The World Summit on Sustainable Development
Second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom-II)
New York, 28 Jan - 8 Feb 2002
 
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Wednesday, 6 February

The PrepCom cancelled its scheduled morning session as the G-77/China requested more time to develop its positions. In the afternoon, a panel discussion was held on Media and Sustainable Development in parallel to continuing debate on the List of Issues and Proposals. The PrepCom continued its debate on the List into the evening. Photo, from left to right: Snuki Zikalala, Executive Editor of News, South African Broadcasting Corporation, South Africa; Tim Hirsch, Senior Environmental Correspondent, BBC, UK; Moderator: Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head of the Department of Public Information, UN; Jim Laurie, Vice-President, News and Current Affairs, Star TV, China; Barbara Pyle, former Vice-President for Environmental Programming, Turner Broadcasting, US; and Simone Duarte, New York Bureau Chief, Globo TV, Brazil.

Panel discussion: The Media and Sustainable Development

James Laurie, News and Current Affairs, Star Media, stated that sustainable development was a phrase without meaning for most. He said that his channel has probably never done a story on "sustainable development," per se, but that environmental topics such as climate, ozone, poverty, and globalization are covered every week. He noted that there is a problem of language, and that the media stays away from abstractions.
 
Barbara Pyle, former Vice-President Environmental Programming, Turner Broadcasting/CNN, said she uses the term sustainable development in her coverage. She expressed the fear that television audiences only have five- to ten-minute attention spans for topics of sustainable development, but affirmed that the right programming can indeed mobilize people.
 
Simone Duarte, Globo TV, Brazil, stated that sustainable development is a priority coverage area for media in the South. She described how soap operas have been used to insert environmental messages into entertainment. She commented on the high degree of segmentation of the media in the North.
 

Laurie discussed the continuing relevance of television as a mass medium. He noted the important role that a television station's audience plays in the maintenance of its environmental coverage.

Pyle mused on the "dumbing down" of sustainable development in the media. She noted that health topics are covered adequately despite their complexity, and wondered why the same could not be done with sustainable development. She said that reporters would not get excited about just another document, so the WSSD's outcomes needed to be concrete.

 
In the ensuing discussion, Kimo Goree, International Institute for Sustainable Development, wondered why representatives of the new media were not on the panel and asked what is being done at DPI to sustain new types of information. He also said that people are no longer being fed information, people are going out and seeking information. Tharoor responded that maybe they should have included a member of the new media, but believed that traditional sources of media were still the most common.
 

Austria said that maybe governments did not do their job in conveying to the media what sustainable development is. She said that most address environmental issues and stressed that sustainable development is about the interrelationship between economic, social and environmental issues.

 
Green Earth Volunteers, China, asked if assistance would be available to ensure developing country media participation at the WSSD. She also enquired as to the negative impact that media coverage of the environment can have on livelihoods, and put in an appeal for the creation of an environmental education media network. Tharoor replied that funds were not available for media participation.
 
An NGO representative on the Norweigian delegation (RealAudio below)
South Africa emphasized engagement of the media, called for continuing discussion at upcoming PrepComs on the role of the media, and drew attention to the importance of community media. The International Institute for a Sustainable Future said that the story of sustainable development is an easy one for the media to tell, contrary to what some panelists asserted. He called on the UN to highlight and support civil society partnerships that promote sustainability. Delois Blakely, Community Mayor of Harlem and Goodwill Ambassador of the Gambia, requested support for her town-hall meeting to be held during PrepCom-III, to talk about issues of civil society. An NGO representative on the Norwegian delegation noted that the Secretary-General of the UN had recently declared a war on poverty, and suggested that media might pay attention if they heard governments support this war on poverty, adding that "Media will come to WSSD to see how this war will be fought." Tharoor concluded that the battle for SD is part of the larger issue of creating a secure world.
 
Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head of the UN Department of Public Information and Moderator of this panel, started the discussion with the observation that now is the time for the media to take interest in events such as the WSSD, and enquired how media could cover such a complicated topic and event. He noted that the term "sustainable development" itself was complicated, not user-friendly, and did not roll off the tongue. He said that the panel would focus discussion on television, given its impact and global reach.
 
