ENB:05:26 [Next] . [Previous] . [Contents]

DEBATE ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The Second Committee of the 49th United Nations General Assembly began its consideration of Agenda Item 89, "Environment and Sustainable Development," from 19-21 October 1994. Most delegates noted a number of areas where progress has been made over the last year, including: the entry into force of both the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity; the negotiation and adoption of the Convention to Combat Desertification; the successful conclusion of the Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; the restructuring and the replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and the conclusion of the GATT Uruguay Round and its decisions in the area of trade and environment. Many delegates stated, however, that in spite of these accomplishments much more needs to be done to see Agenda 21 translated from words to action, especially in the areas of financial resources, transfer of technology, poverty alleviation and changes in production and consumption patterns.

Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development Nitin Desai opened the debate by noting that since the Second Committee met last year, the CSD has held its second session. The high level of participation in the work of the Commission and the commitment of the NGO community are a source of great encouragement. The Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development and the High-Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development are both functioning and represent the major institutional developments out of the Rio process. Desai also noted other achievements since Rio, including the negotiation of the Convention to Combat Desertification. On 14-15 October 1994, 86 countries signed the Convention in Paris. The Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into force on 21 March 1994. The INC is making good progress towards the first Conference of the Parties in Berlin next year. The Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States was a landmark event that recognized the importance of a systematic effort to help SIDS move towards sustainability. In addition to these negotiations, there are other things happening with regard to coastal zone management, marine pollution, toxic chemicals, the ban on the export of hazardous wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries, and the preparations for the first Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Nevertheless, there is a sense that the momentum of Rio is being lost. Some perceive that there is a lack of implementation on the commitments on finance and technology transfer, and this is true. In the year after Rio, ODA declined by 10%. He urged governments to demonstrate greater political will and commitment to action. Desai also highlighted the important role of the non-governmental community in UNCED follow-up and the work of the CSD.

The Chair of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Klaus T”pfer, also gave a report on the work of the CSD. He highlighted the central points of the 14 decisions taken by the Commission at its second session in May 1994 and then proceeded to list a number of ways in which the work of the Commission can be improved:

ALGERIA: On behalf of the G-77 and China, Mourad Ahmia said that it has now been two years since Rio and that the results of the implementation of Agenda 21 have been disappointing. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities has not been translated concretely, and there have been no great signs of new and additional funding and transfer of environmentally-sound technology. The developing countries feel bound by their commitments taken at Rio and they have a huge political interest in the implementation of these measures.

GERMANY: On behalf of the European Union, Dr. Wolfgang Runge said that there must be more concrete commitments by the international community with regard to sustainable development. The EU also feels that the working methods of the CSD must improve " the CSD needs dialogue instead of debate and an integrated approach to the inter-related questions of sustainable development. Close cooperation with NGOs and the business community are also of great importance. The CSD should be the political motor of sustainable development.

ICELAND: Amb. Ossur Skarphedinsson, on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that among the most important means to reduce the pressure on the environment are radical changes in the prevailing patterns of consumption and production. He also mentioned the importance of promoting sustainable development though trade. Countries must take effective steps towards rendering their economic policies conducive to sustainable development and constructive collaboration must be established to make trade and environment mutually supportive.

MALAYSIA: Amb. Razali Ismail said that while considerable progress has been made at the organizational level, much more remains to be done on the substantive level. Sustainable development for the South is contingent upon the provision of new and additional financial resources by the developed North, but so far the US$2 billion replenishment of the GEF is the only new money available and it is a mere fraction of figures estimated at Rio. The issue of transfer of technology also remains plagued. While the North claims that all countries have a right to share such natural resources as forests, it will not allow the sharing of man-made resources. He also highlighted the importance of the participation of women, NGOs and indigenous people.

REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Wonil Cho expressed satisfaction with the CSD and its year-round intersessional work. He informed the Committee that the Republic of Korea will be hosting a meeting of experts on access to and dissemination of environmentally sound technologies from 30 November - 2 December 1994.

AUSTRIA: Gerhard Doujak expressed Austria"s concern about preserving the Spirit of Rio. The Rio Conference laid down a milestone for the implementation of sustainable development. These goals more than ever demand unconditional commitment by all partners. He thanked the Secretariat for producing its bi-monthly "CSD Update," which makes the intersessional process more transparent. Austria will continue its initiatives on sustainable development and international law.

