Business tells governments to pay up for Jo’burg Summit

  • 10 October 2001

Business Action for Sustainable Development, a coalition of business associations, today called on governments to provide funding for next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development and relieve South Africa as host country of an unacceptable financial burden that was imperiling the event.

BASD’s task is to assemble the business contribution to next September’s Rio plus-10 Summit with the aim of encouraging economic development, fighting poverty and improving the environment.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the BASD chairman, said at the close of BASD’s two-day inaugural meeting: “We should use the influence we are supposed to have with governments to get the necessary funding. We told participants – Go home, and lean on your governments to do their bit.”

“Following discussions with the South African Government, it seems there are major budget concerns relating to next year’s World Summit in Johannesburg,” he added. “Not surprisingly, the South African Government has turned to business to see what form of financial support they can offer.”

“It is clear that South Africa is well-placed to host this vital conference and that the South African Government is putting a lot of effort to ensure a successful meeting. But it is equally clear that South Africa should not have to bear undue expense in hosting the meeting.”

At the same time, the business representatives resolved to help the World Summit to leave a lasting legacy benefiting Johannesburg and all South Africa. Business would also seek to draw attention to the often neglected business opportunities present throughout Africa. The legacy would mobilize business support for infrastructure development, inward investment and social programmes.

“In this way, business can meet some of South Africa’s most urgent needs: to combat disease, to provide training and education, to improve communications and transport networks, and to supply the finance that enables small businesses to get off the ground.”

Sir Mark told reporters: “It was made clear at every session that the initiatives that really work are in partnership with others. Business cannot do it on its own.”

More than 140 top-level business leaders met with United Nations Under Secretary-General Nitin Desai over two days in Paris to hammer business preparation strategies for Johannesburg.

As protestors clamoured outside, participants inside the meeting shared experiences, devised initiatives and looked at the best ways the global business community could contribute to not only a successful Summit, but a truly sustainable future.

A press statement issued as the business conference ended said the Johannesburg summit was in peril for lack of funding. It noted that global tensions caused by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington had put a heavy responsibility on world leaders to ensure the summit’s success. This was doubly important to a world starved of good news.

The South African government had sought a contribution covering a large part of the costs from the private sector, but business representatives said they could not go along with this.

Sir Mark, a former Chairman of Shell, told a news conference: “If business were to provide core funding, this would feed all the suspicions about business, inevitably leading to charges that it was exerting undue influence.”

The BASD Chairman added: “For business, success at Johannesburg would be if other parties told us that they understood the contribution that business can make and asked: ‘How can we work with business to make it happen.”

BASD is an initiative of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), a global business organization with members in more than 140 countries, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which group 150 major companies with strong involvement in environmental issues.