THE EARTH Summit starts in Johannesburg, South Africa, next week. World leaders will talk about tackling poverty, dealing with the environmental crisis and embracing 'sustainable development'. US president George W Bush is hostile even to making such noises. This could lead some people to think that the summit must contain something good.
The truth is that the gathering is dominated by those responsible for the awful state of the world. The plans they will push in Johannesburg will make things worse, not better. Ten years ago world leaders gathered for the first Earth Summit, in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. They pledged action on poverty and the environment.
A key promise was that richer countries would massively step up aid to the poorest countries. Every one of the rich countries at Rio vowed to at least double its aid budget, to 0.7 percent of economic output. Since then aid has been cut. It is down to a miserable 0.22 percent of economic output across the rich countries.
In Rio governments also pledged to cut the debt burden on the world's poorest countries. Instead it has soared by a third to £1.7 trillion, and now kills 19,000 children every day. Tackling the threat of climate change and global warming was another key pledge at Rio.
Leaders said they would cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas responsible for climate change. But between 1990 and 2000 global carbon dioxide emissions grew by a staggering 9.1 percent a year. That madness means we will see more of the extreme weather that has been seen recently.
These catastrophes have been accelerated by the policies of the giant corporations, governments and institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO. They argue that nothing should stand in the way of global capitalism. Yet it is this system that lies behind growing poverty and the threat of environmental disaster.
In Johannesburg they are offering more of the same. Gone is even the pretence that global regulation of the system is the answer. It is in building the movements - against capitalism, its poverty, environmental catastrophes, and its wars - that the hope for a future for the world and its people lies.
Pensions fight hots up
WORKERS AT the Caparo steel group staged Britain's first strike in defence of the final salary pension last week and planned another day's strike this week. Final salary schemes guarantee a pension based on what you earn. Employers have been rushing to change to schemes which gamble workers' future on the stock exchange.
This is what Caparo did in April - for existing workers as well as new recruits. The strikes are taking place among 300 workers at Caparo plants in Scunthorpe, Tredegar and Wrexham. Eddie Lynch, the assistant general secretary of the strikers' ISTC union, said, 'The company has to recognise the sense of anger and anguish it has caused our members and their families. All they want is the security in retirement they have saved for.'
The ISTC added that the company had taken a ten year 'holiday' from making payments into the pension fund up until 2000. Meanwhile workers continued to contribute to the fund! All three sites affected are part of the Caparo group of companies which is owned by Labour peer Lord Paul of Marylebone.