U.S. Playing Catch-Up as Zimbabwean Bid for UNCSD Chair Moves Forward


SustainUS, the U.S. youth network for sustainable development, sends delegations of young people to U.N. sustainable development meetings every year to meet with governments and discover the connections between global challenges and the problems they face in their communities every day. My own experience with SustainUS was incredibly formative and gave me my first real insight into the world of international affairs.
I highly recommend the blog written by the SustainUS delegation to the 2007 Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). It’s fascinating to read each of their perspectives as they experience the unique mix of hope and frustration in international negotiations. It was an incredible growth experience for me as I’m sure it will be for this year’s SustainUS delegates.
Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that Zimbabwe is the presumptive African candidate to chair the CSD, and it’s Africa’s turn. Under “President” Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean strategy is apparently to accumulate posts like the CSD chair to demonstrate their regional support and humiliate the U.S. and EU, its harshest critics.
Most of the CSD talks are usually conducted by mid-level negotiators, but since the FT article yesterday, the CSD election is now being taken up at the U.N. Missions at higher levels. A well-placed source tells me that the EU, presumably pushed by Great Britain, is working hard to stop Zimbabwe’s election. Tanzania is rumored to be an alternative candidate.
The U.S. delegation to the CSD has been unusually quiet, possibly in part because of the recent departure of longtime delegation leader Jonathan Margolis. The delegation is usually an extremely cohesive, effective unit – sometimes frustratingly so – and includes some very dedicated and well-intentioned career civil servants.
The State Department has rightly made Zimbabwean human rights and political abuses a top-tier issue (below Iraq and Iran, above most other regional problems). That means the CSD election now presents a critical diplomatic test for new Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
Zimbabwe’s election as the CSD chair was all but assured a day ago. Can Khalilzad help turn the tide? Or will the Europeans have to fight this battle alone?
I’ll be digging around and I’ll post again if I find anything.
— Scott Paul


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