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The main focus of this discussion was whether there should be a section on principles and, if so, what should be included. Mali listed the nine principles proposed by the African Group: sovereignty over resources; sovereignty in international cooperation programmes; collective responsibility in the maintenance of a sound and healthy environment; cooperation and partnership; international solidarity; shared but differentiated responsibility; decentralization of decision-making; subsidiarity; and integrated approaches. Gambia added the precautionary principle and the principle of public participation to this list. Brazil, Sweden, Norway and Finland said that the Rio Declaration should be the point of departure.

Canada said that the list put forward by the African Group was a good starting point. Australia later supported Canada and pointed out that there are other treaties that contain principles, including the Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions, CITES, the Law of the Sea, and the environment protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. The Chair added the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to this list. Benin commented that the UN Charter also has a section on principles.

A number of developing countries supported the list of principles put forward by African Group, as well as the need for a separate section on principles. Japan said that the principles should be incorporated in the preamble or the section on objectives. The US, supported by the UK, reserved its position on a separate section on principles. If principles are not intended to be binding, they should be in the preamble. If they are binding, they should be commitments.