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INFORMAL SESSION

On Tuesday morning the PrepCom met briefly in informal session before adjourning for the rest of the day so that various groups could hold consultations. The Chair, Amb. Penelope Wensley, opened the session by recapping what the PrepCom accomplished last week.

First, Wensley and Under-Secretary-General Nitin Desai made introductory statements. The PrepCom agreed on its work programme for the two weeks, but recognized the need to be flexible and adjust as things evolved. The Secretariat introduced the major documents, A/CONF.167/PC/6, 9 and 10 and representatives from SPREP and Caricom introduced the reports of the two regional technical meetings, contained in A/CONF.167/PC/7 and 8. During the three and one half days of general debate that followed, delegates heard 70 statements. A key statement was made by Vanuatu on behalf of AOSIS. Some delegates made formal requests for that statement to be made an official document and, as a result, it will be attached to the final report of the PrepCom.

AOSIS prepared a formal paper containing basic elements for an action programme, which was endorsed by the G-77 and China and submitted to the PrepCom. This document is expected to be formally introduced on Wednesday as A/CONF.167/PC/L.5. In the meantime, the PrepCom agreed to accept the paper as the basis of work. The Committee completed a first reading of chapters I-XIV of the paper on Friday and there appeared to be a large measure of agreement on the content of the paper. On Friday, the PrepCom also heard a report from Minister Harcourt Lewis from Barbados on preparations for the Conference, as well as a report from the Secretariat on operations of the voluntary fund. Wensley concluded her review by saying that last week was a most productive week that was characterized by a constructive atmosphere that maintained the momentum and captured the spirit of Rio.

XV. IMPLEMENTATION, AND MONITORING AND REVIEW: All the participating delegates agreed on the importance of Chapter XV. Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Community, and other delegates made reference to several aspects that needed greater emphasis, such as the role of the private sector, capital flows, economic diversification and the liberalization of trade.

A major emphasis throughout delegations' comments was the need to build upon existing efforts and progress already achieved. In particular, some delegates insisted on the need to take advantage of other opportunities on the international agenda where the sustainable development of SIDS will be discussed. Regarding references to Agenda 21, the representative of the US asked that, wherever possible, this document use previously agreed text in Agenda 21. The US also highlighted the dangers of multilateral assistance since there is a predisposition of multilateral development agencies to favor large programmes, whereas in SIDS, smaller and less expensive projects aimed at capacity building might be more appropriate.

Implementation should be carried out within existing institutions as much as possible, not only within the UN, but also in the financial institutions. In this respect, the importance of the efforts of regional development banks was highlighted. It was also deemed important to increase coordination among donor countries. Japan called for greater clarity on the practical aspects of transfer of finance and technology.

With regard to the triangular approach, delegates highlighted the lack of balance between national responsibilities and regional and international responsibilities in Chapter XV compared to the other 14 chapters. There is a need to strengthen implementation at the national and regional levels. However, regional implementation should be flexible enough to allow for local particularities to surface.

There was also extensive discussion on how the process should relate to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and in the work of the Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD). Australia, Iceland, Japan and UNEP agreed that the SIDS follow-up process needs to be well integrated into the work of the CSD. Some delegates expressed their concern over a possible increased bureaucratization of the DPCSD and the dangers inherent in giving the Secretariat more monitoring authority. It was stressed that monitoring authority should, in fact, remain with governments. The Nordic Group felt that it might be easier for SIDS to prepare one report for both the CSD and the SIDS follow-up process at the same time.

There was also some confusion regarding the vulnerability index. Reference was made to the indicators on sustainable development that are being developed by the CSD, and the need to ensure that they are appropriate to SIDS.

Delegates highlighted the need for a stronger role for NGOs and other major groups, particularly the role of women.

It was argued that the outcome of this Conference should be discussed by UN agencies and other international bodies to develop a coordinated plan of action and to decide which agency or body is best placed to provide the necessary support. A representative from the UN Regional Commissions said they were ready to assist in the preparation of development and environmental management plans. Talk about a second follow-up Conference was perceived as premature at this stage.

SUMMARY OF COMMENTS: During the morning's session, Wensley distributed a paper titled, "Summary of Comments." This paper, prepared by the Secretariat over the weekend, contained a summary of the comments on Chapters I through XIV of the G-77's basic elements for a programme of action. Wensley asked delegates to inform her or the Secretariat if there were any omissions or inaccuracies in this paper. The Holy See said that its comments on Chapter XIV (Human Resource Development) were not adequately reflected in the "Summary." The Holy See had questioned whether family planning can be categorized as a service by all States. He also clarified his other comments on this chapter. As there were no other comments at this time, the Chair adjourned the informal session.

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