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Preparatory body for UN sustainable development summit wraps up latest session

Preparatory body for UN sustainable development summit wraps up latest session

As the preparatory body for an upcoming United Nations summit on sustainable development issues ended its latest session today, its chairman said he had circulated a paper emphasizing practical ideas and partnerships to serve as the basis for negotiations over the forum's final text.

The paper was brief because the intention was not to talk about lofty ideas, as there were already too many speeches, said Emil Salim, chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Word Summit for Social Development (WSSD), which is scheduled for 26 August to 4 September in Johannesburg, South Africa. Its emphasis was on hook-ups where initiatives and partnership programmes could be developed "so anything that could not be implemented we threw out the window," he added.

The purpose also was to provide a base from which "we can tell the whole world - 'look we are not changing Agenda 21 but building it up and implementing it further in a new globalized world,'" Mr. Salim told a UN press briefing in New York, referring to the outcome of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, or "Earth Summit." At that conference countries defined a clear agenda for sustainable development - a delicate balance between economic, environmental and social requirements.

For his part, Nitin Desai, UN Under Secretary General of Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary General of the WSSD, told reporters that not only was there a clear idea of what the Summit was about but there was also an idea of what were the kinds of actions proposals that were meant to be discussed.

As an example, Mr. Desai said that one notion that emerged from a meeting with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was "partnerships for implementation," which would bring to the processes the type of effectiveness that many community-based organizations or corporations have. While not a substitute for commitments by governments or goals to be agreed by those governments, it was "really more of a device to implement government agreements," he said.

"I would say that this whole notion of governments and civil society coming to together to strengthen mechanisms of implementation was something that had been building up," Mr. Desai said. "What I would stress here, however, is that this cannot be a substitute for governments."