sustainable development Archive

Business as Usual

July 17th, 2005

Business as Usual

The G8 on energy and climate: all talk, no action

At the start of this month, the leaders of the G8 (the eight richest industrialised nations) met in Scotland for their annual get together to discuss issues of common interest. The mainstream media focus was on Climate Change and Africa, but behind the scenes Trade, the Global Economy, and Iraq were also on the agenda. In the run up to the summit, the communique on Climate and Energy – especially – was watered down with each successive (leaked) draft, apparently under pressure from the U.S. administration, and the final document – whilst making broad statements about partnerships and cooperation – utterly failed to include any specific targets or timetables for vital at-source emissions reductions. Campaign groups such as Friends of the Earth, and grassroots groups of protesters gathered in Scotland, were quick to condemn the outcome as a farce – all talk and no action.

Outside of Fortress Gleneagles, protests and creative resistance to the G8′s agenda, and the lack of real action on Climate Change flourished around the world during the summit…

In the U.S. several hundred people, including leaders from faith, student and community groups showed their commitment to getting the US to take action by fasting during the three days of the G8 summit, urging President Bush to make a commitment to reduce global warming pollution, and face up to the reality that 94 percent of the U.S. public support limiting greenhouse gas emissions (University of Maryland poll).

In Scotland, activists shut down main roads leading to the summit on the first day, and on the final day of the summit, a call to action on the root causes of climate change saw a mass blockade of the A74 bridge over the river Clyde in Glasgow (a road scheduled for carbon-guzzling expansion) and an afternoon-long street party.

The G8 outcome documents

Specific documents of interest on Climate & Energy:

Climate Change Chapeau
Climate Change Plan of Action
Global Economy & Oil

Finally, there is loads of independent non-commercial coverage of the G8 on Indymedia

Excluding the Peoples

April 21st, 2005

The last few days of CSD13 have been both energetic, inspiring, and at the same time, incredibly frustrating. On Thursday and Friday, governments gave their inputs on the draft text of decisions from CSD13. A number of times sessions were delayed for hours because the negotiating blocks, EU and G77, needed longer to coordinate their positions — at least this is what we were told. The whole process seemed incredibly disorganised. Eventually, we had a draft document that included positions of all of the countries — no negotiations, just everyone’s input. It was a long text, but included a number of points the youth caucus had been fighting for. The next morning rumours were spreading like wildfire that something of a coup was underway. The JUSCANZ group (Japan, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and some others) was going to push for a completely new draft text. G77 fell in line, leaving the EU isolated being the only block that still wanted to negotiate the draft that included everyones input. They were left with no choice, and reluctantly agreed to accept the proposal of a completely new draft. It was clearly a stitch-up and had been decided in advance, blatantly obvious from the fact that the chair promissed that a whole new draft would be ready in under an hour. Time only for some minor tweaks to a document that had already been prepared.

The new text arrived, and immediately the negotiating blocks went into their respective coordinating meetings, and so the civil society groups had been effectively excluded from the process. The only way we can get our points in to the text is if a country proposes our points, and once the coordination has happened it’s impossible to feed out points in through the big negotiating blocks. The chair said that he wanted the negotiations to be finished in the afternoon session (only three hours) — everyone knew that would be impossible, but it seemed to be a coordinated attempt to seal the process with a text that had been controlled by the chair with very little input from civil society or even from countries.

The second “chairman’s text” included more reflection of the governmental and civil society input than the first had, so in some ways that was a relief, but again we were left wondering just how much we have to fight just to have our voices heard in a supposedly participatory process. There were also some key points for the youth caucus that had been left out, for example a point we have been lobbying for about the role of youth organisations in non-formal peer-to-peer education, vital in empowering young people for example in combatting HIV-AIDS:

Recognising that youth organisations have a unique role, through their strong capacity, in non-formal and peer to peer education to educate communities on sustainable development and practical sustainable life-skills.

