Highlights from Monday, 12 March
Intersessional Ad Hoc Working Group on Information for Decision-making
and Participation and on International Cooperation for an Enabling
Environment (AHWG) began its work on Monday, 12 March 2001 at the
UN headquarters in New York and is expected to conclude its work
on Friday, 16 March 2001. Delegates considered organizational matters
and discussed the Secretary-General's report on information for
decision making and participation in morning and afternoon sessions.
photo: Co-Chair Alison Drayton (Guyana)
Coverage of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Intergovernmental Group
of Experts on Energy and Sustainable Development met in New York
from 26 February to 2 March 2001
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Co-Chairs Madina Jarbussynova (Kazakhstan) and Alison Drayton
introduced, and delegates adopted, the agenda and other organizational
matters (E/CN.17/ISWG.II/2001/1). She noted that the session would
produce two papers: a Co-Chairs' summary that reflects the discussions,
positions stated by delegations and alternative views; and a concise,
action-oriented paper on elements for a draft decision for negotiations
Director, UN Division on Sustainable Development, elaborated
the three-phase process undertaken to develop the set of indicators
for sustainable development. He said the Secretary-General's report
recommends that the Working Group could recognize the important
role countries have played in testing the indicators and endorse
the core set of indicators. He also suggested the Working Group
could support: continuing the Work Programme on indicators; advancing
work on modalities for the linkages between and aggregation of
indicators; and encouraging countries to make better use of the
general statements and In response to issues regarding convergence
among different indicators that were raised in the discussions,
Lowell Flanders pointed out that extensive consultations
had been carried out with various organizations, and that different
indicator programmes have different objectives, emphasis and priorities.
On issues relating to international consensus, he underscored
that the indicators programme is voluntary, and that every country
can adapt the indicators to national requirements. Referring to
Agenda 21, Nigeria said developing countries did not object to
the development of harmonized indicators, but wanted to see the
process open to all countries' contributions. Egypt inquired about
who has the mandate to review and endorse the indicators framework,
and with Saudi Arabia, enquired about the role of the Statistical
Commission regarding the core set of indicators. Lowell Flanders
explained that the CSD was mandated with developing the indicators,
and therefore has the authority to either endorse or reject them.
presented a report of the International Expert Meeting on Information
for Decision-making and Participation, which was held in Canada,
from 25 to 28 September 2000 and
was co-hosted by the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs
and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The workshop
considered the themes of access to and uses of information, data
gaps in information systems, and new technology, and concluded
that reliable access to information, access to data at the right
time, and free and unrestricted access to information, as appropriate,
are critical for sustainable development.
noted that Japanese companies and local governments are
encouraged to disclose environmental information to the public.
He highlighted the use of satellites for environmental study and
supported the Global Mapping Project for digital spatial data. He
supported references to increased investment in human resources
and stakeholder participation in preparation of the CSD-9 draft
decision, and encouraged initiatives toward environmental accounting.
He called for continued convergence between the CSD and other organizations
on the CSD work programme on indicators of sustainable development.
He also supported: development and integration of satellite observation
systems; training and capacity building; use of remote sensing data
sharing systems; collaboration among global observation systems;
and promotion of free data exchange among scientists.
stated that the CSD should promote continuing dialogue between countries
on the framework for sustainable development indicators as well
as development and deployment of standards for collection and management
of data, and encourage countries to consider accessibility of information
as a priority for discussions leading up to Earth Summit 2002.
ECOSOC NGO World Circle of the Consensus and World Sustainable
Energy Coalition (right) submitted two documents for inclusion
in CSD-9 documentation: the Global Energy Charter and the International
Standards series 14000 and 13600. The Global Education Associates
(left) called for greater partnership with already existing
civil society networks, such as UNEP's Interfaith Partnership
for the Environment, to assist in disseminating information on
sustainable development indicators.
said data is either not aggregated or not available on all areas
of sustainable development and that his government would assist
developing countries to harmonize and standardize data collection
for their better integration in the multilateral trading system.
He raised the issue of handling existing data, including different
quality and collection methods. He outlined the requirements for
synthesizing data and making it available for decision making.
efforts cannot replace strong domestic actions to ensure collection
and dissemination of national and local information, and noted the
need for collaboration with stakeholders, including NGOs and the
business community. He supported the work of the CSD in developing
indicators and highlighted the intergenerational component of sustainable
Africa called for support to developing countries in training
and capacity building, including in the use of indicators, information
management and enhancing the statistical capacity of developing
countries. He underscored that public access to environmental
information is a requirement for improved environmental governance,
noted that the poorest of the poor are still excluded from the
new knowledge economy and emphasized the need to investigate the
impact of information on society.
speaking for the European Union, makes a general statement on
information and decision-making
for the EU, said the accuracy, coherence, cost-effectiveness
and accessibility of data available on sustainable development and
decision making must be enhanced. He outlined four priority areas
and possible recommendations for CSD-9: improve coordination and
harmonization of information collection and dissemination about
the state and evolution of the environment and societies, and the
pressures and potentials of economic and human activities; develop
and use sets of indicators for sustainable development to help countries
develop their own national sets of indicators; involve actors at
various levels in developing legal instruments for access to information,
public participation in decision making, and access to justice in
environmental matters; and provide an operational environment for
an independent, objective media, encourage the media to provide
reliable information on sustainable development, and call on the
private sector to promote measures for developing country access
to sustainable development information.
attention to the work of international organizations in streamlining
international data collection and called for the development of
international standards. He outlined criteria for decision making
processes involving the public, including ensuring: public participation
during stages when it is possible to influence results; broad
sectors of society are able to submit comments; the timeframe
accords sufficient time for submitting comments; and authorities
are duty bound to consider the comments submitted.
on behalf of the G-77/China, underscored that: the two main
challenges are bridging the data gap within and between countries
and improving the availability and access to information; information,
as a necessary medium of realizing sustainable development goals
should be embodied as a matter of principle; access to information
and indicators should be distinguished as separate issues; and government
scrutiny is needed on the applicability and development of the indicators.
He said developing countries are threatened with further marginalization
from the benefits accruing from information technology due to inadequate
capacity and infrastructure and noted the need for goodwill in international
DiSano, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, and Co-Chairs
Jarbussynova (Kazakhstan) and Alison Drayton (Guyana)
the evolution of global interest in information for decision making,
ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE (UN/ECE) highlighted the
�rhus Convention, which establishes obligations for public authorities
regarding environmental information.
said bridging the data gap is fundamental and that the real value
of information depends on adequate dissemination. She also highlighted
common but differentiated responsibilities and the need to take
into account national particularities.