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The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) opens today at the Sandton Convention Centre (SCC) in Johannesburg, South Africa, and will continue until 4 September 2002. The goal of the WSSD, according to UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 55/199 is to hold a ten-year review of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) at the Summit level to reinvigorate global commitment to sustainable development. The review is supposed to focus on accomplishments, identify areas requiring further efforts to implement Agenda 21 and other UNCED outcomes, lead to action-oriented decisions, and result in renewed political commitment to achieve sustainable development.

Negotiations at the 10-day Summit will focus on the two main documents to be adopted in Johannesburg: the Plan of Implementation for the WSSD and the Political Declaration. On 24-25 August informal negotiations were held to facilitate progress on bracketed language in the draft Plan of Implementation. With the start of the WSSD on 26 August, these negotiations will continue in the Main Committee. There will also be concurrent Plenary sessions on health, biodiversity, agriculture, cross-sectoral issues, water and sanitation, energy, and regional implementation. Beginning on 29 August, the Plenary will hear statements from non-state entities. The General Debate will begin in Plenary on 2 September, with statements from over 100 Heads of State and Government, ministers, heads of delegation and other high-level government officials. In addition four high-level roundtable discussions will be held during this period addressing the theme "Making It Happen." Throughout the meeting there will be numerous side events at the SCC and elsewhere.


The WSSD is being held 10 years after UNCED (3-14 June 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). UNCED, also known as the Earth Summit, involved over 100 Heads of State and Government, representatives from 178 countries, and some 17,000 participants. The principal outputs of UNCED were the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21 – a 40-chapter programme of action, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Statement of Forest Principles.

Chapter 38 of Agenda 21 called for the creation of a Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to: ensure effective follow-up to UNCED; enhance international cooperation and rationalize intergovernmental decision making; and examine progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 at all levels. In 1992, the 47th session of the UNGA set out, in resolution 47/191, the terms of reference for the CSD, its composition, guidelines for NGO participation, organization of work, relationship with other UN bodies, and Secretariat arrangements. The CSD held its first meeting in June 1993 and has met annually since.

UNGASS-19: Also at its 47th session in 1992, the UNGA adopted resolution 47/190, which called for a Special Session of the UNGA to review implementation of Agenda 21 five years after UNCED. The 19th Special Session of the UNGA for the Overall Review and Appraisal of Agenda 21 (23-27 June 1997, New York) adopted the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 (A/RES/S-19/2). It assessed progress made since UNCED, examined implementation, and established the CSD’s work programme for the period 1998-2002.

PREPCOM I: CSD-10, acting as the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the WSSD, (30 April - 2 May 2001, New York) adopted in its first session decisions on: progress in WSSD preparatory activities at the local, national, regional and international levels; modalities of future PrepCom sessions; tentative organization of work during the WSSD; provisional rules of procedure; and arrangements for accreditation and participation of Major Groups. Emil Salim (Indonesia) was elected as Chair of the PrepCom.

NATIONAL, SUBREGIONAL AND REGIONAL PREPARATORY PROCESSES: National preparatory committees for the WSSD were established to undertake country-level reviews, raise awareness, and mobilize stakeholders. Subregional and regional preparatory meetings were held between June 2001 and January 2002. Eminent Persons’ Roundtables took place in all five UN regions, and regional preparatory meetings were held for Europe/North America (25-26 September 2001), Africa (15-18 October 2001), Latin America and the Caribbean (23-24 October 2001), West Asia (24 October 2001), Asia and the Pacific (27-29 November 2001), as well as for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) (7-11 January 2002).

PREPCOM II: PrepCom II (28 January - 8 February 2002, New York) conducted a comprehensive review of progress achieved in the implementation of Agenda 21, and agreed that the Chairman’s Paper produced from discussions at this session would serve as the basis for negotiation at PrepCom III. PrepCom II also adopted its report (E/CN.17/2002/PC.2/L.1), containing the Chairman’s Summaries of PrepCom II and the Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Segment, as well as Proposals for Partnerships/Initiatives to Strengthen the Implementation of Agenda 21 (Type II outcomes).

INFORMAL CONSULTATION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOVERNANCE: An informal consultation on sustainable development governance was convened in the inter-sessional period (28 February 2002, New York). Based on this consultation, PrepCom Bureau Vice-Chairs Lars-Göran Engfeldt (Sweden) and Ositadinma Anaedu (Nigeria) produced a paper (A/ CONF.199/PC/L.1) that was discussed at PrepCom III.

PREPCOM III: PrepCom III (25 March - 5 April 2002, New York) held preliminary discussions on the revised informal paper on sustainable development governance, began consideration of Type II outcomes, and considered the Chairman’s paper (A/ CONF.199/PC/L.1) transmitted from PrepCom II. Delegates submitted amendments to the Chairman’s paper during the first week of the meeting, resulting in the production of a larger compilation text. Negotiations on some sections of the compilation text began during the second week. Delegates mandated Chair Salim to prepare a revised paper for consideration at PrepCom IV. At the Closing Plenary, a Vice-Chair’s explanatory note on Further Guidance for Partnerships/Initiatives containing guidelines on Type II outcomes was circulated. The PrepCom also mandated the Bureau to prepare a text on sustainable development governance for negotiation at PrepCom IV.

