Milestone or deadlock?
The statement of the G77 and China entails an extensive proposal for required means of implementation for fifteen of the focus areas outlined in the OWG’s co-chairs’ working document of OWG11.
Turning the tables
These calls by the G77 and China certainly are not new. The Group has consistently argued that the issue of finance should be solved before the new agenda is adopted in September 2015. Yet, the timing and tone their common statement should not be taken lightly, as it could potentially disturb the final phase of the OWG. Although the proposed goals document for OWG-12
With only one more OWG session to come in July, it is unlikely that the final report – due to be presented before the 69
Common But Differentiated Responsibilities
The guiding norm of the proposals of the G77 and China is the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR), as formulated in the Rio+20 final report. CBDR holds that, while member states have a shared responsibility in assuring a sustainable future of our planet, they have different shares in this responsibility based on their ‘respective capacities’. In the statement, the G77 and China consistently differentiate between the developed and developing countries, calling for separate treatment for the latter. In fact, it could well be read as an explicit call on the developed countries to take their primary responsibility, not only in terms of money, but also of reducing inequality between nations. Besides calling on developed countries to fulfill their ODA commitments and set money aside for the LDCs, the G77 and China also call for the elimination of trade distorting subsidies in developed countries,
The devil is in the interpretation
Again, these calls are not new. Throughout the OWG sessions and beyond, the G77 has consistently stressed that the universal applicability of the new development agenda should not place additional burdens on developing countries and, moreover, not conflict with their ‘right to development’. CBDR allows member states to differentiate responsibilities and capacities based on individual framings and interests. It reflects fundamentally different perceptions of the role of North and South. Yet, the trick of implementing CBDR lies in the ambiguous demarcation line between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. Whether this line holds for countries like Brazil and India, and even Mexico, in times when their economic power exceeds those of many countries in the North is questionable.
Implementing this ostensibly appealing principle becomes a question of ‘ability to pay or responsibility to pay’. The South emphasizes the historic responsibility of the North to pay for the environmental damage that the latter has largely caused, and the South’s right to develop irrespective of additional financial burdens. Moreover, it points to the North’s ‘negative duty’
Tug of war
Such finger-pointing could well hinder the formulation of the SDGs, and breaking the deadlock becomes a question of who can shout longest and hardest. The increased bargaining power of the G77 has been widely recognized on the UN floor. During last weekend’s Summit of Heads of State and Government of the G77 and China in Bolivia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once again stated that the Group plays ‘a key role in ensuring a successful outcome to the efforts of the United Nations to formulate and effectively implement the post-2015 development agenda’. Yet, we have previously expressed doubts whether the G77 will be capable of sustaining its alleged unity when internal disagreements and conflicting interests – for example between emerging powers like Brazil and India and the LDCs – are played out during the upcoming international negotiations in the General Assembly. Yet, with their common statement the Group has certainly set the dice rolling and has provided itself with an effective strategic tool to politicize the issue of responsibility in the final phase of the OWG.