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For the first time at the CSD formal dialogue sessions were convened with each of the major groups identified in Agenda 21. These dialogue sessions took place in parallel to the negotiations from 11-18 April.

YOUTH: Speakers from youth-based NGOs highlighted: local environmental initiatives; youth NGO networks; educational seminars; local fund-raising drives; scientific research projects; and a children’s version of Agenda 21. Delegates commented on a number of issues, such as: employment, education and political empowerment for youth; action on AIDS and drugs; influence through voting; malnutrition; and the work of Rescue Mission on sustainable development indicators. When asked what youth would like to result from UNGASS, many panelists responded that they seek access to information, increased support for awareness, skill-sharing and empowerment, and support for new and innovative ways of actively involving youth and NGOs in the sustainable development debate. In the final Plenary, delegates adopted the summary report of the dialogue session with youth (E/CN.17/1997/L.2).

SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES: Panelists in the dialogue session with scientific and technological communities considered NGO mechanisms for international cooperation in science and technology and highlighted partnership programmes, including the World Climate Research Programme. Panelists said sustainable development depends on scientific knowledge and domestic capacity, local solutions and local experts, and full and effective participation of scientific communities from both North and South. Other statements focused on: bio-resources as an opportunity for developing countries to increase their wealth; the responsibility of engineers in sustainable development; programmes on capacity-building strategies; and scientific support for policy formulation. Panelists proposed that UNGASS engage in a “real” dialogue session. They also called for support for international research and national-level scientific education. In the final Plenary, delegates adopted a summary report of the session (E/CN.17/1997/L.3).

WOMEN: Panelists highlighted a number of issues, including poverty, globalization, free trade and biotechnology. CSD delegates were asked to: call for 1-2% of developed country aid and World Bank funding to be set aside for micro-credit; resist the language of “agricultural sustainability” associated with export-driven agriculture; uphold the right to food rather than its commodification; identify “hot spots” of industrial contamination; address the effect of commercial advertising on unsustainable production and consumption; and examine practices to better integrate women into local councils in cities and towns. Topics addressed during the dialogue included: changing the way men perceive their own roles in society; links to the Commission on the Status of Women; nuclear contamination and women’s reproductive health; the precautionary principle; human rights abuses; transboundary movements of hazardous materials; national efforts to include women in government; and reflecting the “paradigm shift” of the Beijing Conference at UNGASS. The summary of the session is contained in document E/CN.17/1997/L.5/Rev.1.

TRADE UNIONS: This session focused on, inter alia, sustainable development through “collective engagement,” a process of education and action that puts workers at the center and promotes action. Panelists provided examples concerning: a national accord reached through consultation that helped thousands of workers suffering from benzene contamination; a case study on workplace and community partnerships that incorporated environmental concerns into all aspects of production; and health and safety training programmes that build environmental awareness. Panelists also highlighted: environmental remediation programmes and recycling; cooperation with local authorities and local communities to research and address housing and unplanned urban growth; ratification of ILO conventions; and initiatives on eco-labelling for computers and green and ergonomic offices. The dialogue session focused on a number of other topics, including: the relationship of eco-auditing and the ISO 14000 approach to environmental management; the adaptability of the auditing system to developing countries; and “informal” economies. The summary of this session in contained in E/CN.17/1997/L.4.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES: Panelists noted that the Intersessional Co-Chairs’ text failed to reflect the lack of progress on critical issues of concern to indigenous peoples. They stressed, inter alia: the need for political empowerment, self- determination, and control over natural resources; the problems of poverty, homelessness and unemployment; recognition of indigenous political institutions, ancestral lands and intellectual property rights (IPRs); and mechanisms for participation in decision-making beyond “tokenism.” Panelists called for: corporate responsibility for transnational corporations (TNCs); priority for the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; a permanent UN forum for indigenous peoples; expanding the scope of the indigenous peoples’ fund for participation; inclusion of indigenous peoples on a par with industry in the CSD’s work; and a moratorium on bio-prospecting until IPR are protected. They also called for: coordination with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Center for Human Rights during review of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property (TRIPs) agreement; establishment of a CSD body to examine mining issues; examination of the effect of globalization on indigenous peoples; and conclusion of a biosafety protocol. In final Plenary, delegates adopted the summary of the session (E/CN.17/1997/L.6).

