SAR should aspire to play greater role in Johannesburg summit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2002, 12:00am

Whether world leaders (or you and I for that matter) have much or little faith in the outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg this week, they are there. Daily we get reports from the international press, some of which are also published in our local newspapers. But one conspicuous absence are reports in the local pages, written by local journalists, with comments of local government officials or community leaders attending (or following) the summit.

Where is the aspiring-to-be Asia's World City in all this? Why after so much impetus back in the 1998 and 1999 Chief Executive's Policy Addresses and the setting up of the Sustainable Development Unit the debate does appear to be dead at a moment when everyone (and every world city) is discussing the issue?

You may argue that I have not done my homework and have missed reading SDU's press release informing us about eight high-ranking government officials attending. No, I read it, but a list of eight names (no matter how high-ranking those may be and how glad we are to know they are there) provides no substantial information. A brief e-mail to the Sustainable Development Unit gave me the additional information that the 'group of eight' were in Johannesburg to observe.

Observe? We know SAR delegates are part of the People's Republic of China delegation. But the 'two systems' mantra surely provides room (so Basic Law experts tell us) for more than simply taking a watching position. A position paper or an agenda for networking perhaps would have been in line? Or maybe a little plan finding out how London and New York (our 'ultimate models') are doing?

Hong Kong finds itself with a unique position of becoming Asia's Sustainable City. We face big challenges like dense population and high economic activity, yet we have already taken a few firm steps forward. In the past five years, government officials and community heads have shown greater leadership than before in putting sustainable development at the centre of the policy process.

Groups like Civic Exchange, Protection of the Harbour, Green Power, Green Lantau and others act as catalysers to integrate various stakeholders in policy discussions from conservation, to highway and harbour planning, to equal opportunities: that is a sustainable process! Then we have Susdev 21, the Planning Department's brainchild, to make sure (if yet in a voluntary manner) bureaus and departments take into account environmental and social issues when formulating policies.

Then there are the recommendations made by the Commission on Strategic Development, Bringing the Vision to Life, with better-than-nothing aspirations for the Hong Kong of the next coming 30 years.

So, what is Hong Kong achieving in Johannesburg? Does anyone know?


Department of Politics

and Public Administration

University of Hong Kong