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September 7, 2002

Thank god for five renegade leaders, says the Guardian's John Vidal, prepared to stand alone at the summit against the rest of the world's leaders (who all dress and think alike: blue suits, rimless glasses, and a belief in free markets).

Vidal's five "outspoken renegades" are President Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela, Dr Sam Nujoma of Namibia, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Felipe Roque, Cuban foreign minister, and President Yoweri Museveni, of Uganda.

David Steven | 04:36 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (1)

September 5, 2002

The political declaration was two documents, not one – with a "corrigendum" hastily tacked onto what I think was the third draft declaration to be circulated.

The political declaration was supposed to be an inspiring document, capturing the "mood" of change in a few short paragraphs.

The South Africans took responsibility for preparing it and, although they have received general praise for the way they handled the negotiations, Daily Summit reckons they bungled this final job.

The declaration does have a few colourful passages, but generally the language is stodgy and clotted, the aspirations banal, and the commitments anodyne. The most memorable passage, with its reference to the King James bible, is typically clunky.

"Unless we act in a manner that fundamentally changes their lives, the poor of the world may lose confidence in their representatives and the democratic systems to which we remain committed, seeing their representatives as nothing more than sounding brass or tinkling cymbals." it says.

The corrigendum (defined here, as "an error to be corrected, especially a printer's error") adds two paragraphs of bits and pieces that countries wanted included at the last minute.

One addition had the representatives from the world's indigenous peoples dancing with delight. Reaffirming their "vital role" in sustainable development was the breakthrough they'd been waiting for, one said. Apparently, the term 'indigenous peoples" has never been used without qualification in an official inter-governmental document.

David Steven | 03:26 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (1)

The draft declaration is now available here.

Mick Fealty | 12:18 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (1)

September 4, 2002

A press conference too far. Thabo Mbeki and Ministers Zuma, Moosa and Erwin looked shattered as they gave a final press conference – like hostages released after a long, tense siege.

The media asked a string of leaden questions, each taking his or her hobby horse out for one last ride.

Mr Mbeki answered with dignity and patience – but at great length, as Minister Zuma nodded off by his side.

"These are precisely matters of life and death," he said. True words – but enough, really, for tonight.

David Steven | 10:29 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (2)

It was strangely restful sitting at the very back of the summit's final plenary.

First, we heard from a long list of countries who wished to express reservations of one kind or another about the proposed agreements. There were three types of list. From some developing countries, passionate cries that the summit could and should have done more. From, the United States a long list of items it didn't really agree with, delivered at breakneck speed, and greeted by more boos. And from a middle group, small, but detailed and technical concerns.

Then a long, long, long adjournment, while horse trading continued to arrive at a political declaration anodyne enough that everyone could agree to it. At last, the meeting was called back to order, and then the plan of implementation was adopted without argument and at great speed.

But still the summit refused to die. For another cruel hour – speakers thanked the South Africans, civil society and each other, while speculating about how happy we will all feel if the summit's fine commitments are somehow achieved.

No-one, of course, thanked the media (why would they?) – and as the delegates celebrate and the NGOs commiserate, we wait for one last press conference with Thabo Mbeki…

David Steven | 09:11 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (5)

And now it is over! At 7.44 this evening, the World Summit's plan of implementation was adopted - and at 7.54, the third draft of political declaration was adopted too (against Daily Summit's earlier prediction)...

David Steven | 08:59 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

Daily Summit hears that a new draft of the political declaration was released half an hour ago. We are trying to track a copy down as the word is there are still serious obstacles to be overcome if this or any declaration is to be adopted.

David Steven | 04:29 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

Some of you may balk at reading the long post below. So here's the bottom line: (1) the implementation plan has been agreed; (2) text connecting health to human rights is included; (3) text connecting environment and human rights has been weakened; (4) no-one (literally) knows what has been agreed on corporate responsibility; (5) the political declaration is far from being ready; (6) chaos reigns.

