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CSD 19 fails to end in negotiated agreement

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Rubens Born, FANAS founder member from the Instituto Vitae Civilis  is closely following the processes running up to Rio+20. He reports on developments at the 19th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 19).

There are proving to be many challenges including a lack of political commitment towards concept of a green economy. The 19th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 19) convened from 2-14 May 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York failed to adopt a negotiated outcome, putting the whole CSD process into question.

There are proving to be many challenges including a lack of political commitment towards concept of a green economy.

CSD 19 focused on:

  • the thematic cluster: transport, chemicals, waste management and mining
  • the 10-Year Framework Programme (10YFP) on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).

Although The Working Group agreed that mining and metals are “essential for modern living” and that countries have the “sovereign right to develop their mineral resources according to their national priorities,” and referred to mining’s role in reducing poverty and meeting the MDGs, they also agreed on the need to regulate mining activities, taking into account the impact of mining on biodiversity, water resources, and cultural heritage sites.

The question now on many people’s minds is how the CSD 19 disaster might affect the preparatory process for Rio+20.

An illuminating write up of the meeting produced by International Institute for Sustainable Development, draws out some of the reasons for this, including:

  • the failure of the process to attract the interest of ministers of economy, finance and trade, who exercise the most influence over national budgets and development plans, strategies and priorities
  • the weakness of CSD decision making as the process only creates recommendations and includes no enforcement
  • the politicized debating format: "has led to a well-known UN phenomenon where carefully crafted language acquires a life of its own. Divorced from reality on the ground, the formulations live in a virtual reality, passing from one UN document to another. Their rank is almost biblical, and any semantic infringement can make or break a conference."

The report concluded: "The question now on many people’s minds is how the CSD 19 disaster might affect the preparatory process for Rio+20. Some say it has highlighted the difficulties in handling Rio’s ambitious agenda. One delegate noted, 'What happened at CSD 19 might serve as a wake-up call for those involved in the Rio+20 process.'

As one seasoned participant noted, "CSD 19 throws into sharp relief that those interested in sustainable development can forget about the CSD, and if they don’t resolve the institutional crisis facing the sustainable development at Rio+20, they can forget about the issue entirely."

The challenges of the next year up to Rio+20 will be great, but it is better to realize the problems now and move to address them than to ignore them and to create a hollow outcome next year.

On a more positive note, the Stakeholder forum analysis emphasises that there was considerable consensus on every single item on the table by the end of the week and that, "The only question on which countries could not agree was whether they would honour their own words, and whether the decision could include, explicitly and prominently, language from their own earlier agreements."

Their report ends on a hopeful note:

"The challenges of the next year up to Rio+20 will be great, but it is better to realize the problems now and move to address them than to ignore them and to create a hollow outcome next year."

Read IISD’s full report (Please note this is a very long page but just scroll down to A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF CSD 19 for the analysis section)

Read the Stakeholder Forum’s analysis of events

On its last legs the CSD

On its last legs the CSD process been this way for a few years. Stakeholders have been marginalised and its status as a key meeting to engage with has been weakened by the 'process' of bureaucracy and the weakness of Governments implementation of decisions taken.  I hope that the failed negotiations will bring about some reform of global governance for sustainable development.