ASIA CAMPAIGN MEETING
Dewi Suralaga, Ana Toni
Notes on the role of Asian governments in the negotiation process of
Treaties and Conventions covered by the Political Unit (T&C)
* There are GREAT dangers in trying to generalise the attitudes of
these governments at international environmental fora. There is no one
path for policy formulation neither between countries in Asia or even
within a country between different fora. We should be very aware about
the complexity and diversity of these countries position at the
international fora and we should avoid superficial/ and possibly
erroneous, conclusions of such generalisation.
* Summary: 1) the diversity of Asian governments position at
international fora should not in any instance be understimated.
2) the is a tnedency by the some Asian countries to use
the North-South debate framework to halt or steer negotiation;
3) GP unpreparedness in many cases to influence Asian
governments at T&C are due to the lack of a deeper analysis of the
policy implications to Asian specific concerns and needs and an policy
implications to Asian specific concerns and needs and an understanding
about the policy decision making process within the Asian countries.
* General comments
the Asia role on T&C negotiations:
1) the increasingly importance of Asia government on international
environmental T&C is unquestioned. They awareness on the importance of
international treaties and conventions have unfortunately been based
on a “damage limitation exercise” as they see many of environmental
T&C as potential constrains to their “development”. Apart for finance
and technology transfer incentives Asian governments have not, with
few exception, been benefits of international T&C. In this away, Asian
governments still very much on the defensive (for some obviously
reasons) to most T&C on environmental related issues.
2) Asian governments have tended to take a quite progressive positions
at T&C related to matters where policy change are required from
developed countries such as toxic trade and nuclear transport (matters
that they have not much to loose only to gain and for that reason can
be on the attack).
3) On issues which they would have to change their national policies
and when national policies can be questioned by outside groups such as
on matters related to forest, energy or biodiversity Asian goverments
tended to use as a tactic the North-South framework of debate to halt
or steer negotiations. Although they have been quite succesful in
halting negotiations in many fora they have not yet, as suggested
above, been able to use such fora to further their own environmentand
economic goals rather than for defensive purposes. It is important to
emphasises that Asia is KEY on negotiations not much will be achieved
in these areas. GP must find niches to ensure that “Asian countries”
will benefit from negotiations, for instance by proving to Asian
countries that remedy is most expensive than prevention.
4) Although aid and trade conditionaliry treats are taken very
seriously by Asian governments understand the limitation of this tools
and a prepared to challenge Western double standard on that.
5) Negotiation on environment treaties and conventions are, perhaps
more than in other non-Asia countries, completely submerged into
goverments’ foreign or financial policies. The people who normally
represent governments at these meetings are not from the ministry of
environments with no decision making power. In this way, it is seems
almost fruitless to try to influence governments with “pure”
environmental arguments, economically based rational or economic
analysis of the issues normally helps to consolidate our position
(specifically on issues such as forest, biodiversity or energy were
these countries feel they have a lot to loose economically).
6) Despite the above point one should be aware about the differences
and conflicts in certain countries on the position taken by New York
or Geneva ambassadors and Capitals. They position are not always in
line and we can something explore these differences.
7) The most outspoken countries from the region is doubtless: India,
Malaysia and China. Although we should not forget however that behind
the “quiet Asian style of lobbying” countries like Indonesia, South
Korea, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Singapore are playing a significant
role in many negotiations.
8) It is pretty obvious that Asia governments are reluctant to listen
to sestern NGOs concerns ar international meetings. This seems to be
the case first because in many occasions they disagree with the
“agenda setting” of North environmental groups and dislike NGOs
potential to influence aid and trade policies of developed countries
(this is part of the North-South argument); secondly we (GPI) have in
some cases been unable to make a detailed analysis of the these
countries position and the officials involved in representing his/her
country; thirdly normally western NGOs have a close relationship
environmental and development groups in the region which in many cases
are seen by these governments as “opposition” at home; and finally the
arguments we normally bring to Asian governments or NGOs groups are
based on a non-Asian (or no-Asia specifically) analysis.
9) Despite the normally good relationship between western and Asian
environmental groups (or GP in particular) the differences and
conflicts in lobby style and division of labour during C&T meetings
should not be underestimated. It is clear that GP should as much as
possible have in its delegation Asian representatives to lialise with
Asia governments and NGOs. If however this is not possible
transparent and respectable (vis a vis consultation, division of
labour, media and lobby approach) relationship with delegations.
Although a long way from perfection, the PU has been putting great
effort, at least in most fora, to liaise with Asian groups prior and
during meeting in the best possible manner.
10) As with other countries, GP is in a stronger position to influence
governments when our lobby effort is very focused but at the same time
holistic and realistic. The tentation to support position papers of
other Western NGOs on policy matters related to Asia which GP is NOT
active should, in my opinion, be avoided. General position papers on
matters not related to the T&C covered by GP should only be signed
with the qpproval of the Asian Campaign.
11) GP’s ability to present positions based on a “scientifically sound
environmental argumentation” on the matters been discussed HAS to be
complemented by an analysis of the economic, social and political
implications of the negotiations. This is even more important in the
case of Asia. Regions or country specific analysis is important to
our understanding about these countries possible reaction as well as
possible strategical solution paths.
12) Although GP has developed very good relationship with certain
Asian government officials on matters of common interest(such as toxic
trade, PIC, and nuclear transpost or NPT – which as we mentioned
before are “low risks/ attack issues for Asian countries). GPI still
very weak to present positions at T&C negotiations on forest,
biodiversity, fisheries etc which takes into account the specific
environmental, as well as economic and social, concerns and needs of
Asian countries. Untill we are able to make such analyze our
relationship if Asia governments(and NGOs) participating in these
international negociations will be superficial and we will always be
trapped within the “north-south”debate.
13) The Asian countries will doubtless use the WTO framework of
“non-discrimination” against any suggestions of use of trade
instruments by environmentalist to acheive environmental goals.
14) Although we have to be much better prepared when setting policies
at T&C on understanding the implications of these policies to
developing countries in general, and in this case to Asian countries
in particular, we should not underestimate also the key role
individual government officials can play during this negotiations.
15) Key Asian countries at different T&C negotiation fora.
Please bear in mind this area only a generalised and superficial list
and do not reflect the complexity and nuances of the different
countries positions I urge the Asian campaign to contact the political
unit advisors for details of the Asian countries position at these
+ Sri Lanka
+ Indonesia (openly in favor but we don’t fully trust yet)
( Southeast Asia is key for this negotiation)
** Basel convention
Key positive : Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea
Most of Asia has been good, such as India and Indonesia who have been
going along with the crowd. China is in the crowd as well.
Key negative : South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand,
** PIC convention
Key positive : Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, South Pacific
Potential negative : India, Thailand, Philippines
Neutral, maybe good : Indonesia
Not a lot of Asian participation at the last meeting, so not sure
Key positive: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Zealand are all
Key negative : Malaysia, Indonesia
Difficult : Philippines and Thailand
Although quiet Cambodia, Burma and Laos have a bad record in
supporting the guys.
Key positive : to a lesser extend the south Pacific Forum
Key negative : South Korea, India
Bad : China, South Korea and possibly Philippines
Difficult : India, Indonesia, Tailand, Singapore
Neutral : Vietnam
Good : Malaysia, PNG, Taiwan, Parcific in general