David Steven | 02:58 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (7)

At 12.59 tonight, the plan of implementation was finalised - days after observers had predicted.

The last few hours of the negotiations saw frantic activity behind the scenes, with - as far as Daily Summit could ascertain - South Africa acting as a broker, while the Canadians and the G77 group of developing countries developed mutually acceptable text on health and human rights.

At a committee meeting delayed for around three hours, Dr Dlamini Zuma, South African Foreign Minister, presented compromise text on three paragraphs (6d, 47 and 58) which she told the meeting were to be "taken as a package."

The crucial passage now commits the world’s governments to take action to ensure health systems can deliver basic health care services to all "in conformity with human rights and fundamental freedoms, and consistent with national laws and cultural and religious values." This seems to be a significant victory for the human rights lobby, though Daily Summit awaits its reaction later this morning.

The meeting chair asked for objections to this text and swiftly announced it passed, having failed to notice that a country delegation was requesting to speak. Fortunately, this delegation required only a minor clarification and, to applause, the last obstacle to agreement was resolved. Soon after, the plan as a whole had been endorsed by the committee.

The drama was not over, however, with the meeting degenerating into chaos as corporate responsibility reared its head once more (see our fullish coverage of this issue).

Ambassador Ashe, from Antigua and Barbuda, read out an "interpretative note" from the informal contact group that had considered this issue. According to the note, the group considered that the text on corporate responsibility referred only to existing international agreements, despite the text itself referring to the "full development and effective implementation of intergovernmental agreements and measures."

Contrary to Friends of the Earth's briefing and our earlier post, Daily Summit now believes the contact group had always intended to fudge this issue. It gave with one hand in the text (yes, new agreements can be developed on corporate responsibility) and took with the other in the interpretative note (no, they can't).

The plot then thickened (yes, seriously). After the note was read out, the chair, facing a sea of hands, invited the Ethiopian delegate to speak. He made a delightful intervention, asking for the logic of the contact group’s illogical stance to be explained.

Ambassador Ashe made a half-hearted attempt to clarify, but the Ethiopian gentleman persisted. Either the text or the interpretative note must be discarded, he said, as the text called for development, while the note made it clear "there will be no future to develop." Clearly, the text could not be changed (it had just been adopted), so "if the group wants to comment, let them come back with a logical comment," he concluded.

At this point, the Chair mumbled a decision on the matter, further obscuring a wonderfully confused situation. The consensus afterwards was that he seemed to have taken responsibility for adding the interpretative note to the meeting record, over Ethiopia's objections.

Norway, however, was not satisfied and its delegate developed a new critique. "Informal contact groups do not exist [gloss: their informal status facilitates discussion - and they have no formal standing] and they should not be referred to," she said. "We would like to have this statement added to the record."

So, in the end, an illogical statement from a non-existent group was (probably) entered into the meeting record, but so was an objection to this action. And the status of the corporate accountability text? Anyone's guess - though it is hard to see how the interpretative note holds any force.

And, with that, the meeting was over…

Except it wasn't. More hands had gone up, with delegates now asking about the political declaration [quick catch-up: this is the short "mood" document that accompanies the dull, but worthwhile, implementation plan.]

Minister Zuma said that the South Africans had now received as many suggestions on the draft her government prepared and circulated on Monday morning "as there are people here in this room." Despite this, a new draft would be ready in the morning, she promised.

"But how will we discuss and agree it?" delegates asked. The Chair seemingly had no idea, repeatedly blocking questions. Daily Summit notes that (a) the new draft is not ready; (b) delegations are sure to have comments on draft 2; (c) there is no process for reaching agreement on this declaration; (d) the summit's closing ceremony is at 3 pm today, just 12 hours away.

Yes, it seems that some very tired people are doing their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A few days ago, the summit seemed on course. Now, time is running out fast…

David Steven | 02:50 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (2)

The missing 4000. At 12.59, the plan of implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development was finally approved by the summit's main committee - in advance of its formal approval in plenary tomorrow.

