Struggles and the Summit

As the pre-Summit meeting of the NGO Global Forum was discussing the lack of implementation mechanisms in the draft document, the moderator interrupted the meeting to announce the arrest of 72 South African activists who were leading a march of landless people in Johannesburg. The President of the Confederation of African NGOs was one of the arrested. As the news was announced there was a spontaneous outrage among the participants who saw the incident as an attempt by the Government to suppress any popular protest before and during the Summit. A small group was formed to prepare a written protest and two Jesuits contributed to giving the final shape to the memorandum. A call was also given to all representatives of international NGOs to assemble peacefully in front of the central Police Station at Johannesburg. The NGO activists were denied access to the public buses meant for the use of participants at the NGO World Forum. According to the latest information from the leadership of the Confederation, 50 activists have been released, but the leadership remains in jail. The Confederation is unsure as to whether the Government will respond to their petition for bail. During the initial emotional outburst, the objective of the Pre-Summit meeting to prepare an alternative common response to the draft document of the Summit was forgotten. The dedication and commitment of the South African NGOs was commendable. It is a concern that States are trying desperately to avoid at any cost another Seattle. Without integrating the struggles of the poor into the Summit´s agenda, Johannesburg will have little to offer the landless of the world, and the marginalised environment.