NEWS

Cross-referencing in Johannesburg

After the Rio summit, expectations heightened in anticipation of the Johannesburg meeting. Was it, as many say, a disappointment and a failure from a visionary point of view, or a step forward and an encouragement, from a practical and realistic viewpoint? My experience in Johannesburg was partly disappointment but also great encouragement. The disappointing part was in the way in which the governments came to agreement on the official text. It was very weak on human rights and it nearly went backward on women’s rights. But we just managed to stop that. Whereas I was extremely encouraged by the strong role of the business sector and, in particular, civil society groups. I was particularly encouraged because, for the very first time, we saw environmental activists, development experts and human rights activists working together. So we had all three – environmental activists, development experts working in development programs, and human rights activists, the human rights community that I was leading – working together. And by that I mean that in the Rio conference there was no reference to human rights. The following year, at the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, there was no reference to the environment. Now there is cross reference. And this is terribly important for our world, to have this cross reference. I think that what I am really saying is that civil society was ahead of governments. It was disappointing that this important cross-referencing and excitement of civil society is not really reflected in the text of Johannesburg, which in many areas was quite disappointing. It was not all negative. It was not very good leadership at the government level. But from both the business sector, which was very substantially present in Johannesburg, and, in particular, civil society creating these ties was very exciting.