IN THE CORRIDORS I
There was much discussion in the corridors of RioCentro yesterday
about a number of procedural questions that must be addressed
before substantive negotiations can commence. Some of these have
been addressed during the pre-sessional consultations, others in
the "Friends of the Chair" meetings and still others will be left
to be decided by Tommy Koh and the Bureau of the Main Committee.
These decisions are critical in determining the speed, flexibility
and possible success of the negotiations over the next two weeks.
The decisions that many delegates feel are most important include:
- Meeting Flexibility: Many feel that the decisions related to the number and timing of meetings must be as flexible as possible to ensure rapid progress in the negotiations. At present, the draft rules of procedure state that the Main Committee may establish sub-committees or working groups, as necessary, for the performance of its functions. During the Preparatory Committee meetings, Conference rules limited the number of meetings that could be held simultaneously, so as to avoid overtaxing countries with small delegations. If seven or eight sub-committees or contact groups are established by the Main Committee, the possible number of meetings could surpass this limit and may be objected to by G-77 members. In a related issue, many delegates feel that the G-77 should schedule its meetings so as not to conflict with the limited time available for sub-committee or contact group meetings on the problematic substantive areas of Agenda 21.
- Text Under Negotiation: The vast portion of text in Agenda 21 has been negotiated with only the most contentious issues remaining in brackets. Although the formal rules of the Conference permit any country to open discussion on any item of text, many delegates feel that negotiations will quickly digress if unbracketed text is opened for debate. A possible agreement not to reopen negotiated text would have to take the form of an informal pact between governments. Many feel that the likelihood of such an agreement is slim given the chances that certain countries may well call for previously agreed text to be revised.: There is also a great deal of discussion about reopening the text of the Rio Declaration for further negotiation. The G-77 and the EC have announced that they do not want to reopen the document. Some believe that if the document is reopened it is highly unlikely that there will be a Declaration ready for signature at the conclusion of the Earth Summit. There are a few countries, including a member of the G-77, which have expressed concern about the current text and are trying to gain sufficient support to reopen negotiations. Some delegates maintain that it would be better to have no Declaration at all than one that is inadequate.
- Coordinators: Some delegates have expressed concern that the selection of the Main Committee's sub-committee or contact group coordinators should be based on experience and familiarity with the subject matter and not necessarily on political rank. It is likely that some of coordinators from the PrepCom will be asked to continue their roles here in Rio. The final decision, which is ultimately the responsibility of Main Committee Chair Tommy Koh and his Bureau, is a critical one.