South Africa, speaking for 134 developing countries under the G77+China group, stunned the UN climate change negotiations on the first day of the talks at Bonn, Germany, by saying that the two co-chairs and some developed countries’ attitude to developing countries was akin to apartheid.
The blunt attack, rare in international diplomacy and UN multilateral negotiations, was pointed particularly towards the co-chair from US, Daniel Reifsnyder. It came after all developing country groups criticised the co-chairs for producing a draft Paris agreement which favoured select developed countries and then refusing to bring balance to the text.
The battle between developing countries and the co-chair turned acrimonious, stretching over more than couple of hours before the two co-chairs gave in to the demands of the G77+China countries. They accepted the proposal from Malaysia that all countries should be allowed to reinsert their proposals in the text without debate and arguments from others. It was finally decided that only once the draft agreement had been reworked with insertions of proposals from all aggrieved countries that the way to negotiate out the differences over next four days would be figured out by the heads of delegations from 196 countries gathered at Bonn.
The heated arguments were somewhat expected with all the groups under the G77+China block of countries having concluded over the weekend that the co-chairs’ draft was heavily tilted to favour developed world – primarily the US.
This included the Association of Small Island Countries, the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States besides Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) and Africa Group. By Monday morning the civil society and environmental groups gathered at Bonn from North and South had almost unanimously concluded the same with their press conferences, tweets and statements referring to the co-chairs’ draft Paris agreement as “#UStext”.
But, the opening session on Monday turned bitter as the co-chairs stuck to their guns. They, along with the US and EU preferred that developing countries first discuss their concerns in an open-ended oral argument and then it be decided which ones would be taken on board. Developing countries said it would delay actual negotiations and was a stalling process. South Africa responded with anger after the co-chairs refused to yield to 134 countries’ collective demand. They said the G77 was being asked to justify additions to ADP draft (draft Paris agreement), which is like in the apartheid struggle where oppressed had to justify why they were equal and had the right to vote.
Speaking for the G77+China group, it told the two co-chairs, “Seems you are arguing with us and negotiating with us rather than facilitating.”
AOSIS joined the argument saying, “Injustice has been done to members of my constituency by the co-chairs text. This injustice cannot be unanswered.”
Malaysia said, “You can’t have a two-wheel bicycle with one wheel removed and then wonder why it can’t move. The draft is unbalanced and excludes concerns of many.” The co-chairs asking for developing countries to justify their point of view before they are accepted, Malaysia said, was like the co-chairs trying to make a judgement call.
Speaking to Business Standard from Bonn, a senior negotiator from the LMDC group, of which India and China are prominent members, said, “The analogy I would give is: you push someone off the boat and while she struggles in the sea ask her to justify why she should be allowed back in. This is what the co-chairs and some developed countries wanted a. The argument was not over process, it was about all countries having equal rights at the UN negotiations.”
Another negotiator from the LMDC explained the developing country perspective: “The co-chairs were to summarise all countries’ positions. They had to note where there was consensus and where it didn’t exist. Parties (countries) were to then negotiate further at Bonn bridging the differences. Instead, they gave us a document in which the co-chairs decided what the compromises would be and these were mostly compromises that developing countries were told to accept.”
Meena Raman from Third World Network, an observer group at the Bonn talks, said, “Developing world (all 134 countries as one) was speaking in a united voice had to justify why their views had to be included. This was unacceptable. Developed countries wanted evaluation of developing country proposals while theirs have been put on the table by the co-chairs. The co-chairs were acting partisan.”
By the time of going to press, the two co-chairs had finally given in to the demands of the developing countries. They announced that countries would be allowed to submit their proposals for insertion in the draft agreement. These proposals would then be inserted live before all countries without any discussion or argument. Once this process was over, the heads of delegations would sit with the co-chairs to decide how the negotiations would then occur over this redrafted Paris agreement. The negotiators were to gather at 4 pm Bonn time to see their proposals being reinserted.
This article was originally published on Business Standard.