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The preamble was introduced late in the second week of the meeting by AOSIS/G-77. It highlights the major problems the SIDS are facing and conveys a sense of urgency to the actions that are needed. A number of disagreements emerged during the course of the discussion on the preamble. Many of the contentious issues mirrored those that had arisen earlier in the negotiations.

On the structure, some delegates felt that the text was too long and that some of the issues belonged in the Programme of Action rather than in the preamble, as is customary in international agreements. In particular, references made in the preamble to the subsequent chapters met with some opposition on the part of those who had previously advocated reorganizing the chapters to place emphasis on the cross-sectoral ones.

Some delegates called for a more balanced preamble, while the authors saw it as a means to present all the difficulties and constraints to the sustainable development of SIDS. These so-called "negative aspects" were highlighted in the document and it was argued that they should be counter-balanced by "positive" elements such as the opportunities and natural resources that SIDS can draw upon. In that respect, debate illustrated divergent views on the very purpose of this Conference. For SIDS, the "negative" language in the preamble is a clear reflection of their dire situation. They indicated that balancing the preamble is not as important as conveying the sense of urgency dictated by the situation. No agreement was reached on this point.

The paragraph on financial aspects was another source of disagreement. A number of delegates did not think that finance and reference to Chapter 33 of Agenda 21 belonged in the preamble, instead arguing that reference should be made to Agenda 21 as a whole and the responsibilities of all actors in its implementation. The authors insisted on retaining this paragraph and, therefore, it was bracketed along with a large part of the remainder of the text.

In view of these differences, the Chair concluded that it was clear that a thorough second reading was called for and she invited all parties to examine the document and the comments that were made with great care so that a compromise could be reached. Due to the lack of time, a second reading did not take place. [Return to start of article]