Curtain raiser



The idea of a Commission on Sustainable Development emerged fromwithin the negotiating chambers at UN Headquarters just over oneyear ago at UNCED PrepCom IV. While most of Chapter 38 of Agenda 21went "unbracketed" to Rio, the PrepCom forwarded two options forthe international institutional follow-up to UNCED: 1) a high-levelCommission on Sustainable Development that would report to theGeneral Assembly on matters of substance and to ECOSOC on mattersof coordination; or 2) the use of a revitalized ECOSOC with asubsidiary mechanism such as a third sessional committee or theutilization of its high-level coordination segments. During UNCED,in meetings of the contact group on institutions led by Amb. RazaliIsmail of Malaysia, a compromise was reached that called for theestablishment of a high-level Commission on Sustainable Developmentthat would be a functional commission of ECOSOC. The compromisetext also recommended that the 47th session of the General Assemblytake the decisions on the specific organizational modalities of theCommission, including the number of members and matters related tothe frequency, venue and duration of meetings.

During the 47th Session of the General Assembly (GA) the SecondCommittee decided to establish a special ad-hoc working group underthe guidance of Amb. Razali to deal with the list of specificrecommendations made by UNCED to be considered by the GA, includingthe establishment of the Commission on Sustainable Development.After one month of intense negotiations, the group negotiated a34-paragraph resolution that set out the terms of reference of theCommission, its composition, the participation of NGOs, theorganization of work, the CSD's relationship with other UN bodies,the high-level advisory board and Secretariat- supportarrangements.

This resolution, A/RES/47/191 "Institutional arrangements to followup the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,"was adopted by the General Assembly on 23 December 1992. In thisresolution the GA requested that the Economic and Social Council,at its organizational session in 1993, set up the CSD as afunctional commission and that the Secretary-General submit to the1993 ECOSOC organizational session his proposals on the rules ofprocedure applicable to the Commission. The resolution alsorecommended that the Commission hold a short organizational sessionin New York to establish the Bureau and decide on the agenda forits first substantive session. It also called on theSecretary-General to establish, within the new Department forPolicy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD), aSecretariat to provide support to the CSD.

The ECOSOC organizational session, which was supposed to meet from2-5 February, ended up lasting for two weeks. The ECOSOCnegotiations on the CSD took much longer than anticipated to reachagreement on the procedural arrangements for the participation ofthe European Economic Community. ECOSOC was able to take fourdecisions related to the CSD that: 1) established the CSD; calledfor election of the 53 members to be held on 16 February; set thedates for the organizational and first substantive session, andagreed on the provisional agenda for the organizational session; 2)established the rules of procedure for the CSD as a functionalcommission of ECOSOC, including supplementary arrangementsregarding the participation of specialized agencies, IGOs and NGOs;3) decided to conduct a review of current arrangements forconsultations with NGOs; and 4) requested that the regionaleconomic commissions submit reports to the CSD by 1994 on theirplans to implement Agenda 21.

The CSD held its organizational session from 24-26 February 1993 atUN Headquarters in New York where the members elected the Chair andother members of the Bureau; discussed the provisional agenda andorganization of work of the Commission at its first substantivesession; and approved an outline of a multi-year thematic programmeof work. Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia was elected the firstChair of the Commission. The Commission also elected the other fourmembers of the Bureau who will serve as Vice-Chairs and Rapporteur:Rodney Williams, Antigua and Barbuda's Minister for EconomicDevelopment, Tourism, Industry (and Environment); Hamadi Khouini,Tunisia's Ambassador to the UN; Bedrich Moldan, Director of theCharles University Centre for Environmental Scholarship andformerly of the Czech Ministry of the Environment; and ArthurCampeau, Canada's Ambassador for Environment and SustainableDevelopment.

The organizational session adopted three decisions. The first isthe provisional agenda of the first substantive session. The secondis a series of decisions relating to the future work of theCommission. These include: the Commission will establish informalnegotiating groups as needed at each session; the Commission willdecide which reports it will consider when preparing the agendasfor future meetings and how it will consider contributions fromentities outside the UN system, including NGOs; and the Commissionrequested the Chair to hold informal consultations on its work.These consultations took place in late March and were chaired byCSD Vice-Chair Hamadi Khouini. The last decision recommended aclustering of Agenda 21 chapters as the basis for the multi-yearthematic programme of work of the Commission.


The following documents have been prepared by the Secretariat forthe first session of the CSD:

E/CN.17/1993/4: Adoption of the agenda and otherorganizational matters. This document contains the agenda andthe organization of work for this session of the CSD.

