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Joahannesburg Summit 2002
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Agreement on Johannesburg Outcome Seen as Within Reach Following South African-Led Discussions

South African President, Thabo Mbeki
South African President
Thabo Mbeki
New York, 18 July— Prospects for resolving the outstanding differences over the outcome document for the World Summit on Sustainable Development next month have sharply improved after a special high-level meeting convened here yesterday at the request of South African President Thabo Mbeki as Chairman of the Summit.

As the ministers or other high-ranking officials from 27 countries discussed their views on a wide range of topics, it became evident that the gap between many positions had narrowed, some to the point of seemingly semantic differences.

"There is more hope now than there was at the end of Bali," South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said as the meeting concluded. "I do not see major differences in the positions of the delegations. It should not take long to get an agreement in Johannesburg."

About three-quarters of the implementation plan was agreed upon at the last preparatory meeting for the Summit in Bali, Indonesia. The one-day meeting in New York was held to find common ground so that countries could bridge the remaining differences quickly in Johannesburg. The meeting itself was not a negotiation session, but rather, an exchange of views of delegations to explore the contours of an agreement.

In particular, consensus appeared to emerge on some key issues, such as the interpretation of the Rio Principles and on how to articulate the progress that was achieved at the World Trade Organization meeting in Doha last November, and at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey last March. Differences were also narrowed on issues concerning the establishment of new targets and timetables, particularly on setting a target for reducing the number of people who lack proper sanitation facilities.

The actual negotiations on the text will take place in Johannesburg, and proposals are being considered to add two extra days for consultations prior to the official start of the Summit.

Zuma added that it was important, for the success of the Summit, that all world leaders attend. She said, "We want to see everyone in Johannesburg."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he, along with President Mbeki, had initiated the idea for the meeting yesterday so that "Member States arrive in Johannesburg with a clear idea of how the negotiations can succeed and, in turn, result in the launch of concrete initiatives."

The Secretary-General urged countries not to renegotiate prior agreements, particularly those reached at Doha and Monterrey and he called for countries to focus on achieving results in the five key areas of water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity. He also said countries should provide "adequate assurances" that there will be an adequate replenishment of the Global Environment Facility. The GEF is an important funding mechanism to support programmes that combat environmental degradation.

The new agreement gives a major boost to the Summit, which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September. The Summit, which will be attended by world leaders and representatives of citizen groups and businesses, offers an historic opportunity to confront serious and growing threats to human well-being and the protection of the environment.

"There was a real change in attitude and atmosphere here," Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai commented as yesterday's meeting concluded. "Countries have shown a great willingness to move forward and seek convergence. There was a good deal of movement - it isn't tangible yet, but the progress is perceptible."

"The most important achievement of the meeting," according to South African UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, " was the conclusion among many delegates that it was possible to reach an agreement on the outstanding issues which would lead to a successful conclusion of the Johannesburg Summit."

The 27 countries invited by President Mbeki to attend the meeting as "Friends of the Chair" include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Russian Federation, Samoa, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela. Many other countries also attended as observers.

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24 August 2006