UNITED STATES: Herman Gallegos said that the last session of the CSD highlighted the need for some improvements in the way it carries out its work, including: the use of a set of indicators of sustainable development that would simplify national reporting and facilitate comparisons; encouraging and facilitating the preparation and use of national sustainable development strategies; and more effective coordination of the UN system"s support for the implementation of Agenda 21. Intersessional activities should continue to be characterized by freedom and flexibility. Any effort to restrain or restrict intersessional activity, for example by imposing unnecessary bureaucratic formalities, will be counter- productive.

JORDAN: Faris Ammarin said that in the context of the implementation of Agenda 21, the three components that need to be respected are human integrity, environmental integrity and the principle of economic efficiency.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: The representative said that on the whole a great deal has been achieved and the CSD is working well. In this process, a number of major legal instruments have been harmonized or are already in force. He called for greater integration and cooperation between the CSD, ECOSOC, the Bretton Woods institutions and other organizations.

CANADA: Amb. John Fraser noted that although significant progress has been made in the two years since UNCED, there is still great distance to go. With regard to the CSD, Canada supports the idea of convening panel discussions, the participation of ministers of development and planning as well as sectoral issue ministers, and greater opportunities for governments and major groups to showcase national reports. The 1995 session of the CSD presents the opportunity to clearly define what needs to be achieved by 1997. Canada supports the use of intersessional meetings. He proposed that, where possible, draft texts for the CSD should be prepared in advance, perhaps shortly after intersessional meetings. The CSD needs indicators of success and open and inclusive dialogue.

NEW ZEALAND: John McKinnon said that while the objective of restoring the environment and sustainable development has not slipped from the international agenda, the focus must remain sharp in order to make the best use of available resources. While the CSD has inherited the Rio mantle, it is still not really the voice of the post-Rio world and its functions need to be better defined. It should be both an instrument for review of the national implementation of Agenda 21 by individual States and serve the role of a "clearing house" for further international negotiations. He emphasized the importance of preparatory work between the annual meetings of the Commission.

COLOMBIA: Amb. Julio Londo¤o said that in Rio it was recognized that international cooperation is crucial for reaching the targets of Agenda 21. There have been various obstacles and uncertainty. The industrialized countries have not fulfilled their commitments. Some progress has been made at the sectoral level, but these outstanding achievements could be spoiled if the developed countries do not remove restrictions on financial and technological flows. A favorable international environment is fundamental in order to move along the sustainable development path. Only if external obstacles preventing a sustained economic reactivation are removed can the developing countries successfully apply environmental protection policies.

MEXICO: The representative said that the CSD has allowed close monitoring of the follow-up to UNCED and the progress that has been made in the various areas. Still, there is a great deal to do since the necessary political impetus apparent at the High- Level Segment needs to be translated into concrete international action. An important step was taken by linking the issues of transfer of technology and resources to specific themes.

CHILE: The delegate said that despite past successes, it is still necessary to make progress on the issues of financial resources and transfer of technology. In this area, no adequate progress has been made and efforts to that end should include all sectors of society, including the private sector. From an institutional standpoint, the task of the CSD is to strengthen the resolve of the international community and to retain its democratic character.

BANGLADESH: The representative said that developing countries lack the financial resources and technology to implement the provisions of Agenda 21. Continued and enhanced cooperation and solidarity are essential to make UNCED follow-up actions successful. The question of finance and the issue of technology transfer on concessional and preferential terms should receive priority and the commitments of the international community must be implemented. The establishment of the CSD is encouraging, but measures taken so far have fallen short of commitments.

CHINA: Yan Yanyi said there is still no sign of improvement with respect to the various negative factors that seriously constrain the efforts of developing countries to achieve the goals of economic development and environmental protection. The question of environment and trade has increasingly become a hot point in the field of environment and development. The environmental question should not lead to protectionism.

ROMANIA: The representative addressed the issues of national implementation, the CSD and the GEF. He called for both vertical integration, between the Secretariat and the other organizations, and horizontal integration among the thematic elements. He expressed his satisfaction with the work of the CSD and said that sustainable development should go beyond the Rio agreements and consist of lasting human development, peace, economic growth, social justice and democracy.

PANAMA: On behalf of the Central American States, the delegate highlighted the importance of forest development and identified the rich biodiversity of fauna and flora in this region. The Central American countries believe that the international community must meet its financial commitments in order to respond to new urgencies. He also stressed the importance of a fresh approach to sustainable development that takes into account human characteristics, new technologies and appropriate production patterns.

