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On Thursday, 19 May, Working Group I began its discussion on Agenda Item 5, Education, science, transfer of environmentally sound technologies, cooperation and capacity building, which referred to Chapters 34 (Transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation and capacity building) and 37 (National mechanisms and international cooperation for capacity building in developing countries) of Agenda 21. Working Group I benefitted from the following documentation: Report of the Intersessional ad hoc open ended working group on technology transfer and cooperation (E/CN.17/1994/11); the Secretary-General's report on "Transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation and capacity building" (E/CN.17/ISWG.I/ 1994/2); and the Task Manager's "Report on the transfer of technology."

During the general discussion, the G-77 and China requested facilitation of finance, access to and transfer of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) and training on favorable terms. They believed that undue emphasis has been placed on national policy adjustment, and suggested a focus on: case studies; clearing houses; information systems; EST centres; and biotechnology. Germany clearly stated many developed countries' concern that general discussion on this issue has come to a dead-end and further progress can be made only in the context of addressing specific sectors. The Nordics recognized the importance of medium- and small-sized enterprises in developing countries. Egypt concurred, and suggested that international organizations assist these enterprises. Poland noted that technology transfer is an acute problem for countries with economies in transition. Morocco underscored the unique constraints on African countries. The G-77 and China supported the continuation of the ad hoc working group on technology transfer, but many developed countries disagreed.

On the question of diffusion of ESTs, the developed countries found it necessary to rely mainly on the private sector, while the developing countries called for a government role. The US believed the role of the private sector is critical for EST diffusion. Germany stated that the private sector should accept more responsibility in EST transfer, but also stated that sound national policies in recipient nations are important. Switzerland also emphasized the importance of market conditions and regulatory frameworks. The G-77 and China suggested that the Secretary-General conduct a study on how to facilitate access to and transfer of ESTs in the public domain.

All delegates agreed that capacity building is an important process in technology transfer. The discussion on information systems stressed accessibility. Germany noted general problems in access and availability of information. The Czech Republic proposed establishing a task force of experts to facilitate the implementation of an INTERNET-based information system about ESTs. Switzerland suggested using existing information rather than creating new systems, and the EU and the US called for an assessment of existing systems.

During the discussion of the Chair's draft text, a number of issues proved problematic, including: institutionalizing the intersessional working group; protecting intellectual property rights as well as the needs of developing countries; and the need for ESTs in countries with economies in transition. The problem with the intersessional working group was resolved by a contact group that had been established to deal with future CSD intersessional work. This group agreed that the new intersessional work programme will not include an ad hoc working group specifically devoted to technology transfer issues. With regard to countries with economies in transition, delegates agreed to add the phrase "such measures could also be considered for countries with economies in transition."

The final text (E/CN.17/1994/L.10): encourages relevant UN agencies to conduct a survey on and assessment of the available sources of information, supporting systems, and inventories of selected ESTs; invites industry associations to provide to the CSD and widely disseminate information on efforts in the transfer of ESTs; invites governments to conduct case studies on national technology needs; requests the Secretary-General and relevant organizations to examine the concrete modalities and the usefulness of innovative technology transfer mechanisms, benchmarking, the management of venture capital funds for ESTs, and joint ventures; invites appropriate UN organizations to involve small and medium-sized enterprises in long-term international technology partnership arrangements; and requests the Secretary-General to examine the feasibility of establishing a consultative group on environmental technology centres. [Return to start of article]