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US, poor nations face off at Earth Summit talks

Date: 07-Jun-02
Country: INDONESIA
Author: Dean Yates

As ministers from 150 nations held a second day of meetings on Indonesia's Bali island, environmental groups stepped up criticism of the talks, accusing the United States, Canada and Australia of watering down pledges in a draft action plan.

Greenpeace brought ashore a large, scaly caricature bearing the heads of the presidents from the three countries on a nearby beach, accusing them of blocking efforts to clean up the planet.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg - dubbed Earth Summit 2 - is being billed as the largest U.N. conference ever, although there have been concerns the event might be trying to do too much with an action plan that covers everything from poverty, health, energy and the environment.

At the conference centre at a luxury resort, delegates said stumbling blocks between the United States and the G-77 group of developing nations focused on financing pledges being drawn up in the action plan for the Johannesburg summit.

"The G-77 wants the additional aid pledged at Monterrey to be clearly linked to Johannesburg. But they are asking for detailed conditionality," said one G-77 delegate on the sidelines of the talks, which conclude on Friday.

At a U.N. summit on financing development in Mexico's Monterrey last March, world leaders agreed rich nations would give more aid while poor countries were obliged to use it wisely.

The U.S. itself pledged an additional $10 billion in aid over a three-year period at Monterrey in return for poor nations tackling corruption and improving government efficiency.

The G-77 delegate said Washington wanted references in the plan such as nations would fight graft and boost the rule of law, adding some felt this was an infringement of their sovereignty.

Johannesburg opens on August 26 and has been timed to fall a decade after the landmark Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which put environmental issues on the global political agenda.

The ministerial meeting has been preceded by 10 days of debate between government negotiators on the action plan, which was supposed to be ready last week.

Asked if there had been a row over the issue of funding from Monterrey, a member of the U.S. delegation said:

"I wouldn't categorise it as a row. I think we are all working very hard and trying to come to a better understanding of where we are on this issue...We want to see success here."

"In Monterrey...a contract for development was underscored. What does that mean? That developed countries would provide assistance but at the same time developing countries must also have a stake in this."

Besides getting involved in the action plan, ministers in Bali are in the process of drawing up an agenda for Johannesburg and the outlines of a declaration that leaders will make to underscore political commitments to the process.

Negotiators have agreed the bulk of the draft plan, but delegates said talks could either go down to the wire on Friday or that parts would be carried over to Johannesburg.

Some targets for the action plan were agreed at the U.N. Millennium Summit, which called for halving by 2015 the number of people living on less than $1 a day.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace tried to negotiate with police and civilian guards from Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's political party to bring the three-metre (10-foot) high caricature to the conference centre, about two km away.

At one stage, the civilian guards became agitated, saying the caricature insulted Balinese culture. A Greenpeace official later said a compromise was reached to destory the figure at the beach.

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