POLAND: Wojciech Ponikiewski said that the CSD should have the highest political profile and other ministers, including ministers of finance, should participate in its work. The CSD needs active dialogue and an integrative approach. Poland hopes that the new set of guidelines elaborated by the Secretariat will facilitate the preparation of national reports and improve their comparability. Poland supports the need for indicators, but any situation leading to simplistic conclusions drawn from such measures will have to be avoided. The GEF budget does not meet expectations, but if recipient countries prepare good projects they will, in a way, oblige contributors to increase their pledges. There is also a need for a more focused approach in the sharing of environmentally sound technologies and Poland is ready to contribute to this endeavor.

TURKEY: Levent Murat Burhan commended the work done by the CSD so far and hoped that a broader perspective has been brought into its work on sustainable development. He announced that Turkey will continue to support the GEF in the amount of about 4 million SDR. Turkey is engaged in the preparation of Agenda 21"s for the Mediterranean region and with the Central Asian republics and Balkan countries. He invited all related international, financial and other organizations, especially the GEF, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank, to support these efforts.

BULGARIA: The representative said that his country has adhered to the goals and commitments of Agenda 21, but a lot still remains to be done to achieve the necessary momentum. He supported debt relief initiatives and indicated that his Government had tabled a proposal for a debt for nature swap, which he hoped will be implemented. He called for greater transfer of resources and capacity building, as well as the transfer of environmentally sound technology on concessional terms.

SRI LANKA: Amb. Stanley Kalpage said that Agenda 21 has not been fully implemented by the developing countries because they have not been supported with means of implementation. Little progress has been made with regard to trade and private sector flows, which are important sources of funding. The CSD could play a leading role in developing a consensus to elaborate rules to ensure that international trade is free and fair and an appropriate linkage between the CSD and the WTO should be established. Efforts to address sustainable development will only be achieved if poverty and unemployment are addressed globally.

ISRAEL: Amb. Israel Eliashev stressed the need to ensure that the CSD is an efficient and effective body and supported the view that within the next CSD session, interested parties could discuss national experiences in developing and applying sustainable development strategies. The importance of adequate funding mechanisms cannot be overemphasized. Technology must be carefully selected and adapted to the specific needs of countries. He invited all countries to join Israel in the venture of desert research to find practical solutions to desertification.

INDONESIA: Marwah Daud Ibrahim noted the important activities that have taken place since the Rio Conference. She regretfully noted that the issues of financial resources and technology transfer are still problematic and that much more needs to be done if the commitments made in Rio are to be met.

MYANMAR: Amb. U Hla Maung said that UNCED stands as a landmark, but the environmental degradation caused by negligent human activities is threatening our very existence on earth and, unless timely action is taken, the future of mankind could be in jeopardy. He highlighted the ways in which policies can be adopted to ensure that both the imperative of environmental protection and the opportunity for economic development reinforce each other. He added that in Myanmar, as in many other countries of the region, the source of the problem lies not in industrial development and unsustainable lifestyles, but in under- development and poverty. He called on all States to meet their commitments in good faith.

JAPAN: Amb. Shunji Maruyama noted that it is essential that the CSD receive the political support necessary to enable it to tackle the major issues in the area of sustainable development. It must address the root causes of these problems and express its views on controversial issues such as production and consumption patterns and trade and development. Environment and trade policies must be mutually supportive and the interaction between the CSD, the World Trade Organization, UNCTAD and UNEP is important. It is also useful to have the opportunity to share different national experiences in the implementation of Agenda 21 and it might be useful to conduct case studies. The CSD"s working methods must also be improved, including shifting time allocated from general debate to discussion and dialogue. Japan is organizing a number of intersessional activities to support the CSD.

MICRONESIA: Amb. Yosiwo P. George said that as the international community moves from negotiating to implementation of the Rio and post-Rio agreements, those nations having possession of the resources required to achieve our common goals must not apply those resources grudgingly or with hesitation.

BOLIVIA: The representative highlighted the necessity for developing countries to achieve fair and sustainable development. He called on developed States to reach their ODA target of 0.7% of GNP and called for institutions that are manageable. He also emphasized the political dimension of sustainable development. A move to participatory democracy means changing the patterns of development, production and consumption alike. He also highlighted the need to ensure that the most vulnerable States are protected.

