World Summit on Sustainable Development: briefing

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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

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The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players.  This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings. 

LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
14 November 2001
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Rev. P Moatshe

Documents handed out:
Operations and Logistics for the WSSD 2002 (Johannesburg World Summit Company)

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed by two representatives from the Johannesburg World Summit Company (JOWSCO), the company created to organise the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The briefing dealt with the status of the preparations regarding transport, accommodation, parallel events and security. The representatives further highlighted various challenges and opportunities facing South Africa in the run up to the WSSD.

MINUTES
The Chairperson advised the Committee Members that their last meeting of the term would constitute a briefing by JOWSCO on their preparations for the WSSD. He welcomed all members and the two JOWSCO representatives, Ms Thandi Davids, Executive Support Manager (CEO), and Professor Joe Diescho, Executive Director (Public Affairs).

Operations & Logistics (WSSD)
Ms Davids initiated the briefing by giving an indication of the scope of the WSSD. She stated that the Sandton Convention Center had been identified as the venue, and the provisional dates for the conference were 2 - 11 September 2001. JOWSCO was expecting approximately 6000 delegates to attend the main conference, but many more delegates were expected to attend the parallel events that had been arranged to take place in Johannesburg. The first of these events that she identified was the Civil Society Indaba. She confirmed that 60 000 delegated were expected to attend the Civil Society Indaba, scheduled to take place from 26 August 2001 to 1 September 2001. A Pre-NGO Week from 19 August to 31 August 2001 would precede the Indaba. 15 000 delegates were expected to attend this latter event. She confirmed that the aim of these two parallel events was to provide a forum for civil society organisations to network and develop lobbying strategies prior to the main events of the Summit. 

She identified two additional parallel events:  the Business Action for Sustainable Development Forum and the ICLEI Conference. The first of these events, arranged by the International Chamber of Commerce, was aimed at providing the private business sector with a forum to discuss issues on the WSSD agenda. The second of these events was a local government conference with a similar purpose. Ms Davids indicated that the Johannesburg WSSD differed significantly from the Rio Conference as there was a clear recognition of the need to provide interaction between private, public and civil society sectors. This interaction did not exist at the Rio Conference.

Ms Davids then proceeded to briefly discuss the Social, Cultural, Theatrical and Excursion Programmes and Exhibitions that had been developed for the WSSD. She indicated that these would be utilised to showcase South Africa's talent, products and opportunities and to promote South Africa as a preferred tourist destination. She further indicated the JOWSCO was inviting corporate sponsorship for these programmes.

In conclusion, Ms Davids highlighted the status of Johannesburg preparations with regard to accommodating and transporting the WSSD delegates. She confirmed that JOWSCO was consulting with all relevant stakeholders within the accommodation sector and was confident that sufficient accommodation would be secured. With regard to transport, JOWSCO, in conjunction with all stakeholders within the transport sector, had developed a transport grid especially for the WSSD that would accommodate all the delegates needs.

General Issues Regarding the WSSD
Prof. J. Diescho proceeded with the briefing by further highlighting additional differences between the Johannesburg Summit and the Rio Conference. He stated that the present conference focused increasingly on people and development as opposed to the Rio Conference that had an almost entirely environmental focus. He said that the present conference was expecting infinitely more delegates and that the South Africa had been given approximately a quarter of the time to prepare it despite the fact that its scale was equivalent to the Olympics. He further indicated that the “east-west� divide, which had existed between countries at the Rio Conference, had shifted more to a “north-south� divide.  South Africa's role in managing this divide constructively and ensuring that issues of poverty and development were placed high on the agenda was crucial.

Addressing security at the WSSD, he stated that this issue was receiving additional scrutiny in light of the recent events in New York. It was crucial for South Africa to change present foreign attitudes that the country was a haven for crime. A “crime free� WSSD would go a long way to shifting attitudes regarding safety in South Africa, and Southern Africa generally, and could well stimulate development in the whole region.

Prof. Diescho reiterated the recognition that the WSSD needed to create a forum where the concerns of the public, private and civil society sectors could be integrated and considered within a constructive forum. Given South Africa's history, he stated that few countries had as well organised or politicised a civil society sector, and he was sure that this sector would ensure the meaningful participation of the global civil society within the WSSD. He identified the need for JOWSCO to engage with civil society in order to identify key role players and define their role and the ambit of their involvement in the WSSD.

He concluded his portion of the briefing by confirming that a central concern of JOWSCO was not only to run a successful conference but also to create a long lasting legacy. He highlighted the importance of safety and security and the opportunities that the WSSD presented to South Africa to make it a preferred location for tourism and development. He urged all Provinces to partake in this challenge.

Questions and Comments
Mr D. Kgware (ANC) stated that the briefing had been useful and had raised many issues. He indicated that many of the members would shortly be returning to their constituencies and requested that a brief document be prepared which the members could use to convey these issues to their constituencies.

Mr A. Van Niekerk (NNP) supported the above proposal and requested further that JOWSCO provide a list of opportunities that it believed existed for the Provinces, other than Gauteng, to contribute to, and share in the benefits of, the WSSD.

Mr K. Mokoena (ANC) raised a concern about what would happen to the street children and vendors who lived in the area surrounding the venue. He asked whether any plan had been formulated to deal with these groups so that they would not receive unfair treatment.

Mr R. Nyakane (ANC), referring to the cultural and social programmes of the WSSD, proposed the inclusion of cultural dances from various groups. He warned against the use only of well-known celebrities within these functions and programmes as this would not afford any benefits to the communities.

Ms A. Versveld (DP) asked how members from the Committee could secure attendance at the WSSD.

Prof. Diescho stated that all possibilities with regard to the Social, Cultural, and Excursion programmes were being reviewed, and these were not only limited to what was available in and around the Gauteng area. He acknowledged Mr Nyakane's concern about using only well known personalities and reiterated JOWSCO's moral obligation to ensure that all South African's benefited from the Summit being held in South Africa.

Ms Davids, responding to the question on street children and vendors, indicated that the issue had emerged within discussions of the Core Command Group, the body responsible for the conference's security. She stated that JOSCO was scheduled to engage with the Department of Welfare and other relevant stakeholders to manage the issue in as humane a manner as possible. Ms Davids further undertook to forward a two-page summary on the WSSD preparations that the members could take to their constituencies. With regard to the Committee Members involvement in the WSSD, she indicated that the South African Government chose its delegation, and this function was performed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. She agreed to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and comment to the Committee on the selection process.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting by thanking all the members and the Committee's staff for a successful year. The meeting was adjourned.

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