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Back to: Third Session of the Ad Hoc Committee
Daily summary of discussions

Daily summary of discussions related to

UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
Third session of the Ad Hoc Committee - Daily Summary
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Volume 4, #8
June 3, 2004

Commenced: 10:26 AM
Adjourned: 12:59 PM


The Chair stated that there is no specific WG draft Article on IC; rather, this issue was addressed in the summary of discussions found in Annex II.

Mexico asserted it is necessary to include a separate article on the issue of international cooperation (IC) in the Convention. The WG agreed that while the responsibility to implement the provisions of the Convention falls on national authorities, the complementary nature of IC in supporting efforts to attain the goals set forth in the Convention is an important element. Mexico proposed specific text for this new Article that includes the variety of views voiced in the consultations, and is followed by references to IC as it has appeared in legal instruments and frameworks. The proposed additions recognized the various stakeholders and sought to clarify IC in the context of this Convention, while attempting to avoid misunderstandings or distortions. The proposed Article is divided into three sections: 1) IC within and between States; 2) IC between States and regional and international organizations; and 3) IC within and among civil society and the private sector. In drafting this proposed Article, Mexico considered different international juridically binding instruments, resolutions, other documents, proposals, and publications put before the Committee, using norms and standards appropriate to PWD.

Ireland, speaking on behalf of the EU, emphasised that, as in the case of all human rights instruments, implementation and fulfillment of the provisions would be primarily the responsibility of individual States Parties. Implementation of the obligations undertaken by States Parties to the Convention must not in any way be conditional on receiving international aid or assistance. PWD must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and obligations of States toward non-discrimination cannot be avoided or evaded on the pretext that there has not been IC. The Committee should consider inclusion of a provision related to international sharing and exchange of experience, expertise, and good practice to assist in the effective implementation of the Convention. The EU made a proposal on IC as part of Article 2(bis), and will make a proposal on an appropriate reference in the Preamble.

Thailand supported the inclusion of this article as a mechanism to implement this Convention. It particularly supported the idea reflected in 1(c), but proposed amendments, so that it would read: “Ensuring that existing and future IC activities, agreements, and programs are inclusive to PWD.” In 1(d), “devices” should be replaced by “technologies," a term which suggests a broader connotation.

The Chair stated that the Secretariat would not make amendments to the provided text, as this is not a formal proposal by the WG.

South Africa, as coordinator of the African Group, supported the inclusion of the issue of IC as a separate Article in this Convention and supported the proposal made by Mexico. IC is important at three different levels: 1) the governmental level; 2) the non-governmental level; and 3) within the framework of international organizations. Issues such as technology, capacity building, exchange of information, and other issues should be highlighted in this proposal.

China considered IC to be important to the realization of the goal of this Convention, and supported in principle to incorporate the idea of IC in the Convention and that it should be included as a separate Article.

India agreed that the progressive implementation of the proposed Convention is the primary responsibility of national governments, but recognized the enrichment process possible through the mechanism of IC. It agreed with other delegations that this should be a separate article and supported Mexico's proposal, but would also accept the formulation which appears in Article 23.4 of the CRC with “PWD” replacing “disabled children," as follows: “States Parties shall promote, in the spirit of IC, the exchange of appropriate information in the field of preventive health care and of medical, psychological and functional treatment of PWD, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services, with the aim of enabling States Parties to improve their capabilities and skills and to widen their experience in these areas. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.”

Mexico asked for clarification of procedure on this issue of IC.

The Chair replied that the Committee now is in a completely different type of procedure as there was no agreement on including any such language in the draft Convention proposed by the WG, instead the Annex reflected the discussion. Therefore it would not be appropriate to enter into a drafting discussion at this point, as this is the first time the Committee as a whole considers the Annex of the report of the WG, and whether or not there will be a drafting exercise is a decision that will be taken at a later stage.

Commenced: 3:10 PM
Suspended: 5:23 PM
Reconvened: 5:59 PM
Adjourned: 6:00 PM

Lebanon supported including IC in the preamble and as an independent Article so as to ensure implementation of this Convention. IC does not necessarily mean global cooperation. Lebanon supported in principle the texts proposed by Mexico and China. The Mexico draft is complete and comprehensive; Lebanon will study it further.