BELARUS: The delegate called on the establishment of closer ties between the CSD and other regional organizations, such as the UN Economic Commissions. As one of the most environmentally vulnerable States, Belarus has not been able to carry out all the measures that it has agreed to, since it is facing humanitarian crises and conversion requirements. He then described his Government"s proposal to hold a conference on the sustainable development of countries with economies in transition.

IRAN: The representative noted that ODA has reached its lowest level since 1983, GEF resources have fallen short of expectations, and the question of transfer of environmentally sound technology on preferential and concessional terms has received only lip service. The CSD must focus on critical issues and not become merely a talk show. Priority should be accorded to strengthening the CSD"s relationship with the GEF Council. Iran has established a high-level committee on sustainable development and a special commission on desertification.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Karel Zebrakovsky said that the CSD has not succeeded in mobilizing enough political will to generate stronger commitments. The CSD intersessional activities need to be more systematic and coordinated. Greater cooperation between UNEP and the CSD is also needed. The Czech Republic is implementing the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions, is considering signing the Convention to Combat Desertification and will support a dialogue towards a possible new convention on forests.

UKRAINE: The representative said that an important step in improving the work of the CSD is to integrate sectoral and cross sectoral issues. It is also important to link the elaboration of sectoral agreements and the finances to implement them. He said that the proposal made by Belarus to hold a conference on the sustainable development for countries with economies in transition is an interesting one.

NEPAL: The representative pointed out the need for additional efforts in the areas of finance and technology transfer. Nepal has ratified the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions and participated in the negotiation of the Convention to Combat Desertification. It has set up an environmental policy council and is working on a regional action plan.

PAKISTAN: Samiya Waheed Junejo stressed the importance of the CSD"s decisions on changing consumption and production patterns, since the CSD is the only intergovernmental forum dealing with this issue. In order for the developing countries to realize the goals of sustainable development, specific policies need to be formulated for a conducive international economic environment. The recent stress on environmental conditionalities contradicts the principles of an open and free multilateral trading system. While the CSD intersessional sectoral meetings have contributed to a thorough analysis of some of the sectoral areas, they should not affect the holistic review of Agenda 21.

GUYANA: On behalf of the Caribbean Community, the representative expressed concern about declining ODA flows and said that the specific nature of the GEF financing scope must be emphasized along with the call for new resources. The GEF replenishment is a first step at a minimum level. Changing consumption and production patterns rests with developed countries, but our own societies are confronted with detrimental patterns of production and consumption. Attention should be given to the special situation and needs of developing countries, including eradicating poverty and meeting basic human needs. It is not premature to begin discussion of the format and scope of the special session of the General Assembly to review implementation of Agenda 21 in 1997.

VENEZUELA: The representative highlighted the extent of the progress that has been achieved in the short time since Rio, particularly the Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the Convention to Combat Desertification and the entry into force of the Conventions on Biodiversity and Climate Change. The CSD must be the intergovernmental forum where decisions are taken and, so far, the general speeches have taken too much time and have not left enough room for actual negotiations. It is not enough to have merely a reiteration of the objectives of Agenda 21.

NAMIBIA: The delegate said that sustainable development is a global concern that should be addressed with global action. The delegate described the plans that Namibia has implemented to achieve sustainable development and also called for financial commitments to be implemented. She highlighted the importance of the Women"s Conference and Habitat II.

URUGUAY: The representative said that just because the problems are stated does not mean that they are solved. Uruguay has taken a number of measures to implement Agenda 21, but climate change is a global problem and it should be addressed by the international community as a whole.

BRAZIL: Amb. Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg said that Brazil continues to support strengthening the role of the CSD, although it has not reached most of the targets established. He said he was happy with the conclusion of the Convention to Combat Desertification, although it fell short of some legitimate concerns of African States. Its success will depend on the credibility of the international community, with regard to ODA targets and transfer of resources and technology. Unilateral trade measures to protect the environment will jeopardize sustainable development.

KENYA: C. M. Kang"e expressed concern over the lack of implementation of Agenda 21. Despite limited financial and technical resources, Kenya has set up a National Environmental Action Plan, embarked on a review of environmental legislation and integrated environmental considerations into overall national development plans. UNEP headquarters in Nairobi should not be weakened as a result of strengthening UNEP"s regional offices.

[Return to start of article]