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Un especial de Tierramérica: Cumbre Mundial sobre el Desarrollo Sostenible,
Johannesburgo, 26 de agosto - 4 de septiembre 2002
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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?

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