Published by the International
Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 16 No.
Wednesday, February 7, 2001
UNEP GOVERNING COUNCIL HIGHLIGHTS
TUESDAY, 6 FEBRUARY 2001
Delegates met in morning and
afternoon sessions of the Plenary and the Committee of the Whole
(COW). The Plenary discussed the state of the environment,
emerging policy issues, the outcome of the sixth special session
of the Governing Council, and contributions to future sessions of
the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). The COW began
consideration of UNEP’s subprogrammes and related draft
decisions, forwarding several decisions to the drafting group,
which began its work of finalizing text. A working group on
programme and budget matters also convened.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
In the morning session, Chair
Radziejowski announced the formation of an informal working group
on programme and budget issues. UNEP Deputy Executive Director
Shafqat Kakakhel informed delegates that there were 27 draft
decisions before the Governing Council (UNEP/GC.21/L.1). He noted
that most decisions had been approved by the Committee of
Permanent Representatives (CPR), and expressed the hope that the
COW would adopt them. However, several draft decisions had not
been approved by the CPR, including text on governance. Noting
that the draft decision on governance relates to UNEP, he said
wider governance issues had been raised, and drew attention to a
discussion paper prepared by Canada. He said governance matters
could be considered, given that the current meeting is the
Governing Council’s final opportunity to make a major
contribution on this matter to the World Summit on Sustainable
Development in 2002.
UNEP SUBPROGRAMMES: The
COW then considered three of UNEP’s seven subprogrammes under
the report on the Environment Fund budgets: proposed biennial
programme and support budget for 2002-2003 (UNEP/GC.21/6).
Environmental assessment and
early warning: Deputy Executive Director
Kakakhel introduced this subprogramme, outlining outputs such as
the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Global International
Water Agreement (GIWA), and the GEO publication. The EU supported
this subprogramme as a core UNEP activity and urged the allocation
of budget funds. EGYPT stressed that UNEP activities should
clearly reflect its mandate. NORWAY and SWITZERLAND highlighted
UNEP’s important role in linking the scientific community with
Environmental policy development
and law: The US, with EGYPT and
AUSTRALIA, expressed concern over the proposed activities with
regard to strengthening the legal basis of the precautionary
approach, as contained in the Rio Principles, and a global survey
on the status of the application of environmental norms by
military establishments. TURKEY, INDIA and EGYPT suggested
deleting an item on provision of advisory services for the
establishment of a water basin agreement, as it is beyond UNEP’s
mandate. AUSTRALIA underscored the link between environmental
degradation and human health. She pointed out that it is premature
to consider developing legal arrangements concerning transboundary
air pollution in Asia and the Pacific and, with ANTIGUA AND
BARBUDA, noted that the work programmme should not duplicate the
IPCC’s. In response, the Secretariat stated that in preparing
the work programme it intends to balance governments’ requests
and UNEP’s mandates.
implementation: Deputy Executive
Director Kakakhel noted that this subprogramme represents UNEP’s
implementation arm that translates policy into action, and
outlined key objectives.
Regarding the objective of
promoting compliance with and enforcement of environmental law and
strengthening measures for preventing and mitigating environmental
damage, the EU said UNEP’s focus on this issue was timely.
Several participants commented on supporting implementation of
relevant chapters of the Montevideo Programme III, including
compliance and enforcement in relation to multilateral
environmental agreements through development of training materials
and guidelines on compliance, enforcement and environmental crime.
Some speakers expressed uncertainty at the term
"environmental crime." EGYPT stated that the Montevideo
Programme raised some new issues, and said compliance and
enforcement issues should be approached carefully, and sufficient
time should be given for comments on guidelines. The US, AUSTRALIA
and ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA suggested that a "tool box" of
options might be more appropriate than guidelines.
