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Abu Dhabi meeting approves `Declaration of intentions`

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Source: SciDev.Net

The declaration of the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-15 December) will be officially unveiled on Thursday.

It has been drawn up for inclusion on the agenda of the United Nations Rio+20 conference in Brazil in June 2012.

Despite the organisers’ reluctance to use the word 'negotiation' in order to limit the scope of last-minute changes to the document that has been through five drafts in recent  months, several alterations were made to the text during the week.

Civil society representatives helped push through a mention of a proposed global treaty on public access to information, which Brazil wants to make a key outcome of Rio+20.

Other changes included inclusion of communities as a key stakeholder in collaboration on data access, and the addition of a call for greater efforts to incorporate environmental information and programmes into education curricula at all levels.

The declaration stops short of declaring access to information technology a human right. Provision to set up mechanisms to help disadvantaged groups gain access to information or for a new mechanism for technology transfer and capacity building for developing countries were also rejected.

Indonesia won support for a reference to recognition of the importance of the full implementation of the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity Building, originally adopted by the United Nations Environment Programme’s governing council in 2005.

Bambang Antarikso, from Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry, told SciDev.Net that strengthening data-sharing and ensuring equal access to data was even more important than creating new data: 'To some extent we have it [the data], but that’s why also need capacity building so we can work together on this data.'

Gilberto Câmara, director of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, told SciDev.Net that the changes to the draft document had improved the declaration.

He described it as 'a declaration of intentions, very valuable and very important'.

Delegates would not officially sign the declaration at the end of the meeting on Thursday, he said, because 'countries did not come here with the powers to sign and there were not enough countries at the drafting of the declaration'.

Jeremy Wates, secretary-general of the Brussels-based European Environmental Bureau, who led civil society groups at the Abu Dhabi meeting, said, “I’m generally happy. I think the changes that went in for the most part have been an improvement.”

Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Space Agency, told SciDev.Net, 'In this event, you had people who for the first time are really trying to do things - not talk about it, but do things. It’s a good example how it is possible, if you have the willing in the room, to at least have a piece of paper that people can walk away with.'

Asked whether the negotiations had neglected what some delegates saw as the key issue – finance – she said, 'I sometimes think that financing gets in a way of a good idea.

'I am not saying that money magically appears, but I think you’ve got to have content before money is there.'

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