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Intersessional Ad Hoc Working Groups of the Ninth Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

UN Headquarters, New York
6-16 March 2001                                                                                           


Web archives:
|Tuesday 6| Wednesday 7| Thursday 8 | Friday 9 |
| Monday 12| Tuesday 13| Wednesday 14| Thursday 15| Friday 16


ENB Summary Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Transport and Atmosphere HTML PDF TXT

Highlights from Monday, 12 March

The Intersessional Ad Hoc Working Group on Information for Decision-making and Participation and on International Cooperation for an Enabling Environment (AHWG) began its work on Monday, 12 March 2001 at the UN headquarters in New York and is expected to conclude its work on Friday, 16 March 2001. Delegates considered organizational matters and discussed the Secretary-General's report on information for decision making and participation in morning and afternoon sessions.

Above photo: Co-Chair Alison Drayton (Guyana)

ENB Coverage of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Energy and Sustainable Development met in New York from 26 February to 2 March 2001

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Photo: Co-Chairs Madina Jarbussynova (Kazakhstan) and Alison Drayton (Guyana)

Co-Chair Drayton (right) introduced, and delegates adopted, the agenda and other organizational matters (E/CN.17/ISWG.II/2001/1). She noted that the session would produce two papers: a Co-Chairs' summary that reflects the discussions, positions stated by delegations and alternative views; and a concise, action-oriented paper on elements for a draft decision for negotiations at CSD-9.

Lowell Flanders,Assistant Director, UN Division on Sustainable Development, elaborated the three-phase process undertaken to develop the set of indicators for sustainable development. He said the Secretary-General's report recommends that the Working Group could recognize the important role countries have played in testing the indicators and endorse the core set of indicators. He also suggested the Working Group could support: continuing the Work Programme on indicators; advancing work on modalities for the linkages between and aggregation of indicators; and encouraging countries to make better use of the indicators.

CSD Indicators Website:

After the general statements and In response to issues regarding convergence among different indicators that were raised in the discussions, the Lowell Flanders pointed out that extensive consultations had been carried out with various organizations, and that different indicator programmes have different objectives, emphasis and priorities. On issues relating to international consensus, he underscored that the indicators programme is voluntary, and that every country can adapt the indicators to national requirements. Referring to Agenda 21, Nigeria said developing countries did not object to the development of harmonized indicators, but wanted to see the process open to all countries' contributions. Egypt inquired about who has the mandate to review and endorse the indicators framework, and with Saudi Arabia, enquired about the role of the Statistical Commission regarding the core set of indicators. Lowell Flanders explained that the CSD was mandated with developing the indicators, and therefore has the authority to either endorse or reject them.

Canada presented a report of the International Expert Meeting on Information for Decision-making and Participation, which was held in Canada, from 25 to 28 September 2000 and was co-hosted by the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The workshop considered the themes of access to and uses of information, data gaps in information systems, and new technology, and concluded that reliable access to information, access to data at the right time, and free and unrestricted access to information, as appropriate, are critical for sustainable development.

Japan noted that Japanese companies and local governments are encouraged to disclose environmental information to the public. He highlighted the use of satellites for environmental study and supported the Global Mapping Project for digital spatial data. He supported references to increased investment in human resources and stakeholder participation in preparation of the CSD-9 draft decision, and encouraged initiatives toward environmental accounting. He called for continued convergence between the CSD and other organizations on the CSD work programme on indicators of sustainable development. He also supported: development and integration of satellite observation systems; training and capacity building; use of remote sensing data sharing systems; collaboration among global observation systems; and promotion of free data exchange among scientists.

Australia stated that the CSD should promote continuing dialogue between countries on the framework for sustainable development indicators as well as development and deployment of standards for collection and management of data, and encourage countries to consider accessibility of information as a priority for discussions leading up to Earth Summit 2002.

A-2 ECOSOC NGO World Circle of the Consensus and World Sustainable Energy Coalition (right) submitted two documents for inclusion in CSD-9 documentation: the Global Energy Charter and the International Standards series 14000 and 13600. The Global Education Associates (left) called for greater partnership with already existing civil society networks, such as UNEP's Interfaith Partnership for the Environment, to assist in disseminating information on sustainable development indicators.

Switzerland said data is either not aggregated or not available on all areas of sustainable development and that his government would assist developing countries to harmonize and standardize data collection for their better integration in the multilateral trading system. He raised the issue of handling existing data, including different quality and collection methods. He outlined the requirements for synthesizing data and making it available for decision making.

The US said international efforts cannot replace strong domestic actions to ensure collection and dissemination of national and local information, and noted the need for collaboration with stakeholders, including NGOs and the business community. He supported the work of the CSD in developing indicators and highlighted the intergenerational component of sustainable development.

South Africa called for support to developing countries in training and capacity building, including in the use of indicators, information management and enhancing the statistical capacity of developing countries. He underscored that public access to environmental information is a requirement for improved environmental governance, noted that the poorest of the poor are still excluded from the new knowledge economy and emphasized the need to investigate the impact of information on society.

Sweden, speaking for the European Union, makes a general statement on information and decision-making

Sweden, for the EU, said the accuracy, coherence, cost-effectiveness and accessibility of data available on sustainable development and decision making must be enhanced. He outlined four priority areas and possible recommendations for CSD-9: improve coordination and harmonization of information collection and dissemination about the state and evolution of the environment and societies, and the pressures and potentials of economic and human activities; develop and use sets of indicators for sustainable development to help countries develop their own national sets of indicators; involve actors at various levels in developing legal instruments for access to information, public participation in decision making, and access to justice in environmental matters; and provide an operational environment for an independent, objective media, encourage the media to provide reliable information on sustainable development, and call on the private sector to promote measures for developing country access to sustainable development information.

Norway drew attention to the work of international organizations in streamlining international data collection and called for the development of international standards. He outlined criteria for decision making processes involving the public, including ensuring: public participation during stages when it is possible to influence results; broad sectors of society are able to submit comments; the timeframe accords sufficient time for submitting comments; and authorities are duty bound to consider the comments submitted.

Iran, on behalf of the G-77/China, underscored that: the two main challenges are bridging the data gap within and between countries and improving the availability and access to information; information, as a necessary medium of realizing sustainable development goals should be embodied as a matter of principle; access to information and indicators should be distinguished as separate issues; and government scrutiny is needed on the applicability and development of the indicators. He said developing countries are threatened with further marginalization from the benefits accruing from information technology due to inadequate capacity and infrastructure and noted the need for goodwill in international cooperation.

JoAnne DiSano, Director, Division for Sustainable Development, and Co-Chairs Madina Jarbussynova (Kazakhstan) and Alison Drayton (Guyana)

Describing the evolution of global interest in information for decision making, the UN ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE (UN/ECE) highlighted the Århus Convention, which establishes obligations for public authorities regarding environmental information.

Brazil said bridging the data gap is fundamental and that the real value of information depends on adequate dissemination. She also highlighted common but differentiated responsibilities and the need to take into account national particularities.


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