Limits to Trade
Limits to Trade
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) will take place at the end of August 2002. It is a follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Rio '92 was an important milestone in the environment and development debate. The Biodiversity Treaty, the Climate Treaty and Agenda 21 all originated at the Rio Summit.
The political climate has changed in the years following Rio. Political leaders have become less willing to sign up to international agreements on sustainability and as a result environment and poverty-related problems have not decreased or hardly decreased. The Kyoto Protocol that came out of the Climate Treaty, has yet to be ratified and the amount of aid developing countries receive has gone down in the last decade. Approximately 1.5 billion people live below the poverty level. According to a UNEP (the United Nations organisation for the environment) report prepared for WSSD, environmental problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss, erosion and pollution of air and water are still growing.
The same governments have spent the last ten years signing up to more and more international trade agreements, especially in the context of the WTO. The influence of industry on international politics has grown accordingly. Even the soon to be appointed WTO director, Superchai acknowledged this by pointing out that stricter rules are needed to control the influence industry has on international trade agreements.
The World's leaders have had ten years to act on the declarations made in Rio. Nothing has happened. We think it is time to start taking action for a social, just and sustainable world.
During the WSSD, the results of Rio will be evaluated and new plans will be discussed. There is a strong trend to believe that sustainable development can be best achieved through market mechanisms. Industry is being given more and more influence through for example privatisation and liberalisation of the economy and through public-private partnerships. The WTO, the IMF and the World Bank play an important role in this context.
Environment and poverty problems will never be solved as long as trade interests are considered more important than the interests of people and planet. We believe the growing political power of industry must be controlled and the role of WTO, IMF and World Bank limited.