Jordan agreed that working together is important, for disability as well as other matters. IC should appear in general obligations, but not in a separate Article.

Yemen stated that the Convention needs to refer to IC very explicitly to help States abide by the obligations. This will not lead to inaction by States. IC can include expertise, information exchange, and financial assistance. Contributions, for example, could earmark a portion for PWD. Yemen agreed with Lebanon that IC should appear both in the Preamble and a separate Article.

Australia agreed with the EU that implementing this Convention is a national responsibility, and that compliance should not be conditioned on receiving international assistance. It does not oppose mentioning IC in the Convention, possibly as the EU’s Article 2(bis) or in the Preamble, either instead of or in addition to a separate article. The Convention should be flexible in its implementation and should not be too prescriptive. If IC is defined, it should be defined as broadly as possible.

Israel stated that the area of disability is well-suited for IC of all kinds. It agreed that the Convention is a matter for national implementation and should not be dependent on IC. However, because of its importance, IC should not just be in the Preamble, but should be addressed in a separate Article. Israel recommends several amendments to Mexico’s proposal. Because PWD have difficulties getting recognized as disabled, a new subparagraph, 1(f), should be added as follows: "Conclude agreements for the issue of regional or international disabled persons cards for the purpose of various entitlements.” Because research is important for PWD, 2(e) should be appended with the words “including the establishment of bilateral, regional and international research and development funds." Subparagraph 3(a) should be appended with the words “including partnerships and cooperation agreements between local and municipal authorities in different states.” IC should be distinguished from the need for international and national monitoring of the Convention’s implementation.

Palestine noted that IC is already taking place and a separate Article would be valuable, especially in the area of universal design. Exchange of experience is vital so that States can implement access concepts. States should provide information on the status of PWD rights.

Mexico was concerned that delegations' proposals were not being reflected in the Secretariat’s Proposed Modifications, and requested that this be done. Ireland later asked for clarification. The Chair agreed that delegations' contributions would be recorded by the Secretariat. Ireland stated that the EU has no disagreement with this procedure, but noted that these notations should be done without prejudice regarding whether or not to include them in the Convention.

Jamaica stated that IC should be a fundamental principle, at all levels of the Convention, to ensure successful implementation. Technical assistance to develop aids is needed; technology costs are high because aids are made where few PWD live. Technology transfers to more areas will allow more PWD to obtain aids and devices at less cost. IC may also help to solve the problem of life insurance offered by reinsurers in developed countries, who do not want to approve insurance for PWD living in developing countries.

Costa Rica appreciated Mexico’s exhaustive work on IC, but, echoing Australia, suggested that its proposed text may be too detailed. IC should appear in both the preamble and in a separate Article. Both North-South and South-South cooperation is needed.

New Zealand has not had an opportunity to study Mexico’s proposal thoroughly and has formed no opinion as to where the concept of IC should be placed, whether in a new or existing Article; however, the concept is important to include. Mexico’s approach may be too long and detailed and not appropriate for binding treaty language. This reflects much of the debate surrounding this Convention; some delegations favor detailed language and others prefer more general but legally enforceable language. Any section on IC should take the same approach as the rest of this Convention

Cuba stated that IC encourages implementation in countries with lesser degrees of development. The spirit of solidarity needs to be reflected. Mexico’s proposal is exhaustive and inclusive. The promotion of IC should be an objective of this Convention.

Mali supported the principle of IC in this Convention, in a separate article. Cooperation can be north-south and south-south. IC does not mean dependence because no one is big and no one is small.

Argentina stated that IC is an important means to achieving the Convention’s goals and objectives, but not as an obligation in and of itself. It supported using the wording in the CRC which has a reference in the preamble and in general obligations. Article 4 of the CRC says: "States Parties will adopt all administrative, legislative, and other measures to give effect to the provisions in this Convention." The ICESCR says: "States Parties will adopt these measures to the best of the resources available to them and when necessary within the framework of IC." It believes this Convention should consider similar language.

Philippines highlighted that member states participation in this Committee is in the spirit of IC to promote and protect the rights of PWD, and therefore IC is integral to this Convention. It supported the Mexican proposal.

Guatemala believed IC is essential for developing full rights of PWD. It supported a separate article, not just in the Preamble. It supported the principles in the Mexico text.

