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Concert Kicks off Johannesburg Summit - 2002-08-24

In Johannesburg, South Africa, a concert has helped kick off this week's opening of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

South Africans, joined by visitors from across the globe, rocked the night away at a concert hosted by the World Wide Fund for Nature to highlight its call to reverse environmental damage. In a statement, Claude Martin of the WWF said he hopes recent environmental disasters such as flooding in Europe and China are a wake-up call. He asked that governments meeting at the World Summit on Sustainable Development set time frames to achieve sustainable and equitable global development.

Mr. Martin's call was echoed by South African Foreign Minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma. "And that at the end of the day, we can also integrate the work of the governments, the work of civil society in all its formations, and the work of the multilateral organizations in the quest for making sure that we do indeed have not only a plan for action, but also that we have the mechanisms, the financing, and at the end of the day we can indeed implement," he said.

While both South African and United Nations officials say publicly they are confident the summit will produce a so-called "Plan of Implementation", non-governmental organizations are skeptical. They point to the failure of governments to fulfill promises and meet deadlines set at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Addressing civil delegates at the WWF concert, South African President Thabo Mbeki said sustainable development is also the responsibility of the individual. He urged the delegates to become activists for sustainable development. "To be combatants for a better life for the people of the world, to be fighters for the preservation of our planet, " said Thabo Mbeki.

The WWF's Mr. Martin said that government must take responsibility to make the Johannesburg summit a success for both people and the planet.