TWN Update on Sustainable Development Conference 2012 (May12/03)
7 May 2012
Third World Network

Negotiations extended on outcome document

Geneva, 7 May (Meena Raman): At the closing session on Friday 4 May of the second round of informal negotiations at the UN headquarters in New York on the draft outcome document for the June UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), countries agreed to another five days of deliberations to bridge differences.

The additional negotiating session that will be held from 29 May to 2 June in New York was not previously scheduled and was proposed by the Bureau of the preparatory process for the Rio +20 Conference.

"The present negotiation approach has run its course," said Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang at the closing session, adding that there is a need to proceed with a sense of urgency.

Mr. Sha called for greater political will and agreement on all sides and underlined that the main objective is to get to Rio de Janeiro with at least 90 per cent of the text ready and only the most difficult 10 per cent left to be negotiated there.

"We can have an outcome document which builds upon earlier agreements – an outcome document which is action-oriented in spelling out the future we want," he said.

(The agreed title of the outcome document is “The Future We Want”.)

Mr. Sha stressed that the present document, despite having been reduced by about 100 pages, still has too many paragraphs and contains too much repetition. "Currently, the negotiating text is a far cry from the 'focused political document' called for by the General Assembly (in its mandate for the conference)," he said.

Member States were informed that only 21 paragraphs of the draft outcome document had been agreed ad referendum (‘ad ref’, i.e. provisionally agreed with no bracketed text and subject to the whole outcome document being agreed to), with over 400 paragraphs still remaining without agreement.

"Delegates have expressed disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress," the Rio+20 Preparatory Committee co-chair Kim Sook told participants at the concluding meeting of the latest round of talks.

Mr. Kim emphasized that there will be a change in working methods when negotiations resume, that will include working from a new text prepared by the co-chairs, as well as other changes in the negotiating procedures.

The Co-chairs of the process, (Ambassadors John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda and Kim Sook from the Republic of Korea) will produce a new Co-chairs’ text by 22 May.

The negotiations are to proceed in two working groups with “more fairly distributed texts”, with one working group dealing with sections 1 to IV, while the other, dealing with section V, which is a very long-text.

Section 1 deals with ‘Preamble/Stage Setting’, section II with ‘Renewing Political Commitment’, section III with ‘Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication’, Section IV with ‘Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development’ and section V with ‘Framework for action and follow-up’ including Sustainable Development Goals and means of implementation viz. finance, access to and transfer of technology and capacity building.

Mr. Keith H. Christie of Canada will replace Ambassador Kim Sook as Co-chair for the process.

Ambassador Mourad Benmehidi of Algeria, the Chair of the Group of 77 and China thanked the Bureau for agreeing to extend the negotiations and also expressed frustration over the lack of spirit of compromise among partners. He said that failure was not an option and stressed the need for inclusiveness and transparency at every stage of the process and decision-making.

Denmark, speaking for the European Union, said there was merit in using the 5 more days in a different manner on the basis of the new Co-Chairs’ text. It said the EU will present in written form elements that were not addressed in the current document to the Co-chairs.

More than 120 Heads of State have registered to attend Rio+20, and some 50,000 people, including business executives, mayors, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), youth and indigenous people, among others, are expected to participate in both official and informal events during the Conference to be held from 20 to 22 June in Rio de Janeiro.+