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A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE MEETING

The intersessional meeting on finance and changing consumption and production patterns received mixed reviews. Some believed it was a worthwhile exchange that allowed them to learn about the experiences of others, prepared them for the issues to be discussed at CSD-4, and may have even advanced the debate on some aspects of the topics under discussion. Others concentrated on the level of repetition — well known arguments were presented again and again — and suggested that the benefits of the meeting did not justify the costs. The following analysis briefly examines the major issues that were discussed, advanced or repeated during the meeting, and concludes with some comments on issues related to the process of the meeting.

Many believed that there was some progression in the debate on consumption and production patterns. General comments on the issue began at a rhetorical, and well rehearsed, level, calling on developed countries to take the lead. Developing countries added a call for actions by the developed countries to take into account any adverse effects that changed patterns of consumption might have on developing countries, noting a recognition of the possibility that changed consumption and production patterns in the North might involve decreased imports from the South. By the end of the week, during the discussion on the Chair's draft report, the debate took on a more constructive focus. The developing countries called for the involvement of their own representatives in studies and discussions on sustainable consumption and production patterns. They also proposed that these studies and discussions be examined and that concrete actions be suggested, always with the involvement of developing countries. Delegates were concerned that guidelines for eco-labeling schemes and related activities might create trade barriers, and noted that these and other evolving guidelines for sustainable consumption and production should account for the situation of developing countries, if they are to provide a model.

Experienced observers were struck by the acceptance of language referring to non-ODA sources of finance, especially after the difficulty at last year's intersessional meeting in getting this topic on the agenda. Nevertheless, many delegates were disappointed with the finance debate, which included familiar calls from the South to respect previous commitments to ODA levels and from the North to create domestic conditions that will facilitate private financial flows. Some expressed disappointment with the "innovative" options that were discussed — taxes — and suggested that more options should be on the table.

The handful of NGOs attending the meeting suggested that the tax issues, particularly the tax on air transportation, would have been better placed in the debate on changing consumption and production patterns. They stressed that such a tax would support the Polluter Pays Principle, and suggested that implementation would be most effective if connected to this debate, rather than presented as a fundraising tool.

One delegate commented that the discussion on consumption and production patterns had developed ideas for further study by expert groups. When reminded that this meeting was supposed to be one of experts, the familiar refrain was raised that the meeting had once again failed to achieve this goal. Participants recognized that many of the issues discussed during the week would not be resolved at the expert level, and the low level of expert attendance helped to fulfill this expectation.

Some privately questioned whether the CSD intersessional process could be changed so it would facilitate more constructive discussions and generate new ideas. One delegate noted that the Manila Expert Group Meeting held in February attracted some of the same participants as this intersessional meeting, but because participants had gathered informally in Manila to share their views rather than to represent their governments, ideas were shared openly. Another delegate suggested using the structure of "real" expert meetings, where the group breaks out into small groups focused on specialized issues, which report back to the plenary at various stages of the meeting. The previous week's intersessional meeting on sectoral issues had done this to some extent, and was described as a more dynamic discussion. It might be useful for the CSD to consider the usefulness and structure of the intersessionals before it embarks on its next five-year work programme.

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