Horsetrading ahead of Jo’burg World Summit

South African Cabinet ministers and officials taking part in the United Nations’ final preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) on the Indonesian island of Bali on Monday geared up for some hard bargaining over the next few days.

The tough negotiating would be done in conjunction with other African countries, Environmental Affairs Minister Valli Moosa said on Monday.

Speaking to Sapa exactly one week after the official opening of the conference — aimed at finding a way to curb the over-exploitation of the earth’s natural resources and better manage development — Moosa said there was a ”real possibility it will produce an implementable plan”.

Delegates from more than 150 countries are currently locked in negotiations trying to reach agreement on a document — referred to as the ”Chairman’s Text” — that will form the basis of agreements reached later this year at the WSSD in Johannesburg.

Moosa, who arrived in Bali on Sunday, is one of four South African Cabinet ministers attending the conference. The others are Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Water Affairs Minister Ronnie Kasrils and Housing Minister Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele.

Asked what he hoped would emerge from the negotiations, Moosa said: ”From a purely South African point of view… what we are looking for is in the draft (Chairman’s) text.

”The problem, of course, is a lack of agreement on this, with huge sections of the text still bracketed.

”We certainly share the view of the G77 countries that the text must be a proper implementation plan, one which includes targets; without targets it would be just too much of a general nature.”

A draft copy of the 78-page document, released on Sunday, contains a large amount of bold, bracketed text, denoting areas that have yet to be agreed upon.

Speaking at a media briefing earlier on Monday, senior UN official Lowell Flanders said one major sticking point was on issues involving finance and trade.

However, an open plenary, set for Monday night, could well see many of the brackets lifted from the document.

”Most countries have an interest in trying to get it completed here,” Flanders said.

Among the key areas identified for action in the paper are poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development, and health and sustainable development.

Moosa said the negotiations were at a stage where it was difficult to predict what would happen over the next few days.

The position assumed by developing countries was there had to be agreement on a plan to implement a key principles of the Millennium Declaration — halving world poverty by the year 2015. The plan also had to be based on the principles of Agenda 21.

However, ”from the discussions that I’ve had… it is clear to me there is a real possibility that an implementation plan can be concluded here… which is what we should aim to do, either completely or substantially”.

This would make it possible for member states, including South Africa, ”to concentrate on other things in order to reach the outcome of the Johannesburg summit”.

Asked if he thought the Chairman’s Text was far-reaching enough, Moosa said that as a framework for an implementation plan, ”it’s all there”.

”What we would certainly want to see in addition is a partnership programme, and more detailed programmes that would impact on Nepad (the New Partnership for African Development), but that would all be covered within this framework.

”We will of course do some hard bargaining and hard negotiating over the next few days to ensure it meets our national policy, but of course we’ll do it together with other African countries,” Moosa said. – Sapa

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