The fat draft has come out of the final Prepcom and is going before the Conference. It runs to 287 paragraphs. Most brackets are removed, with paragraphs approved ad referendum. Yet there remains work still to be done.
I shall assist by scrutinising some of the objections advanced by the United States of America, as outlined in the penultimate draft of 2 June. Most of these appear to be resolved, but it is worth noting since it depicts the nature of UN negotiating. I shall do the same later for New Zealand. Just that, the US has a slightly higher profile…
The conceptual framework of the draft declaration is clear enough. We have a common vision. We are renewing our commitment (from ’92). We contemplate (= argue over) the green economy. We consider ways of strengthening institutional capacity. And we adopt a framework of action and its means of implementation. At least, that’s the flow of logic.
A number of new proposals were incorporated in the 2 June draft, mainly by the global South. The US opposed many and proposed their deletion. These included the following:
1. Sustainable development principles: The 2012 declaration would recall the 27 principles contained in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. All countries signed up in ’92, including the US. The US opposed the suggestion of recalling those principles.
2. Equity: In particular, the declaration would recall the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ and the principle of equity. The US opposed this.
3. Non-regression: The declaration acknowledges that since 1992 there have been areas of insufficient progress and setbacks that have threatened our ability to achieve sustainable development”. A new insertion would regard it as ‘critical’ that we “observe the principle of non-regression”. The US opposed this and wanted it deleted.
4. Financial reform: A new suggestion was to recognise that the current major challenge for developing countries is the impact of multiple crises, particularly the on-going economic and financial crisis, as a result of the deficiency of the international financial system. States would reaffirm the urgent need to deepen the reform of the global financial system. The US wanted that deleted.
5. Climate change; The draft would now acknowledge that climate change is a cross-cutting and persistent crisis and express the concern that the scale and gravity of the negative impacts of climate change affect all countries. This was proposed by the EU. The US wanted it deleted.
6. Civil society: The draft would enhance the participation and effective engagement of civil society. The US accepted that. There was an EU proposal to ensure this by “granting civil society representatives an enhanced consultative status in order to secure effective consultative processes and better use of their expertise”. The US opposed that.
7. Migration: The text acknowledges the link between international migration and development. It calls for protection of human rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status. The US wanted this deleted.
8. Small island states: The text calls for a 3rd International Conference for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in 2014. It asks the UN General Assembly to proceed with this. The US opposed and wanted deletion of any reference to that.
9. Sustainable consumption and production: The text reaffirms that this is one of the overarching objectives of sustainable development. The EU proposed that “we therefore commit to change unsustainable consumption and production patterns and eventually reach an absolute decoupling of economic growth from natural resource use”. The US opposed that addition.
10. Technology: The text would have UN agencies disseminate clean technologies while bearing in mind consistency with the intellectual property rights regime. The US opposed.
This is not a beat-up on the US. Other countries opposed insertions. Often Japan, South Korea and others joined the US. But it is to critique of the US in particular, which consistently led opposition to global proposals of the kind above, often standing alone.
It is easy to be obstructive at UN conferences, even destructive. When 190+ ‘sovereign states’ assemble in a diplomatic gaggle to critically scrutinise a global draft addressing global problems, and advance that criticism from an obsolescent mind-set reflecting competitive and narrow national self-interest, it is easy to bring the tent-pole down. One entrenched objective from a major player is usually sufficient for a proposal to be deleted.
We need a better system of global governance than this.