PREPCOM IV: PrepCom IV (27 May - 7 June 2002, Bali, Indonesia) was preceded by informal consultations held on 25-26 May to consider the Revised Chairman’s Paper (A/CONF.199/PC/ L.1/Rev.1). During the session, delegates produced the draft Plan of Implementation for the WSSD (A/CONF.199/PC/L.5/Rev.1), which was transmitted to the Summit in Johannesburg (WSSD) for further negotiation. They also agreed on the modalities for the organization of work during the WSSD (A/CONF.199/PC/L.7) and, based on consultations, mandated PrepCom Chair Salim to prepare elements for a political declaration and post them on the WSSD website by the end of June 2002.

Negotiations on the draft Plan of Implementation were conducted in working groups and contact groups, while the Plenary, Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues and High-Level Ministerial Segment provided input for the implementation plan and the political declaration. There were also informal consultations on partnerships/initiatives. Although the session had hoped to conclude negotiation of the implementation plan, round-the-clock negotiations by ministers during the last three days of the session failed to produce consensus on key aspects of the plan, particularly on energy, trade, finance and globalization.


FRIENDS OF THE CHAIR MEETING: South Africa convened a Friends of the Chair meeting (17 July 2002, New York) that was chaired by South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Chair Zuma circulated a note listing the main clusters of items that were difficult to resolve in Bali. The meeting’s purpose was to: assess countries’ flexibility on these issues; determine if there was a formula that could facilitate further progress; and enhance political engagement. The clusters of items discussed included: Rio Principles 7 (common but differentiated responsibilities) and 15 (precautionary principle); finance, GEF replenishment and financing of UN Convention to Combat Desertification; globalization and trade; good governance, human rights and labor standards; time bound targets/programmes; and transfer of technology.

CONSULTATION ON PARTNERSHIPS: The World Conservation Union (IUCN) convened a meeting involving governments, NGOs, and the business community (19 July 2002, New York) to help clarify outstanding issues relating to partnerships for the implementation of sustainable development. The meeting explored steps for addressing partnerships issues and discussed elements of effective partnerships, the framework needed to operationalize them, and ways to manage the process.


Informal consultations chaired by Dumisani Kumalo (South Africa) and based on the Vienna-style negotiation process were held on 24-25 August to resolve pending issues in the draft Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (A/CONF.199/L.1), taking into account suggestions made at the final session of PrepCom IV in the Comments on the draft Plan of Implementation (A/CONF.199/CRP.1). Separate contact groups on means of implementation and good governance also convened over the two days.

Editor’s Note: Coverage of the negotiations ended at 10:00 pm, Sunday 25 August 2002.

VIENNA-STYLE NEGOTIATING GROUP: Chair Kumalo (South Africa), with assistance from Maria Viotti (Brazil) and Kiyotaka Akasaka (Japan), led the group paragraph-by-paragraph through pending provisions. Paragraph numbers are listed in brackets below.

Introduction: Delegates agreed to refer paragraphs concerning the Rio Principle of common but differentiated responsibilities [2, 13, 19, 37, 75, 120, 138(c)] to small group consultations.

Poverty Eradication: Existing text on improving access by indigenous people and their communities to economic activities was accepted [6(e)]. Delegates did not agree on text concerning International Labour Organization core labour standards [9(b)], and ethics and sustainable development [CRP.1]. Negotiations on the establishment of a world solidarity fund to eradicate poverty [7] and a time-bound target for increasing access to improved sanitation [7, 7alt and 24] were referred to small group consultations.

Consumption and Production Patterns: The group debated reference to the life-cycle approach to production and consumption policies without resolution [14(c)], and deleted an alternative provision [14(c)alt] on policies to improve efficiency and reduce pollution per unit of output. On incentives for investment in cleaner production [15(b)], the group removed brackets from text on avoiding trade-distorting measures inconsistent with the WTO.

The group referred a number of issues to small group consultations including: energy [8, 19(e), (p)bis, (s), (w) and (w)alt]; consumer information tools, eco-labeling and references to their voluntary and/or appropriate use [14(e)] and the possible development of a 10-year work programme on sustainable consumption and production [14]; management of chemicals [22] and appropriate international responses regarding the risks of heavy metals [22(h)].

Protecting and Managing the Natural Resource Base: The group agreed to language inviting States to ratify or accede to and implement the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [29(a)]. Delegates also adopted a target of 2015, where possible, to achieve goals of maintaining or restoring fish stocks to levels producing maximum sustainable yield, and agreed on urging the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to consider stronger mechanisms for implementation [33(a)]. The group agreed to terminology on illicit cultivation of narcotic plants and deleted related language on access to international markets [38(o)]. Regarding the Global Environment Facility (GEF), delegates retained reference to designation of land degradation as a focal area [39(f)], deleting a similar reference elsewhere [139(a)]. The group also deleted references to projects with domestic environmental benefits [122(e)] and the next replenishment [139(b)].

