ENB:05:29 [Next] . [Previous] . [Contents]

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CSD

Agenda 21 called for creation of a Commission on Sustainable Development as a means to ensure effective follow-up of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, to enhance international cooperation and rationalize the intergovernmental decision-making capacity, and to examine progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national, regional and international levels. In 1992, the 47th session of the UN General Assembly set out the terms of reference for the Commission, its composition, guidelines for the participation of NGOs, the organization of work, the CSD's relationship with other UN bodies, and Secretariat arrangements, in resolution 47/191.

1993 SESSION: The CSD held its first substantive session at UN Headquarters in New York from 14-25 June 1993. Amb. Razali Ismail (Malaysia) was elected the first Chair of the Commission. During the course of the session, the Commission addressed the following items: adoption of a multi-year thematic programme of work; issues relating to future work; exchange of information regarding the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national level; progress in the incorporation of recommendations of UNCED in the activities of international organizations and within the UN system; progress achieved in facilitating and promoting the transfer of technology, cooperation and capacity-building; and initial financial commitments, financial flows and arrangements to give effect to UNCED decisions. On 23-24 June 1993, over 50 ministers gathered to participate in the High-Level Segment on issues related to the future work of the CSD and implementation of Agenda 21.

1994 SESSION: The second session of the CSD met in New York from 16- 27 May 1994. During the course of the session, the Commission under its Chair, Klaus T”pfer (Germany), examined the first cluster of issues according to its multi-year thematic programme of work. Delegates discussed the following cross-sectoral chapters of Agenda 21: Chapters 2 (accelerating sustainable development); 4 (consumption patterns); 33 (financial resources and mechanisms); 34 (technology cooperation and transfer); 37 (capacity building); 38 (institutions); 39 (legal instruments); and 23-32 (roles of major groups). By the conclusion of the session, the Commission adopted seven decisions on: information provided by governments and organizations; decision- making structures; transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation and capacity-building; major groups; trade, environment and sustainable development; changing consumption and production patterns; and finance.

On the sectoral side, delegates examined the progress in implementing the following chapters of Agenda 21: Chapters 6 (health); 7 (human settlements); 18 (freshwater resources); 19 (toxic chemicals); 20 (hazardous wastes); 21 (solid wastes and sewage); and 22 (radioactive wastes). By the conclusion of the session, the Commission adopted six decisions on: protecting and promoting human health; human settlements; toxic chemicals; hazardous wastes; freshwater; and radioactive wastes. The Commission also adopted a decision on intersessional work, which called for the establishment of a new ad hoc open-ended intersessional working group to examine the sectoral issues that will be addressed by the Commission at its 1995 session (land management, agriculture, desertification, mountains, forests and biodiversity). The session concluded with a High-Level Segment attended by over 40 ministers and high-level officials.

The members of the CSD determined that although some progress has been made, until there is an increase in official development assistance and an improvement in the international economic climate, it will continue to be difficult to translate the Rio commitments into action. Likewise, many participants who attended the two- week meeting agreed that unless the CSD's format is changed, it will be impossible to shift from rhetoric and speech-making to dialogue and action.

AD HOC OPEN-ENDED WORKING GROUPS: The Commission on Sustainable Development's Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Sectoral Issues met from 27 February - 3 March 1995, under the chairmanship of Sir Martin Holdgate (UK). Delegates discussed the six reports of the Secretary-General on the following sectoral issues: integrated management of land resources, forests, combating desertification, sustainable mountain development, sustainable agriculture and rural development, and biological diversity. Among the recommendations is a request for the CSD to consider establishing an intergovernmental panel on forests to assess work already done and to propose further action. The Working Group also recommended that the CSD promote: the exchange of views by governments on integrated land management; the development of tools for integrated land management; priority to technology-related issues; the signature, ratification and implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification; action for the sustainable development of mountain areas; integration of energy-related issues into efforts for sustainable agriculture and rural development; and future work on the protection of traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant to conservation and sustainable use.

The Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Finance met from 6-9 March 1995, under the chairmanship of Dr. Lin See-Yan (Malaysia). The Working Group recommended that the CSD should: secure the implementation of all financial recommendations in Agenda 21, including meeting, as soon as possible, the accepted target of 0.7% of GNP for ODA; urge developed countries to take appropriate new measures towards a solution to the external debt problem of developing countries; encourage international financial institutions and development agencies to continue to enhance their efforts in support of sustainable development; promote capacity building to enhance the use of economic instruments; prepare a detailed feasibility study on an environmental user charge on air transport; encourage interested parties to undertake a pilot scheme on internationally tradeable CO2 permits; examine the concrete modalities and usefulness of establishing environmentally sound technology rights banks; promote a detailed study of the Matrix approach; provide leadership in encouraging governments and organizations to launch specific initiatives to support and enrich its work in financing sustainable development; encourage the Working Group to involve private enterprise, research organizations, IFIs, development agencies and NGOs; and further promote the use of debt-for-sustainable- development swaps, as appropriate.

[Return to start of article]