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ROUNDTABLE ON POPULATION, ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN THE POST-UNCED PERIOD

A roundtable on population, environment and sustainable development in the post-UNCED period was convened in Geneva, Switzerland from 24-26 November 1993. The meeting was organized by the International Academy of the Environment, in collaboration with UNFPA, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Swiss Government. The roundtable focused on five varying ecosystems where environmental degradation and natural resource depletion is serious and where poverty and population pressures appear to be significant contributing factors: deforestation in Central America; desertification in sub-Saharan Africa; coastal and marine degradation in the Bay of Bengal; forested uplands of Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand; and small island States in the South Pacific.

The roundtable, which consisted of 35 experts from governments, universities and research institutes, multilateral and regional agencies and NGOs, endorsed the principles and guidelines for action embodied in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 and, without attempting to reflect every aspect of them, elected to highlight certain recommendations as most pertinent to restoring a balance between population, environment and resources in the context of sustainable development. The participants agreed on 17 recommendations covering the interrelationship between population and the environment; the need to modify consumption patterns and lifestyles; poverty reduction; and strategies to address the needs of urban populations. Sectoral recommendations addressed the need to: encourage domestic food production; promote forest conservation, sustainable forest management, reforestation, land tenure reform and alternative energy sources; safeguard biodiversity; prohibit harmful fishing technologies, reduce coastal and ocean pollution, preserve dwindling mangrove forests and rehabilitate depleted fish stocks; and conserve, manage and distribute water resources. Institutional recommendations addressed the need for: local participation and initiatives; the full participation of women in decision making and project design; building institutional capacity in developing countries; revision of policies on land ownership, tenure and use; and environmental and population education. The roundtable also recommended expanded policy-oriented research and the development of innovative ways to provide the targeted financial assistance and technology cooperation to secure a long-term balance between population, environment and natural resources.

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