Canada, Mexico, Norway, the European Union, the USA, and a number of other countries were all in support of our point. But they had been pushed to the wall by all the delays, and none of them wanted to be the ‘bad’ country who was trying to introduce major new points into the text. They all said they would support our point if another country introduced it, but that they couldn’t introduce it themselves. Catch 22.

As expected the negotiations didn’t finish on Tuesday night, but the process had unfolded in such a way as to make it almost impossible for us to introduce new, important points that had been missed.

We regrouped on Wednesday morning, and compared the current state of the draft text to our key points. Here are the specific issues we decided to try to keep pushing in our lobbying:

2. (i) Youth organisations have a unique role, through non-formal education, to provide communities with practical sustainable life-skills on water, sanitation and human settlement issues.

2. (f) …a conducive international policy environment, including trade liberalization the removal of unfair subsidies and taxes
…technical cooperation and capacity building, formal and non formal education and technology transfer…

3. D (u) (vi) …and micro-credit facilities accessible to all, especially women and youth;

3. E (v) …implement transparent and participatory monitoring to ensure…

3. E (v) (ii) Providing guidelines on transparent and participatory monitoring…

(We changed the point about non-formal education because we found out the G77 would oppose the phrase ‘peer to peer’.)

Along side the lobbying, we also began preparations for the ministerial level ‘Multi Stakeholder Dialogue’, which is where each major group, including Youth, gets to make a 3-4 minute statement, and then (in theory) there is an interactive dialogue between the civil society groups and the ministers. That is happening later this afternoon. More updates coming…

Youth Caucus Statement on CSD13 Draft Decisions

April 15th, 2005

We were up late last night. The youth caucus spent the afternoon reviewing the draft decisions from CSD13 and it’s not great at the moment. For one there are no time frames, and very few specifics as to how the goals on water, sanitation and human settlements would be achieved. That’s what we’re supposed to be here for. As well as pulling the text apart, and writing out what we see as being the key points that are missing from the text, a small group worked late into the night drafting a statment for this morning’s opening session. We tried really hard to get all of the points we saw as important to be changed into the statement, but this morning we timed it with emmanual, who read the statement, and we had to make some fairly drastic cuts to get it within the time limit. That was a shame — we had so much to say, and not enough time to make our important points. (Also, in the last minute editing, some points we had agreed were important got cut by mistake.) We distributed the statement, and the longer document of all our lobbying points on the text, to all the governments and have been lobbying much of the day. The statement went across quite well, and we found our points in line with a number of the other Major Group statements. The NGOs’ statement was especially hard-hitting, criticising the lack of specific mechanisms and commitments by governments. It’s a shame we didn’t manage to make our statement stronger, but there’s a limit to what you can do at 4am

Anyway, here is the statement, and the lobbying points

Time to Lobby

April 15th, 2005

For the last three days, governments, NGOs and other civil society groups have been presenting their positions on Water, Sanitation and Human Settlements. Some of the dialogue has been quite interesting, and also for the first time in a number of years there hasn’t been a specific slot allocated to the Major Groups’ (civil society) statements. There’s been a mixed response to this. The chairs of the plennary sessions have both been quite good at doing what they promissed, and including Major Group responses and comments along with the governments’ statements. On the other hand, this sets a bit of a precedent for future years, and a number of people are concerned that if the chairs of the sessions at future CSDs want, they could easily now exclude civil society input. That would be a huge step backwards, and something we have to avoid.

In terms of the actual issues, I’m finding it rather difficult not having much experience dealing with water, sanitation and human settlements — very much development oriented topics — a long way from the climate change, energy, and environmental justice issues I spent most of my time in Johannesburg fighting for. That said, it’s been useful to be able to really focus my time on supporting everyone else in the youth caucus (many of who know much more than me about these issues) pass on the knowledge I’ve aquired over the last three years, especially to Neela and Elissa who are both representing youth on the official government delegations for the UK and Canada this year.

