Reflections on the Earth Summit

Reflections on the Earth Summit

The following reflections are by the Rev David Deeks,Co-ordinating Secretary for Church & Society, after theconclusion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) inSouth Africa:

"It's a lovely dream that the whole world can gather in oneplace and sort out its problems. But it's not real life.

Everyone knows the rules of decision-making in assemblies whereeveryone has a voice. (They apply to Church groups as much as togatherings of politicians and economists).

  1. The broader and more diverse the membership, the harder it isto agree on a plan with specific actions. Conflicting interestscannot easily be reconciled.
  2. The larger the assembly, the more diffuse its outpourings.

This knowledge should have set realistic expectations for theWSSD. It went more or less as we might have predicted:

A very small number of action plans were agreed (but 2 cheersfor the deal to halve the number of people lacking clean drinkingwater and basic sanitation by 2015).

A large number of local agreements were made between particulargovernments, NGOs and companies, which promise significantprogress.

But the large, global assembly - for all its frustrations to theactivists - has some symbolic value. It reminds us, forexample:

Some problems really do affect everyone on the earth.

It is only by an ongoing commitment to the long slog ofnegotiating fair rules and of confronting the seriousness of someissues (like the sources of energy, environmental blight, debt,healthcare and education for all) that we shall make progress as ahuman family towards just dealings and the eradication of abjectpoverty."