UNCED Pre-Conference Consultations got off to a slow start yesterday. The formal meeting was scheduled to resume at 3:00 pm., after regional group meetings and informal consultations. However, it was 4:30 pm before the Chairman, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer, convened the meeting.
The regional groups held meetings Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning to address a variety of issues including the nomination of Vice Presidents for the Plenary and the Main Committee as well as the selection of "Friends of the Rapporteur-General" of the Plenary. Each of the five regional groups were asked to select two "Friends." The African Group also had to decide on its nominations for Vice Presidents of the Plenary, since on Monday it had tabled 12 nominations for its 11 seats. The Asian Group had to resolve a similar problem as it, too, had tabled more nominations than allotted seats.
Lafer convened "Friends of the Chair" meetings on Monday and Tuesday with the heads of the regional groups. On Monday night, they agreed on several matters related to the Summit portion of the Conference. Speeches by the Heads of State or Government during the Summit will be limited to 7 minutes. The additional time allotted for speeches (from 5 to 7 minutes) thus requires a change in the Summit timetable. On 12 June, the meeting will start earlier, at 9:00 am, and end later, at 6:00 or 7:00 pm. On 13 June the speeches will also begin at 9:00 am but will end at 5:00 pm so that the Heads of State or Government can hold a one-hour roundtable discussion. During this discussion, statements will be made by the United Nations Secretary-General, the Secretary-General of the Conference, and one representative from each of the five regional groups. The meeting will conclude with a statement from the President of the Conference, Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello. Several changes in protocol related to the introduction and timing of the Heads of State or Government will be required. For example, it is believed that one Head of State or Government will be able to start his or her speech before the other is seated so as to speed up the process.
When the formal Pre-Sessional Consultations finally reconvened at 4:30 pm, the first item on the agenda was the continuation of the elections of officers for the Plenary and the Main Committee. Tommy Koh was elected as Chairman of the Main Committee and Algeria was elected as Rapporteur-General of the Conference. The matter of the Vice Presidents of the Plenary was not as easily resolved. One of the members of the African Group continued to insist that his country be one of the Vice Presidents of the Plenary. With 12 African nominees for 11 seats, and no compromise reached within the Group, another solution had to be found. At one point during the day, the delegate in question suggested that an additional position for a Rapporteur be added to the Bureau for the Main Committee and that seat should be given to him. The Bureau for the Main Committee was intended to include a Chair (Koh) and four Vice Chairs, one from each of the remaining regional groups, with one of the Vice Chairs acting as Rapporteur.
After much discussion between Lafer and the heads of the regional groups, the Latin American and Caribbean Group agreed to give up one of its eight seats (Colombia) on the Plenary Bureau and give it to the African Group, providing that it was understood that this would not be a precedent-setting move. As part of the package, the Bureau for the Main Committee would remain as originally planned. Thus, the Latin American and Caribbean Vice Presidents for the Plenary are Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and Jamaica. The African Vice Presidents now include Tanzania, Kenya, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Gabon, Zaire and Mauritania.
Now the sole remaining issue on the composition of the Bureau of the Plenary is the list of Vice Presidents from the Asian Group. In order to avoid a vote, it was decided to postpone the final selection of Vice Presidents until the Asians could make a final decision. Problems in reaching a consensus decision on this issue is understandable given the disparate geo-political composition of the Asian group, which stretches from Jordan to Japan.
The meeting broke up Tuesday night when it was announced that the invitations for the opening ceremony were available at the Protocol Desk and the delegates streamed out of the conference room. It was unclear whether the delegates had finished discussing all of the items on their agenda, however, a set of recommendations will be forwarded to the Plenary for its opening session today.
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