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IN THE NEWS - August 24, 2002: Johannesburg Summit - 2002-08-23

This is Steve Ember the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

On Monday, the United Nations will open an important environmental conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. At least twenty-thousand people plan to attend the ten-day event. They include more than one-hundred presidents and prime ministers, fifty leaders of large businesses, and sixty high court judges. Conference organizers also expect thousands of representatives of financial organizations, non-governmental organizations, community leaders and activists.

The official name of the conference is the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Sustainable development permits people to meet their needs without harming the environment. It means that people living today do not use up resources needed in the future. U-N officials say sustainable development requires a new kind of cooperation among nations. They say countries must realize that decisions they make may affect people in other parts of the world.

Last week, the U-N released a report warning that current development activities are harming humans and the Earth. “Global Challenge, Global Opportunity,” was published by the U-N Department of Economic and Social Affairs. It examines a number of issues considered central to the conference, including world water and waste systems, energy, agriculture and human health.

The report says one-thousand-million people in the world lack safe drinking water. It says this number will increase by more than two times by twenty-twenty-five. The report says northern Africa and western Asia will be the most affected areas.

The U-N report also discusses the increase in the use of fuels such as oil and gas. The report notes increasing signs that the pollution produced by burning these fossil fuels is causing climate changes.

Food demands are rising as the world population grows. But, the report says current methods of producing food and getting it to people will not be able to meet the increasing needs. The U-N says in many areas land has been damaged by too much farming for too many years.

The U-N report also warns about the effects of human activity on ecological systems. It notes that ninety-million hectares of forest were destroyed in the nineteen-nineties. That is an area larger than Venezuela. The report says this destruction kills more than trees. When forests are lost so are huge numbers of animals, birds and plants that live in forests.

Nitin Desai is Secretary General of the World Summit. He says the goals of human progress and environmental protection depend on each other. Mister Desai says the action plan developed ten years ago at the Earth Summit in Brazil is based on that idea. He says the world conference in Johannesburg is a chance for governments, businesses and citizens to expand on that plan.

This VOA Special English program In The News was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.