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  • Bali meeting agrees on need for science policies

Delegates to the fourth preparatory committee meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Prepcom4), currently being held in Bali, have agreed that the programme for action being proposed to the summit should support moves to help developing countries establish and implement science and technology policies.

The delegates have also agreed on the wording of paragraphs in a draft of the proposed document, drawn up by the chairman of the conference, on the need to establish partnerships between scientific, public and private institutions, to improve the use of science and technology for environmental monitoring, and to establish regular channels between policy makers and the scientific community.

However there continues to be disagreement between the developing countries, represented by the Group of 77 (G77) and China, and both the United States and Europe over whether the document should contain a commitment to setting up new research centres in the developing world.

In particular, the United States and the European Union (EU) have expressed their opposition to a proposal by the G77 to create “centres for sustainable development” in developing countries. This follows the earlier US rejection of a proposal to set up “networks of centres of excellence” (see US challenges G77 call for centres of research excellence).

There was also continued disagreement over procedures for the transfer of environmentally sustainable technologies (ESTs), which developing countries want access to on concessional terms.

Both the US and the EU delegations have expressed opposition to a proposal in the draft text that a mechanism for doing this should be created by 2004, despite a statement by the G-77/CHINA that this proposal represents one of the few "concrete actions".

And disagreement remains on whether the text should include a commitment to providing extra funds for research in developing countries. In particular, in a section of the text on the need for research organisations to engage in strategic alliances, the G-77/CHINA supported — but the United States objected to — a recommendation that developed countries should provide "new and additional" resources.

Discussion has been deferred on a paragraph taken by the EU delegation from the globalisation section of the proposed final document on the need to apply the ‘precautionary principle’ in decision making, while avoiding recourse to the principle for protectionist purposes.

There was, however, agreement on proposal in the text on the importance of indigenous knowledge, an earlier bone of contention between the G77 and the United States. The delegates agreed that the document should refer to increasing the beneficial use of local and indigenous knowledge in a manner respectful of the holders of that knowledge and consistent with national law.

In a separate negotiating session addressing paragraphs in the proposed final document that relate to the needs of African countries, PrepCom delegates agreed on new proposals strengthening research and control of ebola, trypanosomiasis and malaria, and conserving and protecting biological diversity.

In principle, revisions of the proposed text are due to be completed by the end of Friday, 31 May, prior to the opening of the ministerial-level section of the preparatory committee meeting next week. However, as is normal in such situations, few expect the negotiations on key paragraphs to be completed by then.

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