Tim Hirsch, BBC, said stories must not sound preachy, and that the challenge is to see how to get environment and sustainable development stories into the main news. He said the vast issue of sustainable development always seems to be growing and is difficult to sell. He suggested that an issue that reflects an aspect of sustainable development should be chosen and pitched strategically.
 
Snuki Zikalala, SABC, said that every month leading up to the Johannesburg Summit, SABC was focusing on different themes such as environment, education, oceans, health and energy. He stressed human interest stories that the public can relate to, such as job creation for South Africans.
 
Duarte stated that environmental coverage can be done without needing "dumbing down" and losing complexity. She noted that the present "war on terrorism" would probably result in less coverage of sustainable development topics.

Zikalala stated that on busy days, sustainable development should not expect to make it on the nightly news - it is a topic typically reserved for "slow news days." Tharoor asked if WSSD, being a pointed event, would be more news-worthy than other aspects of sustainable development. Zikalala responded that it "depends who says what," but Hirsch retorted that it "depends on who does what." He continued by sharing his concern that media coverage will depend on how defined the agenda will be.

 
Jocelyn Dow, Women's Environment and Development Organization, asked if the news agencies disaggregated their audiences by sex and age to see who is watching what coverage. She said war is an immediate hook as it is bad for sustainable development, and emphasized peace and development. Hirsch cautioned that the media will not take on an advocacy role, and that there is much debate within the media over which environmental issues should take precedence.  
 

France
requested a timetable for the translation of documents on the UN website, stating that these were needed to plan media activities. Tharoor assured the delegate that most public documents were already translated, and that translation of substantial documents is up to DESA.
 
An NGO representative called for progress to be made at the grassroots level by bringing the message of sustainable development to the common people, and called for insuring continuity, and highlighted that the sustainable development process should take priority over a single event, such as the WSSD. Tharoor encouraged NGOs to take material from the UN website and translate it.
 
Delois Blakely, Community Mayor of Harlem and Goodwill Ambassador of the Gambia (RealAudio below)
 
Representative of the International Institute for a Sustainable Future (RealAudio below)
 

Closing comments:

Pyle noted that the WSSD is going to be a "tough sell", and that persistence would be required to get coverage. She urged governments to use their public broadcasting stations to air sustainable development-related educational material, and offered the use of her films.

Laurie predicted that the least likely words to be heard in the next year are "our lead story at this hour is sustainable development". He said that the best place to air sustainable development topics is in documentary format or in current affairs and magazine programmes. He stated that bringing a television crew to South Africa to report on Heads of States meeting does not make for captivating reporting, and that there was a lack of money in the media industry for such coverage.

Hirsch said that the more focused and tangible the agenda is, the more likely it will be to appear in mainstream news. He suggested that ecological disasters offer opportunities to show linkages with larger-scale environmental processes.

 

Tharoor explained to the PrepCom DPI's communication strategy and activities to promote the WSSD.
He is seen here with Co-Chair Ballhorn.
 

List of Issues and Proposals 


Above: Co-Chairs Ositadanma Anaedu (Nigeria) and Lars-Goran Engfeldt (Sweden).
 
On initiatives for Africa, the EU said it would consider the G-77/China's proposal to relocate desertification in the text. He emphasized that African countries themselves must take the lead and that they would support initiatives led by Africa such as NEPAD. He expressed particular interest in initiatives related to water.

On governance, the EU emphasized national sustainable development strategies, and said international sustainable development governance is vital to manage systemic and transboundary challenges, and is linked to institution building and governance at the national level.

Mexico noted it was the first to ratify the CCD, and was grateful to South Africa for their intervention recognizing that desertification affects different regions. He expressed concern that Africa may not get the attention it deserves just because it has its own section. He recalled that the SIDS Programme of Action had not elicited the required attention nor the necessary resources for implementation. He emphasized that the means of implementation must be adequately addressed.
 
