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OPPORTUNITIES:

If the Secretariat, the Bureau and the delegates have learned anything from this year's CSD session and make some necessary changes, the CSD can still become the central coordinating and evaluating body that many have envisioned. First of all, the Commission needs to have a better public profile. Many NGOs, major groups and the media have already lost interest in the CSD because they see it as just another moribund UN institution. Without the participation and interest of NGOs, the message of the CSD is less likely to be transmitted to the local level. Perhaps if the CSD is able to adopt more specific recommendations, such as the phase-out of leaded gasoline, which can be understood and appreciated by the general public, it will gain a higher profile.

The CSD also has a great opportunity to send a message to many other fora -- national governments, international organizations and UN agencies. There is still some time for the CSD to be viewed as the central place for discussion on many crucial cross-sectoral issues, including trade and environment, changing consumption patterns and, perhaps, information for sustainable development and poverty alleviation. However, unless the CSD can raise its political and popular profile, this opportunity could be lost. How the CSD shapes its role on the issue of trade, environment, and sustainable development, especially at this time when other institutions are defining their roles, could be critical.

The intersessional meetings that have been spawned by the CSD also have much potential. Many of the government- sponsored meetings became fora for concrete and forward-looking dialogue between diplomats, UN professionals, academics and the private sector. With specific agendas and the participation of experts rather than generalists, the CSD's ad hoc working groups may also be able to produce concrete recommendations rather than worn-out rhetoric. [Return to start of article]