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INDICATORS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT:

The Chair distributed a draft text on indicators on 21 May. The text recommended that: the Secretary-General "undertake methodological studies aimed at further refining the concept of sustainable development;" governments aim at the harmonized development of a suitable set of sustainable development indicators compatible with the pressure-state-response-framework; countries include relevant national indicators already in common use when providing information to the CSD; and the System of Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA), proposed in the UN Handbook (UNSTAT), be developed and implemented in national accounting.

The developing countries felt such a discussion of indicators was premature. Brazil expressed concern that it is not certain that present indicators measure what they are said to measure, in which case their use not advisable. The developed countries, on the other hand, said that the identification of several indicators is an essential ingredient for carrying out the CSD's role of monitoring progress on Agenda 21 implementation. Further debate, however, was carried out only in the corridors and through private consultations. On May 24, the Chair of Working Group I notified the delegates that the Bureau had decided that the draft text on "Indicators for sustainable development" would not be considered in Working Group I, although it was on the agenda for the High-Level Segment. The Czech Republic, the US and Finland subsequently recommended that countries include relevant national indicators already in "common use" when providing information to the CSD be added to the text on "Information provided by governments and organizations." They were successful, although the term "common use" was deleted due to opposition from G-77 and China. During the High-Level Segment, several speakers commented on the need for or undesirability of indicators, but there were no concrete decisions for further action.

WORKING GROUP II

Under the chairmanship of Dr. Maciej Nowicki (Poland), Working Group II reviewed the sectoral clusters under Agenda Items 6(a) (health, human settlements, and freshwater) and 6(b) (toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes). Sectoral cluster 6(a) was based on Agenda 21 Chapters 6 (Protecting and promoting human health), 7 (Promoting sustainable human settlement development), 18 (Protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources) and 21 (Environmentally sound management of solid wastes and sewage-related issues. Sectoral cluster 6(b) was based on Agenda 21 Chapters 19 (Environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals, including prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products), 20 (Environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, including prevention of illegal international traffic in hazardous wastes) and 22 (Safe and environmentally sound management of radioactive wastes).

Reference to the nascent controversial issues -- finance and transfer of technology -- were, for the most part, excluded from these discussions, leaving relatively few substantive areas for disagreement. Hence, negotiation of the decision documents was relatively noncontroversial.

The substantive content of the texts varies between the six documents. The texts advance the Agenda 21 language and, while they may not contain dramatic and memorable calls for action, they do contain specific recommendations and priorities to which governments can be held accountable. An examination of the texts reveals that the areas that had received attention prior to the CSD session produced more comprehensive and substantive texts. For example, the International Conference on Chemical Safety held in Sweden in July 1994 established an intergovernmental forum and determined Priorities for Action, both of which were endorsed by the Commission and appear in the annex to the final text on toxic chemicals.

HEALTH: The discussions on health began with the presentation of two documents: the Report of the Secretary-General, "Progress in protecting and promoting human health" (E/CN.17/1994/3); and the Task Manager's report "Background Paper on Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development." The Task Manager's report was prepared by WHO, in cooperation with partner agencies.

The final text (E/CN.17/1994/L.2) underlines the recommendations of the Intersessional Workshop on Health, the Environment and Sustainable Development held in Copenhagen in February 1994. There was general support for the text's emphasis on prevention measures, support for vulnerable groups and the linkage between health and poverty. The final text includes Sri Lanka's concerns about increasing public awareness for health aspects (such as nutrition and communicable diseases) and India's concern that poor health care results in increased population growth, just as high population growth causes a lack of health care.

Finance and technology transfer issues were also raised. Developed countries attempted to have all reference to these issues deleted from the text because they were being addressed in Working Group I. However, developing countries fought to have some reference maintained. The compromise reached was to refer to the relevant provisions of Agenda 21. For example, paragraph 22 reads, "The Commission stressed the need for full implementation of the agreements on technology transfer contained in chapter 34 of Agenda 21..."

Paragraph 15(c), regarding reproductive health issues, was hotly debated. To appease all concerns the paragraph approves what was decided in paragraphs 6.25 and 6.26 of Agenda 21, without prejudice to the outcome of the International Conference on Population and Development.

The final text also recommended the following: WHO, as task manager, has been invited to continue to monitor progress of the implementation of Chapter 6 of Agenda 21; strengthening health-sector representation in national decision-making; establishing a firm partnership between health/health-related services and the communities being served; including food security, improved nutrition and food safety in national development plans; more cost-effective health protection and promotion measures; integration of health into environmental impact assessment procedures; enhanced efforts towards the prevention and eradication of communicable diseases; increased public awareness; enhanced research into the linkages between health and environment; and enhanced partnerships between the public and the private sectors in health promotion and protection. [Return to start of article]