Monday, August 26, 2002

Latest Earth Summit Snooze
Since the UN came up with the format for the Johannesburg Summit, it's a little hard to explain, but here goes.

Over in Nasrec, the Non Governmental Organizations (NGO's) are having their meeting which seems to go by multiple names including the World Forum, Global People's Forum, or Civil Society Global Forum. This is a major wingnut magnet as the AP describes:
Men and women in traditional African dress stood side-by-side with suited delegates talking into cell phones in the long lines of people waiting to clear security at the entrance to the forum.

Inside, Jewish students danced with farmers from the tiny southern African nation of Lesotho.

An artist fashioned penguin ice sculptures with a chain saw, leaving them to melt in the sun to represent the effects of global warming. And two Falun Gong followers sat cross-legged on the floor meditating next to a display of photographs illustrating the suppression of the spiritual group in China, where it is outlawed as an "evil cult."

Other protesters sang songs from the South African struggle against apartheid and waved placards describing the World Trade Organization as "a monster" and proclaiming: "Release land for landless people."
Gawd! A sixties flashback!. But it gets better:
Despite the festive atmosphere, however, the forum has been plagued with logistical failings.

Organizers had yet to finalize a list of speakers for the event, which officially began Saturday. A promised address by former South African President Nelson Mandela was canceled at the last minute - his office said he was never told he was expected to be there.

Only about half of the anticipated 40,000 delegates registered over the weekend. While people continued to arrive Monday, the main hall was more than half empty for the start of talks.
But peace, love, and general incompetence did not go far enough according to Reuters:
South African police at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg stepped in to keep small groups of jeering Palestinian and Israeli activists apart on Monday.

About a dozen youthful protesters from both sides taunted each other from afar in a 20-minute shouting match but, when the groups moved closer together, heavily armed police quickly moved in and made them disperse before they could come to blows. ...

The young Israelis sported T-shirts with the slogan "Stop hijacking the summit" while the Palestinian placards said: "End the new apartheid in Gaza" and "Free Palestinans".

The line taken by Palestinian environmental activists at the summit has been that conflict with Israeli armed forces has prevented them taking the time to think about how to save the planet.
Don't strain yourselves, fellas!

The most radical of the wingnuts seem to be in charge of this clambake and are calling for a big protest march this Saturday to confront the exploiters in Sandton. Stay tuned for the riot!Meanwhile back in Sandton, the "real" governmental summit had yet another kickoff today, this time without giraffe costumes. The usual suspects , South African President Thabo Mbeki, and UN hacks Klaus Toepfer and Nitin Desai delivered a full load of blather before the proceedings veered into the Slumber Zone:
To allow others to discuss the issues, organisers have staged a series of plenary discussions, in an effort to help the world focus on the main issues.

The format of each session is a mix of official statements, questions and answers from experts and comments from the floor.

But our correspondent says the first two sessions - on health and biodiversity - have not shown the format to be a total success.

The organisers were keen to get off to a harmonious start by choosing a topic on which nearly everyone agrees.

The result was a health session at which speaker after speaker pledged their government's support for better health and listed their achievements and the large amounts of aid they give.
The biodiversity debate has been livelier, with discussion ranging over questions of biotechnology and the patenting of natural life forms.

Our correspondent adds that although the South African foreign minister appealed to speakers to be brief, most speakers approached the microphone clutching prepared statements and read them with single-minded determination.

Organisers say it is the first time this kind of format has been tried at a big UN meeting, and they expect the debates to get livelier as the week goes on.
It's hard to see how that could happen unless some delegates come down with terminal flatulence.
Others pin their hopes on the arrival of senior delegations later in the week.

One UK delegate told BBC News Online: "Nothing's happening here - nothing of any substance. And nothing will till later in the week, when there'll be a critical mass of ministers here."
So why are we paying for it? It sure isn't for the entertainment value. The answer appears to be that the cast of thousands provides a scenic backdrop for backroom negotiations.
The BBC's Liz Blunt at the summit says the main political work is being carried out by a relatively few delegates in closed door sessions.
Hey guys, why not rent a conference room at a Holiday Inn in New Jersey? And how much money is the "political work" going to cost the long suffering US taxpayer?