In a rather chaotic way, the CPD started off on Monday. Delegates and civil society alike had to wait for almost two hours to get their UN groundspass. Space for civil society representatives was very little. They were sent to the ‘overflow room’. However in that room, the sound didn’t match with the screen play! The negotiations had started already before the weekend, and would resume on Monday afternoon. But again a too small room was provided: even with the regulation that just one person per delegation could join, not all countries attending could fit. The Chair suspended the negotiations until Tuesday morning. With everyone geared up to get started, this was kind of a deception.
Civil society participation turned out to be difficult. The rules were changed after the game had already started. The pass participants from civil society had received was only valid for two days. From Wednesday onwards, they would not be able to enter the UN building. This regulation was of course opposed by civil society and friendly governments. People spend a lot of money and time to join in this meeting, just to discover that they could not even join! As the pressure on the organisers went up, they decided to issue a limited number of tickets per day. These were to be handed out on a first come, first serve basis. Again questions were raised, and then the number of tickets per day was increased allowing everyone to attend.
Tuesday morning negotiations started in a bigger room, where all countries attending could fit (even with more then one representative per country). Text proposals had been prepared and discussed with those delegations which were assumed to include these in their suggestions to the Chair. Not all those attending however, wanted to discuss substance. Especially the African Group pleaded for having just a procedural negotiation. It took a while before they realized the ship had already sailed. But when that happened, they started bringing in pages of language suggestions. On Wednesday evening, the Commission had gone through the text twice. It had grown from a text of 4 pages into one of 28 pages. This is being streamlined now in a new version, expected to come out on Thursday early morning. Curious what new dynamic that will bring!
Looking at the negotiations, civil society participation is a big success. This year 60 civil society representatives are included in country delegations of 47 countries. This is a huge success in itself, for which civil society has worked very hard especially over the last couple of months. It enables civil society to closely monitor the negotiations. Civil society representatives in the negotiation room send the information on which country or which negotiation block is presenting what to their colleagues who are not in the negotiation room. This way we are kept informed very well. And it enables very targeted advocacy with the delegations. Despite delaying tactics of the opposition, support for SRHR is clearly visible.
In parallel with the negotiations going on behind closed doors, the plenary session is held. Here countries give their so-called country statement. Apart from Russia, which was totally negative, no surprises here. Stefan Hennis from CHOICE gave a powerful statement for the Netherlands. He told the audience he didn’t have a special story to tell: he got sexuality education, was able to access contraceptives, doesn’t have to fear for an unwanted pregnancy, he and his girlfriend can access emergency contraception and safe, legal abortion services. In 20 years from now, this ordinary story should be more common than it is today. He got a big applause from the audience!
Yvonne BogaartsManager Advocacy Rutgers WPF