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The Secretariat's document on this agenda item, E/CN.17/1993/6, said that experience gained from the UNCED process showed that the one-year period provided for preparation of national reports based on suggested guidelines was insufficient. Format and size varied, and it was hard to extract information and maintain uniformity in the analysis. The Secretary-General recommended that it would be useful for governments to follow some standardized format in preparing their reports/communications for the Commission, including: they must be in one of the official UN languages, not exceed 50 pages, refer to specific facts and data that would reflect improvements or degradation of situations, and be submitted to the Secretariat at least three months prior to the start of the CSD session.

During the discussion on this subject delegates raised a number of concerns about government reporting. Many developing countries were concerned that information provided by the governments should be voluntary and the Secretariat should not set guidelines or a standardized format for these reports. Australia and the Nordics believed that the national reports should be limited to the clusters of the multi-year programme of work being discussed at each session and should be as brief and concise as possible. The final paragraphs relating to government reporting state: it is up to individual Governments to decide on the degree of detail and regularity of their reporting to the CSD, however, the information provided should be relevant to the Agenda 21 clusters to be discussed that year; it should be concise (no more than 50 pages); and it should be accompanied by an executive summary of no more than 5 pages. To ensure a more focussed and coherent analysis of the information received by Governments, the Commission agreed on the need for the Secretary-General to prepare reports using a standardized format, "which Governments may wish to follow," taking into account the format of Agenda 21. Finally, Governments are encouraged to submit their information not less than 6 months prior to the Commission's session and, to facilitate the work of the Secretariat, Governments are encouraged to notify the Secretary-General of a point of contact that has knowledge of the information provided.

Paragraph 7 of the final document (E/CN.17/1993/L.3/ Rev.1) lists 13 guidelines that the Secretariat should follow on preparing the information to be included in the analysis of information received from Governments. Debate on this paragraph focussed on the question of whether Governments will be required to follow these guidelines or if they are only for the Secretariat. There were also a number of specific comments on the guidelines. The compromise text reads: "Governments, in providing information to the Secretariat, are encouraged to take into account the above guidelines, in order, inter alia, to facilitate the task of the Secretariat." The 13 guidelines include:

Paragraphs 9 and 10 of L.3/Rev.1 address the issues of Secretariat reports for future sessions of the CSD. A lengthy discussion ensued during which questions were raised about the number of reports the Secretariat was being asked to prepare and the guidelines or restrictions being proposed. Egypt suggested that the Secretariat prepare only one report, whereas the EC said it was essential to have an overview report and thematic reports relating to the programme of work. India proposed a compromise that reflected concerns about the analytical and substantive nature of the reports as well as the need for separate reports. A number of countries also proposed amendments to the guidelines. The final formulation requests the Secretariat to prepare: (1) an annual overview report on progress made in the implementation of Agenda 21, which should focus on the cross-sectoral components of Agenda 21 and the critical elements of sustainability; and (2) thematic reports, corresponding to the Agenda 21 sectoral clusters to be included on the agendas of forthcoming sessions of the Commission, in accordance with the multi-year programme of work. This second report should include the following:

Paragraph 11 addresses two issues: sharing of local, national, subregional and regional experiences on the implementation of Agenda 21; and the elaboration of realistic, usable and easily understandable indicators to provide a basis for assessment of progress towards sustainable development. When one delegate commented that this paragraph was not clear, the Chair of Informal Negotiating Group I, Ghazi Jomaa, responded that this is consensus language, which is not always clear, but the Secretary-General has a large bureaucracy and they are certain to understand what this paragraph means.

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