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The idea for a Commission on Sustainable Development emerged during UNCED PrepCom IV as a means for ensuring institutional follow-up to UNCED. The Commission was called for to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, to enhance international cooperation and rationalize the intergovernmental decision-making capacity for the integration of environment and development issues and to examine the progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national, regional and international levels.

In 1992, the 47th session of the UN General Assembly set out the terms of reference for the Commission, its composition, guidelines for the participation of NGOs, the organization of work, the CSD's relationship with other UN bodies, the high-level advisory board and Secretariat arrangements in resolution 47/191.

The CSD held its first substantive session at UN Headquarters in New York from 14-25 June 1993. Amb. Razali Ismail (Malaysia) was elected the first Chair of the Commission. During the course of the session, the Commission addressed the following items: adoption of a multi-year thematic programme of work for the Commission; issues relating to the future work of the Commission; exchange of information regarding the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national level; progress in the incorporation of recommendations of UNCED in the activities of international organizations and within the UN system; progress achieved in facilitating and promoting the transfer of environmentally-sound technology, cooperation and capacity-building; and initial financial commitments, financial flows and arrangements to give effect to UNCED decisions. On 23-24 June 1993, over 50 ministers gathered to participate in the high-level segment and address issues related to the future work of the CSD and implementation of Agenda 21.

The CSD held two ad hoc open-ended working groups on financial flows and mechanisms and technology transfer and cooperation, which met from 22 February - 2 March 1994. Although the two working groups succeeded in preparing lists of recommendations to be submitted to the CSD, these lists are not nearly as concrete and forward-looking as some delegates and observers had hoped. Some government- nominated experts complained that the discussions were not technical enough due to the large number of representatives from UN missions who participated in the meeting. NGOs commented that the discussions repeated much of the well-worn rhetoric from Rio and other intergovernmental fora. Delegates noted that smaller fora, such as the government-sponsored meetings held in Oslo, Cartagena and Kuala Lumpur, are often more productive than all-inclusive intergovernmental working groups. Most delegates agreed, however, that little progress was made towards resolving the North-South differences on these critical issues.

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