NGOs: On Agenda 21 implementation in the South, panelists noted that governments are treating the superficial manifestations of unsustainable practices rather than the underlying causes. They stressed: mechanisms for NGO consultation and collaboration; capacity-building; lack of awareness about environmental issues; and promotion of community-level initiatives. Proposals included: developing a green credit system to assist environment projects; providing documentation on all initiatives proposed at the CSD; viewing poverty eradication as a global problem; and prioritizing education. On national and regional implementation, panelists reported on progress in Europe and South Africa. Presentations on the CSD’s role in the next five years focused on: trade, environment and sustainable development; a forest convention versus stronger implementation of the CBD; and TNC accountability. One panelist noted that the CSD is perhaps the most appropriate international institution to address globalization. In final plenary, delegates adopted the summary of the session (E/CN.17/1997/L.7).

LOCAL AUTHORITIES: Panelists in the dialogue session with local authorities shared experiences in developing Local Agenda 21s in Dubai, London, Marrakech, Barcelona, Cajamarca (Peru) and Leicester (UK). They highlighted partnerships between local authorities, decentralization and local governance and the progress of the Local Agenda 21 movement. Panelists proposed that the CSD focus on: the human settlements sector and the Habitat Agenda; application of Agenda 21 principles by TNCs; capacity- building; harmonization of policies between different levels of government; initiatives to improve coordination of agencies; and developing local authority networks. Panelists also called for: a meeting between local authorities and global leaders; a global target for Local Agenda 21s; partnerships on all government levels dealing with freshwater issues; a study prior to CSD-6 to investigate barriers to local sustainable development imposed by central authorities; and language pertaining to local authorities. In the final Plenary, delegates adopted the summary of the session (E/CN.17/1997/L.9).

FARMERS: The dialogue session on farmers included representatives from the US, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, India and Russia. Panelists discussed: farm management techniques and voluntary programmes; partnerships; farmers’ organizations; and priorities and strategies. Discussants highlighted: farming as an economic activity; environmentally-friendly production measures; the impact of agriculture on water use and conservation; industrial encroachment into prime farmland; poverty among small-scale farmers, especially women; the public image of farmers; the role of organic farming; the definition of “sustainable agriculture;” and local product distribution. Discussants also noted: the implications of international trade and private sector investments on production; long-term land tenure as an incentive for sustainable practices; and the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Some discussants noted problems with equitable distribution of food as opposed to its production. Delegates adopted the summary of the session in the final Plenary (E.CN.17/1997/L.8/Rev.1)

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY: The dialogue included panelists from a range of industries and covered: business concepts; company management practices; small- and medium-sized enterprises; new business opportunities; transparency and commitments; awareness-raising in business; and partnerships and cooperation. In discussing future action, participants considered the role of business, government frameworks for change and business strategies. Panelists described: recycling and waste minimization; the chemical industry’s “Responsible Care” initiative; independent verification of environmental management schemes; environmentally-oriented investment funds; and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Business Charter for Sustainable Development. Panelists also discussed: capitalizing on the ability of business to adapt rapidly; “command and control” versus “performance-based” regulations; environmentally-damaging subsidies; cost internalization of environmental damage; tax reform; and technology transfer. In the final Plenary, delegates adopted the summary of the session (E/CN.17/1997/L.10).

After the nine dialogue sessions, the CSD convened a synthesis session to review the comments and recommendations made during the week. In the final Plenary, delegates also adopted a summary report of the synthesis session (E/CN.17/1997/L.11).

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