August 26 – September 4, 2002

While the Central Committee meets in Geneva, more than 60’000 people gather in Johannesburg for the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development. The World Council of Churches sent a delegation ten years ago to the Rio Earth Summit and accompanied the follow-up process as an expression of the churches commitment for Justice, Peace and Creation. Believing that God created and sustains life and gave us the promise of life in its fullness, the member churches through the WCC advocated for life in dignity in just and sustainable communities.

In the ten years since Rio, however, we witnessed that the Rio compact for sustainable development was not fulfilled by the rich countries and the agenda was increasingly shaped by corporate interests. Global trade, investments, and privatisation of essential services are promoted as the most promising means for a sustainable future. But these promises do not match the reality.

While the summit goes on, a famine is developing in Southern Africa, threatening the lives of millions. Wrong advice by the International Monetary Fund and the severe drought that many say is a consequence of global warming are the two key factors for the famine in Malawi. The IMF forced the Malawi government to cut subsidies for small farming communities and to sell its grain reserves in order to balance the currency account. This left the country even more vulnerable to the drought.

Also “The New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (NEPAD), which was meant to catalyse support for African economies and is discussed at the WSSD, is criticised for the strong role given to global trade and investments and the lack of participation by civil society.

The anger grows that no other solutions are offered, while at the same time the USA and some other industrialised countries move away from the commitments made in the Rio Summit. The refusal to ratify the Kyoto Potocol by the US government is the most prominent but not the only example for this. Submerged by floods and suffering from droughts people in all continents begin to understand that they pay the price for this arrogant attitude.

The World Council of Churches has often challenged the contradiction between the goals of poverty eradication and protection of the environment, which indeed reflect the real threats to life, and the means promoted to solve the crisis. The emphasis on global trade, investment and privatisation will not provide a solution, but rather deepen the conflict between an ever accelerating and expanding global economy and the struggle of people for their livelihoods and survival. It will continue to over-stretch and destroy what earth can offer to present and future generations.

These insights also guide and inspire the Ecumenical Team present at the WSSD in Johannesburg. The team will address these concerns through three side-events, two of which are in the format of town hall meetings and the third a panel discussion.. They all will take place across the street from the Cedar Park Hotel at 13h 15 in the Liban Centre (for address and a map look at The Cedar Park servers as the local base of the team and more than seventy church delegates from all around the world. The side-events will focus on

- a town hall meeting on the constantly accumulating ecological debt owed by the North to the South (August 29): It is said that, for example, more than 40% of the GDP of The Netherlands depends on input beyond the fair share of the Dutch society in the earth’s resources. This side-event is cosponsored with Women’s Environment and Development Organization, United Methodist Church, Sisters of Mercy and Friends of the Earth International.
- a town hall meeting on corporate accountability (August 30) cosponsored with Women’s Environment and Development Organization, United Methodist Chruch, Sisters of Mercy: The team calls for legal frameworks for social and environmental accountability of transnational corporations.
- a panel discsussion on climate change (September 2) : together with Christian Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, Church of Sweden Aid, Brot für die Welt, Church World Service and other church development agencies the WCC calls for solidarity with those most affected by climate change in a statement that will be presented at the Jo-burg summit.

The Ecumenical Team is graciously hosted by the South African Council of Churches. The SACC General Secretary, Dr. Molefe Tsele, will lead the joint SACC and WCC delegation. The SACC also invites all delegates for an opening service in the afternoon of August 25 in Alexandra.

Christians all around the world are called by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to celebrate September 1 as Creation Day and pray for the WSSD in the churches around the world. This call was taken up by the WCC and the European Christian Ecumenical Network ( A chain of prayer will accompany the summit at the beginning of the high level negotiations in the second week of the event.

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