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Resolution Review, Or, How a UN Document is Birthed

It’s day two of the Commission on Social Development, and the delegation has already sat in on two large panels on the priority theme of poverty eradication as well as numerous side events. This morning, several SustainUS youth delegates were able to meet with a group of NGOs that was reviewing the most recent draft of the CSocD-50 resolution. It was already marked up with country additions, deletions, and edits of clauses, which gave us a fascinating behind-the-scenes look of how official UN documents are produced.

For instance, one clause originally read: “Deeply concerned that extreme poverty persists in all countries of the world, regardless of their economic, social, and cultural situation, and that its extent and its manifestations, such as hunger, trafficking in human beings, disease, lack of adequate shelter and illiteracy, are particularly severe in developing countries, while acknowledging the significant progress made in several parts of the world in combating extreme poverty,” was marked up with various edits from the United States and G77.

The U.S. edit removed the word ‘extreme’ and replaced the phrase ‘in all countries of the world’ with ‘across the globe,’ among other suggested changes. Meanwhile, the G77 chose to delete the clause ‘such as hunger…lack of adequate shelter and illiteracy’ as well as the clause ‘while acknowledging the significant progress …combating poverty.’

What might seem like only minor changes in terminology and grammar has, in fact, great implications for the way in which this document is interpreted. While those may be difficult to predict, what was fascinating to me at this point was trying to understand the reasoning behind some of the edits.

Several NGO representatives suggested that the deletion of ‘extreme’ indicated the United States’ desire to deny the extent to which poverty could affect any region, and agreed that they would advocate to include that word in the final document The deletion of ‘countries’ may have reflected a desire to minimize the political tug-of-war over defining what a ‘country’ is and focus instead on the issue of widespread poverty.

The discussion over G77’s deletion of the detailed clause ‘such as hunger…and illiteracy’ was more animated. Some NGO representatives believed that the clause should be removed because it was misleading and non-inclusive of all of poverty’s manifestations, while others were more critical in their interpretation: “The G77 probably doesn’t want to acknowledge that trafficking exists in their countries!” said one woman.

For me, in particular, the most interesting edits included the U.S’ desire to remove any reference to the recent financial crisis and its impact on unemployment worldwide. While the financial crisis originated in and influenced many countries, the unsaid pointing-of-fingers was clearly directed at the U.S. For some NGO representatives, the U.S.’ edits was the most blatantly unnecessary, save-face move of any in the draft resolution.

While thinking through the reasoning of edits provided a fruitful morning discussion, we agreed that we must also remember to not assume that our explanations were accurate. Instead, we emphasized the need to approach delegates and negotiators to ask them about the edits, and express our support as well as disapproval for certain clauses as written.

We’ll continue the process in the next week. Come back to this blog to read more about the role of financial crisis and calls for ethical deliberations during CSoc-D 50!

 

Biography

Originally from Davis, CA, Shirley Gao is now a junior at Princeton University. She is majoring in Public Policy and minoring in Global and Public Health. She was selected to be a SustainUS Agent of Change youth delegate to the 50th Committee for Social Development, held in New York City from Feb 1-10, 2012.