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Prepare for Summit Groups tell Government



The Times of India (Delhi) 26 November, 2001


Nine months ahead of the World summit on Sustainable Development, South Asian civil society groups have come together in Delhi to focus on issues of common concern and try to push their governments into preparing for the battle ahead. 


About two dozen groups from Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India participated in a two-day meeting organised by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Concerned about the lack of preparedness of the region's governments they will use the next few months to try and flag certain issues and "salvage" the process. 


What is worrying them most is that the region's governments tend to be reactive rather than flagging their own agendas and taking up negotiating positions. The "gap" between civil society in South Asia and the bureaucracy is a hurdle; so is the lack of awareness on global environment negotiations. 


"We must have a netogiating position noe one based only on reactions," says CSE Director Sunita Narain, echoed by the others. Adds Ravi Agarwal of Srishti, "Global negotiations have been framed in very Northern terms, we have to have an agenda of our own." 


There are no signs of that yet. As Nalaka Gunawardene from Sri Lanka said, "Preparation is at a very low level in terms of official preparations..but we have to engage and work with political leaders and officials".....the latter don't seem interested, going by the accounts from different countries. National consultations haven't even begun in India. 


Irrespective of whether governments respond or not. Nepal's Dipak Gywali says the civil society coalition hopes to put out a "strong position" before the summit in Johannesburg --- "We have to do our job or, by default we would have lost." 


Some of the concerns date back to the first such summit in Rio de Janeiro, way back in 1992. These are issues of technology transfer and finance, global democracy and governance, linked issues such as compliance, issues of trade and globalisation, urbanisation and pollution, and many more.