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INTERSESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

UNEP GOVERNING COUNCIL: The nineteenth session of the UNEP Governing Council met from 27 January-7 February 1997 in Nairobi. The Council adopted the “Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP,” which states that UNEP is the principal UN body in the field of the environment and is the leading global environmental authority, serving as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. It notes core elements of a focused mandate: analysis and assessment; policy advice; promotion of cooperation; international environmental law; and the promotion of greater awareness. On the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), priority was given to the implementation of the GPA in UNEP’s programme of work and a request was made for its expansion to all regional seas programmes. On chemicals, the Council concluded that a global legally-binding instrument was required to reduce the risks from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). It requested that an intergovernmental negotiating committee start work by early 1998. On the development of an international legally-binding instrument for the application of the prior informed consent (PIC) procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade, the Council requested that UNEP hold a conference by the end of 1997, for the conclusion and signing of an international legally-binding instrument.

Delegates could not agree on a US proposal for the creation of a high-level committee to oversee UNEP and suspended their meeting on its final day. UNEP’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) said the proposal reduces the role of permanent representatives to that of “postmen.” As a result of this lack of consensus on governance, the US, the UK and Spain announced that they will temporarily withhold their contributions to UNEP for 1997 until the matter is resolved. The Governing Council was suspended and is expected to reconvene later this year to resolve the outstanding questions on governance.

SECOND SESSION OF THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL FORUM ON CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT: The Second Session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Management (FORUM II) was held from 10 – 14 February 1997 in Ottawa, Canada. Delegates to FORUM II made recommendations on five Programme Areas: expanding and accelerating international assessment of chemical risks; strengthening national capabilities and capacities for management of chemicals; harmonizing classification and labelling of chemicals; exchanging information on toxic chemicals and chemical risks; and establishing risk reduction programmes, including the disposal of obsolete chemicals and pesticide risk reduction and pollution release and transfer registers (PRTRs).

FORUM II also made recommendations on emerging issues such as endocrine disrupting substances and established an ad hoc Working Group on persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Delegates reached agreement on a number of actions regarding the structure and function of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS). They established a Forum Standing Committee as a mechanism that would better respond to new developments and give advice in preparing for future meetings. They also agreed to a full review of IFCS terms of reference, a general policy for operating languages, and provisional criteria for meetings to be held under IFCS auspices.

WORKSHOP ON INDICATORS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: The second Ghent Workshop on indicators of sustainable development (ISD), held from 20 - 22 November 1996 in Ghent, Belgium, was sponsored by the Governments of Belgium and Costa Rica with the support of DPCSD. It focused on the Working List of indicators adopted at CSD-4. Countries may select from this list the indicators to use in their national policies, according to their own problems, policies and targets. The Ghent Workshop welcomed the methodology sheets produced for each indicator on this Working List as a valuable basis for methodological harmonization. The objective of this second Ghent Workshop was to launch the testing of ISDs. It endorsed guidelines and a timetable for national testing and agreed that regular reporting would be useful for all partners in the testing process. Twelve countries have now confirmed their intent to test the ISDs on behalf of the CSD. The first two reports were planned for January and March 1997, while the first substantive annual report about the testing process is requested for November 1997. The testing phase should conclude by the end of 1999. The aim of the CSD is to have a working list of ISDs available for all countries, based on their national priorities, by the end of 2000.

MEETING OF THE HIGH-LEVEL ADVISORY BOARD ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: The UN High-Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development held its seventh session in Monaco from 14 - 17 January 1997. During the session, the Board addressed the preparation of a report for the Special Session. The Board selected energy, water and transport as critical issues for sustainable development and will present policy recommendations drawn from recent experience in many countries to address those issues. The Board’s discussions involved not only its members but also a number of invited specialists in the fields of energy, water and transport development. Their discussions with the Board focused on promoting private cooperation between international, governmental and private sector organizations and on ways to promote private investment in the sustainable development of energy, water and transport.

FOURTH EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON FINANCIAL ISSUES OF AGENDA 21: More than 70 international experts in finance and sustainable development from international organizations, Governments, NGOs, academia and the private sector participated in the Fourth Expert Group Meeting on Financial Issues of Agenda 21, subtitled Finance for Sustainable Development: The Road Ahead. The meeting, held at ECLAC Headquarters in Santiago, Chile from 8-10 January 1997, aimed at: (i) assessing progress in the mobilization of financial resources for sustainable development since UNCED; (ii) providing a state-of-the-art review and analysis of unresolved issues related to traditional and innovative international and domestic financial mechanisms; and (iii) generating information and recommendations that will assist the CSD in preparing for the Special Session.

WORKSHOP ON SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION: PATTERNS AND POLICIES: The Governments of Brazil and Norway hosted this Workshop from 25-28 November 1996 in Brasilia, Brazil, to identify the key elements for a shared North-South vision on the issue of changing consumption and production patterns. The conclusions of the meeting note, inter alia: the issue of consumption and production patterns (Chapter 4 of Agenda 21) has the common interest of, and deserves additional international cooperation between, industrialized and developing countries; exchange of information and experiences on national policy development and implementation is a determining factor toward achieving progress in making patterns of consumption and production more sustainable; and the current debate should have a broader scope, going beyond technological and policy change to incorporate the human dimension, in terms of better understanding needs and values that underpin sustainable livelihoods.

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