There are 4012 media representatives accredited to the summit - I'd be very suprised if 12 of them were present at this crucial milestone...

More on this story soon.

David Steven | 01:47 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (2)

September 3, 2002

Here's how it goes - nothing happens. Time passes. Then, suddenly a flurry of activity, as a piece of new text appears. Clumps form as delegates crane to get a view of the relevant paper - and then break down as they starting asking: "what does it mean?"

Currently, it all comes down to whether to connect women's health and human rights. Why does it matter? It depends who you ask. The pro-rights side says it’s about gross abuses of women’s rights (i.e. female circumcision), as well as access to basic health care. The anti-rights people say the words are code for the right to abortion - and that such matters should be decided at national level.

Wednesday approaches fast - and we still seem some way from agreement. But who knows? Seasoned observers tell me the end could come surprisingly fast…

David Steven | 11:44 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

It's a can of worms - another paragraph, linking environment and human rights, has been weakened at the last minute, after a row between the EU and the G77. A plenary was supposed to start to discuss all these issues at 9.00 - but at 10.20, everyone is still waiting. This indicates some kind of action is going on behind the scenes...

David Steven | 10:25 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

It still ain't quite over as arguments continue over language in the plan of implementation linking women's health to human rights - the proposal is being opposed by the Holy See, the US and some developing countries. The ten words on which it all hinges are: "in conformity with all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Meanwhile Russia and China have said they will ratify the Kyoto protocol...

David Steven | 04:28 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (3)

The framework for action documents are now published and online. See our connect page under Offical outcomes.

Mick Fealty | 01:01 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

Never a truer word - "I don't remember all the paragraphs of the text," said Margot Wallström, EU Environment Commissioner, a few hours ago, "and I'm glad that I don't. If we go out of this building and continue to use this mumbo jumbo language, then we will scare people away."

David Steven | 12:50 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

September 2, 2002

It ain't over until it's over, and the negotiations continue here in Sandton. The battle continues over renewable energy, with a new text being drafted as we speak. Since the so-called "WTO takeover" was averted last night, the media are lacking a clear, bad news story, so expect enormous coverage for this issue if, as Daily Summit expects, a very mild target is adopted in this area…

David Steven | 05:56 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

September 1, 2002

The signals are that agreement is now very near on the plan of implementation, though Ministers are still meeting and the last issues to be resolved are inevitably the most knotty.

The trade between the US and the EU for a target on sanitation in exchange for a weak (or no) target on renewable energy has not yet been made - and there's some talk of kicking the issue of agricultural subsidies up for discussion by heads of state.

The stronger language on corporate accountability has not yet gone through, but it is looking more and more likely that it will - marking a significant victory for civil society at a summit many of its members believe is controlled by corporations.

If a deal is struck, expect the most heat to be generated around language that suggests multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) must be compatible with WTO rules.

This text is probably fairly meaningless - as there is a commitment to unpack the whole vexed issue of the relationship between world trade and environment rules in the forthcoming round of trade talks (a commitment that, at the time, was seen as a concession to environmentalists).

But if it doesn’t mean much, why include it? Daily Summit reckons that governments will come to see this as a huge tactical error - as these few words dominate the next few days and further contribute to the WTO's already toxic reputation.

The next stage is the political declaration, which will be two or three pages at most. It is supposed to translate into ordinary language the much longer plan of implementation - and add a higher level message from the summit.

Expect text on the importance of the multilateral system, globalisation, targets and timetables, delivery mechanisms, poverty and market access.

The process of putting it together may not run smoothly. The South Africans have prepared a draft, but our understanding is that few delegations have seen it yet. In addition, the world's leaders will not all be here at the same time, making it somewhat harder to achieve consensus…

David Steven | 11:54 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

Dr Dlamini Zuma, South African Foreign Minister, has just provided an upbeat assessment on the progress of negotiations - implying that she expected agreement later tonight or early tomorrow morning.

