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October 2002, Volume 9, Number 10

Sustainable Development

The 10-day UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa concluded with a nonbinding 65-page document that calls for more action than followed the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The final declaration says: "We commit ourselves to act together, united by a common determination to save our planet, promote human development and achieve universal prosperity and peace."

More than 190 countries were represented, and 100 world leaders participated in the final days. The event was designed to develop partnership plans, typically between business and NGOs, to protect plants and wildlife, reduce pollution, and bring water, electricity and housing to the poor.

The annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund was marked by muted protests against globalization, a proposal to facilitate bankruptcy for countries, and criticism of farm subsidies in rich countries-the OECD estimates that farmers in the world's richest 30 countries received $311 billion in aid in 2001, almost $1 billion a day. The World Bank estimated that the average cow in Europe received about $2.50 a day in subsidies, and nearly $7 a day in Japan, while 75 percent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $2 a day. Oxfam calculated that the American government spent three times more on cotton subsidies than on foreign aid for all of Africa in 2001.

World food production has tripled since 1950, the price of food has dropped by nearly 50 percent, and the land used in agriculture has increased by nine percent.

The 184-member nations of the IMF and the World Bank were told by the World Bank that "We are linked by finance, trade, migration, communication, environment, communicable disease, crime, drugs and certainly by terror. More and more people are saying poverty anywhere is poverty everywhere, and their voices are getting louder."

Trade. The Export-Import Bank of the United States is the largest US provider of international credit aid, allowed to guarantee low-interest loans of up to $100 billion at any one time so that foreigners can buy US products. Export-Import is supposed to preserve US jobs, and the US firms that are its biggest users, Boeing, GE, and Caterpillar say that subsidized loans are essential to get foreigners to buy their products.