If you can excuse the acronym-speak in the title of this post, I hope you’ll share my disappointment that the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) is falling on hard times. The CSD is an innovative forum that allows stakeholder groups, like women, youth, labor, farmers, indigenous groups, and others, to participate alongside governments and share their views on the most critical environment, development, and economic problems that the world is facing.
I spent a few years at the CSD, as have many hard-working government and citizen diplomats. I was sad to find out today from a friend at the negotiations that the forum may soon be going the way of the dodo bird and the woolly mammoth.
This year’s CSD is tasked with forging agreement on four topics: energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution, and climate change. Negotiators were up ’till 3 a.m. last night and, of the four topics, are only close to agreement on air pollution.
The deadlock is so great that some delegates – including the civil society participants who are often the most reluctant to give up hope – are suggesting that the CSD be scrapped, its work reorganized and streamlined into another U.N. agency.
Some countries are pushing to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme. Unless the CSD work migrates there – and its unique participatory format is preserved – the recent developments are very bad news.
To add insult to injury, pending objections from the European Union, Zimbabwe is poised to chair the CSD. All its U.N. Ambassador could muster in response to critics of the election was: “What has sustainable development to do with human rights?” That’s extremely disconcerting.
SustainUS, the organization that sends U.S. youth to participate in U.N. negotiations, is maintaining a CSD blog that is well worth a read.
Here’s hoping that the CSD can be rescued – or at least thoroughly reincarnated.
— Scott Paul
Update, 10 p.m – Zimbabwe has been officially announced as Chair of the CSD.


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