The Millennium ExperienceChronicle of the Future

Sister act

20.02.33: THE SO-CALLED 'Power of Three', the women who rule the mightiest nations on Earth - America, Europe and China - ended a critical summit in Geneva yesterday with agreement on an eight-point plan to restore economic and environmental stability against a backdrop of gathering global crises.

Chelsea Clinton, the US president, warned that environmental catastrophe was now the most serious threat to world prosperity. The message was repeated by the European president, Robina Sharma of the Netherlands, who insisted that world poverty was now affecting parts of the EU.

The key breakthrough came when Clinton withdrew her country's claim that it suffered more widespread poverty than sub-equatorial Africa and that it should receive international aid. After an eight-hour session extending deep into the European night, she accepted the argument of Sharma and the Chinese leader, Wang Ying, that poverty should be assessed only on criteria of absolute deprivation (access to food, water, shelter and education) and not by comparison between the richest and poorest members of a particular society such as the US.

It paved the way for the "Balance Plan", which Clinton described as "probably the most important document in our planet's history".

The treaty represents a two-pronged attack on the worldwide problems of poverty, environmental degradation and violent unrest. On the one hand, the three powers will share intelligence and jointly strengthen their defences to keep a lid on revolutionary disorder; on the other hand, they will mount an unprecedented assault on the environmental and economic pressures at the root of international discord.

Most importantly, they have agreed to a doubling of humanitarian relief and an urgent review of global debt problems.

"This is absolutely fundamental to our purpose," said Sharma. "Many countries in Africa are spending twice as much on debt repayments as they are on health and education combined. Despite the Hosanna Fund and all the other relief efforts following the '31 disaster, families still abandon their children because they can't afford to feed them."

There was also talk of a new role for the United Nations and World Bank, inst