The United States was in a quandary after it failed to stop Zimbabwe becoming chair of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and Environment Minister Francis Nhema had to chair the 16th meeting.
The US said Nhema’s chairmanship was particularly troubling in light of the CSD’s themes for that year – agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification, and Africa – areas in which Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s rule had been especially egregious.
Washington said a Zimbabwean chairing a UN body on sustainable development ran counter to US attempts to reform the United Nations and raised questions about the CSD as a credible forum for addressing these issues.
As a result, the US government was reviewing its level of participation at meeting.
Viewing cable 08STATE40180, ACTION REQUEST: DEMARCHE ON ZIMBABWE CHAIR OF UN
DE RUEHC #0180 1072300
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 162254Z APR 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0000
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 0000
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0000
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0000
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN PRIORITY 0000
RUEHLJ/AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA PRIORITY 0000
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0000
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0000
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 0000
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0000
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0000
RUEHPG/AMEMBASSY PRAGUE PRIORITY 0000
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0000
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0000
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0000
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE PRIORITY 0000
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0000
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW PRIORITY 0000
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0000
UNCLAS STATE 040180
FOR US EU AND EMB BRUSSELS
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ACTION REQUEST: DEMARCHE ON ZIMBABWE CHAIR OF UN
COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
¶1. This is an Action Request. Please see paragraphs 5 and
¶2. The May 5 – 16 meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development (CSD-16) will be chaired by Zimbabwe’s Minister
of Environment and Tourism, Francis Nhema. The Zimbabwean
chairmanship is particularly troubling in light of the CSD’s
themes this year – agriculture, rural development, land,
drought, desertification, and Africa – areas in which
Zimbabwe President Mugabe’s rule has been especially
egregious. We unsuccessfully fought Nhema’s election to the
chair last year.
¶3. The situation in Zimbabwe is worsening daily, with little
progress made towards a political solution. It is unlikely
that a possible runoff election will be held prior to CSD-16.
We understand as well from recent media reports that Nhema
has played a questionable role in the redistribution of
farmland. Under these circumstances, a Zimbabwean chairing a
UN body on sustainable development runs counter to U.S.
attempts to reform the United Nations and raises questions
about the CSD as a credible forum for addressing these
¶4. As a result, the U.S. Government is reviewing its level
of participation at CSD-16. Under normal circumstances Under
Secretary Dobriansky would lead the U.S. delegation; however,
this is unlikely unless there is a dramatic improvement in
the political situation in Zimbabwe before the CSD begins, or
Zimbabwe does not chair CSD-16. We expect that a Deputy
Assistant Secretary career officer will represent the U.S.
¶5. Action Request (except Embassy Tel Aviv): Embassy is
requested to demarche the appropriate Foreign, Environment or
other Ministry officials to encourage Governments to join us
in lowering their level of representation at CSD-16 and to
report back as soon as possible.
¶6. Embassy may wish to draw from the following points:
— Absent a positive and peaceful resolution of the political
conflict in Zimbabwe, or Zimbabwe not chairing the meeting,
we believe Governments should seriously consider lowering
their level of representation at CSD-16 for the following
— A high-level official or political presence in meetings
officiated by a Zimbabwean Minister would encourage the
abuses in Zimbabwe and display support for a broken UN
— We should not validate Zimbabwe as a champion or
practitioner of sustainable development.
— A Zimbabwean chairmanship damages the credibility of the
Commission and Member States efforts in the realm of
— Sending a lower-than-normal level official to head the
delegation sends a quiet but clear message that a Zimbabwean
chairmanship of a CSD session devoted to rural development in
Africa is unacceptable.
— Although we encourage an apolitical CSD in which practical
discourse takes place, under these circumstances, we believe
we should display our genuine support for sustainable
development by making it clear that a Zimbabwean chairmanship
is not acceptable in terms of sustainable development or UN
credibility and reform.
— We recognize the importance of balancing the impact on our
broader sustainable development policy with our overall
policy of reforming the UN. We want to ensure that any
political signal we send will not be at the expense of our
ongoing commitment to sustainable development and the CSD.
The U.S. delegation will demonstrate this commitment through
its contributions to, and active and constructive
participation in, the sessions and side events of CSD-16.
— We are approaching most OECD members with this request to
seek views and determine if there is support for a collective
¶7. Action Request Embassy Tel Aviv: Embassy is requested to
inform appropriate Environment or other Ministry officials
that we are taking this action. This is a courtesy because
Israel is the WEOG Bureau member for CSD-16; we are not
asking it to take any specific action.
¶8. Please slug responses to IO/EDA Rebecca Webber
([email protected]) and OES/ENV Keri Holland