11 May 2005, No. 8

The Viennese gossip column
Rhianna Tyson | WILPF

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Day Seven of the Conference has come and gone, and still no agreement on an agenda, no convening of Main Committees and no commencement of substantive work.

While the General Debate prattles on to a near empty conference hall, most NPT watchers are firmly planted in the Vienna Café, amidst the cigarette smoke and the noise of the espresso machine, poised to receive and spread the latest scuttlebutt on the Conference and President Duarte’s seemingly endless search for consensus.

On Tuesday morning, word at Vienna was that agreement on agenda was almost there; States parties were collectively waiting on word from Cairo that the Egyptian government rescinded on their position, and were nearly ready to accept the proposed agenda.

By that afternoon, the rumor had devolved into a sadder state of affairs; Egypt was not ready to agree to the agenda nor to the announcement by President Duarte upon the adoption of it. In addition to their insistence on the words “taking into account” over “in light of” (see News in Review, No. 6), Egypt is now refusing to agree to an agenda that does not specifically call for substantive focused discussion on regional issues, in particular, issues relating to the Middle East.

With agreement on agenda that much further away, the level of anxiety is decidedly growing. One Viennese rumor spread that the General Debate will be artificially prolonged, in order to provide a forum for informal discussions and to keep the opportunity for substantive work alive. Another speculates that the SecretaryGeneral himself, Mr. Kofi Annan, is going to get involved to try to impel the political will needed to get going on substantive work.

All of us, in the meanwhile, will be doing what we can to muster said political will. The Non Aligned Movement and the New Agenda Coalition continue to meet informally (and respectively) to try to bring Egypt, a member of both powerful groupings, into the mainstream. The Western Group continues to try to nudge the US out of their equally adamant position against discussing the Middle East in a focused manner. President Duarte continues to meet with all of them, seeking diplomatic solutions to one of the greatest diplomatic challenges these smoky corridors have seen in a while.

For our part, the NGOs will remain in the GA and in the Vienna Café, seeking out the truth amid the gossip that floats along these smoky corridors, and exerting the necessary pressure from below that will translate these rumors into action.

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