Summit Prepcom Closes in Frustration

BALI, Indonesia, June 8, 2002 (ENS) - Ministerial level negotiations on the political declaration for the World Summit on Sustainable Development have failed to yield an agreement, particularly on issues relating to trade and finance. The remaining unresolved text will be forwarded to Johannesburg to be dealt with at the Summit which opens August 26.

WWF, the international conservation organization, expressed disappointment with the outcome of this last preparatory meeting. "Conflict and disinterest has been apparent as different nations and blocs pursue their own narrow interests at the expense of the poor and the planet's future," the group said.


Professor Emil Salim chaired the negotiations (Photos courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Emil Salim of Indonesia who chaired the 10th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, known as PrepCom IV, said that 80 percent of the text has been agreed, but key contentious issues remain.

Finance, trade, globalization and implementation top the list of outstanding issues, along with climate and labor standards.

"This meeting shows we must wake up, something is not well," Salim told tired delegates in the early hours this morning. "There are still important differences between North and South, principal disagreements between developed and developing countries."

"Can we close these differences?" Salim asked. "These are the main troubles that will dictate whether we will meet in Johannesburg and reach for consensus or not."

Ministerial level negotiations continued throughout the day behind closed doors where discussions stalled.

In his closing statement, delivered well after midnight, Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai of India said decisions were being made "by exhaustion" or "by asphyxiation" in the crowded conference rooms.


U.S. chief negotiator Dr. Paula Dobriansky called for implementation of concrete actions but came in for much criticism from environmentalists.
Agreement foundered on the question of whether or not the rich nations would pay for implementation of pledges made 10 years ago at the UN Earth Summit in Brazil. A deal between the European Union and the G-77/China group of developing nations appeared likely, that would have trumped objections raised by the United States, Canada and Australia. But even that deal stalled on the issue of subsidies for agriculture.

While contentious issues remain, Desai reminded delegates of what they had achieved. "I have participated in eight UN negotiations," Desai said. "We are going to the final stage with more agreed than in any of the others."

"What is left is very difficult and will take a great deal of work to resolve," said Desai, "work at finding political space for compromise. What it requires is the political will to find common ground. That is the challenge between now and Johannesburg to find that space in the areas that have not yet been agreed."

The environmental organizations blame the industrialized countries for the failure to reach agreement at the preparatory conference. "Bullying by rich nation blocs has rarely been so heavily employed in international negotiations, and seldom has so little been produced by way of concrete results," the WWF said today.

"This meeting could have been a step to a better world but, instead, the governments showed neither leadership nor vision," said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF Delegation to Prepcom IV. "In particular the United States, Australia and Canada have employed systems of horse trading and corridor deals," he said.


Effigy of the U.S., Canada and Australia called the "Axis of Environmental Evil" was the focus of a protest demonstration on the beach Thursday. (Photo courtesy ENB)
Greenpeace International political director Remi Parmentier said, “The shameful hypocrisy of the rich countries have brought this unfortunate episode to a close, but all of the key issues are still in play for Johannesburg. It’s not too late for governments to take their responsibilities seriously and agree a meaningful action plan in Johannesburg. They must seize the next 80 days."

Greenpeace launched its Countdown to Johannesburg today, to urge a real action plan, "which tackles poverty and the environment, and climate change, with concrete goals, time-tables and means of implementation," the group said.

The WWF is calling on the powerful nations to re-examine the way they do business and to take concrete action on key issues including clean water and energy access. The group said, "There is an urgent need to move towards clean and affordable energy for the world's poor, and to secure their access to clean water through sound management of river basins."