On initiatives for Africa, and combating desertification, South Africa, on behalf of the G-77/China, said desertification should not be combined with the section on initiatives for Africa, as other countries are affected by desertification. He said desertification should be moved to another section or should be a stand alone or under natural resources. He emphasized the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and highlighted a number of initiatives, including that the WSSD should propose doubling agricultural production in Africa in five years.
 
The US said the current text does not have sufficient focus on Africa, and said more emphasis must be given to the New Partnership for Africa's Development. He supported expanding the use of satellite and other remote sensing technologies.
 
On governance, Argentina, on behalf of the G-77/China, called for evaluating and assigning new functions to the CSD.
 

Briefing on logistics for the Johannesburg Summit

South Africa gave a briefing on logistics for the Johannesburg Summit. For more information on logistics, visit: joburgsummit2002.com

Representatives of the South African government said they expected 65,000 people to attend the Summit. In addition to the UN Summit to be held from 26 August-4 September, an NGO Global Forum will take place from 18-23 August.

Above left: The exhibition table for PrepCom IV to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, 27 May-7 June, 2002. For more information, visit: www.pc-wssd.com

 

Side event: Cleaning Up the World's Fuel Supply: Getting Lead Out of Gasoline and Sulfur Out of Diesel

This side event was sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council. In 1994, the CSD called for the global phaseout of leaded gasoline, following up on the promise of governments at Rio to reduce air pollution from cars and trucks. Today more than 50 countries have taken action and 85% of gasoline consumed worldwide is lead-free. Additionally, the US and Europe have taken steps to lower sulfur levels in diesel fuel. At the Johannesburg Summit, governments can commit to complete the phase-out of leaded gasoline and to undertake a global partnership to reduce the level of sulfur in diesel to near zero. During this side event, experts spoke on the lessons learned from the successful campaign to eliminate leaded gasoline and on a new proposed effort to dump dirty diesel worldwide.

Jacob Scherr, Director of the International Program, NRDC, said lead is not only an environmental concern but also a health concern which affects both the North and South. He noted Colombia and Brazil had succeeded in ridding lead from gasoline. He said that it is an issue that the average person can understand, and stressed practical steps, political will and the need to act in partnership in order to phase out lead in gasoline and getting sulfur out of diesel.

For more information, visit: www.nrdc.org

Evelyn Mauss, Senior Science Consultant, NRDC, discussed the adverse health effects of lead and diesel, emphasizing their impact on children. She said even at low concentrations, they affect the central nervous system, and that this global tragedy was affecting hundreds of thousands of children who are functioning suboptimally. She underscored that diesel exhaust causes cancer.

Magda Lovei, Lead Environmental Economist, World Bank (right), reiterated that these toxic substances impair the intellectual development of youth, and that no safe level has been identified. She said ridding gasoline of lead does not cost too much and that the private sector is capable of footing the bill, but requires political commitment, policies to encourage shifting gasoline demands, awareness and consensus. She said by 2000, only 15% of the gas in Latin America and the Caribbean was leaded, but noted that Venezuela, in particular, has been slow and uncooperative. She highlighted examples of success stories, including in Thailand, Vietnam and El Salvador. She reiterated that lead is part of the bigger story of air and air quality. She said fuel quality, vehicle emissions and air quality linkage should be looked at in a comprehensive way. Rich Kassel, Senior Attorney, NRDC, made a presentation entitled: Subtracting Sulfur: Reducing Diesel Sulfur Levels to Clean up the World's Fuel Supply and Reduce Urban Pollution. He noted diesels are a major source of urban air pollution, major regulatory efforts are opening doors to cleaner diesels, much of the world is not participating in the cleanup of diesels, and that the Johannesburg Summit is the the perfect opportunity for the world to "Dump Dirty Diesels" by committing to near-zero sulfur levels by 2010. Bruce Bertleson, Executive Director, Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association, addressed Technology Advances and the Importance of Fuel Quality in Achieving Meaningful Emission Reductions from Motor Vehicles.
 

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