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The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was envisioned in Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Agenda 21 called for the creation of the CSD to: ensure effective follow-up of UNCED; enhance international cooperation and rationalize intergovernmental decision- making capacity; and examine progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 at the local, national, regional and international levels. In 1992, the 47th session of the UN General Assembly set out, in resolution 47/191, 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 and Secretariat arrangements.

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. Delegates addressed, inter alia: the adoption of a multi-year thematic programme of work; the future work of the Commission; and the exchange of information on the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national level.

The second session of the CSD met in New York from 16-27 May 1994. The Commission, chaired by Klaus T�pfer (Germany), discussed cross-sectoral chapters of Agenda 21, including: trade, environment and sustainable development; consumption patterns; and major groups. On the sectoral side, delegates considered health, human settlements, freshwater resources, toxic chemicals and hazardous, solid and radioactive wastes.

The CSD held its third session from 11-28 April 1995 in New York. The revised format of the Commission, which included numerous panel discussions, enabled the participants to enter into a dialogue. 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. Chaired by Henrique Cavalcanti (Brazil), CSD-3 examined the second cluster of issues according to its multi-year thematic programme of work: planning and management of land resources; combating deforestation; combating desertification and drought; sustainable mountain development; promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development; conservation of biological diversity; and environmentally sound management of biotechnology. The Commission also established the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF).

CSD-4, held from 18 April-3 May 1996, completed the Commission’s multi-year thematic programme of work and began considering preparations for UNGASS. The Commission, chaired by Rumen Gechev (Bulgaria), examined: financial resources and mechanisms; consumption patterns; technology transfer; education and training; capacity- building; trade, environment and sustainable development; combating poverty; demographic dynamics; information for decision-making; major groups; institutional arrangements; international legal instruments and mechanisms; national reporting; and protection of the atmosphere and oceans. In reference to the Special Session, most delegates agreed that the CSD should continue and that it should not conduct another review of Agenda 21. Suggestions as to its future work varied from concentrating on certain sectors (e.g., oceans) to cross-cutting issues (e.g., poverty) and specific problems (e.g., megacities). Many held out hope that the CSD could redefine its role and accelerate progress in achieving the promises made in Rio.

The CSD’s Ad Hoc Open-Ended Intersessional Working Group met from 24 February-7 March 1997 in New York. The Working Group focused on the format and substantive contents of the document to be considered at UNGASS. The main output was a draft “Proposed Outcome of the Special Session” prepared by Co-Chairs Derek Osborn (UK) and Amb. Celso Amorim (Brazil) after feedback from delegates on a first draft. The re-draft provided a basis for consultations prior to CSD-5. Most delegates highlighted freshwater, energy and transport, forests and oceans as issues of new or priority concern. Delegates noted the importance of the cross-sectoral issues of poverty and changing consumption and production patterns.

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