By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 4, 2012 (IPS) – After weeklong negotiations, a meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to finalise a plan of action titled “The Future We Want” for next week’s Rio+20 summit has failed to reach agreement – and deferred a decision to a final three-day session in Brazil.
And if that session too ends in a stalemate, as all other previous sessions have, world leaders may have to step in to get directly involved in negotiating the final text.
But, according to one U.N. source, that’s a rare occurrence at mega U.N. conferences where heads of state and government turn up just to endorse the plan – completely oblivious to any of the details negotiated by their diplomatic underlings.
The involvement of world leaders, however, is exactly what Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon has been trying to avoid.
“We must be determined to confront the hard issues now – 100 percent of the issues – instead of kicking the can to Rio,” he warned last month.
Quite simply, he said, “we need a negotiated outcome document before Rio to ensure the high-level participation that we worked so hard to generate.”
He bluntly told member states, “Show the flexibility that it will take to reach agreement on all substantive issues and finalise the outcome document ahead of the conference in Rio.”
But that advice apparently fell on unresponsive ears.
The final three-day session of the PrepCom, comprising all 193 member states, is scheduled to take place Jun. 13-15.
The Rio+20 summit of world leaders, formally called the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, will be held Jun. 20-22.
The summit will be preceded by three days of meetings by civil society groups, Jun. 16-18.
Despite the deadlock, the United Nations Monday expressed confidence the outcome document will be finalised before the summit.
“‘I sense a real dialogue – a real willingness to find common ground,” said Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang. “This spirit is encouraging, and we must carry it to Rio.”
Ambassador Kim Sook of the Republic of Korea, co-chair of the PrepCom, also put a positive spin on the deadlocked negotiations.
“We have accomplished much,” he said, in a statement released Monday.
Before the last round of negotiations, he pointed out, only six percent of the text had been agreed upon. Now, that number has jumped to more than 20 percent, with many additional paragraphs close to agreement.
“So what?” asked a sceptical Patricia J. Lerner, senior political adviser with Greenpeace International.
Lerner told IPS the United Nations seems to be more concerned about the number of paragraphs agreed upon than about concepts.
Outlining U.N. expectations, Sha said the latest negotiations have given the process a sense of confidence that “we can deliver to the world an outcome document that would be worthy of our heads of state and government signing.”
He also called “for strong, action-oriented outcomes that would advance progress on key issues such as food security and sustainable agriculture, energy, oceans, gender equality and womenâs empowerment, and education”.
And there must be progress on the means of implementing action, including initiatives to strengthen financing, technology transfer and capacity building, in support of sustainable development, he added.
But according to diplomatic sources, some of these issues still remain divisive, mostly on North-South lines.
Addressing the closing sessions Saturday, Sha said the United Nations should be in a position to launch a process at Rio to define sustainable development goals as a central feature of a post-2015 development framework.
He singled out “a few crucial issues” that remain unresolved, including how to ensure that the goals integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development; the process to develop Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and, perhaps most importantly, the priority areas for possible goals.
Other areas where Rio +20 can make a difference, he said, would be agreement to explore and share experiences and knowledge of green economy policy options as tools to advance sustainable development and poverty eradication, and to make decisions on key elements of the international institutions needed to support sustainable development, according to a statement released here.