Johannesburg — WITH a little more than three months to go before the World Summit on Sustainable Development, senior officials connected to what will be the largest United Nations (UN) event have insisted that substantial progress had been made on reaching agreement on the extensive agenda.
The chairman of the UN Preparatory Committee negotiating the agenda, Emil Salim, and the most senior UN official dealing with the summit, Nitin Desai, who holds the title of secretarygeneral for the summit, said in Pretoria on Friday that "substantial progress" had been made.
Both officials attended an informal two-day seminar organised by government. Desai said it was natural that there would be "prenuptial nervousness" before an event of this kind.
President Thabo Mbeki gave what officials said was an "offthe-cuff" address to the delegates, including UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, and the most senior US official dealing with the event, John Turner.
Some officials have said that the text after a preparatory meeting earlier this month had been "unwieldy" because of its length and the number of issues it attempted to address.
Negotiators will meet at the end of the month in the Indonesian island of Bali at the final preparatory meeting before the summit in Johannesburg.
None of the officials were specific about the nature of the progress that had been made or what agreements had been reached at the Pretoria seminar.
Salim said the key goals of the summit would be poverty eradication, changing unsustainable production and consumption patterns over the next ten years, and protection of the environment. He said he hoped that the heads of state at the summit would make a commitment to reaching specific goals in a political declaration.
Last week UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan said the summit should focus on five strategic areas: water and sanitation, energy, health, agricultural productivity, biodiversity and ecosystem management, which he said could be remembered by the acronym Wehab.
About 100 heads of state and 25000 delegates are expected at the summit, which will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre from August 26 to September 4.
More than 40000 delegates from nongovernmental organisation are expected to attend a conference which will be held at Nasrec during the summit.