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The Ubuntu Village: Perceptions and Observations
by Robyn L
The World Summit on Sustainable Development
source: iNetNews

Johannesburg, South Africa •• Aug. 27, 2002 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• The Ubuntu Village is a collection and representation of all groups, organizations and countries that are attending the Summit. It is an opportunity to present a view of important issues and projects to the public, and advertise viewpoints, advocate locations (tourism) and increase understanding – “all people and cultures in one village.” This report will focus on the different countries that were running stands, what kind of issues each was bringing to the Summit, and their various stands on current issues.

When looking at Third world countries, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia had focussed in tourism: the promotion of eco-tourism and areas of natural beauty in their country was obvious. Statistics, initiatives and project reports were left to NGO organizations such as the UNDP and UNEP. The issues these countries seemed to be bringing to the Summit were poverty alleviation and debt. An interesting viewpoint was brought in conversation with Algeria’s delegate: he stated that there was no need (and desire) for charity from richer nations, just a request for the inflow of skills and experience to facilitate growth directed to their specific needs.

Brazil was a good example when looking at the kinds of delegates countries had sent to Johannesburg: Brazil was one of the few countries that integrated private, public and NGO representatives under one umbrella to discuss and represent Brazil to the public. This gave Brazil a definite informative advantage as all sectors' views and projects were presented.

An issue that came up frequently in discussion was greenhouse gas emissions and the Kyoto Protocol. Australia claimed that their emissions were below Kyoto standards and their signature was lacking because it was not an adequate reflection of global agreement – too few countries had signed. The United State (US) stated that the people, represented through the Senate, had not wished to ratify the protocol, hence President Bush removing the US affirmation of the treaty. Upon hearing these views, it is interesting to note that Greenpeace lays a large part of the blame of the failure of many Rio ’92 negotiations and conclusions on the US and Australia, saying that their consumption patterns are unsustainable (The Big Issue South Africa, 62 (6) 17, 2002). Algeria, on the other hand, states that although their country has signed the agreement, their gas emissions are 4% below the stated levels because their factories are not as technologically advanced with such a large capacity. It seems to be a case of preaching to the converted, or the right people signing the wrong thing.

The disappointments of the Ubuntu Village were few and far between, and ranged from the exorbitant price of a hotdog, to the apparent lack of any gender / women’s initiative stands and information packages. In my opinion, I had expected gender to be a more popular focal point for many organizations, because sustainable development incorporates utilizing human capital efficiently. There may have been exhibitions that I did not get a chance to view, but overall I was disappointed with the seeming lack of debate around this issue.

The Ubuntu village was an excellent way to gain an introduction to the World Summit: to learn about some of the pressing issues that countries are bringing to the podium, to expand knowledge on various UN organizations, and to get a feel for what the next week or so will bring to Johannesburg, and to us.

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