Negotiating the future

November 15, 2000

We at Equity Watch are probably among the most arrogant people on earth. We are the rich of the South, trying to represent the poor of the South. We still haven't decided whether we should also represent the poor of the North. Perhaps one day we will. But we hope our readers will pardon this arrogance. It is an arrogance with a cause. An attempt to give a voice to the voiceless, a ear to the unheard and an eye to the blinded.

This is possibly the first time that a newsletter from the perspective of the Southern civil society is being brought out at the conference of an environmental convention. That the Southern civil society needs more representation at global environmental negotiations, which will have a deep impact on their rights, and hence their economies and ecology in the future, goes without saying. The climate negotiations, particularly, could end up dumping huge costs of mitigation on future generations in these countries. Yet their participation, and the amount of information that flows back about the negotiations, is minimal.

Consider participation figures at this conference. Of the 3000 NGO representatives, the majority are from the North. Of the 663 media representations, only 42 are from the South. The result is that very few developing country concerns are even reported in our national media. But perhaps the most worrisome is the ratio of developing country to industrialised country delegates per delegation. The US delegation is 155-person strong, representing 4.5 per cent of the world´s population (this is an unofficial figure from a delegate - a US media contact person said the official figure was not available). The number of delegates to represent India, with 16 per cent of the world’s population? One.