On addressing environmental
threats and emergencies, KENYA expressed concern at the small
financial allocation, and suggested UNEP develop a document
analyzing causes and long-term effects of actions related to
DRAFT DECISIONS: In
the afternoon, the COW considered draft decisions relating to the
subprogramme areas discussed during the morning. Regarding the
draft decision on the Implementation of the Convention to Combat
Desertification (CCD), the EU highlighted UNEP’s role in
combating desertification and encouraged it to coordinate closely
with the GEF. The COW agreed to forward the draft decision to the
drafting group for final editing.
On the Global Programme of
Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from
Land-based Activities, ICELAND urged UNEP to collaborate with
other UN agencies in implementing the GPA. COLOMBIA, supported by
CUBA, the US, and MAURITIUS, suggested including a reference to
implementation of the Cartagena Protocol Concerning Pollution from
Land-based Sources. The US urged UNEP to move forward on an
intergovernmental review of implementation of this Protocol. The
draft decision was forwarded to the drafting group.
Regarding the draft decision
requesting UNEP’s Executive Director to prepare a report on the
Environmental Situation in occupied Palestine and other Arab
territories, EGYPT said he would table alternative text on behalf
of the Arab Group, adding that a decision should take into account
recent developments in the region. ISRAEL supported the current
text. Chair Radziejowski said the COW would reconsider this matter
once alternative texts are received.
On UNEP’s Water Policy and
Strategy, delegates disagreed on whether language in the text in
the relevant water policy and strategy document (UNEP/GC.21/2/Add.1)
should refer to "transboundary" or
"international" waters/water courses. The existing text
was forwarded to the drafting group, along with a draft decision
on Implementation of the Malmö Declaration.
UNEP Executive Director Klaus
Töpfer introduced agenda items on emerging policy issues, the
outcome of the sixth special session of the Governing Council, and
contributions to future sessions of the CSD. Delegates then
considered these issues, as well as the agenda item on the state
of the environment.
Regarding support for Africa,
JAPAN, with the EU and NORWAY, emphasized UNEP’s role in solving
Africa’s environmental challenges and the need for adequate
resources to carry out this role. The EU, MALAWI and KENYA
stressed linkages between poverty and environmental problems.
KENYA advocated increased UNEP support for implementation of the
CCD and, with ALGERIA, supported inclusion of desertification as a
GEF programme area.
JAPAN highlighted UNEP’s role
in disaster reduction, the importance of addressing environmental
issues from a human security perspective and the transfer of
environmentally-sound technologies. KENYA requested support for, inter
alia, Africa’s disaster centers and the establishment of
environmental management crisis centers. With the EU, he supported
enhancing UNEP’s work in emergency preparedness and response.
INDIA expressed the hope that the recent earthquake in India would
encourage discussion on natural disasters, and called for building
cost-effective, earthquake-resistant technologies.
On chemicals, NORWAY said
UNEP should spearhead the various chemicals initiatives. CANADA
noted its US$20 million contribution to the POPs fund for POPs
management in developing countries. PALESTINE urged the UN to take
steps to curb irresponsible energy consumption and smuggling of
hazardous wastes and chemicals and establish a global authority to
monitor environment-related conflicts. YUGOSLAVIA called attention
to the negative environmental impacts of recent NATO bombings and
said clean-up projects require international support. IRAQ
supported addressing the problem of depleted uranium and, in
regard to UNEP’s water policy (UNEP/GC.21/2/Add.1), said he
preferred amending "transboundary waters" to
"international waters." SYRIA concurred, while TURKEY
objected to any amendments. ISRAEL reported renewed cooperation
with Palestine on protecting water resources.
On governance and information
for decision making, CANADA supported discussions on a governance
process in the lead up to the World Summit on Sustainable
Development. ALGERIA said a new system of governance must allow
for effective participation of developing countries. NORWAY and
KENYA supported UNEP’s collaboration with civil society, while
CHINA said civil society participation should be in line with UN
rules and not dilute UNEP’s role as an intergovernmental forum.
CUBA said grassroots-level work was necessary to address
national-level environmental problems effectively.
NEW ZEALAND supported a clearly
defined role for UNEP in the World Summit on Sustainable
Development and SWITZERLAND emphasized the need for the Summit to
strengthen global environmental architecture, particularly UNEP.
