Mission to Save Planet is “Failing”

Two separate groups have recently released dismal assessments of the state of the world, warning that humanity is not doing enough to make life on the planet equitable, sustainable and safe. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has lambasted national governments for failing to act decisively against global warming, warning that unchecked climate change is already exacerbating a host of other human ills: malnutrition, conflict, disease, and poverty. The forum also deplores the state of international human rights, condemning oppression from Darfur to Guantanamo Bay. Make Poverty History, for its part, has launched a new campaign against perceived injustice in international trade ahead of next week’s annual WTO meeting. The WEF views such activism as a positive sign, believing that social consciousness, combined with politicians’ laudable efforts in debt forgiveness and peacemaking, is the best way to improve the global problems in its report. Indeed, the WEF is guardedly optimistic on several fronts, noting that much has been accomplished to promote the causes of peace and education—but that much more, too, still needs to be done. “These are not reasons for despair,” says former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, echoing the cautious optimism amidst the WEF's gloomy assessments. “They are, very definitely, reasons to redouble our efforts.” – YaleGlobal

Mission to Save Planet is “Failing”

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

The world scored an abysmal two out of 10 for its efforts in trying to save the planet from environmental mayhem this year.

That is the stark view of the World Economic Form (WEF), which has blasted governments for failing to make progress on global warming and on the safeguarding of the world's endangered environment.

Few countries have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions, and the United States continues to ignore the Kyoto climate treaty, the forum points out. As a result, the annual check-up from the Forum's Global Governance Initiative gives the world only two points out of a possible ten on ecological issues.

"Climate change is already exacerbating malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea throughout the world," the forum warns. "The world's poorest people need sustainable managed ecosystems to preserve their livelihoods, and scarcity of natural resources can fuel violent conflict."

The forum's warning comes as the charity Make Poverty History launches a new campaign for trade justice. Using posters of sports stars, the publicity drive has been timed to coincide with the World Trade Organisation's annual meeting in Hong Kong next week.

Stars -- including Steve Redgrave, Kelly Holmes, Sol Campbell, Jonny Wilkinson and Nick Faldo -- pose in a series of images to illustrate how unfair trade rules are holding back the performance of developing countries. Redgrave is seen clutching bananas instead of oars, Wilkinson attempts a try conversion with a pineapple and Faldo attempts a putt with a sunflower. The images feature key elements of the campaign: how global trade rules destroy farmers' livelihoods and force the developing world's poor to pay for basic services such as water, health and education.

"Farmers in wealthy countries are subsidised by their governments and dump their excess produce on poor countries," said a spokesperson for the charity. "So farmers in developing countries can't even sell their produce locally, let alone export it to foreign markets."

Human rights also worsened across the world in 2005. The WEF criticises weak world reaction to violent attacks in Darfur, Sudan, and warns that knee-jerk government responses to terrorism, including the tube attacks on London, have threatened civil liberties.

"From the United Kingdom to Thailand, laws passed in the name of fighting terrorism shifted the centre of gravity from protecting rights to restricting them -- with uncertain consequences for democracy." The WEF researchers also attack the "legal black hole" of Guantanamo, where the US continues to holds prisoners without charge.

However, despite its pessimism about the environment and human rights, the WEF gives a cautiously positive report for 2005 overall, with better scores for the global fight against poverty, hunger and war than last year.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair receives plaudits for his leadership in pushing through agreements on debt forgiveness and substantially increased aid for Africa at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July.

Make Poverty History and the Live8 concert this summer are also commended in the report as a positive sign. "Civil society groups have mobilised on an unprecedented scale to force governments to get more serious about their commitments to the world's poor," it says.

Peacemaking efforts have helped to prevent any new conflicts breaking out this year, the WEF says, while peace agreements in Sudan and Indonesia raised the hope that two long-running conflicts could be brought to an end. However, it said bringing an end to the violence in Iraq should be an urgent priority in the new year.

On education, too, there has been some progress, including a 20% increase in primary school enrolment in some of the poorest African countries, including Ethiopia and Malawi.

However, the WEF points out that there are still 100-million children worldwide who do not go to primary school; and 94 countries where more boys than girls receive an education. Achieving universal primary education within the next decade is one of the Millennium Development Goals which 189 countries signed up to in 2000.

Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who sits on the CGI's steering committee, said the report showed how much still needed to be done.

"These are not reasons for despair. They are, very definitely, reasons to redouble our efforts. If we do, historians may look back one day and say that 2005 was the real beginning of the 21st century -- the century when humanity found ways to achieve meaningful stability and prosperity throughout the world."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005