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OPENING SESSION

Martin Holdgate (UK), newly elected Chair of the Working Group, noted in his opening statement that this is not a negotiating or drafting meeting, but rather an opportunity to reach consensus on recommendations to be presented to the CSD on 12 April 1995. He urged delegates to discuss the papers prepared by the task managers for the Secretary-General in light of interlinkages between the sectors.

The Chair then turned to the adoption of the agenda and organization of work (E/CN.17/ISWN.1/1995/1). Tunisia commented that the agenda did not contain the CSD's decision to discuss transfer of technology as both a sectoral and cross-sectoral issue. Joke Waller-Hunter from the CSD Secretariat stated that the CSD's decision was that transfer of technology would be addressed within the context of the sectoral issues. Tunisia requested that the item be left open for further discussion to allow the G-77 and China to consult. The agenda was then adopted.

In her opening statement, Joke Waller-Hunter noted that the preparation of reports by the task managers indicated a deliberate step towards implementing sustainable development. The reports note that in some instances progress is slow, while in others, such as forests and mountains, work is moving quickly. Waller-Hunter said it is up to the CSD to monitor progress on implementation, to come up with appropriate guidance and to indicate the inter-linkages between the processes. The basic approach to land management is a prerequisite to be achieved under each of the other topics and, therefore, necessary to facilitate their implementation.

After the task managers presented their reports, the Working Group heard reports on the Biological Diversity Convention and the Convention to Combat Desertification. Amb. Bo Kjell�n (Sweden), Chair of the INCD, presented views on the relationship between the situation in the drylands and other issues relating to land and land use. The Convention remains open for signature at UN Headquarters and the first Conference of the Parties is expected to take place in 1997. The Convention is firmly based on four pillars: the bottom-up approach; a determined effort to build partnerships and improve coordination between donors, affected countries and NGOs; an integrated, multidisciplinary method of work; and efficient use of science, research and technology. Kjell�n then highlighted the links between the Convention and the other sectoral issues before the Working Group, including: the long-term food security of a growing world population; integrated land management; the use of genetic resources to assume reasonable livelihoods for marginal lands; the relationship between forests and desertification; lack of water; and energy use. These problems can only be solved by real people in the real world. Political support for early ratification and entry into force are essential, but urgent action for Africa cannot wait.

A member of the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties (COP) for the Biological Diversity Convention, A. Lazar (Canada), noted that biodiversity is one of the central criteria of sustainability. The Biodiversity Convention is about sustainable development and the COP believes that a cooperative, coordinated relationship with the CSD is important. He noted that a spirit of urgency and passion animated the COP meeting in December.

PANEL ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR INTEGRATED LAND MANAGEMENT: J. Dhar of India introduced the report of the Panel and noted the need for a holistic and integrated method to address the multiple problems of land management. The report says that failure to develop suitable land management will lead to: permanent destruction of land; inefficient use of resources; accumulated impacts; and cumulative effects such as acidification, reduced water quality and mass migration. The constraints to integrated land management include: limited access to appropriate technology; a weak institutional infrastructure; unsustainable land use practices; and conflicts between different interest groups. The recommendations include: intra- and inter-governmental cooperation; developing public and private partnerships; targeted training and technical support programmes; and direct investment in resource protection. An agenda for the future entails: the provision of accurate information in a usable form; effective participation of all stakeholders; empowerment and commitment to sustainable land use practices; and a consistent supporting framework of regulations, market structures and sectoral agencies working towards similar goals at the national and regional levels. In addition, an international working group should be set up to provide further cross-sectoral guidelines.

ENERGY FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT: A representative of ECOSOC's Committee on New and Renewable Sources of Energy and Energy for Development presented the Committee's report. ECOSOC mandated the Committee to hold a special session to address the concerns raised in Chapter 14(k) of Agenda 21: to initiate and encourage a process of environmentally sound energy transition in rural areas; to increase the energy inputs available for rural household and agro-industrial needs; and to implement self-reliant rural programmes favoring sustainable development and improved energy efficiency.

The Committee made six recommendations for action by the year 2000, noting that priority action should be determined by the key players, including governments, NGOs and intergovernmental agencies. (1) The development and implementation of plans of action to fulfill the energy needs in rural areas. (2) Special attention, in national action programmes should be given to biomass as a source of energy for rural development. (3) A global initiative should be launched, with the assistance of UNDP, the World Bank, the GEF and other interested groups, to bring electricity to rural people, based on the success in renewable energy development. (4) A global initiative for the detailed mapping of renewable resources should be launched jointly by WMO, FAO, UNDP and UNEP, with support from others. (5) A network comprising centers of excellence for environmentally sound technologies should be established under the UN, through which energy technologies are developed and demonstrated. (6) There should be a focus on strengthening of sustainable energy activities in the UN. The Committee also provided an eight-point strategy to attain these objectives.

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