Trinidad and Tobago supported a separate article on IC because implementation will be easier with North-South and South-South cooperation.

Norway stressed that implementation of this Convention rests with States Parties. IC cannot be a condition for implementation. IC should be mentioned in the text to encourage national efforts, but it should be succinct and principled. Mexico's draft is interesting, but too detailed.

Viet Nam supported the Article proposed by China and proposed additional language of its own.

Cameroon supported a separate Article on IC, such as those proposed by Mexico and China, to mobilize IC to assist in the implementation of this Convention. It will formulate wording for this Article.

Japan supported a separate Article. It is concerned that the lack of IC can be excuse for not implementing this Convention, but IC will facilitate implementation. It believes IC covers information exchange, best practices exchange, and cooperation between North-South, South-South, and North-North. It will study Mexico and China’s proposal. It asked for clarification as to whether the text of 2(e), "Fostering bilateral, regional and international financial arrangements," refers to creating new mechanism or using current mechanisms.

Canada highlighted the difficulty of this issue, and the fact that it requires careful drafting because the Convention is a national responsibility and cannot be used to lessen obligations of State Parties. It supported including a principled reference, not a programmatic reference, to IC in the Preamble.

Chile supported the inclusion of IC in the preamble because it sets the stage for the Convention. IC should also appear in a separate Article, to guide member States.

Colombia supported a specific Article because IC is not only a cost, but an investment. IC benefits both sending and receiving countries.

Mexico replied to Japan by stating a right without an appropriate mechanism is useless. There are many new standards in this Convention and countries will need assistance to implement these new standards. Paragraph 2(e) does not imply new entities, but using resources that already exist and including in these programmes the equal enjoyment of PWD.

The floor was open for comments from NGOs.

The Special Rapporteur affirmed that there is a moral obligation to implement this Convention, throughout the entire international community. Including IC as a separate Article is an expression of an absolute requirement, and placing it in the Preamble reaffirms and strengthens this Convention. IC does not necessarily mean material cooperation alone; it also covers technical cooperation such as the exchange of information, expertise, statistics, technology, research, and those means which might improve communications and education. IC can mobilize technological and financial resources. The role of institutions at all levels, international, national and NGO, must be highlighted.

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, as the development wing of the UN, supported the emphasis on international technical cooperation in ensuring the full enjoyment of the rights of PWD. It considered this right to be included in the current text and in the Bangkok draft of the Preamble. However, it might be more appropriate and more effective to include the detailed steps for implementation of technical cooperation in an Annex or perhaps separate documents such as implementation guidelines, recommendations, or even an optional protocol that was suggested by the ILO.

National Human Rights Institutions noted there are many forms of IC that may support national efforts to realize the human rights of PWD. One effective form is cooperation between national human rights institutions, which in the past have been able to share their substantive and technical expertise and other experiences with each other in a number of areas, including on bilateral bases and regional fora. Cooperation of this sort involving the exchange of information and experience between and among developing countries in all directions could be extremely helpful in the implementation of this Convention and NHRI requested that the role of these institutions be recognized in this context if a specific article on IC is to be included in this Convention.

Landmine Survivors Network called for the inclusion of IC in this Convention. It has been invaluable to share information and experiences across LSN networks in mine affected and post conflict societies across the world. Although each network faces unique circumstances, there are shared and common experiences, challenges, and solutions, and without mechanisms to cooperate across networks, there is the risk of reinventing the wheel. All countries face this danger if IC is not incorporated as a supporting measure to aid implementation. North and South and East and West alike can all learn from each other. The inclusion of IC is important not only as a general principle but also as an implementation measure. The treaty bodies for the core human rights conventions have repeatedly expressed the need for technical cooperation in the implementation of States’ obligations. Given the absence of an explicit disability perspective in the UN Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) the inclusion of IC, with its development sphere, will help ensure that the MDGs serves the rights of PWD. IC has a basis in a number of existing international instruments – ICESCR, CRC, virtually all environmental treaties, and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Handicap International asserted that IC based on exchange of knowledge and experience is necessary to avoid a waste of resources and effective implementation of this Convention. Billions are spent by international organizations on reconstruction projects in post conflict countries that create rather than remove barriers to access. Furthermore, this Convention can be properly implemented only if disability organizations are involved in the creation and monitoring of action plans.

