What exactly is the way forward? – Day 1 OWG12

by khristian méndez //

A little after 9am this morning, the doors of the Economic and Social Council Chamber were opened to dozens of members of Civil Society who were awaiting the morning briefing. Right before they opened, Roman and I had a lovely exchange with a lady who spent 30 years working in this building, so she’s become… quite skeptical of these processes. She is now an elder woman, and she’s not happy (or surprised, really) that the negotiating text has no language referring to people in older age. Our exchange presaged what was to come.

Ambassador Kamau from Kenya and Ambassador Körösi from Hungary welcomed Civil Society. “You may have noticed we’re not wearing our jackets this morning. This is because we are determined to get things done”.

The Kenyan Ambassador bears a drive to get things done. A lot of comments made by him and other delegates made reference to the Informal negotiations that took place a week ago. According to the co-chairs, they grew “interesting and dynamic”.

After hearing concerns from Major Groups Business and Industry, NGOs, Children and Youth, Workers and Trade Unions, the Women major group was interrupted as we ran out of time. Delegates from Member states had already piled around the chairs we were using (which are usually theirs), and we were subsequently moved to the back of the room as observers.

The Youth intervention, however, did get a round of applause from other people in the room, as it seemed to be the only one in the room which had more than a hint of sustainable on it. We’re not here just to debate only about how to develop, we’re here to talk about how to develop sustainably. Sadly, the appeal to consider a paradigm shift in relation to growth and development, fell on to the ears of a chair determined to only include “concise, specific language”.

Once the chairs welcomed the delegations, and as people were struggling to find places to sit in the back, uncertainty filled the air. We have this text compiled by the co-chairs, to which all 9 major groups have written responses, in addition to the individual responses each country has. If you have the concerns of the world in a puzzle where you have to come to a middle ground and find a set of priorities that makes people more or less equally (un)happy, what exactly is the way to go about it?

The co-chairs seemed to have their ideas, informal-informals, and most developing countries echoed their idea. So after 3 hours of hearing formal negotiations going on, the co-chairs announced they would proceed with informal-informals: effectively implying Civil Society was to leave the room. While Maine is not exactly within the vicinity of New York City, there are colleagues here who have travelled all the way from Asia to take part in these talks, which is why this move by the countries effectively pissed off civil society.

I went to the cafeteria of the building to eat, and as other folks were picking up to make their way to a side-event, I thought about the old lady, and the week ahead. From the Co-chairs to the newcomers of the Major Groups, no one knows exactly how the week will pan out. Coupled with a ticking clock, the thought of the next week is little unsettling.

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