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SUMMARY OF THE FOURTH SESSION OF THE UN COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: 18 APRIL - 3 MAY 1996

The fourth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-4) completed the Commission’s multi-year thematic programme of work and began considering preparations for the General Assembly’s five-year review of Agenda 21 and beyond. During the High- Level Segment, one delegate voiced the opinion of many observers when he stated that CSD-4 lacked the sense of urgency of past years. Some seasoned observers of the debates on the sectoral issues (oceans and atmosphere) said that the discussions merely echoed recent negotiations in other fora. Others characterized the CSD as a missed opportunity to reinforce recent agreements and expressed disappointment that hard-fought details were not included in the final decisions. Discussions on financial issues were also revisited and, as many delegates noted during the High-Level Segment, will not change until political will emerges.

The one issue that inspired many was the preparation for the review of the CSD during a Special Session of the UN General Assembly in 1997. Most delegates agreed that the CSD should continue, but should not conduct another review of Agenda 21. Suggestions as to its future work varied from concentrating on certain sectors (e.g., oceans) to pressing issues (e.g., poverty) to specific problems (e.g., megacities). Many held out hope that in the coming year the CSD could redefine its role and accelerate progress in achieving the promises made in Rio.

During the course of CSD-4, the Commission, chaired by Rumen Gechev (Bulgaria), examined the third cluster of issues according to its multi-year thematic programme of work. Delegates discussed: trade, environment and sustainable development (Chapter 2); combating poverty (3); changing consumption patterns (4); demographic dynamics and sustainability (5); integrating environment and development in decision-making (8); roles of major groups (23-32); financial resources and mechanisms (33); transfer of environmentally sound technologies, cooperation and capacity-building (34); promoting education, public awareness and training (36); national mechanisms and international cooperation for capacity-building in developing countries (37); international institutional arrangements (38); international legal instruments and mechanisms (39); and information for decision-making (40).

The sectoral clusters for this year were protection of the atmosphere (Chapter 9) and protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources (17).

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