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Big business hijacks summit

Johannesburg, Aug. 27 (Reuters): Activists accused big business today of hijacking the Earth Summit from its goal of curbing poverty without damaging the planet.

“The resources of Mother Earth are being sold off,” said Anuradha Mittal of Indian group Food First on the second day of the 10-day talks in Johannesburg tackling issues from promoting clean energy and preserving fish stocks to fighting AIDS.

“The agenda has been taken over by the US and the EU in trade liberalisation,” she said, as activists complained about limited access to to the main summit venue. Many other campaigners echoed charges that businesses would get better deals than those on environmental protection at the summit, a charge rejected by the main business lobby.

“Business is happy to work with others to deliver and make sure we address the environment issues and we look at the social side,” said Mark Moody-Stuart, former chief executive of Shell and head of Business Action for Sustainable Development. BASD represents about 200 corporations in Johannesburg, including automakers, chemicals groups and oil majors.

The summit is expected to bless partnerships between governments, companies and other groups to get together to solve problems including access to clean water, energy or healthcare or to improve policies on green agriculture or biodiversity.

Many environmentalists are sceptical, saying the parterships could be a backdoor way for governments to shirk responsibility and give big business opportunities to profit.

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