At the first African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology for Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, ministers from 20 African governments committed to pursue all measures to increase public expenditure on research and development to at least 1 per cent of GDP per annum
In the first week of December, high winds lashed southern France, and the river Rhone burst into farmlands and towns. People faced a drinking water crisis due to polluted water sources. Deputy foreign minister Renaud Muselier blamed global warming for the disaster, a repeat of similar flooding during storms last year.
On World aids day (December 1) the United Nations unveiled a new initiative aimed at providing anti-retroviral drugs to three million people in developing countries and those in transition by 2005.
The Australian government has submitted a plan to Parliament that will make the Great Barrier Reef the most protected coral reef system in the world. It wants to increase green zones, where commercial and recreational fishing is banned, from 4.5 per cent of the 2,000-kilometre reef to 33 per cent.
The un's Ethiopia-based Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (ocha) has warned, in a report, that the country's ambitious rainwater harvesting scheme has been hit by "design flaws", a "lack of skilled personnel" to build ponds and "shortages of materials". ocha believes water harvesting would prove vital in Ethiopia's fight against food shortages.
Chinese farmers and pesticide producers have been warned about an upcoming European Union (eu) ban. The administration announced on November 28, 2003 that the eu would formally forbid the sale of 320 kinds of agricultural chemicals in its region from December 31. This will affect the export of more than 60 types of agricultural chemicals made by China.
US President George Bush has backed out of a trade war. On December 4, 2003, Bush lifted 20-month-old tariffs on foreign steel, a move that will hurt steelmakers in states critical in next year's election. The government plans to monitor steel imports.
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