WWF, Oxfam apologise to Saudis over climate meet vandalism
The environmental group WWF and British charity Oxfam on Wednesday made strenuous public apologies to Saudi Arabia after the country's conference nameplate was vandalised at a UN climate meeting last month.
Both agencies, which are lobbying for tougher measures to tackle global warming, scrambled to give assurances about their commitment to the rules of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ahead of a fresh meeting next week.
Oxfam said that conference could examine penalties against them.
WWF International acknowledged that the incident involving at least one of its employees, which sparked an uproar at the 194-nation UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany on June 11, was gravely offensive to Saudi Arabia.
"The incident was completely unacceptable under the standards of the Convention and the standards of WWF," WWF International's Director General Jim Leape said in a statement.
"We have apologised formally to the UNFCCC and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he added.
WWF said an employee of its British branch was involved in taking and distributing "offensive photographs" featuring the official nameplate.
Delegates told AFP in Bonn that the plastic nameplate was broken in two and thrown into a toilet and a photo of it was then posted on the Internet, allegedly by climate activists.
"The individual responsible has expressed deep remorse and apologised unreservedly for his actions. He is no longer working for WWF," Leape said Wednesday.
Another WWF staffer has been suspended pending further investigations, according to the environmental group.
Anti-poverty charity Oxfam also made a public apology, admitting that one of its staff was involved in the discussions that led to the incident.
"The act itself was offensive, inexcusable and inappropriate. It broke UN rules that govern NGO (non governmental organisation) behaviour," said Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs.
"Oxfam has apologized to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to the UNFCCC and its members," he added.
Last month's incident came a day after Saudi Arabia and other major oil producing nations blocked an attempt by vulnerable island states to establish a study into the impacts of global warming, especially on rising sea levels.
It soured the already tense climate in the 12-day UNFCCC talks, a key step in trying to strike an elusive new post-2012 climate treaty aimed at reinforcing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The UNFCCC is organising another key climate conference beginning next Monday in Bonn.
Both Oxfam and WWF pledged to abide by the rules and underlined their commitment to the UN climate process.
"We hope that the UNFCCC and its members will accept our apologies and draw a line under this incident and not let it become a distraction to the job at hand," said Hobbs.
WWF said it now required staff attending international meetings to sign up to a code of conduct.
© 2010 AFP