Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Final day of CPD48: the anti-climax

Friday 17 April, the last day of CPD48, began with a lot of tension in the air in- and outside Conference Room 4, the CPD plenary room of UN Headquarters. Day 4 had ended with a lot of contested paragraphs still on the table, with very little negotiation time left. During the morning briefing for progressive NGOs, the message was clear: "What we have as draft resolution text right now is not bad at all. Proposed paragraphs on SRHR and related issues only need minor changes, but are still contested. Countries and regional groups have until 11 am to discuss contested paragraphs and then until lunch to negotiate. We hope they will reach an agreement including strong paragraphs on our issues. But if there is no agreement, there will be a Chair's proposal. And as the Chair will then revert to agreed language and agreed language on SRH is pretty good, we will still be OK, even though we will lose text on sexual rights (SR)"

With this message, we went to the delegates of our respective countries, giving them some final language advice. And then the long waiting began. 11 am came and went, lunchtime came and went... By 3 pm, there was still no agreement, but no Chair's proposal either. The plenary session was therefore opened and immediately afterwards suspended: the only thing announced was that the Chair's proposal would soon be there and that the session would resume at 4.30 pm. 'Soon' turned out to be another hour of waiting: the long-awaited final text only arrived at 4 pm, and as a consequence, the plenary did not resume until 5.45 pm, only to be suspended for another 15 minutes right after it started. Some of the NGO participants started to experience a feeling of déjà vu: in 2014, the session also ended with a Chair's proposal, and the plenary was then also suspended for "15 minutes" only to be resumed early Saturday morning... "Get your sleeping bags out" they joked after the 15 minute suspension was announced.

Fortunately, the Chair lived up to her word. The plenary session was resumed at 6 pm sharp with the announcement that the Resolution text on the table was the Chair's proposal and the final text. No language changes would be accepted: the resolution would either be adopted by consensus, or withdrawn by the Chair. Given that the final text indeed only contained agreed language, everyone expected adoption by consensus, with perhaps statements from some that they would have liked to have seen less text on certain issues and statements from others that they would have liked to see more. But then the unexpected happened: the African group representative was the first to take the floor. He hinted that the group couldn't agree with the text and wanted a discussion with the Chair on how to remedy this. Immediately after this statement, the Chair withdrew her proposal. The 48th CPD thus ended without an outcome document!

The disappointment about this anti-climax, omnipresent amongst progressive NGOs and States, was eloquently put into words by Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA. He stated amongst others that "countries did not do what they should for their citizens by not adopting a resolution". Several others also expressed their disappointment, or came with a strong statement with regard to the relevance of issues discussed by the Commission. Among the latter was the statement of the Netherlands Permanent Mission to the UN, which made the case for inclusion of SRHR including gender-based violence and rights of young people, adolescents and women. Let's hope that this and other strong statements will make it into the Chair's summary of discussions that is expected on the CPD website shortly!

Nienke Blauw, Public Affairs Officer SRHR at Simavi, attended the 48th CPD with her colleague Lara van Kouterik and partners form Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda.