Activists slam Earth Summit over AIDS
JOHANNESBURG: The head of a global grouping of activists lambasted the Earth Summit on Wednesday for glossing over AIDS and poverty and criticised rich nations for failing to come up with any extra cash to tackle the crises.
Bheki Ntshalitshali, chairman of the Global Forum of activists which was held parallel to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), said he was shocked that world leaders had glossed over AIDS and poverty.
He also had tough words for his home continent of Africa, saying conflicts had to end if Africa was ever going to develop.
"For Africa and other developing countries, AIDS is a major problem and we do not feel that any of the leaders present in South Africa talked about actions to deal with it with any level of seriousness," he told Reuters in an interview.
"AIDS is decimating whole populations and yet no single African leader spoke with any passion about dealing with it. It was a disgrace and a huge disappointment," he added.
Ntshalitshali said the summit produced no comprehensive package to fight poverty.
"There has been bare words on poverty, as if humankind eats words," he said.
The Global Forum, which ended on Wednesday like the Earth Summit, brought together some 30,000 activists, including representatives from youth, labour, human rights, women and biotech groups.
More than 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, most of them in developing nations. The United Nations estimates AIDS will kill 70 million people over the next 20 years unless rich nations step up efforts to curb the disease.
South Africa, Ntshalitshali's home country, has more people living with HIV/AIDS than any other country, with about one in nine of the 45 million population infected. Botswana is hardest hit with more than one in three of its citizens infected.
Conflicts in Africa must end: Ntshalitshali, a senior official of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said Africa had to end wars if it wanted any chance of developing.
"For us in Africa, ending conflicts must remain a major priority and the global community must help on this. There can be no sustainable development as long as the continent is embraced by war," he said.
He said Africans wanted to see a quick end to conflicts in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and wanted peace in the Middle East and Iraq.
Ntshalitshali said the forum had condemned the United States for what it saw as persistent assaults on democracy.
"It is disheartening that we have a superpower bully that wants to decide who should rule where, who should be removed, who should be assassinated. Where is the future of democracy, human rights and democracy in such a case?" he said. —Reuters