At the beginning of the Thursday afternoon session in plenary, VENEZUELA made a statement on behalf of the G-77 that set the tone and agenda for most of the remaining plenary sessions. The G-77 requested that all references to forests and forest genetic resources be removed from the GPA for the following reasons. First, there was no mandate to include forests: at its last session, the Commission had not agreed to include forests in the GPA due to the issues highly contentious nature. Furthermore, Agenda 21 does not refer to forests in relation to PGR. Second, the Commission should not prejudge the outcomes of two critical processes already underway: the UN Commission on Sustainable Developments Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), which focuses on forests, and negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking, which does not include forests. The G-77 further stated that the Commission must demonstrate political will in relation to the GPA. To this end, the G-77 proposed creating a contact group to start immediate negotiations on the cost dimensions of the GPA (including identifying sources of funding) to reconsider the structure of the GPA (including identifying priority areas of implementation). Delegates first deliberated the statement pertaining to forests.
FOREST GENETIC RESOURCES: BRAZIL argued that the Secretariat had exceeded its mandate by including forests in the GPA despite lack of resolution on this matter at the last session of the Commission. He emphasized that major economic interests should not overshadow the FAOs guiding principles of hunger relief and food security. GERMANY, BOLIVIA and FRANCE noted that many countries had prepared their national reports according to specific FAO guidelines (derived from the first extraordinary session of this Commission), which did include forest resources.
In response to Germanys request for legal counsel on the scope of the FAO mandate, the FAO Legal Counsel noted that the FAO mandate on food and agriculture includes forests and fisheries, but that the factual nature of his statement should in no way determine the answer. Thus, the Commissions previous deliberations regarding the inclusion of forest genetic resources in PGRFA had been inconclusive and, in the absence of any definitive view, the question remains open for resolution by the Commission. From a strictly legal point of view, the FAO Legal Counsel later concluded, the Secretariat had no mandate to include forests in the GPA. ARGENTINA, CHINA, BRAZIL and FRANCE requested a written legal opinion on a number of matters including the competence of the Commission and the mandate of the Secretariat to include forests in the GPA for consideration by capitals prior to the Leipzig Conference.
MALAYSIA, supported by INDONESIA, argued that the introduction of the new dimension of forests into PGRFA would require postponing the Leipzig Conference and renegotiating the entire GPA pending the results of the IPF. INDIA questioned the wisdom of introducing forests, an issue never before negotiated in any of the Commissions six sessions.
COLOMBIA, noting that developing countries are fully convinced of the importance of forest resources in agriculture, emphasized that their exclusion from the subject matter was simply a practical interim measure to facilitate agreement at the Leipzig Conference. The inclusion of forests into the GPA would introduce new complexities into the already difficult negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking whose scope remains difficult to define. CUBA and CAMEROON associated themselves with the G-77 position and implored delegates not to get bogged down on an issue that could not be resolved at this stage.
CHINA noted that despite its opinion that forests is an important part of PGRFA, it would accept the G-77 position. He noted that the political and legal linkages surrounding food and forests were more complex than the scientific ones. As a compromise, he proposed leaving the matter for Leipzig until which time the Commission could adhere to the wording approved by the last FAO Conference: biological resources. TURKEY noted that most plant species are associated with forest vegetation and, as such, forest genetic resources should be retained in the text.
The EU noted that the G-77 statement corresponded exactly to the GRULAC position. He recalled the EU position, shared by many countries outside the EU, which supported the inclusion of forests as a key part of PGR. He noted that this is a legal matter in which the EU did not want to enter and proposed that the matter remain open for Leipzig until which time forest genetic resources could be considered without special emphasis. FRANCE underscored the importance of creating linkages with the IPF and proposed retaining all PGRs of forest origin in the GPA if only in brackets for resolution in Leipzig. FINLAND stated that it would be very short-sighted to exclude forests from the GPA, especially in light of the uncertain timeline of the IPF. Although countries have sovereignty over their forest genetic resources, they may require support and funds for the maintenance of native forests.
Following presentation of these positions in plenary, the Chair proposed a recess for informal consultations. Upon return to plenary, the EU reiterated the importance of forest genetic resources, but in order to facilitate constructive progress on the GPA, the EU announced its reluctant agreement to remove all specific references to them on the condition that the Commission return to this issue as a matter of priority after the Leipzig Conference. In response to ARGENTINAs question regarding whether conclusion of the IPF would constitute an appropriate time to resume consideration of the matter, the EU responded, in principle yes, but noted the difficulty in forecasting the work of the IPF. In thanking the EU for its positive response, COLOMBIA requested that delegates consider the G-77s call for political support in the same spirit.
FUNDING AND FOLLOW-UP: In response to the G-77 proposal to create a contact group to address financing and follow-up of the GPA, the US underscored the decision of the sixth session of the Commission to define commitments for the implementation of the GPA at its next regular session and called on the G-77 to abide by this decision in the same spirit of cooperation previously demonstrated by the EU. He further explained that discussion of financing and implementation would be dependent on concrete proposals for action. This position was shared by CANADA, NORWAY, the EU, AUSTRALIA, the NETHERLANDS, SWITZERLAND, POLAND, AUSTRIA, FRANCE and the UK.
