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The Commission began its substantive work with a two-day general discussion on progress in the implementation of Agenda 21. The discussion, which concluded on Tuesday, 17 May 1994, included statements from 33 countries, three regional groups, five UN agencies and intergovernmental organizations, and eight NGOs. During the discussion, a number of countries highlighted national activities to implement Agenda 21. Uruguay has developed an electronic system for the exchange of information on the environment. The Philippines has set up a Council for Sustainable Development and a National Action Plan for Sustainable Development. Hungary has also established a national Commission on Sustainable Development. China has developed a ten-point strategy. Venezuela has developed a national environmental plan and has adopted new techniques for toxic waste management.

The need to change patterns of production and consumption was one of the most common themes of the discussion. The European Union, Korea, the US, Colombia, Poland, Norway, Australia, Austria, Sri Lanka, the Women's Environment and Development Organization, and the Alliance of Northern People on the Environment all stressed the need to accept that consumption and production patterns, particularly in the developed countries, have been a major cause of environmental deterioration.

The relationship between trade and the environment was mentioned by Australia, Austria and Mexico, among others. Some delegations, including the European Commission and Switzerland, said that the CSD should outline certain basic orientations to guide international discussions on trade and the environment. The GATT will be holding a public symposium on trade, the environment and sustainable development in June. UNCTAD and the UN Regional Economic Commissions also described their work in this area. The Nordic countries called for close cooperation between UNEP and the newly established World Trade Organization (WTO). Japan suggested more successful rule-making with regard to trade and the environment could result from providing input to the WTO.

The G-77, Brazil and China expressed concern that the Spirit of Rio is fading since the new and additional funding that was promised to support implementation of Agenda 21 has not materialized. The Republic of Korea, Indonesia, China, Colombia, Malaysia and the Third World Network all commented on the international economic system, particularly the need for supportive trade policies, trade rather than aid, the debt crisis, commodity pricing and greater access to markets.

Another recurring topic was how to manage the CSD's intersessional work. The G-77 and Brazil called for the establishment of a new ad hoc open-ended working group on the sectoral issues to be considered by the CSD in 1995 (lands, forests, desertification and biodiversity). The EU, France, Austria and the Russian Federation supported the government-hosted intersessional meetings on specific topics, rather than the establishment of this large UN working group. The US, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Switzerland all called for simplified reporting procedures. The Czech Republic, Canada and the US mentioned the need to develop indicators for sustainable development.

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