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Sustainable Development Commission Discusses Progress in Working Group Negotiations

8 May 2009
Economic and Social CouncilENV/DEV/1045
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Sustainable Development

Seventeenth Session

5th Meeting (PM)

Sustainable development commission discusses progress


in working group negotiations


At the end of the first week of its annual two-week session, the Commission on Sustainable Development was warned by its Chairperson that it must go further to overcome differences or it would risk falling short of its goal of fashioning critical global policies to address agriculture, drought, desertification, land use, rural development and sustainable development in Africa

“We cannot say no to all those who are counting on us”, said Chairperson Gerda Verburg (Netherlands), as the 53-member body met briefly this afternoon to hear a status update by the co-Chairpersons of its two working groups on negotiations for the outcome document it plans to adopt at the conclusion of its three-day high-level segment, from 13 to 15 May.

She challenged Commission members to consider whether their work had progressed far enough.  Delegations had said during Monday’s opening session that the Chairman’s text was a good basis for negotiation, but should be slimmed down.  At this point, however, the text had grown from 17 to 70 pages.

“A farmer would be proud of such a harvest, but we cannot be”, she said, emphasizing that only two working days remained before the beginning of the high-level segment.  These facts showed that a tremendous effort was needed to achieve a successful outcome.  Calling on delegations to do their utmost and, perhaps, to go even further, to find solutions for outstanding issues, she said the Commission must find a way forward.

To that end, she underscored the importance of answering the “main question”, which was:  How to feed the world in the near future and how to do that in a sustainable way.  It was the collective responsibility of the 53-member body to come with innovative and practical solutions with clear deliverables.  Indeed, that effort would be critical in helping affected populations, especially the most vulnerable groups in the developing world.

She said the many concrete proposals that had been made proved that a difference could be made.  Unfortunately, however, most of them were currently “between brackets” and had not yet been agreed on.  It was imperative to overcome the differences that prevented that agreement.  Trade issues could be solved only in Geneva, not here.  Similarly, the issue of alien invasive species had to be resolved within the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The biggest challenge would be putting “words into action”, as she had urged in her opening address to the session.  Countries, especially developing ones, needed support from the world community, which should live up to its promises and not pull back from promises it had made.

Along with the Bureau, she said she would be drafting a second version of the text over the weekend, cleaning it up, where possible, by eliminating repetition and using compromise language.  Those parts of the text where further negotiations were clearly needed would be left alone.  The Bureau aimed to make the second draft available at 2 p.m. on Sunday, giving delegations time to coordinate before negotiations recommenced.

Saying a brief plenary session would be held at 10 a.m. Monday morning, with working groups to be convened at 11 a.m., she appealed to delegations to open their minds to being flexible, creative, innovative and revolutionary next week.

Taking the floor in response, the representative of the Sudan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, urged all delegations to remind themselves why they were here:  CSD-17 was a policy session and it must aim to devise concrete policy options and identify their means of implementation.  She shared the concern that the draft had expanded to some 70 pages, but believed that, through further negotiations, the level of detail would shrink and consensus could be reached.  She added that it was traditional that many different views and proposals emerged early in United Nations negotiating processes.

At the same time, she said her delegation was apprehensive that language in the text regarding means of implementing the agreed-policy options was being overlooked.  It was not enough to sit in New York and outline “what” should be done, but not take any concrete steps on “how” to do it.  Failing to identify implementation measures would lead to a document that “just goes in circles”.  She urged the Chair to press all delegations to work harder on the means of implementation, which was the crux of the matter for the “G-77”.

The Group of 77 and China was prepared to work with all delegations to speed up the process and appreciated the Chairperson’s offer to clean up the existing text.  However, the Group could see areas of convergence and elements on which consensus was near and believed that producing a “cleaned up text” would not be conducive to reaching early agreement.  Indeed, it might amount to creating a new text.  She asked for more time tonight to continue negotiations and also proposed a meeting of representatives of the regional groups to see how best to continue.  The regional groups would consult and then meet with Ms. Verburg on the way forward.  Finally, she asked that talks among delegations be suspended during the regional informal meeting.

Next, the representative of the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation would again stress the need for a short outcome document.  “A long document risks long discussion”, he said, adding that the text must present concrete deliverables and must be user-friendly to the benefit of all countries, especially at national and local levels.  The European Union would also stress the importance of inputs from the major groups, whose members would be vital to implementing and raising awareness about the Commission’s decisions on the ground.

He went on to urge delegations to ensure that food security, rural development, agricultural development and Africa were at the top of the international agenda.  The negotiations should concentrate on what was practicable, “not on wishes”.  The text that emerged should be clear and straightforward.  The European Union hoped that the Chair and the Bureau would clean up the repetition and enhance the text under negotiation.  He said all delegations should try very hard to conclude the session successfully, and that formal and informal dialogue among the negotiating teams was necessary to that end.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation was one of the countries participating in CSD-17 that did not belong to any particular regional group, but had an interest in the negotiating process, and asked that that issue be taken into account.

Ms. Verburg said that the meeting of the regional groups would be open to all delegations and would begin at 7:30 p.m., while negotiations in the respective working groups, set to begin at 7 p.m., would continue in parallel.

Sudan’s representative then proposed that the regional group meeting would take place at 6:30 p.m., and that those representatives would meet with the Bureau at 7:30 p.m. to discuss an alternative plan or continue negotiating through midnight.  She also proposed that the broader negotiations be put on hold until 7:30 p.m.  The Bureau and the wider Commission agreed to those proposals.

Earlier in the meeting, Tania Valerie Raguz (Croatia), Commission Vice-Chairperson and Co-Chair of working group I (agriculture, rural development, as well as interlinkages, cross-cutting issues, means of implementation and the document’s preamble), said delegations had completed the first reading, as well as negotiations on the text’s preambular portion.  It had just begun consideration of the section on agriculture.  The working group would continue informal consultations tonight from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The Commission Vice-Chair and Co-Chairperson of working group II (land, drought, desertification and Africa), Javad Amin-Mansour (Iran), said delegations had, having completed the first reading, started the second reading on land and drought.  It was currently up to the section on desertification.  He underlined the flexibility and cooperation exhibited during the working group meetings.

The Commission on Sustainable Development will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.