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Perhaps the major strength of the CSD is that its mere existence has served to keep Agenda 21 and the Rio agreements alive. Governments and UN agencies are forced to look at their own implementation of Agenda 21. The preparation of national reports enables governments to take stock of their own sustainable development activities. The Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development (IACSD) has made progress in coordinating UN system implementation of Agenda 21. The convening of the ad hoc working groups as well as the government-hosted intersessional meetings has encouraged dialogue on particular sectoral and cross-sectoral issues throughout the year. The High-Level Segment has fostered ministerial interest in UNCED follow-up activities.

The CSD has also demonstrated its strength as a forum for the discussion of new and emerging issues on the sustainable development agenda. This year, trade and environment and changing consumption and production patterns were discussed in greater depth than during the UNCED preparatory process. Although these, and other emerging issues, may be discussed in a plethora of fora over the coming years, the CSD may prove to be the place where all the other discussions come together.

The CSD has also shown that it welcomes the participation of NGOs and major groups. NGOs were permitted to participate and observe all the formal and informal meetings during the two-week session. NGO statements were incorporated along with government statements -- not pushed to the end of the day. Governments were responsive to NGO suggestions and seemed willing to enter into a dialogues with major groups.

Finally, the use of panel discussions during the High-Level Segment was a great success. The panels fostered a dialogue between experts, diplomats, politicians and NGOs on economics and the role of women in sustainable development. In fact, this was the only time that a true dialogue developed during the entire CSD session. More panel discussions of this nature during the entire course of the CSD could prove to be a useful method for brainstorming and breaking some of the barriers hindering sustainable development. [Return to start of article]