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WORKING GROUP II

Working Group II completed its first round of discussion of the Chair's draft texts on freshwater, hazardous wastes and radioactive wastes. The Group then began its second reading of the draft texts, completing health and toxic chemicals.

FRESHWATER: Many interventions focused on the order and grammar of the text and, for the most part, substantial interventions were not controversial. Belgium requested that paragraph 7(d), (the encouragement of partnerships between all concerned parties), include the promotion of a gender perspective. Norway suggested special mention of the participation of women in paragraph 13 (capacity-building). Tunisia insisted that youth also deserved special mention. Others, including Senegal, argued that youth were not relevant in the context of water management, which is dependent on women in developing countries.

Paragraph 11, which welcomes the offer of four countries to assist in the monitoring of the implementation of Agenda 21, was cause for concern for some developing countries. The Netherlands explained that their activities were not clear at this time but it would address issues of monitoring and the development of indicators. The Netherlands also supported the idea of a small group of countries rather than expanding the group.

Many countries opposed the establishment of ad-hoc working groups of government experts to undertake a global freshwater assessment, as outlined in paragraph 15.

Antigua and Barbuda requested this document cross-link the relevant areas of the recently negotiated Programme of Action at the UN Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

HAZARDOUS WASTES: In paragraph 4 the US, supported by Australia, wanted to delete the request for the Secretariat of the Basel Convention to develop non- compliance procedures with respect to the recent decisions taken. Malaysia disagreed and suggested that this paragraph call for a protocol on liability and compensation.

The US questioned the consensus referred to in UNEP's Decision 17/5 on military establishments' environmental norms, noting that it chooses to be dissociated with this consensus. Sweden expressed its disappointment. Antigua and Barbuda requested a reference to the Programme of Action adopted at the recent Barbados Conference. Malaysia and Australia are working on a new paragraph on the unwanted release of tanker sludge/ballast waters.

RADIOACTIVE WASTES: The discussion on this text was relatively quick and, as a result, the Secretariat was able to produce and distribute a revised version in just over an hour. Iceland requested that paragraph 2, which notes the world-wide increase in radioactive wastes, also note that enhanced efforts have to be pursued to promote safe and environmentally sound management of radioactive wastes. Germany noted that the precautionary principle was particularly important in 12(a), regarding new or extended activities generating radioactive wastes.

HEALTH: In paragraph 5 (preventive measures), reference to the lack of funding and the need for adequate financial resources was deleted and replaced by the phrase "...recognized the critical importance of funding for health..." In paragraph 9 (needs of vulnerable groups), Algeria added a new sentence on the contribution of food aid towards improving the nutritional and health status of vulnerable groups. Algeria also proposed a new sub-paragraph in paragraph 15 that gives priority to food security. Cuba proposed a new paragraph 15 bis, which takes note of the relevant provisions of the Barbados Programme of Action.

The most protracted debate of the evening was on sub-paragraph 15(c) on reproductive health issues. Numerous proposals were made including: bracketing the text; deleting the text; referring to "population issues;" using the text of Chapter 6.25 and 6.26 of Agenda 21; and using the compromise text adopted in Barbados two weeks ago. After much debate, delegates agreed to refer to including population issues in basic health systems, as approved in Chapter 6.25 and 6.26 of Agenda 21, without prejudice to the outcome of the Cairo Conference.

TOXIC CHEMICALS: The meeting raced through the first 12 paragraphs with only a few minor changes. The US requested that paragraph 13 (exposure to lead), make special reference to phasing out leaded gasoline. Venezuela asked why special attention should be given to gasoline and the US replied that leaded gasoline is the major cause of lead exposure. Several developing countries requested further additions urging financial support for developing countries and countries in transition. All proposals were ultimately withdrawn. If these proposals had been accepted, they would have been the only specific actions called for in the text.

The EU suggested paragraph 18 (allocation of resources and transfer of technology) be deleted and replaced with the paragraphs 20 and 21 of the health document. Algeria disagreed since "it is just photocopying Agenda 21."

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