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NGO Documents for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development 8th Session, 2000

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Discussions on Earth Summit 200:
Amnesia in Working Group 3 ?

By Charles Nouhan and Minu Hemmati, OUTREACH 2 May, 2000

Discussions on 2002 were among the most lively during the High Level Segment last week. Ministers raised a number of substantive issues, and there seemed to be wide support for a comprehensive review of Agenda 21 and a forward-looking Summit.
Ministers also put forward key issues which should be among a short list of priorities for a Summit in 2002, among them poverty eradication, globalisation, freshwater, forests and energy.

Lacks vision
The debate in Working Group 3, however, which started on Monday, seems to lack some of the substantive points and reference to key issues. Most of all, it lacks a clarity of vision for the content and design of a successful process towards 2002.
The working group began with G77/ China presenting fourteen points comprising the group’s Earth Summit 2002 strategy. A similar and generally supportive statement by the European Union followed.

No renegotiating
The statements provided a foundation for the debate that ensued. Broadest support was heard for not renegotiating Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration. The process should rather focus on an assessment of the implementation of Agenda 21 or lack thereof, barriers to further implementation, and an appraisal of future challenges.
A summit at Heads of State level was supported, and the need for participation of all nations, civil society and major groups was stressed. Transparency of the process – from the very beginning
– and strong regional preparations to promote substantive work were also broadly supported.

Donors for Funding
Discussions were not all unanimous. Brazil, the US, and Canada made strong points on financing the preparatory work for the review, and G77/China began a debate on the source and identification of donors for funding the implementation of Agenda 21.
Egypt and Canada spoke against including the subjects of poverty and globalization, which would shift the focus to environment issues rather than sustainable development.

General Assembly decides
The case for a decision on 2002 to be made by the General Assembly, not at the CSD, was advocated – points that were repeated on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s session took on a more direct course when the working group went through the G77/China proposal point by point. Many points were not debated – that Agenda 21 should not be renegotiated; that the preparations for Earth Summit 2002 should be early and effective, with high quality inputs from all major groups; that governments should undertake national review processes; and that ECOSOC should submit its views to the General Assembly at its 55th session.
Although it was agreed that preparations at the national level should commence at the conclusion of CSD-8, there was disagreement on the proposal that preparations at the international level begin in January 2001. Concern focused on the time needed to consider the larger agenda.

Focus on Further Implementation
In addition, despite broad agreement that the ten-year review should focus on the further implementation of Agenda 21, the point was made that Earth Summit 2002 should not ignore the other products of Rio, nor preclude discussing new issues raised since Agenda 21.
By suggestion from the EU the CSD-8 Chairman’s Summary on 2002 will be added to the G77 working document. At one point, the US expressed uncertainly regarding the review taking place at the summit level in a developing country.
Korea eloquently argued that at the High Level Segment, there was consensus on both points. In an unexpected twist, the issue of an environmental focus, rather that one including the poverty and globalization agendas, did not significantly resurface.
Late in the debate, Egypt suggested that the ten-year review should not include the major groups, since the original summit in Rio was a summit of governments. This was quickly rejected.

Few South Delegates
The meeting concluded with a lively debate on the establishment of a trust fund to ensure effective participation of developing countries. Morocco quickly pointed out that seats in the room usually occupied by delegates from developing countries were empty, poignantly demonstrating the ongoing scarcity of funds.
The CSD Secretariat clarified the role that such funding played at Rio in 1992. At that time UNCED set up two trust funds – one for major group and expert participation and one for developing country participation – both of which were funded by voluntary contributions. The Secretariat implied a similar commitment to Earth Summit 2002.

NGO Issues
Reviewing the discussion in Working Group 3 so far, one would hope that the debate turns to picking up some of the concerns and issues raised by NGOs, such as the importance of multi-stakeholder dialogue and clarifying its role vis-à-vis the official process.
CSD needs to make strong and consensual recommendations to enable governments and major groups to start preparations now. Early beginnings will be absolutely crucial to ensure that all relevant information is on the table and that meaningful participation can take place.

Remember the Ministers!
Finally and importantly, the debate needs to remember what Ministers discussed last week and incorporate it with the same amount of clarity, urgency and energy into the CSD decision on 2002. Otherwise, officials might have a hard time explaining why their vision and impetus is not reflected after in the CSD outcome. And Ministers will ask questions!


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