USA: Bush Turns His Back on Earth Summit

WASHINGTON, DC -- Secretary of State Colin Powell will lead the American delegation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from August 26 through September 4. President George W. Bush made the announcement late today, giving no explanation as to why he will not be attending the summit to join 106 other world leaders on the speaker's podium.

Secretary Powell will be joined by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality James Connaughton, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios, and Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, the President said.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development is sponsored by the United Nations as a 10 year follow up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which was attended by then President George H.W. Bush, father of the current President.

Other heads of government and heads of state who are on the speakers list in Johannesburg include all the other leaders of G8 countries - UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and Russia's Vladimir Putin among them.

President Bush has been under pressure from Republican Party and conservative lobbyists not to attend the summit.

A letter to Bush made public Friday by Friends of the Earth UK shows the nature of that pressure. Dated August 2, the letter is signed by 31 political groups and individuals. It says We applaud your decision not to attend the summit in person."

"Even more than the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992," the letter says, "the Johannesburg Summit will provide a global media stage for many of the most irresponsible and destructive elements involved in critical international economic and environmental issues. Your presence would only help to publicize and make more credible various anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalization, and anti-Western agendas.

Signatories to the letter include representatives of seven think tanks that receive funding from oil giant ExxonMobil, according to figures in an official Exxon document.

The lobbyists' letter states that the least important global environmental issue is potential global warming, and we hope that your negotiators at Johannesburg can keep it off the table and out of the spotlight.

In his announcement today, President Bush said the U.S. team will offer plans that "advance the new approach to development that I embraced with other national leaders at the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development this past May."

"This new approach is based on shared accountability among developed and developing nations," the President said.

"The U.S. delegation will come to Johannesburg with concrete and practical proposals for strong and lasting partnerships to advance some of the world's key development priorities - clean water, modern energy, good health, and productive agriculture - that can lead us to a world without poverty," said President Bush.

A U.S. federal government report prepared for the World Summit on Sustainable Development issued today says the U.S. team will be promoting "good governance" and anticorruption at the summit, in particular "an integrated, cross-sectoral approach to addressing governance and sustainable development."

"The U.S. Government promotes good governance in every region of the world and believes that a good governance component makes environmentally oriented programs more effective. USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] is the lead agency in this work, providing $700 million annually to support an array of democracy and governance activities," the report says.

The criteria of good governance, the government report says are:

  • democratic institutions that are effective, accountable, and transparent an independent and fair judiciary
  • law enforcement that - with integrity - protects the people while strengthening their capacity to combat corruption
  • sound monetary; fiscal, and trade policies that promote economic growth, social development, and environmental protection
  • participation by all members of civil society in decisions that affect them

    The United States gives many hundreds of millions of dollars annually in aid and humanitarian relief to developing nations, and the Bush administration is making it clear that corrupt governments will not be in line for American aid.

    Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2002. All Rights Reserved.

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