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Interest Building for Sustainable Development Partnership Agreements

{short description of image}   9 May 2002, New York– Interest and support continues to build for the idea of launching partnership initiatives at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, as preparations for the Summit move to Bali, Indonesia, later this month. The voluntary partnerships, between governments, international organizations, the private

sector, and community and citizen groups, are intended to provide an important mechanism to complement actions by Governments to implement their commitments.

"These partnership initiatives, based on solid commitments to action by governments, could be a huge factor in promoting sustainable development on a large scale," according to Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai. "The international community has had too many conferences that have ended in agreements setting out great intentions but where little action has resulted. Through these partnership initiatives, we can mobilize the actors that have the resources and the interest to promote sustainable development in the areas where we need it most."

The Johannesburg Summit, which will take place from 26 August to 4 September, will focus on pushing the sustainable development agenda that calls for improving the interdependent relationship between people and the environment. Specific areas of concern include addressing the needs of the more than one billion people who presently lack access to clean water, sanitation and modern energy services

Desai said the partnership initiatives should supplement-not substitute for- government commitments. "Whether we like it or not, most of the resources in the world are in the private sector and we should do everything we can to attract those resources to work for sustainable development. That does not mean that we are opening the door to the privatization of essential government responsibilities or that we are allowing governments an escape hatch to avoid making commitments. But it does mean that we seriously need to build partnerships to fight poverty and protect the environment. Governments just can't do it alone."

The partnership initiatives will feature in many of the formal discussions at the Bali PrepCom. Representatives from the Major Groups— which include women, youth, local authorities, trade unions, business, non-governmental organizations, farmers, scientists and indigenous peoples — will discuss the partnership initiatives during the multi-stakeholder dialogue sessions, and the ministers attending the high-level segment from 5 to 7 June will also devote a session to the issue. There will also be working group level consultations throughout the Bali PrepCom where participants will have the opportunity to present partnership proposals.

The Summit Secretariat has posted guidelines and information on the website, including an explanatory note by Preparatory Committee Chairman Emil Salim, to acquaint participants with arrangements for partnerships. Click here for more information.

To date, the Secretariat has received about two dozen submissions for partnership initiatives which have been posted on the Summit website. According to Monika Linn, who is monitoring the initiatives, there have been many times more inquiries. She said a number of groups are waiting to see what commitments are likely to emerge from the negotiations on the implementation programme before they announce initiatives. In addition, she said there have been a substantial number of submissions from small local projects, mostly in developing countries. While the Summit wants to encourage local action, she said, the partnership initiatives to be launched or featured in Johannesburg would be geared towards projects that are regional or international in scope.

According to Dr. Salim, some of the unresolved issues that will impact on the final decisions on partnerships at the Summit include monitoring arrangements and the follow-up of implementation efforts after the Summit. Nevertheless, there already is broad agreement that the partnership initiatives, known as Type II outcomes, should be closely linked with the commitments that countries reach in the negotiated implementation programme, which is known as the Type I outcome.

Nevertheless, the partnership initiatives themselves will be voluntary, and will not be the subject of negotiations. "The whole point is to encourage as many groups as possible to engage in projects that promote sustainable development objectives," Desai said. "The only initiatives that I don't want to encourage are initiatives that are incompatible with sustainable development."

While several initiatives are well advanced in their planning, Desai acknowledged that others would be still in a more formative state. For those initiatives that still need more time to work out the details, Desai said the Summit could still provide an opportunity to announce a statement of intent.

Salim said that the partnerships will partially answer the question of who is going to do what. "These initiatives will focus on deliverables and contribute to translating political commitments into action," Salim said. In particular, he added, the initiatives could help efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals -- a series of commitments to slash the poverty rate by 2015.

A challenge for the negotiators in Bali is to resolve the concerns expressed by some NGOs, that the partnership initiatives could relieve the pressure on governments to make commitments.

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24 August 2006