Delegates referred language on the Kyoto Protocol’s entry into force [36] to informal consultations. The group did not agree on provisions regarding: impacts on ecosystems and natural resources [23], particularly a target on reversing trends in resource loss, the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach; sustainable and equitable fisheries [30]; the rights of developing coastal States [30(e)]; a target for reducing the rate of biodiversity loss [42]; and negotiation of an international regime for equitable benefit-sharing arising from the use of biodiversity [42(o)].

Health and Sustainable Development: Discussions on the proposal to include references to conforming to human rights and principles of fundamental freedoms were postponed [47].

Sustainable Development in a Globalizing World: Discussions on text relating to globalization were referred to the contact group on means of implementation.

Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States: Delegates adopted the target to address health-related impacts of pollution by 2004 [52(e)] and promoting the efficient use of all sources of energy in SIDS [53(b)]. The group deferred negotiations on managing coastal areas and exclusive economic zones [52(c)].

Sustainable Development for Africa: The Chair deferred discussions on the pending paragraphs of Chapter VIII on Africa.

Means of Implementation (Non-trade Related Measures): The group agreed on the target for the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005 [103]. The group agreed to defer negotiations on: inclusion of Economies in Transition in the text related to the promotion, facilitation and financing of environmentally-sound technology transfer [89]; providing access to environmentally-sound technologies that are publicly owned or in the public domain [89(d)]; applying the precautionary principle to protect health and environment [93(e)]; concerted action against international terrorism [98bis] and the Chair’s proposed new package to deal with outstanding issues on providing and mobilizing resources for enhancing research and development of methodologies in developing countries to achieve cleaner production and technologies [56(h), 98, 98alt, and 116bis].

CONTACT GROUP ON MEANS OF IMPLEMENTATION: This contact group facilitated by John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) met on 24 August to discuss his paper intended to replace the finance, trade and globalization elements of the draft chapter on Means of implementation.

Developing countries, responding to the paper, said that the balance achieved in Bali had been lost. With agreement from others, they asked for the reintroduction of elements from the draft Plan of Implementation on: the Monterrey Consensus on external debt; effective participation of developing countries in trade negotiations; the reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers; and the need to reflect a development dimension in trade negotiations. The developing countries also requested that globalization be given a separate section. One delegation welcomed the paper as an accurate reflection of the outcome of the Friends of the Chair meeting that followed PrepCom IV. The facilitator also informed the Contact Group that they had now been mandated to negotiate additional paragraphs in the chapter on means of implementation.

At a reconvened meeting, the facilitator issued a revised version of his paper incorporating the new elements for further negotiation. After proposals for detailed amendments on the initial paragraphs, the facilitator noted that changes were being proposed to language agreed in Monterrey. He was joined by a number of delegations in calling for restraint in order to protect the balance achieved at Bali. There was opposition to, inter alia, references to governance and a paragraph on mobilizing resources and to the reintroduction of an invitation to the UN Secretary General to monitor ODA.

CONTACT GROUP ON GOOD GOVERNANCE: This contact group facilitated by Koen Davidse (the Netherlands) met on 25 August to discuss the paragraphs of Chapter X of the draft Plan of Implementation assigned to it by Chair Kumalo [121(d)bis, 121(d)bis alt, 123, 124, and 146]. Delegates expressed a preference for concise text reflecting a qualitative balance between international and domestic governance. A new paper based on these statements is expected to be circulated.


OPENING PLENARY: The Opening Plenary session for the World Summit on Sustainable Development will take place at 10:00 am in the Plenary Hall. Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa, will open the meeting and opening speeches will be delivered by Nitin Desai, WSSD Secretary General, and Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. The Plenary will elect the President and other officers, adopt the rules of procedure and agenda, and address the organization of work.

PLENARY: Following the opening Plenary, there will be a partnership plenary on Health. At 3:00 pm, there will be a partnership plenary on biodiversity and ecosystems. These debates will include an opening presentation, panel discussion and general comments from the floor.

MAIN COMMITTEE: Following the Opening Plenary, the Main Committee will meet in Exhibition 1 to address organizational matters and decide on how negotiations will move forward based on a report from the Vienna-style process.

EU - MAJOR GROUP CONSULTATIONS: The EU will hold daily consultation meetings with major groups at 2:00 pm in Committee Room 4A.

‘WORDS INTO ACTION’ BOOK LAUNCH: The International Institute for Environment and Development will launch its new publication, Words Into Action, at 7:00 pm in Committee Room 2B.

Further information


National governments
Negotiating blocs
African Union
European Union
Small Island Developing States
Non-state coalitions