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Virtual Exhibit makes UN history with inaugural broadcast

JOHANNESBURG, 26 August 2002 - The opening day of the Johannesburg Earth Summit will see government leaders tussling over texts, protestors banging their drums – and the start of a quiet revolution in a tiny corner of the Summit convention centre.

The Virtual Exhibit (VE), an innovative online and TV showcase of sustainable development initiatives from around the world, will make its inaugural broadcast today - and make Summit history in the process.

By webcasting Summit proceedings to a worldwide audience via the net, and simultaneously broadcasting sustainable development success stories to the 60,000 Summit delegates via screens all over Johannesburg, the VE is making the Jo’burg Earth Summit the first truly-interactive, most accessible UN Summit in history.

A joint venture between the United Nations and the international business community, the VE, according to organisers, aims to “inspire by example”.

Describing it as “a unique project to bring the world to Johannesburg, and take Johannesburg to the world”, Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai said the VE would continue the good work started at the first Earth Summit in Rio.

“What we did ten years ago in Rio was to engender a lot of action at the local level,” he said. “What the Virtual Exhibit will do at this Summit is bring this same energy to Johannesburg and show what people all over the world are doing for sustainable development.”

Throughout the two weeks of the Summit, the Virtual Exhibit will broadcast from a purpose-built studio on the third floor of the Sandton Convention Centre.

As well as featuring five minute videos of sustainable development initiatives from all corners of the globe, the VE will encourage Summit leaders to appear in the studio to interact with sustainable development workers in the field via a series of telephone and video link-ups.

Summit luminaries who have already been booked – or expressed interest in making an appearance in the VE studio include UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Summit Secretary General Nitin Desai, Rio Tinto CEO Robert Wilson and BASD chief Sir Mark Moody-Stuart.

More than 200 sustainable development projects will be featured on the VE for the duration of the Summit, taking in everything from the installation of elephant pumps in Zimbabwe to high-level government programmes to encourage foreign direct investment in least developed countries.

As well as being broadcast on screens around the Summit in Johannesburg, the VE will webcast to the world, live on the internet at the web address:

The VE is the brainchild of Business Action for Sustainable Development (BASD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Most major hotels in Johannesbug will also feature the VE on a dedicated channel.