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An ecumenical team of more than 20 people from all continents, representing churches, regional ecumenical organizations and Indigenous Peoples' communities is attending the second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

The composition of the team at this week's meeting in New York, USA, "reflects the priorities of the World Council of Churches (WCC) for the World Summit itself," says Dr Martin Robra from the WCC "Justice, Peace and Creation" (JPC) team. According to Robra, the main issues are:

  • Southern Africa: The Summit will give churches in Southern Africa an opportunity to share their concern about sustainable livelihood for the people in the region with a wider public. The WCC is working closely with the South African Council of Churches (SACC) on this issue; the SACC will be represented in New York by Rev. Sipho Mtetwas.

"The WCC believes that the failure to implement many of the promises made at the 1992 UN conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (UNCED) points to a lack of political will to fulfil the Rio pact between the environmental agenda and the need for social development. But it also reveals the inherent tension between the stated goals and the means chosen to reach them. There can be no doubt: destructive processes have continued and are continuing since UNCED, " Robra explains.

According to Robra, previous WCC delegations to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development sessions stated clearly that sustainability cannot be achieved by current economic approaches premised on unlimited economic growth and a continuous and unregulated expansion of production and consumption for the world's rich. "Those who work for life with dignity in just and sustainable communities must take this into consideration. Often, resisting the exploitation and destruction caused by a wrong understanding of development is not so much a choice as an imperative for people's survival," he explains.

"More and more, people are deprived of the resources essential for their survival. Their living conditions are deteriorating. Those who are already impoverished and marginalized suffer most. Without access to money and the market economy, their lives depend on what support the community can give and what nature has to offer. A shift in perspective and of the economic paradigm is required. Defending the earth is not a project. Defending the earth is a way of life," Robra concludes.

For further information, please contact the WCC International Affairs Liaison Office, tel.: (+1) 212 867 5890