Malta's active role in World Summit on Sustainable Development
"Malta will play an active role throughout the Summit," Environment Parliamentary Secretary George Pullicino told The Sunday Times before his departure for South Africa.
"Malta was nominated co-ordinator of the 'Central Group' of EU candidate states, plus Turkey, Bulgaria and Rumania, at a meeting of EU and candidate country environment ministers in July. I will also represent the group at the daily EU ministers' closed meetings starting tomorrow.
"As future members of the EU, group countries need to check and comment on any commitments the EU might make here - their commitments too on becoming members", he explained.
"Malta will also be active in the AOSIS group - Association of Small Island States - which face some unique, sustainable development problems. We will also table a proposal on sustainability indicators for small islands, based on work done by Professor Lino Briguglio, as the basis for a future 'Type II' partnership project."
Deputy Prime Minister Laurence Gonzi, official head of the Malta delegation, comes next weekend to attend the high-level segment starting on September 2, involving 58 heads of state, 50 heads of government and other senior political leaders.
Dr Gonzi will deliver Malta's statement to the plenary on September 3.
The Malta delegation will go straight into informal negotiations which started yesterday between officials of the 186 UN member states attending the summit. These talks are a last-ditch attempt to come up with an agreed language by Sunday for a Political Declaration, Plan of Action and a framework for Sustainable Development Partnerships, to be formally endorsed by heads of state and government.
The outstanding non-agreed 27 per cent of the draft texts emerging from lengthy negotiations at four preparatory conferences since December 2000, cover all the most controversial issues dividing developed from developing nations, in particular economic issues such as trade, aid and debt relief.
Officially inaugurated tomorrow, this largest-ever international conference aimed to strike a 'global deal' to reverse increasing global poverty, social exclusion and environmental degradation, brings together some 15,000 delegates and media admitted to the conference centre inside the huge downtown Sandton City luxury shopping/hotel/office complex.
Formal sessions this week will focus on cross-cutting themes such as water and energy, and involve dialogues between governments, civil society and representatives of UN organisations.
Overshadowing the conference outcome have been the US blocking tactics in the preparatory talks, culminating in President George Bush's refusal to travel to Johannesburg - which drew congratulations from 31 right wing US political and pressure groups, a number financed by oil giant Exxon, according to a document leaked by Friends of the Earth.
While Australia and Canada also appear reluctant to act, aligning with the US on a number of key issues, the EU has in contrast endorsed a series of environmental and development goals as well as targets and timetables to bring them into effect.
The EU has also announced its strong support for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's appeal that the Summit should adopt wide-ranging commitments on five key issues: water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity. The EU has tabled a detailed proposal under the EU Water and Energy Initiatives - the latter positing a massive increase in renewal energy use worldwide.
Challenging the US position, a longer list has now been tabled, including a number of issues the US does not wish to discuss, such as population, climate change, poverty and food security.
Another 40,000 civil society representatives, including environmental NGOs, farmers, trade unions, MPs, business leaders and representatives of major world religions have already started to fan out across the city at dozens of parallel seminars held in various locations, including the massive Global People's Forum.
Most such participants are highly critical of the draft texts, and lack of political will to solve the world's most pressing problems - which many claim would involve a major reform of the present world economic system driven by globalisation, free trade, privatisation and free market doctrines.
They say the present system benefits the rich countries and the world's wealthy while disempowering the poor and devastating the global environment. Recent financial scandals in the US have powered civil society demands for tight corporate accountability under a future international convention.
However, governments have so far apparently yielded to business pressure to refuse this, in favour of non-binding 'greater corporate social responsibility' featured in the draft texts.
These groups also criticise government's emphasis on 'Type II' partnerships - informal coalitions for projects and programmes, which they claim disguise lack of support for Type I agreements - formal political decisions and legally binding commitments on major global policy issues.