Preparation for World Summit on Sustainable Development: discussion

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International Relations

05 June 2002
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

5 June 2002

Chairperson (Acting): Mr D Sithole (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Modalities of the WSSD - Possible Roles for South African Political Leadership (See Appendix 1)
Letters between Chairperson Jordan and Speaker Ginwala (see Appendix 2)

Committee objected to the minor role it had been asked to play in the upcoming WSSD. Members suggested ways to increase the Committee's leadership role and authority position at the WSSD. The Committee's role in the Speaker's working group on the African Union was also discussed.

Mr. Sithole, chairing the meeting on Dr. Jordan's behalf, submitted that the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs should play an important role in the WSSD. The Committee as a whole agreed, but the members were frustrated that the Committee seemed to have been pushed aside by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and perhaps other portfolio Committees.

South Africa would be given four seats in the actual summit and 25 MPs would attend the NGO conference held in conjunction with the summit. Mr. Elgin (DP) stated that he did not realise that Parliament was considered an NGO, and he stated his opinion that Parliament must hold at least one of the four seats in the summit itself. Mr. Saloojee (ANC) feared that the Committee was being sidelined, and he echoed Mr. Elgin's proposal that a Member of Parliament take one of the four seats. He reasoned that since Parliament would be called upon to legislate based on the result of the summit, it should be part of the process from the beginning rather than being brought in at the end.

Chairperson Mahlangu of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism spoke on behalf of her Committee at the meeting. She stated that her Committee shared many of the same concerns and frustrations as the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs concerning the lack of interaction and support from the executive branch concerning the WSSD. Furthermore, she felt that the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs should be more heavily involved and that together they should ask the Speaker to petition the executive to allow Parliament increased participation in the summit.

Mr. Sithole passed out a letter from Dr. Jordan to the Speaker and the Speaker's response. In Dr. Jordan's letter to the Speaker, he sought to clarify the Committee's connection to the International Affairs Committee and the role of his Committee in regards to the African Union. The Speaker replied that the International Affairs Committee performs a protocol function, so it operates outside of the matters of foreign policy and the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs. On the African Union, the Speaker stated that Parliament should be involved with the AU Summit and that a resolution of the National Assembly had organised at Working Group on the AU. The Speaker suggested that some members of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs should be appointed to the working group.

Both Mr. Elgin and Mr. Saloojee agreed that the National Assembly resolution to form a working group on the AU may potentially cause a political relationship or power problem between the Speaker's working group and the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs. Mr. Sithole recommended,that members of the Portfolio Committee should attend and fully participate in the working group. This is one method to make sure that the working group worked with the Portfolio Committee. Secondly, Mr. Sithole suggested that the Committee should ask the Speaker to test any decision of the working group against the actions of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs to ensure that the two groups did not contradict each other.

Appendix 1

Report to the WSSD Co-ordinating Committee - 8 March 2002

1. PrepCom1 decided on the "tentative organisation of work during the WSSD". Organisational matters for the WSSD will also be considered at the beginning of the Summit (see par.4 below), where delegations will then approve the final organisation of work during the WSSD.

2. PrepCom1 also recommended that the WSSD should have 25 Vice-Presidents, five from each of the following groups: African States, Asian States, Eastern European States, Latin American and Caribbean States and Western European and Other States.

Organisation of work during WSSD
3. According to the decisions taken at PrepCom1, the first week (26 - 30 August) will see meetings of the Plenary and of the Main Committee (also called Committee of the Whole - COW).

4. Plenary will consider organisational issues for the WSSD, as required, followed by a series of partnership events involving major groups. Details and topics of these events to be recommended by the Bureau.

5. The Main Committee will meet in parallel with Plenary, to consider all outstanding matters related to the draft documents of the Summit.

6. During the second week (2-4 September), Plenary will consist of a general debate among delegations, headed by Heads of State and Government (HOS/G) or, where countries do not send their HOS/G, by Ministers. A multistakeholder event involving major groups and governments will also take place, with details and topics to be recommended by the Bureau. Plenary will also adopt the final documents of the Summit.

7. Roundtables involving HOS/G will also be organised in parallel with the general debate, with details and topics to be decided by the Bureau.

Roles of South African political leadership

8. By established tradition, the President of South Africa will be the President of the Summit. The President chairs I conducts proceedings in the Plenary. He can be replaced (if he needs to step out or have another meeting) by one of the 25 Vice Presidents (Heads of Delegation - HOS/G or Ministers).

