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Africa lays bare its concerns about Rio outcomes

By Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
Africa lays bare its concerns about Rio outcomes
Africa lays bare its concerns about Rio outcomes
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, June 15, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- African participants in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) which opens here next week have been warned to stick together in Brazil or lose out on most of the sticking points of the negotiation.

The warning came from Ambassador Macharia Kamau, the Kenyan Ambassador to the UN and veteran of the Rio process who addressed the first meeting of the African Group last evening, according to the Information and Communication Service (ICS), of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) covering the conference and the negotiations.

"After two days of negotiations, progress is slow and in some ways, negative. Issues such as Agenda 21, Johannesburg Programme of Action, are now being reopened. There is no resolution on "the world we want", he said.

In a stark disapproval of what he sees as maneuvers by the developed countries to renege " on all that has all along been agreed on", Ambassador Kamau told his peers and negotiators to stick to the validity of all previous commitments, especially within the G77 + China framework.

"We should not allow our Heads of State to walk into an ambush", he said, referring to what he sees as tactics by partners from the developed countries to delay discussions on the key issues until the last segment of the Conference, when Presidents might not have the material time for detailed negotiations on those issues.

Ambassador Kamau said while there had been agreement on what constitutes "equity", there is no agreement yet on "extreme poverty", "common but differentiated responsibilities" and "sustainable production and consumption".

"We had arrived Rio thinking that there would be renewed political commitment on the the three pillars of sustainable development: shared economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental protection; but what we see is a systematic attempt to renegotiate even the fundamental issues of the Conference", Kamau lamented at the briefing.

He cited the example of the Green Economy targets and goals, questioning how the EU could objectively expect Africa to commit to specific targets and goals when there is no agreement on the means of implementation; that is financial, technology transfer and adequate capacity to embrace the green economy model.

"Without adequate means of implementation, how can we accept any real discussion on the green economy", he wondered.

"How can we compete with richer countries on new goals as if we have all forgotten about the Millennium Development Goals to which the same developed countries have committed", he asked emphatically.

Kamau told the meeting that developed countries had stated their intentions to have have poverty-reduction goals removed from the Rio negotiations because, according to them, poverty is no longer uniquely African as a result of the global economic downturn and financial crisis.

This, he said, was a wicked way of diluting the concept and context of poverty.

He said that the proposal by developed Countries to put on hold their initial commitment to contribute 0.07 percent of their respective GDP towards development assistance (until after the current financial crisis) was untenable because it was never implemented before the crisis set in; and because nobody knows when the crisis will end.

In this context, a new Chinese proposal to shelve the commitment by creating a $30 billion annual fund for development assistance appears likely to appease Africa, although the West would still be unlikely to sign up to new commitments in the midst of the current financial woes, according to experts.

ECA, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and other partners, is facilitating Africa's participation in the Rio Conference.

They have joined with several African Governments and institutions to organize an Africa Day event on 19 June at which there will be dialogue and debates to highlight Africa's position and "sell" it to the rest of the world.