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Delegates to UNGASS were notified that 17 members were in arrears of payments and, according to the Charter, those whose arrears equal the amount of their assessed contributions for the preceding two years shall not have a vote in the General Assembly.

Amb. RAZALI ISMAIL (Malaysia) was elected President of the 19th Special Session of the General Assembly. He welcomed the representatives of civil society, who were participating for the first time in the GA. He noted the recession of spirit and political will to catalyze change since Rio. Developed countries emphasize environmental protection but have not reduced their consumption and production levels and developing countries emphasize the right to development without the creation of transparent, participatory mechanisms. UN Secretary-General KOFI ANAN noted several issues that require attention, including safe water, forests, fish stocks, atmosphere and desertification. He said his programme for reform will usher in renewal at the UN, but more action is necessary. MOSTAFA TOLBA presented the report of the Commission on Sustainable Development (A/S-19/14) and outlined the preparatory process leading up to UNGASS. He emphasized that genuine political will is required to deal with outstanding issues, which include financial resources, a financial mechanism for desertification, forests, climate change and the proposal for an aviation fuel tax.

UNGASS President RAZALI then presented the organization of work for the Special Session. MOSTAFA TOLBA, Chair of CSD-5, was elected as Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole. The Plenary also agreed to accord observer status to specialized agencies and, without setting a precedent for other special sessions, to invite major groups, including non-governmental organizations, to participate in the Session. The provisional agenda (A/S-19/1) was then adopted, and debate began on Agenda Item 8, on overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21.