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The idea of a Commission on Sustainable Development emerged from within the negotiating chambers at UN Headquarters just over one year ago at UNCED PrepCom IV. While most of Chapter 38 of Agenda 21 went "unbracketed" to Rio, the PrepCom forwarded two options for the international institutional follow-up to UNCED: 1) a high-level Commission on Sustainable Development that would report to the General Assembly on matters of substance and to ECOSOC on matters of coordination; or 2) the use of a revitalized ECOSOC with a subsidiary mechanism such as a third sessional committee or the utilization of its high-level coordination segments. During UNCED, in meetings of the contact group on institutions led by Amb. Razali Ismail of Malaysia, a compromise was reached that called for the establishment of a high-level Commission on Sustainable Development that would be a functional commission of ECOSOC. The compromise text also recommended that the 47th session of the General Assembly take the decisions on the specific organizational modalities of the Commission, including the number of members and matters related to the frequency, venue and duration of meetings.

During the 47th Session of the General Assembly (GA) the Second Committee decided to establish a special ad-hoc working group under the guidance of Amb. Razali to deal with the list of specific recommendations made by UNCED to be considered by the GA, including the establishment of the Commission on Sustainable Development. After one month of intense negotiations, the group negotiated a 34-paragraph resolution that set out the terms of reference of the Commission, its composition, the participation of NGOs, the organization of work, the CSD's relationship with other UN bodies, the high-level advisory board and Secretariat- support arrangements.

This resolution, A/RES/47/191 "Institutional arrangements to follow up the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development," was adopted by the General Assembly on 23 December 1992. In this resolution the GA requested that the Economic and Social Council, at its organizational session in 1993, set up the CSD as a functional commission and that the Secretary-General submit to the 1993 ECOSOC organizational session his proposals on the rules of procedure applicable to the Commission. The resolution also recommended that the Commission hold a short organizational session in New York to establish the Bureau and decide on the agenda for its first substantive session. It also called on the Secretary-General to establish, within the new Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD), a Secretariat to provide support to the CSD.

The ECOSOC organizational session, which was supposed to meet from 2-5 February, ended up lasting for two weeks. The ECOSOC negotiations on the CSD took much longer than anticipated to reach agreement on the procedural arrangements for the participation of the European Economic Community. ECOSOC was able to take four decisions related to the CSD that: 1) established the CSD; called for election of the 53 members to be held on 16 February; set the dates for the organizational and first substantive session, and agreed on the provisional agenda for the organizational session; 2) established the rules of procedure for the CSD as a functional commission of ECOSOC, including supplementary arrangements regarding the participation of specialized agencies, IGOs and NGOs; 3) decided to conduct a review of current arrangements for consultations with NGOs; and 4) requested that the regional economic commissions submit reports to the CSD by 1994 on their plans to implement Agenda 21.

The CSD held its organizational session from 24-26 February 1993 at UN Headquarters in New York where the members elected the Chair and other members of the Bureau; discussed the provisional agenda and organization of work of the Commission at its first substantive session; and approved an outline of a multi-year thematic programme of work. Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia was elected the first Chair of the Commission. The Commission also elected the other four members of the Bureau who will serve as Vice-Chairs and Rapporteur: Rodney Williams, Antigua and Barbuda's Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Industry (and Environment); Hamadi Khouini, Tunisia's Ambassador to the UN; Bedrich Moldan, Director of the Charles University Centre for Environmental Scholarship and formerly of the Czech Ministry of the Environment; and Arthur Campeau, Canada's Ambassador for Environment and Sustainable Development.

The organizational session adopted three decisions. The first is the provisional agenda of the first substantive session. The second is a series of decisions relating to the future work of the Commission. These include: the Commission will establish informal negotiating groups as needed at each session; the Commission will decide which reports it will consider when preparing the agendas for future meetings and how it will consider contributions from entities outside the UN system, including NGOs; and the Commission requested the Chair to hold informal consultations on its work. These consultations took place in late March and were chaired by CSD Vice-Chair Hamadi Khouini. The last decision recommended a clustering of Agenda 21 chapters as the basis for the multi-year thematic programme of work of the Commission.

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