Bali PrepCom Opens with Calls for Bolder Commitment to Action
||27 May, BALI , INDONESIAThe fourth and final preparatory
meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development opened today on a note
of urgency, with calls from Summit officials and citizen activists for bolder
commitments that the people of the world would recognize as progress.
"The World Summit on Sustainable Development has not been called to
endorse business as usual," Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai told the
opening of the preparatory meeting. "It has been called because people
want change. And this Summit must signal a real commitment to change."
Negotiations on the Summit outcome documents quickly got underway, with Summit
officials hopeful that work on a programme to intensify and expand
implementation of sustainable development activities can be completed by the
end of the PrepCom's first week. Discussions on the elements for a political
declaration to be endorsed by the world leaders attending the Summit will be
held during the second week of the PrepCom, when ministers from around the
world will attend."
Desai said he hoped that the implementation programme, when completed, would be
known as the "Bali Commitment for Sustainable Development," and would
serve as a guide for actions that bring measurable results that improve the
symbiotic relationship between people and their environment.
Progress in five strategic areas-water, energy, health, agricultural
productivity, and biodiversity-that had been highlighted by United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was essential, Desai added.
"We should not meet ten years after Johannesburg with the same concerns
and find that we have not been able to retain high level political attention on
what we agreed to in Johannesburg, and that we have not been able to find
resources to implement what we agreed upon in Johannesburg," he said.
The Summit, which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to
4 September, will be attended by world leaders and representatives of citizen
groups, businesses, and representatives of other important sectors of society,
and presents a major opportunity to forge agreements and actions to tackle
crucial problems arising from poverty, unsustainable consumption and production
and the impact of human society on the environment.
Indonesian Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim, welcoming delegates to the
Bali, said the PrepCom was "an historic opportunity to breathe new life
into sustainable development" where a number of landmark outcomes can be
Yet a strong contingent of non-governmental organizations expressed
disappointment in the text presently under negotiation. Glen Farred of the
South African NGO Coalition said the document resembled a "government
shopping list" and "will not be an action plan that people
desperately want." Remi Parmentier of Greenpeace International warned,
"we are heading toward a crisis."
Some compromise was necessary, according to Preparatory Committee Chairman Emil
Salim, to achieve a consensus, but he added that it was the job of civil
society to lobby delegations to urge them to change their positions. "Look
to the countries who are challenging time-bound initiatives and who don't want
targets. Put pressure on delegates," he exhorted.
The process of dialogue between members of civil society and government has
been a hallmark of the Rio legacy, and discussions between representatives of
major groups and governments began in earnest during the first of six dialogue
sessions between them. The dialogues offer the major groups--farmers, trade
unions, the scientific and academic community, business, youth, women, local
authorities, non-governmental organizations, and indigenous peoples-an
opportunity to directly offer suggestions to government delegations that could
ultimately affect the outcome of the Summit.
A constant concern of many major groups was that government attention was far
too focused, at the moment, on markets and not people. NGO representatives
warned that the major international financial institutions and the World Trade
Organization were the dominant forces in international governance, a fact that
obstructed progress towards implementing sustainable development.
The United States said the multi-stakeholder dialogues were particularly
important, since in the end, "no declaration or plan of action will give
people access to drinking water, halt the spread of AIDS, or ensure access to
primary education." The US said that partnerships among governments,
businesses, NGOs and other stakeholders could deliver concrete results.."
The development of voluntary partnership initiatives has emerged as a third
major outcome of the Johannesburg Summit. The partnerships, it is hoped, will
go beyond what governments can and must do to implement sustainable
While many NGOs have criticized the partnership initiatives as a vehicle for
corporations to promote the privatization of essential government functions,
Desai emphasized that the partnerships were not a substitute for government
responsibilities. He said the partnerships were encouraged to raise the quality
of implementation, and would be geared toward achieving concrete results in the
areas identified by governments in the negotiated agreements.
"I don't know why people think partnerships just involve
corporations," Desai said. "That's not true. Many of the partnership
proposals that we have received do not involve any corporate involvement."
One partnership, he said by way of example, is the Global Reporting Initiative,
which is directed toward setting certain levels of responsibility and
accountability for corporations
Widely diverging national prerogatives have made the negotiations leading up to
Bali challenging, and the talks in Bali are also expected to be difficult.
"Negotiations are not a smooth road," according to PrepCom Chairman
Emil Salim, whose revised text is the basis of negotiations. But noting that
the present approach to development has benefited 20 per cent of the world's
population while the living standards of the other 80 per cent have largely
stagnated, Salim said the value of the Summit outcome documents hinges on
whether "it has the elements of change or is it business as
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006