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CLOSING PLENARY

The General Assembly was convened at 12:30 am by UN General Assembly President Razali Ismail for adoption of the final documents. COW Chair Mostafa Tolba reported that in the complex and detailed review of Agenda 21 just completed, countries had tried to hold themselves accountable. Ministers were actively involved in politically significant issues and the meeting resulted in the Programme for Action for Further Implementation of Agenda 21. He noted that quite a few points could not be agreed to until the twenty- fourth hour. He noted that developing countries were concerned with the downward trend of ODA and said there is now a strong signal to developed countries to commit to targets. He noted that text on energy should provide the basis for useful international cooperation. Participants have accomplished much in a relatively short time.

Delegations then gave explanations for their reservations. Turkey made a reservation on the initiative on freshwater. He said the text refers to “customary uses of water” as if the term had legal value in the context of water resource use. In international law, even an “acquired right” has not been accepted as criteria in evaluating and determining the relevant uses of water resources. A number of African countries, including Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan and Kenya, also expressed reservations on the freshwater initiative, noting that “customary use of water,” which is not in Agenda 21, could preempt the outcome of any programme to favor certain users and uses. They could not accept it as a basis for the future work of the CSD. Malta took a reservation on a paragraph referring to reproductive health.

The G-77/China said that progress has been made at the national level in implementation of Agenda 21, but the missing element remains the implementation of Rio commitments on finance and technology transfer. He said the Group did not get the significant movement it expected at UNGASS and asked “Where do we go from here?” While globalization is global it is not universal in benefits. The world is crying for answers and this session did not provide them.

The EU said its high ambitions were not fulfilled, noting that progress was not made on desertification or finance. Other discussions, however, revealed progress, such as those on climate change, forests, eco-efficiency, freshwater and poverty eradication. She thanked President Razali for making possible NGO participation in this process.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, noting the late hour, offered a brief statement. He said UNGASS had been successful in some areas, but others, particularly finance and technology transfer, would require more time and political will. He expressed hope that delegates would move beyond fixed negotiating positions to achieve cooperative results.

General Assembly President Razali Ismail thanked delegates for their hard work and noted that for the first time NGOs stood alongside governments in the General Assembly. While agreement was not reached on all items, the exchange had at least been honest and delegates had not “glossed over” the issues for media consumption. The results are “telling” and the UN must learn to deal with hard-core economic issues if it is to be successful. He adjourned the Nineteenth Special Session of the General Assembly at approximately 1:15 am.

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