High-level segment: the freaths of bresh air

December 07, 2011

Durban, December 7: Tuesday wasn’t a heavy day at the Nkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre for the ‘non-governmental’, the way my presence at CoP 17 is measured, reported and verified. For country negotiators, though, it was a heavy-duty day: throughout the day, informal groups of delegates were locked in consultations.

The reason: the need for certainty. The provocation: the high-level segment of CoP 17, inaugurated late afternoon by South Africa President Jacob Zuma.

This is that segment of the CoP where draft decision texts, the end result of consultations among informal groups—texts less or more bracketed, signifying more or lesser consensus, a clearer or muddier set of decisions, the language concrete just poured-in or set, an un/successful exercise in reaching finality—have to be forwarded for the immense, wise, critical, discriminating, knowledgeable, national-circumstance laden consideration of nations’ ministers. The texts, at the least, must be or resemble some form of an end result. 

The high-level segment, you see, is the next level of deliberation. The conference cranks gear; as the end comes near, outcome-urgency more severe, the world’s looking in here, out comes the spear, time becomes dear: Time when the consultation cub gives way to the flown-in lion; time for the bigwigs to rub down or up, snub, drub, bub, or go glub-glub at, each other.

Outside, in the corridors that led to informal consultation meeting rooms, there was a felt lull. Pace had turned to spin-bowling. Apart from the occasional person speed-walking—naturally, a junior delegate carrying urgent information/clarification/a print-out or 131—the corridors were lull.  

An eddy day, broken only by the swirl of a minister from a nation/ negotiating bloc striding into a bi-lateral meeting with her opposite of another nation/negotiating bloc. Escorted, these ministers were like freaths of bresh air.