Posted on | June 17, 2012 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D. |
It was almost expected, and everyone here in Rio is taking it on the chin. Late Friday night it became inevitable. The outcome document of the Rio + 20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development will not be the result of multilateral negotiations carried out under the rules of the United Nations, but will be controlled by Brazil, the host nation. This has the potential to deliver a more coherent and simple document, because Brazil will not be constrained by draconian negotiating rules, but one that has much less agreement, and less substance – “green” substance that is.
Multilateral negotiations were doomed to fail from the start, some will say. After three days of negotiations here in Rio de Janeiro, delegations were still unable to come to agreement on even the most basic elements of the outcome document. UN burocrats and green NGOs from around the world have been clamoring that the pace of negotiations on the outcome document were too slow since the first round of negotiations took place in January at UN Headquarters in New York. They had a point.
Brazil, the host nation, is certainly the UN member state who stands to gain the most from this development. If the Brazilians lead a succesful process they will be remembered as the saviours of this conference. World leaders, possibly more than one hundred, will be converging on Rio De Janeiro for a two day summit at the end of the week. It looks almost as though delegations have been waiting for their political leaders to show up, and stalled negotiations purposefully.
Brazil is holding consultations today and tomorrow (as opposed to negotiations) with other UN member states at the Rio Centro, where the conference is taking place. These consultations are more of a formality than actual negotiations. Brazil will try to present a document with the consensus necessary for it to be politically significant. Therefore, what were red line items for many states in previous drafts of the outcome document will be eliminated or weakened. Additionally, since the document will necessarily contain elements unpalatable to some nations, there will be more reservations when it is adopted later this week.
During negotiations, basic agreement could not be reached on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals, the implementation of the Conference and even on how to integrate sexual and reproductive health in the document. All these elements of the document will now have to be worded carefully to maximize consensus, and therefore will probably have less substance.
Nevertheless, the current draft put forth by the Brazilians contains several elements that are still worded too strongly. Most countries are unhappy over whether the emphasis of the document favors developing or developed countries. Developing countries have been calling for more help from developed countries, and developed countries want to limit the amount of help they are expected to mete out.
The Holy See is more concerned with the dignity of the human person and has insisted on a document centered on the human person, rather than a particular development agenda. Presently, the Holy See is unhappy with the current references to sexual and reproductive health, because they will be used to support access to abortion as a right. Hopefully, countries like Malta, Poland, Ireland, Chile, Nigeria, and others who have laws protecting the unborn, and that have made reservations to prevent abortion from becoming a human right in the past, will act again. The draft also contains a mention of the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services for youth. Youth, in the United Nations context can mean children as young as ten.