NORWAY, underscoring its status as one of the few countries that is well above the 0.7% of GNP for ODA mark, indicated its general willingness to discuss any aspect of funding, including new funding. However, such a discussion needed to be justified on the basis of clear needs and priorities and might be better placed at a higher level meeting. AUSTRALIA emphasized that no decisions on financial or institutional arrangements should be made outside the International Undertaking process, since its revision will have an impact on the implementation of the GPA.
FRANCE expressed its strong political will towards making a binding commitment to funding the GPA. However, in support of the NETHERLANDS comment that the draft GPA was still a working framework, indicated its inability to assign funds to unidentified projects and priorities. The UK, later supported by TURKEY, urged delegates to return to consideration of the GPA as the only way of giving practical effect to the Commissions deliberations.
VENEZUELA, on behalf of the G-77, revised its earlier proposal for a contact group and called for clear proof of political will. COLOMBIA noted that a responsible GPA must contain financial arrangements and without a show of commitment to this effect, the meeting cannot move forward. BRAZIL stated that it would be diversional to study the GPA without a politically safe statement from donor countries. MALAYSIA noted that without a budget, the draft GPA was merely a technical plan rather than a global one, and proposed that it be adopted in Leipzig as a technical document in the way that an auditor qualifies an annual report.
Noting the impasse on this issue, the Chair adjourned plenary on Thursday evening and suspended Friday mornings plenary to allow for informal consultations among delegations. Heads of regional groups were requested to keep the Bureau informed of deliberations and on this basis, a Chairs text was presented to the Friday afternoon plenary as follows: We recognize the need for financial resources in order to implement the GPA and we commit ourselves to discuss this matter during the Leipzig Conference.
The US noted that the text closely approximated an acceptable position and proposed replacing matter with process. Linked with this, the US proposed amendments to the draft provisional agenda for Leipzig, so as to read Adoption of the Report and the GPA (deleting and recommendations for its implementation and financing in item 8) and Review of possibilities for the implementation and financing of the GPA (deleting brackets around item 9). Should the term process not prove acceptable, then the term matter would be conditioned by item 9.
PAKISTAN argued that replacing matter with process represented an unwanted change of concepts rather than a mere clarification, noting that his delegation did not wish to discuss a process that may not address the matter: financial resources. ETHIOPIA proposed that process could be introduced as a separate agenda item while matter could be defined in a footnote.
VENEZUELA stated that although the Chairs text did not satisfy the aspirations of the G- 77, it was prepared to accept the text provided it was not amended to reopen debate on this issue would mean reopening all the other G-77 points. VENEZUELA did however accept the US proposal regarding agenda item 9 as logical. MEXICO, ETHIOPIA, IRAN, PAKISTAN, COSTA RICA and CHINA also voiced their support for the G-77 position.
While CANADA and AUSTRALIA concurred with the US proposal in its entirety, the EU supported only the proposed amendments to the agenda. The impasse was broken when CANADA drew applause for its concession to accept the Chairs text without amendments with the term matter conditioned by item 9, as originally proposed by the US. VENEZUELA proposed to drop the term financing from item 8 because it was now dealt with in item 9. Just when the issue appeared to be resolved, FRANCE proposed additional wording that would place the financing of the GPA within the context of the entire FAO Global System. Rather than reopening debate on an issue on which consensus had been difficult to achieve, the Chair requested that FRANCE withdraw its proposal and recommended that the Global System be addressed under another item on the Leipzig agenda. FRANCE, AUSTRALIA and NORWAY went on record in the final report of the Commission as having requested that an explicit link be made between the GPA and the Global System, including the International Undertaking.
FORMAL STATEMENTS: Following closure of the GPA funding debate on Friday, VENEZUELA issued a formal statement in which the G-77: expressed deep regret that their proposals for the examination of financial matters were not accepted by the developed countries; recalled that the GPA should be complementary and consistent with the provisions of the CBD, in particular Article 20 regarding financial mechanisms; and considered that the negotiations of the financial mechanisms for the full implementation of the GPA should not prejudice the negotiations for the revision of the International Undertaking.
The following day, CANADA made a formal statement in plenary on behalf of AUSTRALIA, the CZECH REPUBLIC, the EC and its member States, JAPAN, NEW ZEALAND, NORWAY, POLAND, SLOVAKIA, SWITZERLAND, TURKEY and the US in which these countries: recognize the importance of establishing a sound process for considering the financial implications of the GPA but do not consider that all relevant information is yet available for an in-depth discussion on implementation; propose that a process for discussing the implementation and financing of the GPA according to the arrangements agreed at the sixth session of the Commission be agreed to at Leipzig; and state that the International Undertaking and the GPA are interlinked as part of the FAO Global System underpinning world food security and that their financing should be discussed accordingly.
Both statements were included in the body of the final report.
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