Summit on Sustainable Development
Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
26 August-4 September 2002
29 August 2002
DAILY BRIEFING BY SUMMIT SPOKESWOMAN
Today would see governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), business and international organizations start announcing their partnership initiatives aimed at transforming the commitments being made on paper into action on the ground, Susan Markham, Spokeswoman for the World Summit, said at the daily press briefing this afternoon.
She said the European Union had announced at a press conference this morning that it intended to undertake initiatives on water and energy and would give more details in the next few days. Similarly, the United States delegation would speak about its partnership announcements at a 2 p.m. press conference.
Starting at 3 p.m., there would be a series of announcements by the partners about their individual initiatives, she continued. That would be in Ballroom 1 on the second floor of the Convention Centre. The announcements would be broadcast into the media centre.
The United Nations had already received some 218 proposed partnerships, the Spokeswoman said. They included 20 initiatives on water, with $20 million in funding already committed; 12 partnerships on agriculture, food security and rural development, with $2 million committed so far; 30 partnerships relating to energy, with funding commitments amounting to about $11 million; and some
31 partnerships on cross-sectoral issues focusing on poverty eradication, with about $70 million committed. That was an excellent start, she said, adding that partnership announcements would continue tomorrow afternoon and over the weekend.
Ms. Markham said that the idea behind the partnerships was, in the words of the Secretary-General of the Summit, to ensure real action towards sustainable development after the Summit. Not only was there a need for government commitments, which was what the negotiations were all about, but there was also a need to know who would do what after everybody left Johannesburg.
The partnerships were not a substitute for government commitments, the Spokeswoman said, and neither were they a sellout to commercial interests, as some had alleged. They were an acknowledgement of the need to engage the expertise and resources of all players: governments, NGOs, foundations, academics, scientists and business.
Turning to the plenary, she said that Gus Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environment at Yale University and former head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had moderated this morning's discussion on regional initiatives. A representative from each of the United Nations regional commissions had also spoken, highlighting specific issues of concern to their respective regions. The issues were poverty eradication for Africa; financing for Latin America; natural resources for Asia; the environment for Europe; and trade, investment and globalization for Western Asia. The discussion was continuing.
She said the list of speakers for the general debate this afternoon and tomorrow was in the Journal.
Ms. Markham said the good news about progress in the negotiations continued. The contact group on globalization, lead by John Ashe, Deputy Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, was close to completing its work, but still had a few outstanding and difficult issues such as subsidies and how to characterize globalization. It was understood that another contact group had reached agreement on how to deal with the paragraphs containing the phrase "common but differentiated responsibilities" and was now working on those containing references to the precautionary principle.
The Spokeswoman introduced Lowell Flanders, the senior United Nations adviser coordinating the drafting groups, who said that nearly 95 per cent of the paragraphs had been agreed. Mr. Ashe had cleared about four additional paragraphs yesterday and about 13 remained. Bilateral consultations were going on to resolve them.
He said there had been a good breakthrough yesterday with agreement on paragraph 22 on sound management of chemicals and agreement on a target of 2020 to minimize their harmful effects. Also, the contact group working on common but differentiated responsibilities had come up with a paper dealing with the terminology to be used throughout the outcome document. The contact group on good governance was also close to achieving a package deal on proposals put forward by the United States and the European Union.
Turning to other matters, Ms. Markham said there had been many requests for press conferences and the full lists for today and tomorrow were posted on the wall outside the Spokeswoman's office area as well as on the big screens in the media bull pen. Side events, including all those for the lunch break and after 6:30 p.m., were listed in the second part of the daily Journal.
On numbers, she said passes had been issued to 8,000 delegations, 7,000 major groups and 3,400 media representatives. More people were expected at the weekend. Daily updates on the number of passes issued were posted on the wall outside the Spokeswoman's office area, Ms. Markham added.
Asked about progress in the negotiations on the contentious paragraph 19 (e) on renewable energy, Mr. Flanders said those paragraphs were being dealt with as a package and that there was optimism about agreement being reached.
Regarding corporate responsibility, another journalist asked whether there had been any discussion of multinational corporations that operated under one set of rules in the developed countries and a different set of rules in the developing countries. He cited the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India.
Mr. Flanders replied that the discussions were not focusing on specific corporations. Corporate responsibility was being addressed in general. However, those types of issues were being discussed in all the events taking place in Johannesburg, he added, emphasizing that they were not being ignored.
He told the same correspondent that a list of the outstanding issues in the negotiations would be made available to the Spokeswoman for distribution to the media.
Ms. Markham then introduced Jan Pronk, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, asking him to explain the purpose of the partnership plenary sessions on WEHAB -- the five areas that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had identified for implementation (water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity) -- and what the outcome had been.
Mr. Pronk said the Secretary-General had proposed to focus on implementation in those five areas because Agenda 21 was so big. Those areas were crucial in enabling countries to combine protection of the environment in the future with poverty eradication. They were the lifelines between people and the past, present and future; they provided the possibility for people to do more than merely survive.
He said he hoped there would be a decision on a future process based on WEHAB in which governments, NGOs, major groups and agencies would meet to boost further implementation and that they would be more accountable towards each other.
Asked how to ensure that the new approach was not intended as a mere image booster, Mr. Pronk said the WEHAB initiative had been applauded as a new approach. It must be embraced as part of the future United Nations structure. Increasingly, the Organization was not seen as a people's Organization, so governments must make it more representative of the people by ensuring they gave an equal footing to representative people's organizations.
Another correspondent asked how the United States objections to the water and sanitation initiative should be seen in view of the position that Type 2 agreements should not be seen as a substitute for Type 1 agreements.
The Special Envoy replied that in the plenary discussions on water and sanitation, it had been clear that everybody wanted a target set. One could not start a process that disregarded an emerging trend and there was no point in refusing to accept a process that had the overwhelming support of everybody else.
Asked for a clear definition of the partnerships and how they differed from aid, Mr. Pronk said aid was a top-down partnership in which the parties were not on an equal footing. While some donor countries were better than others at accepting the need for dialogue, an ideal partnership should mean deciding on the conditions under which aid was given, the amount of aid, who should get it and its purpose.
He said the new partnerships went even further because of the inclusion of representatives who were closer to the people than politicians and who would be involved right from the outset in all discussions leading to the final decisions. The United Nations could play a guiding role setting up well-structured partnerships and making them accountable, he added.