South African President Thabo Mbeki has called for a global partnership to achieve sustainable development and the eradication of poverty throughout the world. The South African leader made the appeal Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro on the last day of a preparatory conference for the upcoming sustainable development summit in Johannesburg.
The three-day meeting in Rio brought together government officials and representatives of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and others to discuss the issues that will be raised at the Johannesburg summit in August.
Addressing the delegates, South African President Mbeki made an impassioned appeal for concrete action to achieve the goals of sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.
"As we prepare to travel to Johannesburg we all know that people can change, that it is possible to change the lives of the poor. We also must believe that it is possible for us to live in harmony with nature," he said. "A global partnership of sustainable development and for the eradication of poverty is within reach….On behalf of the people of Johannesburg and of South Africa in general, I'd like to invite the leaders of the world and the representatives of peoples from all walks of life to join in the pursuit of this agenda of hope."
He was joined in this appeal by Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, who both addressed the conference Tuesday.
Rio was the site ten years ago of the Earth Summit which laid out a series of recommendations for preserving the environment and achieving sustainable economic development. But some of the targets set in 1992 were not met, and the hope is that Johannesburg will set the stage for a renewed global commitment.
At this week's meeting, delegates discussed issues such as energy, global water policy, aid for developing countries and improved trade access for third world products into the markets of industrialized nations.
Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace says while more progress needs to be made on these issues, he is encouraged by the pledges made at the Rio meeting by the leaders of Brazil, Sweden and South Africa.
"All these issues are still on the table, and they need to be tied up in the next two months, and it is very encouraging to see President Mbeki, President Cardoso and Prime Minister Persson stand up and basically put their political credibility on the line in a very strong way and say we must succeed in Johannseburg; we cannot afford failure," he said. "They have staked their colors to the mast, and we hope more world leaders will do that in the course of the next few months."
President Bush has no plans to attend the Johannesburg summit, which prompted President Cardoso Tuesday to call on all members of the international community to, as he put it, "assume their responsibilities."
After he spoke, Mr. Cardoso handed over a box made of tropical wood to President Mbeki to symbolize the transfer from Rio to Johannesburg of the mandate for implementing Agenda 2,1 the program of action agreed to by world leaders at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.