The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) begins officially on Wednesday. The expected outcomes -- Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement on Forest Principles, the Climate Change Convention and the Biodiversity Convention -- are the results of over two years of preparation by the UNCED Preparatory Committee and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees for Framework Conventions on Climate Change and Biodiversity. The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) was created by the UN General Assembly to carry out the preparatory work and negotiations leading up to UNCED. The PrepCom (composed of approximately 175 national delegations who are participating in UNCED) completed its work on 4 April 1992.
PrepCom I was held in August 1990 in Nairobi. At that meeting, the agenda and the negotiating procedures were agreed upon. As well, Working Groups I and II were established. Countries also requested UNCED Secretariat to prepare reports on the various UNCED issues.
PrepCom II, which was held in March 1991 in Geneva, was devoted primarily to the review of the Secretariat's reports. Although substantive negotiations did not commence as planned, two important decisions were made: the creation of Working Group III and the decision to proceed with a statement on forest principles that would serve as the basis for a future international convention.
PrepCom III, which was held in August 1991 in Geneva, saw the actual start of negotiations. The Secretariat prepared initial negotiating texts for each Agenda 21 subject area. PrepCom III also addressed the legal and institutional issues within the mandate of Working Group III and the cross-sectoral issues under the mandate of the Plenary. These negotiations resulted in little agreement on most of the text.
PrepCom IV, which was held in March 1992 in New York, was the final and most serious negotiating session of the preparatory process. After five weeks of negotiations and the production of 24 million pages of documentation, the PrepCom reached agreement on close to 85 percent of Agenda 21. It is, however, the remaining 15 percent that is most problematic. The outstanding contentious issues to be resolved here in Rio include: the statement of forest principles; climate change and atmospheric issues; high seas fisheries; biotechnology safety concerns; technology transfer; institutional arrangements; poverty and consumption; and financial resources. The only unbracketed text sent to Rio from New York is the draft Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (formally known as the Earth Charter). The result of long procedural debates and agonizing substantive negotiations, the Declaration represents a very delicate balance of principles considered important by both developed and developing countries.
Thus, all of the PrepCom's unfinished business has been forwarded to Rio, where what was expected to be a two-week gold-pen cum massive photo opportunity has quickly been transformed into a critical negotiation session.
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