NEWS

NIKOS HARALAMBIDIS

The main reason for the failure of the Johannesburg summit is the fact that the participants did not want it to succeed. At the preparatory meeting in Bali, even the national delegations admitted that they did not expect anything, and spoke as if the summit had been imposed upon them; there was a general inability to find solutions. The absurdity is that the solutions were plain, just as the problems were, but no measures were taken. The leaders made fine speeches which bore no relation to what the bureaucrats next door were signing. That is because taking measures means changes to the means of production and consumption, which would incur the displeasure of extremely powerful economic interests, such as the petroleum industry. As for Europe, it presented a very positive image but was willing to do very little. Once it refused to negotiate the question of subsidies – a key issue related to agriculture and hunger – it had no room to negotiate on anything but regional issues since it had destroyed any chance of an alliance with developing countries. In the end, the summit was even worse than was originally expected. We were hearing warning bells while we were sitting and talking about whether the bells are ringing for us or for the neighbors. No one wants to take any action until they really have to. However, we have to decide how many deaths it will take before we do take action, and specifically, how many deaths in developed countries, since it appears that the value of human life varies from place to place. The only way ahead that I can see is for countries to cooperate with each other. Locally, of course, problems aren’t being solved. We simply act at a local level in the hope that we are creating a new momentum to reverse the climate of inaction. From that point onward, things are in the hands of the civil society – and I don’t mean only the non-governmental organizations, but unions, development associations and so on – which should take the situation into very serious consideration.