Civil society in cash crunch at Earth summit
Country: SOUTH AFRICA
Author: Manoah Esipisu
The so-called Global Forum is expected to bring to South Africa 40,000 activists, environmentalists, labour, youth and women's delegates for the WSSD from August 26 to September 4.
A follow-up to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, the WSSD aims to map out a concrete set of action plans to reduce global poverty and the North/South income gap in a sustainable way without inflicting irreparable damage to the environment.
Desmond Lesejane, deputy CEO of the Civil Society Secretariat, acknowledged serious cash setbacks but said the forum would not be cancelled.
"It is a fact that we have not received the type of funds we required," Lesejane said.
He said that confusion over who was organising the civil society event - his group or the Johannesburg World Summit Company (JOWSCO) - had undermined fundraising.
JOWSCO is responsible for organising the inter-governmental or "official" meetings which will be attended by around 100 heads of state and 5,000 government delegations. JOWSCO says it expects a total of 65,000 delegates in all.
Lesejane said civil society groups now required 200 million rand ($19.8 million) to host the event, up from an initial estimated budget of 100-120 million rand. To date, they have received only 35 million rand.
Civil groups held an emergency meeting with Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa on Tuesday to press for a cash injection. They only won his pledge to help in fundraising and to clear the confusion with JOWSCO.
Work on the Global Forum venue, just south of Johannesburg, has not yet started. Accommodation is also proving to be a nightmare amid doubts that Johannesburg has hotel space for 65,000 people.
Lesejane said the government had now agreed to fund construction of the Global Forum venue at 20 million rand. Construction work will take 8-10 weeks from June 1 and analysts said it was possible the venue would not be ready in time.
Doubts have emerged on whether the civil society groups or the government will be ready in time for the summit.
"It is certainly looking worrying both for civil society and the (official) summits. It will be a big challenge to be ready in time but within the realms of possible," said Richard Worthington, a leading NGO official in Johannesburg.