9. However, it is anticipated that South Africa, as the Host Government, will also have a post of Vice President (South African Deputy President or a Minister).

10. The President of the Summit, or, if required, the Vice-President from the Host Government (or another Vice President) could play a very important role, through negotiation brokerage or facilitation, in resolving some of the more sensitive political issues. (This happens mostly when the negotiations in the Main Committee see below do not achieve the desired results, or when a draft decision is tabled directly and deliberately in Plenary often the case with politicised issues that are somewhat outside the scope of the Summit.) The involvement of the President usually happens towards the end of the Summit, when the President, or one of the Vice Presidents on his I her behalf, needs to "come to the rescue".

11.The Main Committee is by tradition and practice chaired by the Chair of the PrepCom. Furthermore, also by tradition, the Bureau of the PrepCom remains the Bureau of the Main Committee. Though it is not prohibited by UN Rules of Procedure, it is considered inappropriate for the Host Government to also chair the Main Committee. However, member states can, within the parameters of the Rules of Procedure, agree on any other arrangements. As far as it is known, this has not happened before.

12. Furthermore, the South African Deputy President or a Minister would also head the official South African delegation to the WSSD.

Appendix 2
To: Hon Mr Z Pallo Jordan MP: Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs
From: Frene Ginwala MP
13 May 2002

Dear Colleague,

I will be pleased to discuss the questions you raise in your letter of 8 May. However, as it may not be possible to arrange a meeting before I leave for the United States this week, I am responding briefly now.

(i) Parliament's International Affairs Committee
The Committee is a sub-Committee of the Rules Committee and its functions and powers are set out in Rule 180. It is concerned with Parliament's relations with other Parliaments or Parliamentary organisations, whereas the Portfolio Committee of which you are the Chairperson deals with matters that fall within the Department of Foreign Affairs.

(ii) African Union's Summit in Durban 2002
We are trying to clarify the civil society component of this Conference. The Africa Institute has been asked to convene a workshop/seminar of +/- 200 participants from African Civil Society. Their views will be filtered into the Inter-Ministerial meeting and the Summit.

I have indicated that Parliament will participate, and we need to discuss further. I would value your input into the organisation of that event.
(iii) Pan African Parliament

The Protocol will be tabled In Parliament for ratification, and will be referred to the Working Group. You will recall that the Deputy Speaker raised the need for the ratification of the Protocol at the last meeting of the SADC-PF, and I had asked the Secretary-General to expedite.
I have also written to all African Speakers urging early consideration. By mid-March only 21 countries had signed the Protocol and a mere 3 had ratified.

Anything the Portfolio Committee can do to expedite this will be appreciated.

Meeting of African Parliaments
In addition to the above, the South African Parliament will be convening a meeting of all African Parliaments. This meeting will aim to facilitate informal exchanges amongst African Parliaments who will be invited to send representatives.

The working Group will be preparing a draft agenda which will be finalised after consultation with other Parliaments.

Working Group on African Union
This was set up by resolution of the National Assembly and has organised the workshop. It will shortly be submitting a further report to the National Assembly making recommendations on its plans and programmes. Currently these include an extensive research programme, further meetings with the Inter-Ministerial Committee, the meeting of African Parliaments, popularising the African Union and Pan-African Parliament, and involvement of civil society. We have asked political parties to appoint additional members onto the Working Group, and it would be valuable if some members of the Portfolio Committee were appointed.

I hope this clarification assists. I will try and set up discussion as soon as possible.

Appendix 2
To: Dr Frene Ginwala: Speaker of the National Assembly
From: Z. Pallo Jordan: Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs
08 May 2002

Dear Madam Speaker

Arising from the meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, I have been instructed by the Committee to raise the following questions with your good office.


The members of the Committee seek clarity on the relationship between this Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.


It was our understanding that there will be a civil society component to this conference. The Committee seeks clarity on the participation of the South African Parliament and specifically the participation of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs.


The Committee seeks clarity on the role it will be expected to play in the context of the Pan-African Parliament and whether it would be appropriate for it to take the initiative in involving its counterparts in the SADC region in discussions at this moment in time.
I will hold myself ready to discuss these matters with you as soon as you can find the time.

Z. Pallo Jordan
Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs


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