Day 6 at CSD-19

Things are starting to heat up here at the UN. Evening negotiation sessions have been initiated to keep making progress. Yesterday afternoon I  attended the session that dealt with Interlinkages and Means of Implementation. Some very interesting exchanges, that most of the time didn’t end in any agreements. The chair actually told everybody off for not having agreed on anything during the first 2 hours! His comment must have made an impression because soon after they went from this paragraph (proposal by G77. NB: G77 is the group representing most developing countries and China; there are many more countries in the group than the original 77):

[(c) bis: Facilitate the active participation of groups living in the most vulnerable situations, including women, youth, and indigenous peoples in the elaboration of local and national planning taking into account national legislation.–G77]

To this (changes in bold):

(c) bis: Facilitate and promote the active participation of groups including, inter alia, women, children and youth, indigenous peoples and those living in the most vulnerable situations in the elaboration of local and national planning, taking into account national legislation and decision-making. [agreed ad ref]

Now, you might think there isn’t much difference and that agreement must have been reached quite easily. Wrong!

The negotiations went from deleting all groups mentioned to wanting to list all groups possible (including disabled people and the elderly). The first suggestion (deletion) would not have made us (= civil society) happy, as it is often important to specify who is affected or needs to be included. The 2nd suggestion poses a problem in that the list can become very long (too long) and therefore looses its power and meaning.

The compromise reached, listing a few groups WITHOUT calling these groups vulnerable, is very neat. Had these groups been called vulnerable, we would have tried to convince governments to take it out. The Women’s major Group has been fighting hard over the years not to be called ‘a vulnerable group’, it puts women into a victim position instead of as an agent of change position.

Now, I didn’t note exactly how long this discussion on this paragraph took, but I’d guess at least 30 minutes. The good thing is everybody agreed in the end (probably ‘helped’ by the chair’s previous displeasement about progress). See, why progress is slow?

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10th Day CSD-17

The next 3 days are the official Ministerial part of CSD. What does that mean? Well, lots of things. First of all many Ministers and State Secretaries are now here, so there is a high level of extra security (my badge has already been checked more times in detail than the whole of last week). There are now many impressive looking people (it looks as if everybody is dressed just slightly neater than the day before), and of course all the flags are raised.

Flags in front of UN building

Flags in front of UN building

Raising all these flags takes a team of 6 people 20-25 minutes! They start on the side where the BIC offices are and then work their way to the front entrance of the UN.

The Women’s group briefing clashed with the official opening at 10 AM in the General Assembly Hall. So, the small select group of women present at the briefing used the time to brainstorm about the statement to be used during a round table meeting with Ministers on Thursday. The theme of this round table is integrated land and water management. Three of us then wrote our points into a story and circulated it for comments.  I then listenend at the public gallery to the last 45 minutes of the opening meeting.

General Assembly Hall at the UN in New York

General Assembly Hall at the UN in New York

Lunch was a quick stroll over the farmers maket nearby, partially organised by the Youth Major Group. Very funny to see how normal I find these markets and how special they are for others.

I then went to the BIC offices to record a video for use on their YouTube channel. We then had a quick BIC briefing and started to talk about attending the climate meeting in Copenhagen in December. The BIC has been asked, inofficial still, by the Women’s Major Group to provide logistical support during the next CSD-cycle. If the Women’s Major Group makes this a formal request and the CSD Bureau approves it, I’ll be involved and will have the perfect excuse to come back.

Oh, and those negotiations? They are still ongoing, rumours are that they’ll last until Saturday, and last night working group 1 stopped at 2.30 AM!

5th day CSD-17

You know those moments where you realise that only NOW the real work has started? Well, Friday was that kind of day.  In the middle of the briefing of the Women’s Major Group, that’s exactly what happened to me. We were discusing how to handle the upcoming Stakeholder dialogue on Tuesday.

Let me explain what ‘Stakeholder dialogue’ means. Basically Major Groups have the opportunity to present a 5-minute statement to Ministers on Tuesday morning, followed by a question & answer session. Four dialogues happen at the same time, dealing with 1) Farmers First, 2) Rural Development, 3) Land & Water rights, and 4) Urban-Rural linkages. Women & Youth are taking the lead on the Rural Development dialogue. This means writing & presenting a statement, on behalf of all the Major Groups. We are also making a list of questions for early circualtion (Monday morning via the daily Outreach newsletter) to the Ministers, so they have time to think about answers.

I volunteered to be one of the people drafting this statement and questions. Finalising the list of questions has a deadline of 5 PM on Sunday, while the statement can be finalised on Monday (so we can include any developments in the negotiatons).  Well, our chair then suggested I’d take the lead of this small working group (7 people), so that’s when I knew my work had really, really started! Next week will be busy, especially since there are also Round Table discussions on Wednesday & Thursday and we need to prepare for that as well.

A quick heads together with this small group of 7 resulted in agreeing that we’d do the drafting at 3 PM with 2 representatives from the Youth and 2 from the Women. I then went to the BIC offices to email, print off stuff for this working group, join a short BIC briefing and eat lunch. Then it was off to a side event in which Kiara did an amazing 10-minute drama (Theatre of Survival) about climate change and poverty.  I suggest you read the press release here.

Rushing back at 3 PM, being a few minutes late because I bought some postcards for friends in the UN bookshop – no idea when I’ll have time to write these though! Nearly 3 hours later our little group had a draft statement to be circulated for comments that night.

Back to the main session where the chair (Dutch Minister) was updating everyone on the state of negotiations. Well, that was my first time in the main session that day and, boy, was it an interesting 10 minutes! G77 queried evening procedures, saying they couldn’t restart at 7 PM (as agreed the day before) and felt that head of delegations should get together to discuss procedures. The chair, in an incredible courteous way (she is a very good chair), challenged them to suggest something (anything). So, this tiny Sudanese woman (G77 speaker) asked for some time as she was surrounded (‘sat on’ I think she called it) by at least 10 Ministers of other G77 countries.  Anyway, G77 suggested meeting from 6.30 to 7.30 PM and then start again at 7.30 PM. Good, that gave us (Duncan & me)  some time to grab dinner at a tiny Chinese restaurant between 1st and 2nd Avenue.

Walking back from our dinner, we passed  the Dutch Minister and 3 of her people walking away from the UN building. This could mean anything…. negotiations restarted or completely fallen flat! Which one was it?

Back in conference room 4… people (not that many) sitting and a chair trying to get everybody on board and quiet. Well, it seems as if all was well and off we go again. I’ll show you the ‘development’ of text in another blog entry. From an original text of 25 pages (complaints to the Dutch chair that it was too long), it now is a text of 70 pages…. By Sunday afternoon it should be shorter again.

Anyway, I only lasted until 9 PM listening to countries deciding that their insertion/deletion of certain words, wasn’t that important after all. Tomorrow I’ll attend a City Farm tour in Brooklyn – great being outside for a day!