Echoing Bush's call

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The forest convention got its impetus from a group of northern NGOs who have consistently pushed and prodded their governments to support this idea. The largest groups have been the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society in the US and the Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the UK. All these and many other northern groups were visibly upset and annoyed by the proceedings at the UNCED which they saw as "fatally flawed, offering little more than steps backward". According to Bill Mankin of the Sierra Club, "The forest principles are a watered down compromise and must be radically altered."

At the Rio conference, northern groups got together to demand a fresh initiative from their governments -- for a legally binding agreement on forests. Their demand is similar, in fact, to President Bush's call to the conference to "do first things first" by putting in place a convention to check tropical deforestation.

Bush's call became an extremely antagonistic issue. Dividing the NGOs in different parts: some who supported the convention but were worried about playing into the hands of President George Bush; some who supported the convention and were prepared to make George Bush their ally; and, several, especially from the South, who rejected the convention outright.

The game was played out many times. Sierra and Audubon at first denounced the Bush forest initiative as "hypocrisy" on the part of their President who was "guilty of nearly sabotaging the conference". But these same groups then joined hands with others like FOE to demand the establishment of a "comprehensive strategy or agreement" on forests.

When pushed on their stand, they merely said, "But what is wrong? If our President is doing something right for once, he must be supported and not criticised."