People with Disabilities Australia, jointly with the National Association of Community Legal Centres of Australia, Australian Federation of Disability Organizations, Inclusion International, InterAmerican Institute on Disability, and Forum for the Human Rights of People Disabilities Costa Rica, and the National Federation of Disability Organisations, supported the proposal by the Mexican and Chinese delegations for an explicit framework for IC. In light of the fact that approximately 2/3 of the world’s 600 m PWD live in the developing world it is essential that the practical implementation of this convention involve a transfer of resources, knowledge, technical assistance and policy advice to the developing world. People with disabilities are over represented among poorest of the poor, and in order for them to benefit from this Convention, IC is essential. IC is not limited to north to south transfers, but also between developed states, in the harmonization of standards on accessibility, on the regulation of non state actors, and in the removal of structural barriers like intellectual property and copyright law, telecommunications, insurance and civil aviation. It is important to recognize that often IC will entail little more than information exchange, and substantial resource transfer is already taking place through multilateral banks and NGOs. Current aid programs often create, rather than eliminate, barriers to people with disabilities. Eg inaccessible infrastructure, or education programs that fail to include children with disabilities. Both donors and recipients must mainstream disability issues. DPOs must be supported within this framework given their importance in monitoring and domestic implementation. They strongly support the position of the EU that that all states must accept an immediate obligation to comply with the terms of this treaty without preconditioning this on IC.

World Blind Union asserted that disability must be mainstreamed in all international development cooperation. Whether IC is mentioned in the Preamble or in an article of its own, this Convention must recognize the duty of both developing and industrial countries in this regard.

Rehabilitation International underlined the need for a strong text that makes existing development cooperation consistent with the needs of PWD, in for example, construction that is accessible, healthcare, education, and technology. North- South technical cooperation includes study visits, training / scientific exchange programs. South-South cooperation includes best practices, networking, and workshops – these have been essential to the advancement of disability to the standards of today. RI sought to clarify a misunderstanding on the position of some NGOs. NGOs recognize that the responsibility of implementing a Convention of this kind lies with governments. This is not a question of some countries “sending an invoice to other countries.” But IC could be an important tool to fulfill the goals of this Convention.

European Disability Forum supported the position of the EU that IC should not be used as an excuse for inaction. The responsibilities that emanate from this Convention should not be dependent on the existence of IC. However the elements of the Mexican proposals are welcome. IC is a way to avoid “reinventing the wheel” as far as information exchange was concerned. PWD need to be included in multilateral and bilateral cooperation. Currently, as highlighted by previous speakers, public funding continues to be used to establish new barriers that exclude PWD.

World Federation of the DeafBlind thanked Mexico and China for this initiative. He noted that in the past decade IC has made possible the emergence of DeafBlind organizations all over the world. It has been difficult to enlist states in this effort but it is hoped that with an Article on IC will help States open their eyes to the position of the disability community.

Disabled Peoples International stated that 80% of its members live in developing countries. IC needs further discussion but it is critical to address so this Convention is useful to PWD.

The Arab Organisation for the Disabled asserted that IC needs to be included as a separate article as well as in the Preamble. It supported the Lebanon submission. IC includes exchange of experts, training, conducting research, improving contacts between disability activists and government officials and PWD throughout the world.

World Federation of the Deaf supports IC and cooperation at many levels. In UN activities, including information society for all, Millennium goals, and poverty reduction programmes, PWD need to be considered. PWD have information and resources which can benefit the world community. WFD is unsure whether the Convention needs a separate article, but IC needs to be in the Preamble.

ILO, which works within a framework of IC, noted that IC needs to promote a disability component in all international development activities, and reach out to the World Bank and IMF who fund poverty reduction programs. By drawing attention to the need to include PWD in these programs, the Convention will make a significant contribution.

Chile proposed an Article on Access to Justice. It stated that PWD have difficulties obtaining access to this fundamental right. Its proposed text reads as follows: “States Parties must guarantee adequate access to law for PWD to facilitate their ability to address justice in judicial proceedings that could be contentious or not.” Courts would have to train judges and court personnel so this right would be guaranteed. It proposed a “Norm of Interpretation of the Convention”. The provisions of the Convention should always be interpreted in terms that favor PWD thereby avoiding any violation of the rights of PWD.

