abound regarding the differences between the anticipated outcomes of the official UN Summit, attended by government delegates, and the parallel Civil Society Global Forum, a forum for discussion, strategising and learning for NGOs and CBOs from around the globe. Not only are they physically on opposite sides of Johannesburg, the UN Summit being held at the Sandton Convention Centre and the Civil Society conference about 25km’s away at Nasrec, but they will focus on sustainable development from very different perspectives. While governments look at sustainable solutions within the existing economic system NGOs will be thinking beyond these confines to ways of restructuring the way the world functions in order to create a more sustainable future.

The official Summit brings together individual global authorities to chart a course for sustainable development in the next ten to twenty years by adopting an effective action plan for a global effort to reduce poverty and protect the environment. This in accordance with the key areas UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has identified as needing particular attention, namely water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.

This stands in contrast with the numerous non-governmental organisations which have chosen to pool their resources to create a “Peace Caucus” that will be working with energy, water, corporate accountability, women, youth, indigenous people and farmers groups to put together an alternative NGO programme for the planet. “It’s about acknowledging the crisis the world is in and coming up with a solution. The opportunity to share will give people courage and make them stronger within their individual communities. At the end we will have a document to guide us into the future” explained Richard Smith, a member of the Peace Caucus.

It is therefore with much interest that all await the outcome of these two parallel events to see how these documents and plans of action differ and how effectively they may be implemented simultaneously.

Johnson H.F., 2002: New Momentum, Environment and Poverty Times, UNEP/GRID-Arendal, No.1, pg 1.
Kingwill H., 2002: Entering the peace zone, The Big Issue, 62(6), pg 10.

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