NGOS UNHAPPY WITH ACCESS TO UNGASS

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By Bevan Springer

UNITED NATIONS, New York (September 26, 1999 – SIDSnet)- Just hours before the opening of the Special Session on Islands (UNGASS), non-governmental organizations from island nations are crying foul over arrangements for their participation in the two-day meeting.

Dr. Waldaba Stewart, an activist representing the Pan African Movement and the Caribbean Action Lobby, says that provisions for logistical and practical matters at the conference are poor. Criticizing what he describes as inadequate computer and administrative facilities, Dr. Stewart critically observed that the world body had decided to have NGOs address the plenary at the tail end of proceedings when the cavernous General Assembly Hall would be emptied of dignitaries. "We are raising a loud protest with the president of the General Assembly (Namibia's Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab)," said the impassioned lobbyist, who wants a level playing field for both southern and northern NGOs at global meetings.

Dr. Stewart, a former New York State Senator who originally hails from Panama, said NGO contributions to the plenary session are critical so that the governments and the world gain a full understanding of civil society's views on their own development.

This is a non-negotiable issue," he said, threatening to denounce UNGASS if the voice of the NGO community is neglected.

Barbadian NGO activist George Bispham is concerned about the level of active input by SIDS governments in the preparatory process for UNGASS. Referring to the draft document's text on the transshipment of hazardous and radioactive waste, Bispham expressed doubts that the majority of SIDS would have agreed to "such mild and calm language." One Caribbean government delegation confirmed that regional participation at the PrepCom was very poor. Nonetheless, Bispham is prepared to lobby SIDS governments in the hallways of the United Nations before they begin their final negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Indian Ocean NGO community also expects to engage the attention of the world community. "I am here to represent my region," says the French-speaking Oomar Karbary of the Mauritius-based Council of Students and Youth Movement. He says climate change, drought management, waste management and the effects of mass tourism are some of the critical issues affecting his region. Mr. Karbary predicted that the follow-up process to UNGASS will be critical to the future of island nations.

 

UN TO STRENGTHEN SIDS DEPARTMENT

By Bevan Springer

UNITED NATIONS (September 26, 1999 - SIDSnet)--- Vulnerable small island states received an energy boost from the United Nations at the third AOSIS Summit yesterday.

Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, lauded the recent Global Conference on Renewable Energy Islands (GCREI) as an important step towards the sustainable development of small island developing states. Secretary-General Annan is reported to be committed to strengthening the SIDS department within the United Nations and has called for support from donor capitals to assist some the world's most vulnerable nations.

More than 100 representatives from 34 islands and 22 national, regional and international organizations met from September 15 to 16 in Aeroe, Denmark to share experiences and map strategies for enhancing the use of renewable energy in islands.

Recognizing that renewable energy is no longer a far-fetched dream, discussions focused on promoting self-sufficiency through the continued development of efficient technologies. Island states that have met with notable success in employing alternative energy sources include Barbados, which boasts solar water heating technology in use by 35 percent of all households, and the island of Fiji where 90 percent of the island's electricity needs are supplied by hydropower.

Desai, who headed the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in Barbados, commended the sponsors of the conference - Denmark's Forum for Energy and Development, the International Network of SIDS NGOs and Indigenous Peoples (INSNI), and Counterpart International, a private development agency in Washington D.C. - for their vision in taking the Barbados Programme of Action to another level.

Meanwhile, the Bermuda-based Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego, international coordinator of INSNI, says that energy issues will be critical to UNGASS deliberations, which open here on Monday.

"We will be lobbying governments hard because we need some legislation supporting renewable energy."

The GCREI conference outcome will be submitted to UNGASS, to the Brussels Symposium on Small Islands in November 1999, and to the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) at its ninth session in 2001.

 

CARIBBEAN MINISTERS CALL FOR RECOGNITION OF CARIBBEAN SEA AS SPECIAL AREA

By Bevan Springer

UNITED NATIONS, New York (September 26, 1999 - SIDSnet)---Caribbean heads of state and foreign ministers will urge the international community to support a draft resolution calling for the recognition of the Caribbean Sea as a special area in the context of sustainable development when UNGASS opens here on Monday.

This consensus was reached following a closed meeting of Caribbean foreign affairs ministers at the Helmsley Hotel in Manhattan where trade, environmental and other sustainable development-related issues were discussed.

The resolution, which is expected to be adopted in the second (economic) committee during the 54th regular session of the General Assembly, comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of fishes and birds are being washed ashore several Caribbean islands, presumably due to pollution of the region's waters. Regional leaders also expressed concern about the transshipment of hazardous and radioactive waste, arguably the most contentious area of the draft document expected to be adopted by the special session on Tuesday night.

At the meeting, which was co-chaired by Dr. Denzil Douglas, prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, and Edward Carrington, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), leaders also reviewed plans for a landmark meeting this week with US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright. Some of the items to be tabled for Wednesday's meeting include trade, criminal deportation, and dwindling resources to fund development programs.

The ministers discussed strategies for other global parleys such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Meeting in Seattle (November 1999), UNCTAD X (February 2000) and the South-South Summit to be held in Bangkok next summer.

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