World Summit on Sustainable Development: World Summit the First Time Wales Has Been Represented on Global Stage by an Elected Leader

Article excerpt

THE World Summit in Johannesburg, despite cynicism and disillusionment, was nevertheless a small milestone in the evolution of government in Wales.

Meaningful global agreements were few and far between, but the participation of our First Minister will have lasting repercussions back home. If the Assembly Government's rhetoric is turned into action, this small milestone may even guide others along the road to sustainability.

The UN World Summit on Sustainable Development was much more than a meeting of heads of state - it brought together local and regional governments, business groups, academics and non-governmental organisations. It was the first time in history that Wales had been represented on the global stage by an elected politician: the incorporation of global issues adds a new dimension to the Assembly's constitution.

The role of business was also in the spotlight at Johannesburg. The undoubtedly destructive influence of some big energy companies in blocking progress on climate change and renewables was balanced by partnership agreements for practical projects on the ground. Although the summit didn't institutionalise such agreements into any UN evaluation process, a parallel development on regionalisation makes them highly relevant in Wales.

Rhodri Morgan was co-chair of a global conference of the regions which led to the signing of the Gauteng Declaration. When we look back on Johannesburg, we may find that the process of sustainable development was better served by the involvement of the sub-national governments, progressive business groups and NGOs than the often emptygestures of the heads of state. The inertia and complexity of the nation states prevents them challenging the dominant (and failed) economic orthodoxies. …