I’ve also had some really useful conversations with people in the UN Youth Unit about youth involvement in the UN, especially the run up to the Millenium +5 summit in September focussing on the Millenium Development Goals (the theme for Global Village) and also the 60th General Assembly in October. More about that another time.

The draft of the decisions for the CSD was released this morning, and we spent all day going through the document, which was remarkably short; the length alone made me really question how it can possibly represent a plan to sort out three such huge issues. Government delegations and the other Major Groups also spent all day pouring over the document, comparing notes, and looking at how much of what we’ve been calling for made it into the first draft.

I’ll post the Youth Caucus key points first thing tomorrow, but here are a few interesting points to note…

A rights-based approach to water provision is in there. This is something we’re going to have to fight like crazy to keep — many of the governments are against an international agreement that has any language in that could be interpreted as giving people the right to water. It sounds incredible, but it’s true, since the right to water would put some serious brakes on the current privatisation trend, and (potentially) create some issues where water supplies exist across national boundaries. This whole process is supposed to be about cooperating to solve the world’s problems, but in reality the governments do nothing more than stick up for their own best interests.

There is almost no mention of the cross-cutting issues that we’re supposed to be taking into account when looking at all of the themes addressed by CSD. It’s sad, but every year in the youth caucus we seem to be one of the few groups standing up and drawing the governments’ attention to the hugely unsustainable impacts of militarisation. Nowhere could this be more apparent than in the areas of water, sanitation and human settlements, all of which are devistated by war. With climate change, I keep explaining to people how it doesn’t matter what progress we make in a number of the world’s more pressing issues, such as access to safe drinking water, if we don’t start dealing with climate change, but the very same analysis is true of conflict — peace is sustainable, and we’ll be making that point tomorrow.

That brings me nicely onto what’s happening next (although I’ve been writing rather aimlessly because it’s late!) Today we assembled all of the key points we think are missing from the draft decision paper, and tomorrow we have the opportunity to make a brief statement to the governments. Emmanuel from Ghana will make the statement (he’s one of the few representatives from the global south here, thanks to some funding we managed to get to at least have a slightly more representative youth caucus.) We will be focussing on some of the issues I just mentioned, and also putting forward some specific changes we’d like to see in the text.

From then on it’s serious lobbying to get support for our points from as many of the government representatives as possible. If we can get a government to put changes into the final decision document for us (since we can’t input the changes directly, unfortunately) then maybe we can get the commitments from governments to be a bit more progressive. That, and fight to keep the good stuff that’s in there already, which some governments, especially the US, will without doubt try to water down or remove entirely.

So that’s my overview of where things are now. Neela is doing a great job on the UK delegation — although the civil society reps on the UK delegation don’t have as much input as on some other government delegations from what I can tell. It’s great having her here, and having that connection between the Youth Caucus and the UK government.

Here is the draft chairman’s text in full (hold on to your browsers, it’s a few pages…)

CSD13 Wednesday Report

April 14th, 2005

Neela’s report from Wednesday…

Day Three.
The United Nations in New York.
UK Youth Delegate at the Commission for Sustainable Development.

It’s 8 O’clock and I’m just back at the hotel cooking some dinner. MTV is on, but i haven’t yet seen any music for adverts so I’m a little confused. Tonight there isn’t any Youth Caucus work to do because we are awaiting the chair’s draft of the text. By 9am tomorrow morning there will be a draft document that will be a compromise about all the statements that goverments and civil society have made over the last few days. The days of talking about possible policies are over and we now enter into a phase of negotiation. Tomorrow everybody will be reading through the chair’s draft to see if their views are represented. If views and policies are not included then it is time to lobby governments and make them bring the issue up in negotiation. For example, if there is no mention of the importance of peer to peer education in the effort to educate about sanitation then the Youth Caucus will be lobbying different governments, asking them the push for it’s inclusion.

