Delegate Lock-Out -- It Could Happen
WSSD Bursting at the Seams
By Thalif Deen
The World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD) is not only making history, but is also in danger of
bursting at its seams.
UN Spokeswoman Sue Markham told reporters
that as of yesterday the total head count had reached over
15,800 and rising. The participants include delegates, representatives
of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media.
With 190 countries participating in the
summit -- along with 104 world leaders -- the WSSD will make
history because it will witness "the biggest turnout
ever for a UN conference", Markham said.
Only five countries -- Chad, Nauru, St
Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino and Turkmenistan --
are no shows at the summit.
But the standing room-only crowd has
created logistical problems for the host government and the
local fire department. The main convention centre can only
hold up to 7,000 because of structural problems and fire department
regulations. So far the number of delegates registered exceeds
7,000. But as long as all 7,000 do not turn up at the same
time, the convention centre is in no danger of collapsing.
"We hope we don't reach that point,"
Markham told reporters yesterday.
But it may be a totally different story
next week when heads of state and heads of government turn
up, along with their king-sized entourages.
The U.N. Secretariat apparently did not
know about the capacity of the building until recently.
The important question is: Will delegates
be shut out of the meetings next week if they are clocked
at over 7,000 while walking into the building?
And more importantly, did South Africa
warn the United Nations about this limitation when it vigorously
campaigned against Indonesia to win U.N. approval to host
the summit in Johannesburg?