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A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNGASS

In 1992, the General Assembly endorsed Agenda 21 and decided to convene a special session to review and appraise Agenda 21 implementation in its resolution 47/190. Negotiations on the text to be adopted at the 19th Special Session of the UN General Assembly began earlier this year during the Commission for Sustainable Development’s (CSD) Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group and continued at the fifth session of the CSD (CSD-5). Further progress was made at informal consultations in New York during the week before UNGASS.

CSD AD HOC OPEN-ENDED INTERSESSIONAL WORKING GROUP: The Intersessional Working Group met from 24 February-7 March 1997 in New York and focused on the format and substantive content of the document to be considered at UNGASS. The main output was a draft “Proposed Outcome of the Special Session” prepared by Co-Chairs Derek Osborn (UK) and Amb. Celso Armorim (Brazil) after feedback from delegates on a first draft. The re-draft provided a basis for informal consultations prior to CSD-5. Most delegates highlighted freshwater, energy and transport, forests and oceans as issues of new or priority concern. Delegates also noted the importance of the cross-sectoral issues of poverty and changing consumption and production patterns.

FIFTH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: The fifth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-5) convened from 8-25 April 1997 at UN Headquarters in New York to complete formal preparations for UNGASS. It began with a High-Level Segment and a review of reports from the Intersessional Working Group and the CSD Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF).

Delegations continued to identify and elaborate the emerging priority issues that they had considered at the Intersessional Working Group. Voluminous amendments to the draft “Proposed Outcome of the Special Session” were considered. Intersessional Co-Chairs Osborn and Amorim chaired Drafting Groups I and II, respectively. Drafting Group I considered text on “Sectors and Issues” and “Assessment of Progress Reached after Rio.” Drafting Group II considered text on “Integration of Economic, Social and Environmental Objectives” and “Means of Implementation.” Informal groups negotiated text on forests, institutional arrangements and the CSD Programme of Work for 1998-2002.

CSD-5 Chair Mostafa Tolba (Egypt) and Vice-Chair Monika Linn-Locher (Switzerland) began consultations on a draft political statement to be adopted by the Heads of State and Government expected to attend the Special Session. Their informal modus operandi was questioned by a number of G-77 delegations at the closing Plenary. Tolba and Linn-Locher invited governments to send amendments to a draft distributed at the close of the Session and undertook to circulate a new version by early June.

At the conclusion of CSD-5, numerous brackets remained in the draft documents, including unnegotiated paragraphs dealing with international legal instruments and information tools to measure progress on sustainable development.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS: CSD-5 Chair Tolba convened informal consultations at UN Headquarters from 16-21 June 1997. Delegations used the Report of the CSD on Preparations for UNGASS, including the revised draft political statement (A/S-19/CRP.1) and the draft proposed outcome (A/S-19/14) as the basis for their deliberations. The draft political statement attracted extensive amendments, and some noted that delegations were re-negotiating issues covered in greater detail in the draft proposed outcome. The consultations were adjourned until delegations had considered related issues in the draft proposed outcome. A new draft was circulated Sunday, 22 June, immediately prior to UNGASS.

A number of cross-sectoral and sectoral issues in the draft proposed outcome were resolved during the week. The exceptions covered those issues requiring high-level political input at UNGASS and/or related discussions at the 20-21 June G-8 Summit in Denver. Among the outstanding issues sent to UNGASS were: means of implementation (e.g., official development assistance, finance, mobilization of domestic resources); a financial mechanism for the Convention to Combat Desertification; a reference to commitments that should be made at the third Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997; the follow-up to the work of the CSD’s Intergovernmental Panel on Forests; and a proposal to introduce an international tax on aviation fuel to fund sustainable development.

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