This whole process is going to be fastinating to be a part of. The Youth Caucus are meeting at 9 to start working through the text and working out how we feel about it. The text will all be writen in offical language, and we will help each other understand exactly what it all means. This is why it is so important to have lots of youth in the Youth Caucus because everyone has different skills and can help in different ways.

This is something that i have been thinking about a lot in the last few days: the representation within the youth caucus. Very few governements actually have a position for a youth delegate on their delegation, and these are mostly from developed countries. Germany and the Netherlands are particually progressive and have two youth delegates. The US doesn’t have one but lots of young people from the States still join the Youth Caucus by representing different youth groups. It is particually easy (and cheaper) for US youth to get involved. This means that the Youth Caucus mainly has input from developed countries in the northern hemisphere. It is therefore understandable that our knowledge about how youth around the world feel about issues like water, sanitation and settlements is limited. I am sure that the Youth Cuacus would be greatly benifit if there were young people from developed and undeveloped countries. One idea has been to ask governement who already have youth delegates to pay for a youth delegate from another country. This is something i will be asking the UK government about tomorrow if i get time. Although, they don’t even pay for me to attend: this is up to my youth group to organise. If the UK government won’t consider this option, then i will ask them to remind all other countries that various resolutions have been passed stating the importance of Youth Representation in the UN.

I was meant to have a brief meeting with one of the UK team today, but it didn’t materialise. So instead I found a computer and wrote up some points and questions that i would like to know about. Because i am the first ever Youth Delegate that the UK has allowed to attend this event, i want to make sure that i know WHY I am here, in their eyes, and what i can do to make sure the role exists for other young people. Some of the questions i wrote about were:

1) What role does the UK see it’s Youth delegate playing at CSD13 (commission for sustainable development) and beyond?
2) How can a mentoring system be set up to support the other young people who will be youth delegates.
3) Can the UK put pressure on other governements to bring a youth delegate, and support them in doing so where possible?

I also made it clear that it would be a great shame if the role of ‘youth delegate’ became merely tokenistic. Hopefully they will realise that this is not why i came to New York! Despite this missed meeting, i spoke to some of the other UK delegates and am beginning to feel a little more comfortable talking to them about my feelings. It is easy to feel like you are the only person who doesn’t always understand what is going on: but for many adults this is their first UN experience as well. Then it was lunch time, and i got a little lost. I turned a corner from the escalators and there were people lining the walls of the corridor. I asked why everyone was waiting, and someone pointed at Bill Clinton strolling towards us with his entourage. For me it was like seeing something out of madame tusaudes come alive: those wax models are very accurate. And then he turned a corner and he was gone. Lunch time! I find out the Britney Spears is pregnant.

The afternoon sessions were all about the issues that link water, sanitation and settlements together. For example: the effects of warfare on young people around the world. The use of radioactive weapons can damages water resources for generations to come, destabilise ecological and social systems. Human settelments are also greatly effected by this footprint of warfare. These are the kinds of issue that the Youth Cuacus will hope to find mentioned in the chair’s text tomorrow. We made an intervention about the interlinking issues that we think are most important, and hopefully the chair will have taken note of them. I then went to a meeting run by the UN Youth Unit (youth@un.org). They support governments in getting youth involvement. Just for the record: the UK is planning on taking three youth delegates to the General Assembly conference in October. So if you are interested, then check out the website: http://www.unysa-uk.org

Paris and Nicole Hilton are currently on TV using baby orangutangs to advertise Burger King. Apparently it’s becasue they are an endangered species (the oranutangs not the Hiltons, sadly), and they want to promote the cause. Nice to know that youth around the world are doing their bit! Watching their lifestyle of luxury and playgrounds is slightly sickening when you have just spent the whole day wondering why millions of kids still don’t have access to clean water. I wish it were greed that was endangered.

I hope that these messages are useful. If there is anything in particular you want to know or ask you can email me or post a reply, depending where you are accessing it from. There is always so much to write about that i am willing to focus on the things that you are finding most interesting.

till tomorrow, neela



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