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Nearly three years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the third session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) has made progress in positioning itself as the focal point for the examination of sustainable development at the international, national and local levels. The revised format of the Commission, which included numerous panel discussions, enabled the participants to enter into a dialogue. The two days dedicated to the sharing of national experiences in implementing Agenda 21 was a departure from the CSD's previously UN-centered focus. The Day of Local Authorities, combined with the NGO and government- sponsored panels and workshops throughout the session, enabled the CSD to examine the local aspects of implementing Agenda 21. While it remains clear that the journey to true sustainable development is long and arduous, it was heartening to see that despite the decline of official development assistance and the lack of new and additional financial resources, the journey is clearly underway.

During the course of the session, the Commission, under its new Chair, Henrique Cavalcanti (Brazil), examined the second cluster of issues according to its multi-year thematic programme of work. Delegates discussed: trade, environment and sustainable development (Chapter 2); combating poverty (3); changing consumption patterns (4); demographic dynamics and sustainability (5); integrating environment and development in decision-making (8); major groups (23-32); financial resources and mechanisms (33); transfer of environmentally sound technologies, cooperation and capacity-building (34); science for sustainable development (35); and information for decision making (40).

The sectoral cluster for this year included: an integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources (Chapter 10); combating deforestation (11); combating desertification and drought (12); sustainable mountain development (13); promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development (14); conservation of biological diversity (15); and environmentally sound management of biotechnology (16). The Commission also established an Intergovernmental Panel on Forests to 'pursue consensus and formulation of coordinated proposals for action' with regard to the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. The session concluded with a two-and-a-half-day High-Level Segment, attended by over 50 ministers and high-level officials.

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