A lack of political will has blunted the outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and produced a lame action plan, said Christian Aid yesterday, echoing the views of CAFOD, the International Jesuit Network for Development and many other agencies and NGOs who attended the event. "Political leaders have made it clear they lack the vision and courage needed to tackle the problems of poverty and environmental degradation," says Paul Ladd, Christian Aid's head of policy . "From Rio to Johannesburg, the real shift has been in giving a more influential role to business, particularly big business. More than ever, companies are centre stage in sustainable development, yet the Summit has a whole has failed to provide a sufficiently strong regulatory framework to ensure their activities genuinely serve the interests of poor people," says Ladd. "A poor person in a developing country has very little to be happy about after this meeting of world leaders. 'The only silver linings are feint ones - the final action plan leaves room for legally-binding regulation of business in the future. Also, the World Trade Organisation will not be allowed to scupper agreements made on development and agriculture elsewhere," says Ladd. Agriculture This was supposed to be one of the Summit's focus issues. But it seems to have dropped far down the agenda. Very little has been said about the implications of current trade rules for agriculture. It is vital that developing countries are able to make their decision about the imports of cheap foodstuffs - allowing them space to encourage farmers to grow and sell their own food locally. Nothing has been achieved on this point. Aid No additional money has been agreed. Leaders have also failed to acknowledge the massive shortfall in aid levels needed if the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved. Corporate Accountability There is some hope here. Although the final text does not spell out an agreement on legally binding corporate accountability - what Christian Aid is calling for - it does not close down the possibility that an agreement might be reached in the future. However, there is still a danger, until the final text is confirmed, that the US might sneak through a 'letter of interpretation' which would water down the text. Debt No new resources for debt relief have been agreed at the summit and a new report from Christian Aid and other agencies on the debt relief agreed so far says many poor countries will end up spending the same or more on repaying debts. Also the Summit has failed to reaffirm the importance of relieving debt if the Millennium Development Goals are to be met. HIV/AIDS Commitments on HIV/AIDS have been almost non-existent. The only mention of HIV/AIDS comes at the end of the 41st paragraph of the Political Declaration - the killer disease does not even warrant its own sentence. The Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria is still massively under funded (to date just $2bn has been pledged over five years. This needs to be increased hugely, to between $7bn and $10bn. Subsidies Nothing more has been achieved on agricultural subsidies than had already been won at Doha. In other words, the EU and the US continue to resist committing themselves to a timetable to reduce and eventually eliminate subsidy payments, which profoundly affect third world export expansion. These subsidies result in cheap food coming onto the global market, undercutting the products of developing countries. Type II agreements A host of Type II agreements, partnerships between governments, companies and NGOs, were announced during the Summit. These deal with a limited number of problems in a small, specific geographical area (the Congo Basin, for instance). By definition they can only make very limited in-roads into global problems such as poverty and climate change. At the moment, it is not clear how they would be monitored, either. Christian Aid workers say they are very concerned that these agreements are being promoted as an alternative to the global, government-to-government agreements that are needed to tackle these huge problems.
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