by Rajendra Shende, email@example.com
23 December 2008
Doha is a quiet city in a land that protrudes in the Arabian Gulf, a perfect example of a peninsula. Leave aside the noise of building construction and the hustle of the National Market where most of the immigrant workers do their shopping and transfer money to their homeland, the rest of the city is as quiet as camels in Omani Market. Even more visited Souq Waqef (Old Market) presents a quiet scene with Arabian backdrop. Its fascinating terraces and networks of complex narrow alleys are bustling with evening crowd that is far from noisy. Quaffing Eshariq Coffee with shisha in Souq Waqef is an experience in solitude in the middle of a swarm of visitors and Doha residents.
Two weeks of my stay in Doha was for a series of meetings on the Montreal Protocol. Every morning before going for the meeting jogging along Al Corniche – a 7 km semi-circular beach road, neatly lined with lush green lawns and palm trees- is a vibrating experience. The sea is as silent as Doha City itself, the waves are probably quietened by reclaimed land.
Doha is more known for the ‘trade talks’ held here under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). ‘Doha Round’ is the buzz words in the international trade negotiations replete with arguments on perverse subsidies, unfair competition, woes of African countries and globalization. In this context, negotiations on the multilateral environmental treaty-the Montreal Protocol- sounded more like a docile ‘model UN’ event in schools! 16 years back, in 1992, on a similar seaside, in Rio de Janeiro, ‘Agenda 21′ took shape. The principles of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ and ‘polluter pays’ were laid down. The developed countries were put on the spot as responsible for environmental degradation.
Interestingly, parallel to the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Montreal Protocol in Doha, an urgent and desperate gathering of world leaders called G-20, was taking place in Washington D.C. It was not about environmental degradation but about financial degradation. Heads of the developing country states were telling developed countries that they (developed countries) are responsible for the present day financial crisis and hence they should take a lead in resolving it! For a moment, I thought, it sounded like multilateral environmental negotiations – except that the word ‘environmental’ was replaced by ‘financial’. They were almost on the verge of stating ‘financial polluter has to pay through bail out!’ That G-20 Summit made a lot of noise all around the world.
Compared to such noise, the decibel levels in MOP in Doha were extraordinarily low. Developed countries, in the midst of historically unparalleled global financial crisis, agreed to replenish the Multilateral Fund at USD 490 million, at the same level as the previous replenishment, and what more – the developing and developed countries agreed to derive additional climate benefits from actions to protect the Ozone Layer. A unique cooperative action was evident in the environmental sector when a unique global crisis was facing the financial sector.
The press did not report much on this historic event in Doha. This Doha round went in silent mode. As quiet as Doha itself. Amidst noisy reports on the global financial crisis.