COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Pursuant to the agreement reached in Chapter 38 of Agenda 21, the
modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) have
been deferred to the UNGA at its 47th session. By the first week of
November, a number of countries or country groups, including the
G-77, the European Community, China, Japan, the US and CANZ, had
circulated position papers outlining their positions on such issues
as: composition, NGO participation, meeting schedule and agenda,
relation to other UN bodies, Secretariat structure, and the
Commission's functions. Several NGOs have also released their own
position papers on these matters. As well, UN Secretary-General
Boutros Boutros-Ghali released his own report on institutional
follow-up (A/47/598 and Add.1). Finally, in response to the various
position papers, Ambassador Razali prepared a draft resolution on
the CSD that takes into consideration the various positions
articulated to date. This resolution will be used as the basis for
negotiations once the Razali Group addresses this matter.
Ambassador Razali's Draft Resolution: Ambassador Razali's
draft resolution was released on Friday, 6 November 1992. The
central themes of the draft resolution, in particular those which
have been the subject of particular concern to States and NGOs
alike, are summarized below:
- Functions: Besides the main functions that are enumerated in Chapter 38 of Agenda 21, the draft resolution identifies other possible functions for the CSD. These include: review and monitor of the progress towards implementation of the UN target of 0.7 percent of GNP for ODA; monitor the application and adherence of the Rio Declaration; monitor and implement the Forest Principles; update Agenda 21 in light of changing circumstances; consider submissions of relevant organizations; and develop recommendations regarding funding mechanisms and transfer of technology.
- Membership: The draft resolution recommends that Commission members consist of either representatives of 24, 53, or 54 States elected by ECOSOC at the highest level possible, for three-year terms with due regard to geographical distribution. Non-member States are to have observer status.
- NGO Participation: The draft resolution states that the Commission should "provide for NGOs... to contribute practically and constructively ...". The resolution further calls on the Secretary-General to submit a proposal on NGO participation to the 1993 Organizational Session of ECOSOC. A number of guidelines are to apply, including: the importance of ensuring that Commission members benefit from NGO expertise; UNCED accreditation procedures; and regional and issue balance.
- Meeting Schedule: The draft resolution proposes that the Commission meet once a year after the sessions of the other relevant UN bodies, and that in 1993, as a transitional measure, the CSD should have one short organizational and one substantive session.
- Work Programme: Three working level segments are proposed for financing and technology transfer; implementation by international organizations; and implementation at the national and regional levels. A ministerial level meeting is proposed to consider major policy issues and to give further political impetus to UNCED implementation; as well as to review overall progress and to resolve outstanding issues.
- Relationship of the CSD with Other Intergovernmental Bodies and within the UN System: The draft resolution identifies a number of ways in which the CSD will be expected to interact with other UN bodies, especially in light of ongoing UN reform initiatives.
Summary of Other Positions on Key Matters: The following is
a summary of views expressed in position papers circulated by
countries, groups, NGOs and UN Secretary-General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali on some of the key issues relating to the CSD.
- Secretariat Support Structure: The draft resolution sets out the criteria to be applied in the creation of the Secretariat that will provide support for the CSD, the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development and the High-level Advisory Board. These include: drawing on the expertise gained in UNCED; working closely with other UN and expert bodies; determining the venue to consider the effective implementation, maximization of efficiency and easy access by all countries; and presided over by a high-level official at the Under Secretary-General level.
- Composition: Most countries support limited membership, with members to be nominated by region. CANZ, the G-77, China, Japan and the most of the EC countries endorse a Commission of 53 members. The argument for universal membership, originally presented at UNCED, was countered by arguments regarding the potential ineffectiveness of such a large body. The Secretary-General advocates a limited size for the composition of the Commission, subject to the principle of equitable geographical distribution.
- NGO Participation: The question of NGO access to and participation within the CSD could prove to be one of the most difficult issues to be negotiated. The central debate will revolve around the procedural basis for access and participation. Despite the specific reference in Chapter 38 to an enhanced role for NGOs within the CSD, based on UNCED procedures, the G-77 and the US call for NGO participation on the basis of ECOSOC procedures. CANZ and the EC support NGO participation on the basis of UNCED procedures. The use of ECOSOC procedures would limit participation to those NGOs who already have consultative status with ECOSOC. This, in effect, qualifies only those international NGOs who have been in existence for three years or more and would, thus, totally exclude most national and grassroots NGOs. By contrast, UNCED accreditation procedures would enable all "relevant and competent" NGOs to participate. Some NGOs, like Greenpeace International, maintain that UNCED procedures should, in fact, be further liberalized to ensure greater NGO access to information and meetings to ensure maximum transparency and effective integration of NGOs within the work of the CSD. The Secretary-General proposes to make recommendations on NGO participation at the organizational session of ECOSOC in 1993 on the basis of guidelines elaborated by the General Assembly during this session.
- Venue: There are two issues that deal with venue: where the Secretariat should be located and where the meetings of the Commission should be held. Most countries advocate locating the Secretariat of the Commission in either Geneva or New York. Not all position papers specify recommendations on where the meetings of the Commission should be held, except that the venue should enable full participation of developing countries. Many G-77 countries are in favor of New York in light of their already established infrastructures there. However, the Swiss proposal to provide infrastructural and financial support for G-77 participation in a Geneva-based CSD may have the effect of softening G-77 resistance to Geneva.
- Secretariat: Difficulties could possibly arise around the Secretariat support structure. China, the US and Japan want the Secretariat to be incorporated within the Department of Economic and Social Development (DESD). Many NGOs question the propriety of this proposal, especially in light of the potential conflict of interest that could arise since the DESD is one of the UN organs which the CSD is expected to review. NGOs advocate that the CSD Secretariat should be wholly independent of the DESD. CANZ and the EC argue for a more independent secretariat. As Boutros-Ghali is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of Secretariat structures in the economic and social field, he declined to elaborate specific recommendations about the Secretariat support structure for the CSD. As the entire structure of ECOSOC, including DESD, could change, this could become a moot point.
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- Mandate And Functions: Potential conflict may arise around G-77 and China positions that support a strong role for the CSD to monitor the financial commitments of industrialized countries made pursuant to UNCED agreements and future pledging conferences. Several donor countries may well be opposed to such a role for the CSD. Moreover, several NGOs (most notably the US organization, CAPE 2000) maintain that the CSD should not be limited to review of UNCED agreements but that it should be authorized to recommend additional agreements based on changing and emerging circumstances. Other NGOs, including the United Nations Association (USA), suggest that a credible monitoring role for the CSD should include independent review. One option would be to empower the CSD to authorize standing or ad hoc panels of independent experts to establish some other consultative process to gather information and investigate complaints related to compliance with UNCED agreements.