Suspension of COP

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Date produced: 11/12/2009

What are the consequences for the process of the COP when the Chair of the COP calls to “suspend the COP” rather than”close the COP”?

The draft Rules of Procedure for UNFCCC (the Rules were never formally adopted) specify at Rule 23 that the Chair has the power to suspend the COP.  Also, Rule 38 authorises a vote to suspend or adjourn the meeting.  A motion to suspend takes precedence over a motion to adjourn, from which it would seem a suspension is in terms of the rules of slightly longer duration than an adjounrment.

However, the Chair has a very wide power to govern the procedure of the meeting, and could decide on the length of the suspension, to be 10 minutes, or several hours, or days.  In theory this could also be far longer, but then it is more likely that the issue of suspension would come to a plenary session.

An example of a full suspension is COP 1 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where there was a formal Decision on the continuation of the first meeting, along the following lines

The Conference of the Parties…

Recalling X

Recalling further Y

Noting the reports of Z

Having considered…

Recognising that a number of issues remain unresolved…

1. Decides to suspend the first extraordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties

2. Decides to resuest the President to decide on date and venue etc etc

3. lots of other positive sounding noises.

If there is a total impasse then everyone would be likely to be called back into plenary for a formal suspension or adjournment, probably with a motion for this, or a draft decision circulated to the Parties.

This is very different from “closing” a COP, which means that the meeting is drawn to a close, which is what is supposed to happen at the end of the session, when the business is concluded.

Another example is the more acrimonious suspension of deliberations at the Fifth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in early 2002, which were reconvened in November of that year.  This was on the final day of a 3 week meeting, where the US delegation called for the dissolution of the Ad Hoc Working Group and its mandate.  The Chair did not want to call the meeting a failure, so rescheduled it for later in the year.

In addition to the points above, there was a very good example of a suspension in COP 4 of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.  The final afternoon plenary session was suspended to enable the technical assistance and financial resources contact groups to finalise their work.  The plenary convened at 30 minutes after midnight, and at 4am the delegates reached an agreement to list nine new chemicals under the Convention.

The President also has the power to close the session under Rule 23 of the Rules of Procedure.  Under Rule 23 (2) the President may propose to the Conference the closure of the list of speakers.  This is different from the closure of the session as a whole.

In terms of the COP/MOP as a whole, it appears that the President has to declare closure (as indeed opening), so it may be arguable that either a) it was not the whole session that was being closed but just a debate, or b) that she did not intend to close the session, she intended to suspend it, and accordingly she can invoke the later point in Rule 23: “The Presiddent shall rule on points of order and, subject to these rules, shall have complete control of the proceedings and over the maintenance of order thereat.”

The process here could be for her to give a ruling that the COP is reconvened, and it is only if there is a vote to the contrary that this ruling gets overridden.

Chairman Estrada used the powers of the Chair very creatively at the COP 2 to approve the Geneva Declaration.