Johannesburg World Summit

United States in the Dock

September 14, 2002

The following excerpts, written by Lino Oramas, appeared on September 6 on-line edition of Gramma International as part of a report on the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development,

Colin Powell, the U.S. president’s envoy, was the unusual target of jeers from the summit conference hall when he tried to reiterate the positions that were criticized throughout the entire preparation process by the majority of the countries represented at the forum.

The conduct of the world hegemonic power was also the focus of demonstrations against war, environmental deterioration, the plundering of natural resources and pressure on other states, that took place in Johannesburg, coordinated by non-governmental organizations that had their own forum in parallel to the official summit.

The presence of the U.S. secretary of state on the podium during the closing session was opposed by a group of NGO’s that had access to the hall, when he was praising his country’s actions in favor of the environment. Some of the protestors were forcibly removed from the session while the presidency called for order to avoid suspending the session.

After that first incident, there were further protests at Powell’s speech, while he tried to maintain a smile and declared that he had heard everybody.

The speech read out by the secretary of state contained his country’s supposed commitment to sustainable development. Interpretations of hunger in the world, poverty, drought… from the mouth of somebody who had just stated that U.S. well-being was dependent on the well-being of all the inhabitants of the earth, rang hollow, judging by the repeated jeers in the room.

Without making any reference to the fact that the U.S. military budget is increasing every year or to the thousands of people that have died as a consequence of U.S.-promoted aggression; ignoring suggestions to eliminate subsidies on certain products to the detriment of those with fewer resources; and with praise for the adjustment policies dictated by the IMF or reiterating political conditions, to quote just some of the failures in relation to any real commitment to saving the planet collectively, Mr. Powell arrived at the summit on the last day to reap what his country has been sowing.