Straw Dogís Hot list
In the language of the United Nations, straw dogs are documents put on the table so that the negotiating parties at least have something to take apart. So here is Straw Dogís current list of hot issues in South African civil society. Other straw dogs will follow shortly.
Agenda 21. The review of Agenda 21 has been done, twice by government and in a process in which civil society participated. A number of organizations continue with work in this area, for example Oceans and Fisheries, Biodiversity etc. In the review meetings, it was clear that South African civil society is mostly concerned with local issues. It is crucial that a commitment is made by government or civil society on its own, to proceed with a National Strategy on Sustainable Development.
- NEPAD. This promises to be the most contentions for SA Civil Society as it is both the centre piece for the SA government (and has made it into the Chairmanís paper after Prepcom 2 as the vehicle for the special deal for Africa), and controversial in Civil Society. Its controversy derives from two reasons: 1) it was not consulted with African civil society and 2) it is argued by civil society organizations to contain elements of GEAR/structural adjustment. There are a number of initiatives in South Africa and Africa to discuss NEPAD, including a meeting of African scholars in Nairobi and the end of April.
- Trade issues. The international economy and the debates around the World Trade Organisation, (WTO), World Bank and IMF are important in debates about sustainable development. The Doha Round has seen South Africa in a controversial role. The Trade Strategy Group has issued a declaration that WTO issues should stay out of the WSSD.
- UN Reform. This issue has not had much airing in South Africa, but is seen internationally as important. Global governance is split into a multitude of different areas and many meetings so that poorer countries simply cannot field the necessary negotiating teams. Transformation should apply not only to the UN system, or only to environmental governance, but also to all institutions of Global Governance, e.g. the WTO. This is related to "trade issues" above.
- Ecological Debt. A South African, African and worldwide campaign (run by Jubilee 2000) to press not for debt relief but an acknowledgement by former colonial powers that they owe a debt to the former colonies, as well as for what happened in post-colonial times. While the campaign may not directly change the text of the Summit, it may influence the debt relief negotiations which are implied in the chairmanís paper and in NEPAD (as well as other fora).
- Corporate accountability. The campaign for corporate accountability intends to fill a big gap left in Agenda 21. It has gained momentum internationally, and serves as a counterweight to the Global Compact that leaves a large space for corporate green washing. Local support from green organizations is strong, e.g. Groundwork. It opposes "self-regulation" by business.
- Partnerships. In order to transform how business and governments work, and to give reality to the many resolutions for a better world (in particular the UN Millennium targets), civil society enters into partnerships with other players. These are the "type 2 outcomes" expected from the Summit. While logically necessary for transformation, this is a difficult and potentially divisive issue for civil society. It needs a careful, well-informed approach. In particular, why should business, while it represents nothing but the intention to make profit, be part of governance structures rather than simply subcontractors to government?
- Water has risen to an important place on the WSSD agenda. It is basic to poverty issues (see point 5 of chairmanís paper) in the official text. It will be the subject of discussions around partnerships, e.g. in the "Our Common Future" (UNED Forum) discussions. It is of course crucially important to ordinary people, to a strong and quite well organized water sector internationally, and the subject of heated debate in South Africa. The idea of an African Water Forum has been proposed, as well as a South African water sector meeting convened by civil society.
- Food security, access to land and the use and ownership of natural resources are important topics in rural livelihoods, for poverty issues and therefore for WSSD (as well as for the social forum which has still to define its distance from or engagement with the WSSD, but will be in some measure oppositional). A farmers convergence is planned as a side event/six day workshop bringing 1 600 farmers from all over the world together. A prime mover is PELUM, in association with. A South African alliance between PELUM, Biowatch, Landless People, various NGOs in rural sector including NLC and RDSN are part of it, integrating biodiversity, including GMOs into a broad SARD (Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development) front.
- Oceans and fisheries Ė a related concern, involving food security, livelihoods and economic justice, with local (fisher folk on the West Coast, for example) and international dimensions (Spanish and Canadian boats fishing illegally of the coasts of South Africa, Mozambique, Somalia etc.)
- Peace. Various groups have expressed their support for peace in Africa. However, there are no details of how to get there. The idea has been mooted from the Ceasefire Campaign and Gunfree South Africa, as well as African refugee groups, to build a peace platform which will focus on specific peace or anti-war campaigns e.g. the convention against the use of child soldiers, small arms agreements etc.
- Energy is an important issue for the summit, with the focus on equitable access to energy as well as an increasing role for renewable energy resources. There is an active SA NGO discussion group, which is well connected internationally, and taking part in international processes.
- Mining. Some of the outcomes of the current mining partnership process are controversial, yet it is expected to be tabled at the WSSD.
- Health is important, and a topic of a forthcoming partnership, e.g. to eradicate malaria. The HIV/Aids issue has been identified as crucial for South Africans through the brilliant Treatment Action Campaign.