Mexico thanked Chile for these two proposals. In principle, these proposals should be considered by the AHC, especially the second proposal. It suggested the AHC consider an addition to the Convention: This Convention should not undermine any rules or legislation that are more favorable to PWD.

The Chair thanked everyone for working in a spirit of transparency, democracy, mutual respect, and cooperation. Over 40 countries and 12 NGOs spoke at this meeting. As agreed in plenary, the first reading of the Draft Text’s title, the structure, the Preamble, Article 3, and Article 25 will be postponed to AHC 4 in August. The schedule for Friday will be informal consultations on the consolidated text of Articles 1 and 2 and, if there is time, Articles 6 and 9. The AHC Bureau (Ecuador, South Africa, Sweden, and Philippines) has not reached agreement regarding procedure in informal consultations. The Bureau agreed to appoint “Friends of the Bureau” to facilitate the discussion of some Articles, as follows: Articles 1 and 2 -- the Chair; Article 4 -- Argentina; Article 5 -- Liechtenstein; Article 6 -- the Philippines; Article 8 -- Ecuador; Article 9 -- Canada; Article 10 -- Trinidad and Tobago; Article 11 -- Sweden; Article 12 -- Czech Republic; Article 13 -- Morocco; Article 15 -- New Zealand; IC -- Mexico.

Ireland asked the Chair to confirm that NGOs will be able to participate in the informal consultations, noting their essential contributions.

Mexico also sought clarification of procedure of informal consultations, based on its understanding as facilitator that these consultations are not closed to NGOs; that NGOs can participate in discussions of Articles if there is no expressed opposition; and that private meetings, which can be convened when the delegations deem it necessary, are the only sessions closed to NGOs. Now is not the time for private consultations. Mexico stated that it will not exclude NGOs from consultations that it facilitates.

Canada supported comments made by Mexico and the EU, and expressed concern that some of the issues in Articles are linked, but are assigned to different “Friends of the Bureau” to facilitate. It asked for clarification regarding consistency in this facilitation.

Qatar asked for clarification about whether these “Friends of the Bureau” discussions will be concurrent or one item at a time.

Thailand wished to support the participation of DPOs in these consultations. It asked the Chair to clarify whether discussions will be concurrent or article by article.

The Chair responded that the Bureau was not able to arrive at consensus regarding the procedure for tomorrow. Informal consultations will not be held concurrently, in order to allow small delegations to take part in all consultations. The Bureau will set up a timetable for the next meeting. At the next session, the AHC will conduct the first reading of deferred subjects -- the Preamble, Article 3, structure, title, and Monitoring -- and will then address the rest of the process. The AHC just finished its initial reading of draft Articles 1 to 24 (except Article 3), as well as proposals regarding international cooperation. All proposed textual changes were made available to delegates and are on the web to ensure accuracy. Three Bureau meetings were held where not all members agreed on procedures for reviewing the draft. The Bureau did agree to appoint facilitators, "Friends of the Bureau," for the discussions of Articles. These facilitators will have to prepare wording and other input for the next session. It is the Chair’s understanding that tomorrow’s consultations will not include NGOs. Some members of the Bureau agree with that decision, while others do not.

Ireland was surprised at the decision of the Bureau that there will be no presence of NGOs at the discussions tomorrow, given that no delegation has expressed objections to their presence at these meetings. NGOs expertise has been acknowledged in this Committee; it is an expertise that governments do not and in fact cannot have. It is essential that negotiations continue with the participation of NGOs. The EU wishes to make its views known in the presence of NGOs, and it is hoped that the decision is reconsidered. The EU feels very strongly on this point.

The Chair clarified the Bureau’s position. Some members of the Bureau believe that informal consultations mean meetings without the presence of the NGOs. The Chair’s personal position is that NGOs may participate.

Canada asserted that bearing in mind the important role of NGOs, if there were a ruling that NGOs could not participate, Canada would not accept the role of facilitator. (Applause) Furthermore it is vital that procedures are consistent across all informals. It would be inappropriate if NGOs were permitted to participate in some informal meetings and not in others depending on the facilitator. That would be an unacceptable manner of proceeding.

