Battle of the brackets
It took 9,000 delegates almost 225 hours of strategising, negotiating and arguing over the language to reach an agreement on the 150 clauses of the final Plan of Implementation. After the Bali preparatory meeting, the un proudly claimed that 75 per cent of the text had been agreed upon, and only 25 per cent remained bracketed (controversial text in negotiating documents remains bracketed until the final language is agreed upon by all governments). By the end of the first week of wssd, less than five per cent was still bracketed. The problem with this method of notching progress, of course, is that the removal of brackets often signifies that the language of the text has been twisted beyond recognition, to eventually mean nothing. At the end of the two weeks in the convention centre, all the brackets had been removed, but there was little to show for the success of the meeting. Looking for firm action points in the Plan of Implementation amounts to looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Only the most optimistic non-governmental, non-intergovernmental participants sought consolation in the fact that at least status quo was maintained, and the summit did not take a step backwards by reopening agreements reached at Rio, Monterrey and Doha.
If developing countries can claim any victories, it would be in the agreement to negotiate a global instrument to ensure ‘benefit sharing’