"The implementation plan is almost finished," she told a press conference, "while the political delcaration is ready for ministers to start looking at."

Outstanding issues are the precautionary principle (which the minister said would soon be settled), renewable energy, sanitation, "some little trade issues," and a few governance issues.

Daily Summit had a chance to ask the minister about her mood as she was bundled off into a lift. Her good temper, she told us, was born of a need to keep the spirits of negotiators up - but relief also played a part as the negotiations near conclusion.

We'll be trying to find out whether our other sources share her positive interpretation of the current state of play.

David Steven | 07:44 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

Apparently, the contact group on trade and finance broke up in some disarray at 1.30 last night after waiting for hours for the EU delegation to turn up.

EU environmnt ministers are said that have been locked in discussion about subsidies, especially farm subsidies, and were having to consult with their superiors. The US and G77 were not amused and Ambassador Ashe inevitably adjourned until this morning.

Tempers are reported to be fraying as fatigue kicks in...

David Steven | 10:31 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

August 30, 2002

"This building has become a dangerous zone - we are in arm twisting mode," according to Greenpeace, at an ongoing NGO press conference. "Japan is doing the United States's dirty laundry. Japanese officials are telling ministers from developing countries that it is willing to accept the target on sanitation, only if the condition on renewable energy is removed."

Daily Summit has been predicting that the US and Japan were holding out on water as a bargaining chip as the negotiations hit their final phase…and now it seems to be happening. The renewable energy target is now dead, in our opinion, as even the EU is losing its appetite for battle in this area.

The South African Trade Minister, Alec Irwin, an NGO hero earlier in the week because of his support for rules on corporate accountability, is now not so popular. He is supposed to be convening a meeting in a few hours which may kick the "precautionary principle" out of the summit text.

Overall NGO stance: this summit has been taken over by trade.

David Steven | 02:59 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (16)

We're promised an all night session here as the EU ups the pressure to try and force an agreement.

Until now, discussion of contentious issue has mostly been carried out in small contact groups, where officials meet with other officals.

Now, the EU wants all the issues under dispute bundled together for discussion by ministers. However, it met considerable resistance when it pushed for this approach late last night, and a period of chaos seems to have ensued.

Most official delegates still seem confident of agreement, but the clock is ticking and the atmosphere in Sandton is noticeably more tense this morning.

The EU has a list of 14 areas where it wishes to see considerable movement. To the Daily Summit's untutored eye, it seems like a worryingly long list.

The areas are: the Rio Principles, good governance, human rights, world solidarity fund, sanitation, energy, sustainable development and consumption, natural resources, climate change, globalisation, the social dimensions of partnerships and global public goods.

One Daily Summit source suggested that, although there still seemed to be plentiful political will, the negotiating team are facing difficulties because of the sheer amount of work to be done - much of this work, of course, should have been done at the final preparatory meeting in Bali.

David Steven | 12:17 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (7)

August 28, 2002

Ambassador Ashe has just reported a major breakthrough on globalisation, trade and finance.

The Ambassador represents Antigua and Barbuda at the United Nations, but he has assumed a pivotal role at this conference as chair of a "contact group" on trade, finance and sustainable development.

A contact group allows a small number of government negotiators to disappear into a room to bash away at parts of the text that are especially contentious.

Last night, apparently, there was a breakthrough, after a session that went on to 3 am (there's growing number of exhausted people here in Sandton).

Apparently agreement has now been reached on 99% of the globalisation, trade and finance issues. The remaining sticking points are whether the conference should call for additional progress on phasing out agricultural subsidies - over and above that agreed at the Doha trade talks.

There are also still arguments about how globalisation should be defined.

"Do we give it a positive spin?" said the Ambassador. "Or do we show it in all its aspects - good and bad."

David Steven | 12:44 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

August 27, 2002

Those who believe the summit is purely about the environment would be surprised by the heavy emphasis on trade, finance and the role of business in solving - or exacerbating - the problems of poor countries.

