Crash course in UN meetings

Are you ready for your crash course in the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) meetings? This entry is based on an article I wrote for the UK Baha’i Journal after my attendance at CSD-16 last year.

‘As we all know the Rio conference in 1992 resulted in Agenda 21 and the UN has held an annual session (CSD) to assess progress.  Every 2 years the focus changes to different topics.The main themes were agriculture, Africa, drought & desertification, land, and rural development. Of course there was also much talk about food prices, biofuels and climate change  CSD-16 (2008) was a Review year, focussing on good practices and successes. CSD-17 (2009) is the Policy year with lots of discussions on meaning of words, use of brackets etc.

Besides the 52 member countries of the Commission and about 100 observer countries, 9 Major Groups (MG) representing civil society also have speaking rights. These 9 Major Groups include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), women, children & youth, farmers, trade unions, local government, business & industry, indigenous people, and the scientific & technological community.

CSD works like this. There are 2 main sessions per day in two rooms. You (government or MG) have 3-5 minutes (one page of A4) to make your statement on that session’s topic.

In CSD-16 the Baha’i delegation focussed on the following 5 points:

1)      Only upon a foundation of genuine unity, harmony and understanding among all peoples can a sustainable global society be established.

2)      The task of sustainable development is not merely technical, but also ethical and moral.

3)      Development policy must reflect the fact that agriculture constitutes the fundamental basis of economic and community life.

4)      Education should build the capabilities of rural inhabitants to contribute to rural development.

5)      The full emancipation and involvement of women is a prerequisite for sustainable rural development.

At CSD-16  I attended the daily briefings of 2 major groups (NGOs and Women) and got heavily involved in the work of the latter group. I helped draft statements for presentation in the main sessions. The main point the Women’s group wanted to get across was that ‘the face of a farmer is a female face’, based on the fact that most farming (especially in Africa) is done by women.

Now, just in case you think you have done a wonderful job presenting that statement, yes you have, but it is not enough. You want your points to be picked up by a government delegation and that is where the lobbying comes in and making contact with your country’s delegation. At CSD-16 I had some trouble tracking down the UK delegation, but made connections with the Dutch delegation, resulting in lunch with the Dutch Minister (this year’s chair!).

My main impression is that it comes down to 3 virtues: reliability (showing up at those morning briefings), excellence (subject knowledge), and willingness to service. It was wonderful to work as a team and leave many representatives with a positive impression of Bahá’í principles. It is vital that the wider society sees that the Bahá’í community is actively engaged in these issues.’

This year’s preparation involved an online discussion, set up by BIC, to help us link the Baha’i Writings to this year’s topics. It was lovely to explore the Writings and re-read Paul Hanley’s book ‘The Spririt of Agriculture’. I’ll read the UN background papers today and see what the others have said about them (I didn’t have time for that round of discussions due to my move and lack of internet access).

Well, I hope this crash course was useful. If not, please ask questions.


One Response

  1. I loved this course and will pass it on to others. Been great to have had this kind of blog for the CSW. Am going to read through all of your posts now I have found them via face book. Great the way you identified the key virtues!
    love Margaret

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