by Thalif Deen
(IPS) UNITED NATIONS -- A continued sharp division of opinion among the 191 member states -- on politically-sensitive issues such as terrorism, war crimes, development aid, climate change and human rights -- is threatening to make a mockery of the upcoming UN summit of world leaders in New York Sept. 14-16.
With less than a week to go, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have expressed concern about the ongoing deadlock over a proposed landmark plan of action, called the "outcome document," which was to spell out concrete commitments on alleviating poverty, eradicating extreme hunger, ensuring universal primary education, and endorsing a complete restructuring of the United Nations.
"Negotiations are teetering on the brink of failure because governments are not reaching agreement on key poverty reduction measures, arms controls and their 'responsibility to protect' civilians," Caroline Green of Oxfam International, told IPS.
The summit, which is to be attended by over 170 world leaders, was expected to adopt the outcome document, described as a global plan of action for the betterment of the international community in the 21st century.
But progress has been painfully slow on the 45-page document. "We may eventually end up with only a two- or three-page declaration of good intentions," one Asian diplomat told IPS. "If this happens, the highly-trumpeted summit meeting would turn out to be a fiasco," he added.
In a joint statement early this week, three international NGOs, namely Human Rights Watch, Oxfam International and Amnesty International, called on a small number of "spoiler" countries to stop holding the summit hostage over crucial measures on human rights, security, genocide and poverty reductions.
"These governments have thrown negotiations on the final outcome text into crisis just days away from the biggest meeting of world leaders in history," the three organizations said.
The leading "spoilers" vary on different issues, the statement said, but together their activities are seriously weakening draft agreements on the creation of a Human Rights Council, on poverty reduction and on preventing genocide -- "despite support from the majority of governments for these measures."
The countries singled out as "spoilers" include the United States, India, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria, Russia, Burma, Turkmenistan, Belarus and Vietnam.
"The possibility that a small number of states with deeply troubling human rights records could block the creation of a more effective human rights body is not only ironic, but also disgraceful," says Peggy Hicks, Human Rights Watch's global advocacy director.
Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International's representative at the United Nations, was equally hard-hitting. "Millions of men, women and children are looking to this summit for something better than a forum for horse-trading on human rights," she said.
On Friday, there were reports that U.S. Ambassador John Bolton had backed down under pressure on three of his controversial demands for changes in the draft final report.
At closed door meetings, Bolton is said to have withdrawn revisions that would have excized all 35 references in the document to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The original mandate of the summit was to take stock of the successes and failures of MDGs which were adopted in September 2000 by the General Assembly.
The MDGs include a 50 percent reduction in poverty and hunger; universal primary education; reduction of child mortality by two-thirds; cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters; the promotion of gender equality; the reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; sustainable development and a North-South global partnership for development. The deadline to achieve these goals is 2015.
The Gender Monitoring Group (GMG) of the World Summit, a New York-based coalition of women's groups, says that contrary to its assertions, the United States has not made any significant concessions in the ongoing negotiations.
"Rather, in the disingenuous style that has marked the Bolton approach to reaching global consensus, the United States is now removing roadblocks that it itself created," says Francoise Girard of Development Alternatives With Women for a New Era (DAWN) and a spokeswoman for GMG.
Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Women's Global Leadership said "we need to see a lot more than these 'concessions' from the United States if they are serious about wanting to ensure the success of the summit."
Asked if the significance of the summit would be undermined if member states are forced to agree on a watered down document, Green of Oxfam International told IPS: "The summit must include vital measures to stop future genocides -- by governments agreeing on their responsibility to protect all people facing mass killing."
If this is not agreed, she said, world leaders at the summit will have signaled they do not have the political will to stop another Rwandan genocide.
"Similarly, if the summit outcome doesn't include the need to control small arms, which are the real weapons of destruction, and does not include the need for all developed nations to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) in overseas aid, this historic chance for reform will result in failure," Green warned.
Asked how the summit could best be salvaged at this late stage, Green told IPS: "Governments must stop hiding in their corners and work to reach agreements on crucial poverty reduction and genocide prevention measures."
She pointed out that the next 48 hours are vital as negotiations are set to go through the night. The United States must work much harder to meet other countries half way, and similarly the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (of mostly developing nations) must agree on the responsibility to protect civilians.
"The summit is up for grabs right now, and we cannot let this chance slip away," Green said.
September 8, 2005 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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