South Africa to Convene Friends of the Chair Meeting to Help Speed Agreement
on Johannesburg Outcome
New York, 9 JulySouth African President Thabo Mbeki has invited 25
countries to serve as "Friends of the Chair" for the World Summit on
Sustainable Development in an effort to find an approach that will help resolve
the remaining differences and achieve a global consensus at the Summit. The
group will hold its first meeting in New York on 17 July.
The South African initiative grew out of discussions between President Mbeki
and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan during the Group of Eight
Summit in Kananaskis, Canada last month. According to South African UN
Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the leaders of the G8 were among the first to
accept President Mbeki's invitation.
The 25 countries were selected based on geographical representation as well as
"their common interest in the pending issues, and their overall commitment
to the success of the Johannesburg Summit," Kumalo said.
South Africa assumed the chairmanship of the Summit after the last preparatory
meeting in Bali, Indonesia last month. The Bali meeting concluded with
agreements on about three-quarters of the Summit's implementation plan, and the
remaining issues, which include some of the most difficult, were left for
Johannesburg. The Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Summit was Dr.
Emil Salim of Indonesia.
The 17 July meeting will be led by South African Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and by the UN Secretary-General. It is South
Africa's hope that the meeting will be attended by Ministers or
"sherpas" who report directly to the Heads of State and Government of
the invited countries.
President Mbeki, according to a press release issued by the South African
Mission to the United Nations, "remains convinced that a focused political
discussion of the outstanding issues could result in an approach that can help
expedite the process in Johannesburg."
The Friends of the Chair meeting will not be a negotiating session, which must
be open to all Member States. Rather, it provides an opportunity for key
players to find an approach or a mechanism that would facilitate the
negotiations to be held in Johannesburg.
Still to be resolved are issues concerning trade and finance, globalization,
setting targets and timetables, and differences over the interpretation of
principles adopted at the Earth Summit.
South African representatives noted that the Bali PrepCom was successful in
reducing the number of outstanding issues in the implementation plan, and
expressed their appreciation for Indonesia's efforts in hosting the
The countries invited by President Mbeki to serve as Friends of the Chair
include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany,
Ghana, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Nigeria,
Norway, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sweden, Uganda, United Kingdom, United
States and Venezuela.
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006