Regional Groups ‘Block’ General Assembly Unity

GLOBAL TIMES – The General Assembly has fostered a unique style of international diplomacy. Rather than working as a unified body, the members of the General Assembly have collectively decided to divide into three regional groups: the Asia bloc, the Europe bloc, and the ill-named “Latin America” bloc (which curiously includes members from Africa, North America, and Oceania). A consensus was reached among the members of the Assembly that issue of biological diversity was “too complex” for a single international body to tackle as a whole. Instead, members opted for a “regionally sensitive” approach as a means to address these nuances. This sentiment was confirmed by France (Europe), the Philippines (Asia), and Chile (Latin America) who all acknowledged the need for region-tailored solutions.

The creation of educational programmes featured prominently among the proposals made by the Asia bloc. These proposals echo those made by the Europe bloc, who mainly focused on expanding programmes and initiatives made in the already existing Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In an alternative turn, the “Latin America” bloc stressed the need for indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing when considering the issue of biological diversity. This is reflective of the diverse presence of indigenous groups in Africa, the Americas, and Oceania.

Amid these differences, the proposals outlined by the three blocs of the Assembly contained more similarities than differences. Among these stark similarities include the need for greater data collection, educational initiatives, sustainable economic development, and environmental protection. Several representatives from each regional bloc have admitted that there is significant overlap between the three working papers, however, continued to stress the need for the Assembly to work within a “three-bloc system.” This curious arrangement has led to calls for a potential merger of the documents into a “super-working paper.” This potential paper would be an unified amalgam of each regional bloc’s proposals. This position was affirmed by representatives from the Asia and Europe blocs, however it received unenthusiastic support from the “Latin America” bloc.

In a similar fashion, China commended the exhaustive work done by the regional blocs, but stressed the need for greater international cooperation. This falls in the heels of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang’s December 10 speech, which outlined China’s recommitment to “advance peace, development, and win-win cooperation…[as a measure] to foster a new form of international relations.”

While other bodies of the UN hotly contest the nature of their topics, the collegial tone taken by the General Assembly is a refreshing example of regional cooperation. However, concerns over inter-regional bloc relations spell doubt for international cooperation. The prioritisation of regional issues with respect to biological diversity is commendable but fails to capture the international nature of the CBD. Yet, the members of the General Assembly still assert the need to remain in regional blocs. While calls for regional bloc cooperation and unity in the Assembly have been made, it has yet to be seen whether the members of the Assembly are able to reunite in the near future.