BARBADOS said issues relevant to Small Island Developing States
deserve special attention in preparations for the Summit, and
called for measures to enable full participation of developing
countries at environmental meetings.
The UNECE, supported by the
CZECH REPUBLIC, noted the importance of the Aarhus Convention in
the area of environmental democracy and its usefulness as a model
for agreements in other areas. The CZECH REPUBLIC said public
access to environmental information was a prerequisite for the
policy development process. THAILAND and IRAQ said global
environmental awareness and international collaboration are
essential in resolving environmental problems.
The EUROPEAN COMMISSION
highlighted the crucial role UNEP plays in ensuring that
international trade and capital markets promote sustainable
development, and supported environmental impact assessment of
trade agreements and enhancing UNEPï¿½s engagement with the
private sector. SWITZERLAND said it had relaunched the debate
within the WTO on the relationship between the WTO and
environmental regimes. The GAMBIA called for UNEPï¿½s assistance
in ensuring that trade and investment policies are more responsive
to dictates of sustainable development, while NEW ZEALAND urged
approaching trade and environment with caution to avoid
unjustified trade barriers.
ENVIRONMENT LIASON CENTER
INTERNATIONAL recommended that, inter alia, the Governing
Council commit new, stable and timely financial resources; and
environmental agreements be universally ratified by 2002.
INDONESIA called for technical and legal expertise, awareness
raising activities and training for policy development and
environmental law enforcement.
The informal working group
formed by the COW to consider programme and budget matters
convened in the afternoon under the chairmanship of Ivo Sieber
(Switzerland). The session focused on information exchange between
delegations and the Secretariat. In response to delegatesï¿½
questions, the Secretariat offered clarification and information
with regard to: the possibility of achieving funding to meet the
proposed work programme; the extent to which the Executive
Director can exercise authority in reallocating resources between
programmes; the UN regular budget support to its various offices
in terms of their total resources; the cost-recovery situation of
the Mercure project; and the request for a US$8 million loan from
the Financial Reserve of the Environment Fund to expand UNON.
IN THE BREEZEWAYS
Delegates have been discussing
the global environmental governance issue, with talk focused on a
discussion paper prepared by Canada. The paper proposes the
establishment of an eminent persons advisory panel to help fast
track discussion on governance. The idea received a lukewarm
response from some participants, who expressed reservations on
calls for new processes or institutions prior to evaluating the
implementation of the Tï¿½pfer Taskforceï¿½s recommendations.
However, there appears to be
consensus that UNEP should address this issue and integrate and
link any proposals within the intergovernmental process of the
Governing Council and contribute to preparatory work for the World
Summit on Sustainable Development. This would ensure UNEPï¿½s
involvement in the process and influence on the Summitï¿½s
outcome. Yet some participants have cautioned that it might not be
practical to expect this Governing Council session to reach a
concrete decision on the matter, due to time constraints.
There is also a perception among
some observers that the scope of international environmental
governance is broader than environmental concerns, and should also
cover sustainable development governance.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
will convene at 10:00 am to consider coordination and cooperation
within and outside the UN, governance, follow-up of GA resolutions
and linkages among environmental and environment-related
conventions. A special Plenary on chemicals is scheduled for the
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE: The
COW will resume at 10:15 am to consider remaining draft decisions
relating to subprogrammes on environmental assessment and early
warning, environmental policy development and law, and policy
implementation. It is then likely to consider the remaining
subprogrammes. It will also hear the report of the working group
on programme and budget matters.
DRAFTING GROUP: The
group considering draft decisions forwarded by the COW is likely
to meet throughout the day.
SPECIAL EVENTS: A
UNEP/ICRAF agroforestry site will be launched at the Gigiri Nature
Trail at 2:30 pm. A special event on strengthening global
environment policies by reforming UN organizations - the new
report of the German Advisory Council on Global Change - will take
place at 6:00 pm in the Press Room.