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BSWG-6
Sixth Meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety
Cartagena, Colombia
14 - 19 February 1999

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Briefing

TUESDAY EVENING UPDATE: Ex-COP President Juan Mayr opened plenary at 11:30 am, where he updated delegates on the work of the group of ten which had been meeting through the course of the evening and morning. He reported that the group was working from the BSWG Chair's draft text (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/6/L.2/Rev.2), had made some progress on Article 4 (Scope) but had identified a number of other difficult issues for resolution. Mayr stated that the core outstanding issues include: paragraph 3 of Article 5 (Application of the AIA Procedure) on domestic legislation; Article 15 (Handling, Transport, Packaging and Identification) with regards to commodities; and Article 31 (Relations with Other International Agreements). He added that representatives of the group might have other issues that they consider central. Noting the sentiment of some that if there is no protocol today, then there may never be one, Mayr announced that the group of ten would resume their deliberations. The group met on and off throughout the day, and at 7:30pm started what might be their final session.

MONDAY RECAP: In contrast to the cloudless skies outside the Centro de Convenci�nes, the weather inside was anything but sunny and the forecast was dismal. Following Plenary’s deluge of dissatisfaction, some once-worried delegates seemed almost complacent, as if accepting "no protocol" as a fait accompli. However, as one participant noted, the opening of the COP signaled the final countdown and reminded all participants of the scant time remaining. More than one informal t�te � t�te between conference officials and heads of key delegations could be seen in remote corridors discussing the next steps. The informal group proposed by ExCOP President Mayr, a peace negotiator accustomed to placating warring factions, appeared to renew the optimism of many delegates eager for one last try. Many developing countries thought his proposed composition for the working group rectified the unbalanced representation of the previous consultations.

Photos and from 22 February

ExCOP President Mayr convening the morning Plenary.
Although consensus had not been achieved, President Mayr believed that a protocol could still be agreed upon during the final day of negotiations.
Hamdallah Zedan, acting Executive Secretary of the CBD Secretariat, announced that a document (UNEP/CBD/BSWG/G/6/L.2) was officially withdrawn due to mistakes and technical errors.
View of the Plenary hall just as delegates were about to break in the morning.
Beth Burrows, President and Director of the Edmonds Institute, brought a cake to Plenary in hope of celebrating the birth of a new protocol. "Let the delegates sign the protocol, and eat their cake too!"

Scenes from the final negotiating session, at midnight.


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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.