As well as agricultural subsidies, the UK delegation is highlighting the resistance of unnamed countries (I'd guess America and maybe Australia - though not the EU and Canada) to delivering on a 2001 commitment to open up their markets to the very poorest countries.

As with farm subsidies, the US position on this issue seems hard to understand at best, calculated to lose it friends at worst. Daily Summit will try and get clarification from the US delegation…

David Steven | 01:38 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (1)

August 26, 2002

Daily Summit has the first copy of the new list of "type 2" partnerships to be released to the media - and it makes for interesting reading.

Type 2 partnerships are new for this summit - and are supposed to enhance the formal ("type 1") intergovernmental agreement.

Each partnership is supposed to bring together various permutations of government, business, and civil society - and must meet certain criteria. They must be international, prepared specifically for the summit, link with summit priorities, be transparent and fairly constructed - and have at least pilot financing in place.

They're causing plenty of arguments here (more of this in an article later today). Some NGOs are muttering about corporate takeover. The US, meanwhile, is said to be resisting formal links between type 1 and type 2, where the type 1 agreements sets a clear target, against which the impact of partnerships can be measured.

So to the list. At a rough count, it lists 330 partnerships, which - all being well - will at some stage be officially stamped with the type 2 seal of approval.

Most are led by a UN or Bretton Woods institution, a national government, or an NGO. Only a handful have a business upfront - an African energy project led by Eskom, a proposal for a Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, a marketing for sustainable development initiative led by J Walter Thompson Canada, but these are rare examples.

Will the list satisfy the summit's press? Of course, not. The British papers, at least, are sniffing around hoping to discover that Monsanto (or a company equally villainous) is the power behind one of the proposals. So the question tomorrow will certainly be: who are the other partners?

A partnership to thrust GMOs down poor people's throats - now that would really make my media colleagues happy.

David Steven | 06:26 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (1)

According to the UK delegation negotiations at the summit are going reasonably well - though Daily Summit hears from another source that progress slowed considerably yesterday evening, after a promising start.

NGOs, meanwhile, are girding their loins for an attack on the US position which, as the Daily Summit understands it, is this: "no new targets or goals - let's focus on implementing existing agreements."

This morning rumours are rife that the US is especially keen to water down all sections covering energy. Given the US's well-known position on Kyoto, this can hardly count as a surprise...

David Steven | 02:36 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (1)

August 25, 2002

Secretary General, Nitin Desai (who was barely audible during much of the press conference) said that Rio focused on trying to change the way people thought about development. Johannesburg was about changing the way that people act."

The summit is therefore not about new agreements - but about implementation and action.

He also said that Johannesburg saw civil society on the threshold of a new role in international development. Rio marked the beginning of mass civil society engagement in the UN - but their main role was advocacy. Now civil society organisations are to become involved in partnerships for implementation.

Readers of Daily Summit will know that many NGOs have a frosty attitude to these so-called Type 2 partnerships, seeing them as part of a corporate take-over of the UN.

One possible outcome is a civil society split - with some NGOs being drawn into partnerships (that, after all, is where the budgets will be), with others protesting loudly from outside the tent.

That, after all, was what Naomi Klein (her again), seemed to be hinting at when she criticised other activists for schmoozing with the South African government...

David Steven | 03:53 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)

Dr Zuma also emphasized that the fight against poverty was an over-riding goal for the summit - the outcome that "millions and millions of people are expecting."

Referring to the summit's early start, she said that the negotiating teams were making good progress, though she was unable to give any detail about what breakthroughs, if any, have been made.

She called for a closer co-operation between rich and poor, as well as for partnerships between government and civil society (a term she used to include business).

"My expectations are that the media will play a critical role," she said.

Given the mulish mood of some of the journalists Daily Summit has spoken to, in this last point at least, she is unlikely to be disappointed...

David Steven | 03:36 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | | Comments (0)



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