New Zealand is dismayed with the Bureau's decision, and does not agree to shift to private informal meetings. Private meetings may be necessary at the end of negotiations to solve difficult problems, but not at this stage. The founding principle of the NZ government’s disability strategy is to develop laws and policies in partnership NGOs. A founding principle of this Convention is that NGOs should work in partnership to implement this Convention. It would be ironic and inconsistent if the Convention itself excluded NGOs. It has nothing to say which cannot be said in front of NGOs. If the AHC negotiates in open, informal meetings and it is an intergovernmental negotiation process, NGOs are not given a voice in the process, but should be able to observe. It concurs with Canada’s decision not to facilitate any Article behind closed doors and takes a similar position.

Thailand noted that the spirit of the Convention requires the active involvement of DPOs; this cannot be achieved by their exclusion from the process of achieving it.

Yemen was likewise surprised, and asked who opposes NGO participation. It has nothing to hide from these organizations. Meetings may be closed during the time States are negotiating political positions, with regard to the relations of States. NGOs participated and contributed to this Convention and therefore should be present at all discussions. The speaker represents both the government of Yemen, and an NGO. It insisted upon the need for NGOs to attend all discussions.

Israel strongly objected to excluding NGOs and PWD and urged the Bureau reconsider its position as this is contrary to the spirit of the Convention. The AHC must practice what it preaches. It is an essential part of the disability rights revolution for PWD to take responsibility for their own lives, as expressed in the motto "nothing about us, without us." NGOs should be amongst the facilitators. When considering an issue which concerns the rights of PWD, Israel consults PWD and their organizations.

Mexico noted that both the General Assembly resolutions and the decisions of the AHC are the point of reference for the participation of NGOs. This process has benefited from the participation of NGOs from its beginning two years ago. The Chair should decide to continue the established process until the AHC collectively decides that it needs a private meeting. This should not be a decision for the Chair or facilitators; it is a collective decision. There may be a later stage when a private meeting is necessary, but this is not the time. It proposed that the meetings tomorrow be informal but not private, and that consultations with facilitators be informal but not private, unless the AHC collectively decides otherwise.

The Chair stated that he, personally agreed with many of the comments, but that he was “in the hands” of the Committee. The Chair asked if anyone was opposed to the participation of NGOs on meetings about Articles 1 and 2.

Qatar stated that it fully supported the participation of NGOs. It asked for clarification about whether the meetings tomorrow would be informal or formal.

The Chair clarified the question: Is anyone opposed to the meeting tomorrow morning being open?

Mexico responded to Qatar’s question by stating its understanding of the rules: public meetings are open to participation of NGOs and others, private meetings are not. Informal meetings are not defined, a priori, as private. Informal meetings are distinguished from public meetings in that there is no formal recording of the meeting and no record keeping. The purpose of informal meetings is “to clean up text, to bring positions closer together,” and to have informal discussions without any formal recording of new proposals, to discuss items which may lead to consensus. Mexico proposed tomorrow to have informal meetings which are public.

Saudi Arabia asked for clarification about procedures concerning “the compilation text”. It inquired whether, during the second reading, delegations can submit additional proposals.

Malaysia noted that the terminology of Mexico on “public and private” does not fit with the official parlance of UN procedure, which refers to open and closed meetings, the latter being only for Member States. It asked for clarification about what “cleaning up text” means because it needs to consult with its home ministries for positions.

South Africa voiced grave concern that as the African Group representative in the Bureau, “the conclusions (the Bureau) has reached as to how to proceed from now on have not been followed.” After extensive discussions on this matter, and after the proposals put forward by the Africa Group, it asked for the suspension of the meeting for further consultation with its Group and the Bureau to find an amicable way to move forward. It stated the deliberations of the Bureau should be in accordance with the decisions of the General Assembly (GA). In the GA resolution, it states that if there is no consensus on participation of NGOs, only government delegations will participate. If the AHC needs to depart from the GA resolution, further discussion is needed to reach a common understanding.

The Chair suspended the meeting. When the meeting reconvened, the Chair announced that the Bureau had met and agreed that the agenda for tomorrow will be in the format of a formal, open meeting of the plenary to discuss Articles 1 and 2.

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