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High-Level Push in Bali to Firm Up Sustainable Development Agenda

5 June, BALI, Indonesia— In the final phase of the final PrepCom for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, more than 100 ministers from around the world began three days of deliberations in Bali to generate high-level political commitments for action.

The Summit will be an historic opportunity to mobilize governments, people, institutions, and resources for sustainable development, and will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September.

At stake in the Bali ministerial-level meeting is the strength of government commitments in Johannesburg to set up programmes aimed at improving living conditions worldwide while preserving the natural ecosystem on which people depend. The results of the ministerial discussions will provide the basis for the political declaration that Heads of State and Government will adopt at the Johannesburg Summit. The other key issue for discussion during the ministerial session is the linkage between partnerships and the government commitments in the Johannesburg outcome.

"The Summit in Johannesburg is truly a chance to set a more hopeful course of development for all of humanity," United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told the 118 ministers attending the Preparatory Committee meeting. "The challenge, as ever, is to match aspiration with action, and promise with positive change in people's lives. We know what needs to be done. Now, let's move ahead."

Fréchette, in her address, said, "Johannesburg is meant to find another way, a path that improves standards of living while protecting the environment." She added, "That relationship-between human society and the natural environment-is the core concern of Johannesburg, and is what sets Johannesburg apart from other UN conferences and summit."

In welcoming the ministers, Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri said the Bali meeting could influence the Johannesburg Summit by helping to build a strong foundation for sustainable development, and make a "real contribution to humanity." "Ten years have passed since we adopted Agenda 21," she said. It is time for us to follow it up with concrete programmes and activities."

The Johannesburg Summit will result in a political declaration, a programme of implementation, and voluntary partnership initiatives by and between governments, citizen groups, and the private sector that will actually carry out sustainable development projects.

Negotiations on a programme of implementation—the Bali Commitments—that will serve as the guiding plan for an action-oriented agenda that brings measurable results, are expected to conclude on Friday. While the two-week PrepCom has already produced substantial agreements on promoting activities across a broad range of sustainable development activities, negotiations on the remaining areas of disagreement have proved difficult.

According to PrepCom Chairman Emil Salim, the tough negotiations are not unexpected. "Everyone wants to keep their cards close to their chest until the last moment. But for me, this is normal."

In fact, in Salim's view, the real negotiations have just begun. But he emphasized that the document would be completed in Bail. "We will be finished in Bali. After Bali, we will prepare the ground to make Johannesburg successful."

Progress has been made and many parts of the document are free of bracket, or text where there is still disagreement. Johannesburg Secretary-General Nitin Desai said "the key elements have all been agreed upon," adding that judgement of the text should not be made until the very end, when the final differences are bridged. But beyond reaching minimum expectations, Desai said, "What we're aiming at now is much more. We're aiming at a good, strong programme of action, and we will push these concerns as far as we can take it."

Salim said the Bali Commitment would contain new time-bound targets. "It is a realistic plan and it is not 'pie in the sky.' But to implement it, we all have to be committed."

Over 4,500 people from 173 countries are attending the Bali meeting, including a large contingent of non-governmental organizations, which Salim said have played a major role in lobbying government delegations for a stronger agreement.




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24 August 2006