As the Main Committee worked through the first eight chapters of Agenda 21, it became increasingly clear that the challenge of removing the remaining brackets would not be easy. The meeting started on a procedural note, including an announcement that Charles Liburd of Guyana would be the coordinator for the contact group on forest principles. Committee Chair Tommy Koh then set out guidelines to facilitate the work of the Committee, including a prohibition on reopening unbracketed text. After a long procedural discussion, during which a number of delegations requested exceptions to this rule, Koh proposed that unbracketed text be opened only in the following cases: 1) where the Secretariat has inadvertently left out brackets; 2) where a paragraph contains a footnote requesting reexamination; and 3) where certain delegations reserved the right to reexamine the text in Rio and the request had been acceded to at PrepCom IV. Koh requested that delegations submit a list of the latter by 6:00 pm yesterday so that he could compile and present the list to the Main Committee for consideration today.
The Main Committee then took up the bracketed text of Chapter 1 of Agenda 21 -- the Preamble. It was agreed that the bracketed text in paragraph 1.4, and all subsequent Agenda 21 chapters that deal with finance or technology, are to be referred to the appropriate contact group for discussion.
Chapter 2,"International Cooperation to Accelerate Sustainable Development in Developing Countries and Related Domestic Policies," was more complicated. Koh had to send a group of countries out of the room to negotiate bracketed text in paragraph 2.1, which establishes a global partnership for environment and development. The US then requested to reopen paragraph 2.2 for discussion. This paragraph, which deals with the need for economic policies to be supportive of sustainable development, was not in brackets. The existing text states that the development process "will not gather momentum" if the external economic environment is not conducive to domestic economic growth. The US proposal, in effect, shifted the responsibility from the global economic environment to domestic economic policies of developing countries. The proposal was not well received. Not only did members of the G-77 argue with the US on matters of substance (i.e., this proposal changes the character of the paragraph) but on matters of procedure as well (should this paragraph be reopened at all). Koh postponed further discussion until he receives a complete list of all unbracketed paragraphs that delegations wanted to reopen.
The next paragraph under discussion was 2.24, which deals with external indebtedness. At PrepCom IV, the US had bracketed a sentence that reads: "In this context, additional financial resources in favour of developing countries are essential." The US suggested deleting the text or rewriting it as follows: "The availability of additional external resources will increase as foreign entities are convinced that such resources will generate a positive result." G-77 members protested while Canada and the UK tried to propose compromise language. Finally, Chile proposed text that was acceptable to both the US and the G-77: "Additional financial resources in favour of developed countries and the efficient utilization of such resources is essential."
The bracketed text in paragraph 2.33, which includes the need to restrain consumption in developed countries, was no easier. When the US commented that reducing consumption in developed countries reduces income for developing countries, Koh responded, "Why don't you let the G-77 look after the interests of the developing countries?" Koh adjourned the morning's session asking that interested parties meet to discuss the paragraph.
When the meeting reconvened, Koh quickly moved to Chapter 3, "Combatting Poverty." Since there were only three paragraphs with brackets and all dealt with finance, it appeared at first that this chapter would be easily dispensed with. The US, however, reserved its position on paragraph 3.5, which includes the phrase "people under occupation."
In Chapter 4, "Changing Consumption Patterns," the US commented that there were several instances where brackets were inadvertently omitted. Koh postponed discussion on these paragraphs but that did not stop the US from proposing new text and opening a long and heated debate on paragraphs 4.3 and 4.5, which deal with the links between poverty, environmental stress and the need to change consumption patterns. What evolved was a substantive debate between the US, supported by Japan, and the rest of the developing and developed countries. Finally, Koh said, "This is no longer the PrepCom" and we should only be lifting brackets and making some textual changes. "We are long past the point of making substantive changes." Koh asked Australia, the coordinator for this issue at PrepCom IV, to convene a small group of interested delegations to work out a compromise. Koh also asked the US to "refrain in the future from submitting entirely new texts."
The US agreed to remove the only non-finance bracketed text in Chapter 5, "Demographic Dynamics and Sustainability," and discussion quickly moved to Chapter 6, "Protecting and Promoting Human Health." Four paragraphs contained brackets around the phrase "people under occupation". Koh said that since this phrase occurs in a total of ten paragraphs in Agenda 21 and in the Rio Declaration, it should be dealt with in a generic manner. Koh said he would undertake consultations with interested delegations to find a solution acceptable to all.
The Committee quickly progressed through Chapters 7 (Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development) and 8 (Integrating Environment and Development in Decision-Making), before adjourning for the day.
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