E/CN.17/1993/5: Adoption of a multi-year thematicprogramme of work. The proposed programme of work through 1997is as follows: In each of the years from 1994-1996, the followingfive cross-sectoral clusters will be reviewed: A. Critical elementsof sustainability; B. Financial resources and mechanisms; C.Education, science, transfer of environmentally sound technologies,cooperation and capacity-building; D. Decision-making structures;and E. Roles of major groups. In each year particular emphasis willbe on different chapters of Agenda 21 within each of thecross-sectoral clusters. The sectoral clusters will be reviewed inthree phases, as follows: 1994: F. Health, human settlements andfreshwater, and I. Toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes; 1995: G.Land, desertification, forests and biodiversity; and 1996: H.Atmosphere, oceans and all kinds of seas. The 1997 session willhave an overall review and appraisal of Agenda 21 in preparationfor that year's special session of the General Assembly, asenvisaged in resolution 47/190.

E/CN.17/1993/6: Guidelines to the Secretariat for organizinginformation provided by governments. Experience gained from theUNCED process showed that the one-year period provided forpreparation of national reports based on suggested guidelines wasinsufficient. Format and size varied, and it was hard to extractinformation and be uniform in the analysis. The Secretary-Generalhas recommended that it would be useful for governments to followsome standardized format in preparing their reports/communicationsfor the Commission, including: it must be in one of the official UNlanguages, not exceed 50 pages, refer to specific facts and datathat would reflect improvements or degradation of situations, andbe submitted to the Secretariat at least three months prior to thestart of the CSD session.

E/CN.17/1993/7: Ways in which the UN system and bilateraldonors are assisting in the preparation of national reports.All UNDP Resident Representatives were asked to provide specificinformation and by the end of May, responses from 110 countrieswere received through UNDP field offices. In at least 70 countries,national coordinating committees have been established to addressUNCED decisions. In 76 countries, new projects to follow-up UNCEDhave been developed; however, it is unclear as to how many of these"new" projects are really continuations of earlier projects. UNDPhas been asked by more than 40 countries for assistance inpreparing National Agenda 21's.

E/CN/17/1993/8: Progress in the incorporation of UNCEDrecommendations in the activities of internationalorganizations. This report, prepared on the basis of inputsreceived from agencies and programmes of the UN system, coversmajor areas of activities related to the implementation of Agenda21, as well as new initiatives and processes launched within the UNsystem to implement the results of UNCED and incorporatesustainable development principles at all programme levels. Theinformation is organized along the clusters of chapters of Agenda21.

E/CN.17/1993/9: Improving coordination of programmesrelated to development data in the UN system. This documentoutlines current and prospective UN activities relevant to therecommendations of Chapter 40 of Agenda 21. The first sectiondescribes the nature of a possible "Development Watch" and thesecond section describes UNSTAT's proposals for integratedaccounting and indicators of sustainable development.

E/CN.17/1993/10: Transfer of environmentally-soundtechnology. This report provides background information and aframework for the CSD's consideration of Chapter 34 of Agenda 21.It highlights activities undertaken by UNDP and UNEP and other UNorgans, national governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOsand the private sector on the transfer of environmentally-soundtechnologies, cooperation and capacity building. The document alsolists a number of activities that the CSD may want to consider.

E/CN.17/1993/11: Initial financial commitments. Theimplementation of Agenda 21 requires the provision to developingcountries of new and additional financial resources. This documentprovides information on initial financial commitments, financialflows and arrangements to give effect to the decisions of UNCEDfrom all available funding sources and mechanisms. The reportanalyzes the agreement for the 10th replenishment of the IDA,discusses various issues related to the GEF and its restructuringand replenishment, and addresses recent developments with regard toenhancing the flows of official and private capital to developingcountries anddebt relief.

E/CN.17/1993/12: Issues to be addressed during thehigh-level meeting. This document suggests that the high-levelmeeting could focus on the following themes: critical dimensions ofsustainability; national implementation and decision-makingstructures; financial resources; technology transfer; and UN systemimplementation. In addition, the high-level meeting may want toconsider specific initiatives in some of the areas dealt with inAgenda 21 in order to give practical expression to principles ofpartnership between countries and between governments and NGOs thatunderlie Agenda 21.

E/CN.17/1993/13: Information provided by the Trade andDevelopment Board of the UNCTAD on the implementation of Agenda21. This document reports on the plans of the Trade andDevelopment Board to implement Agenda 21 within its mandate. Itincludes decision 402 entitled "Sustainable development" adopted bythe Board at the second part of its 39th session in March 1993.


OPENING SESSION: The first session of the Commission onSustainable Development will begin this morning with a series ofwelcoming remarks. The Chair, Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia,will open the session, followed by Under-Secretary-General forPolicy Coordination and Sustainable Development Nitin Desai, whowill welcome delegates on behalf of UN Secretary-General BoutrosBoutros-Ghali. There will also be a message from the Braziliangovernment on the first anniversary of the end of the UN Conferenceon Environment and Development. The final speech of the morningwill be made by US Vice President Al Gore.

PLENARY: At 3:00 pm the Commission will begin to address thesubstantive items on the agenda. The first item is adoption of theagenda and other organizational matters, as contained in documentE/CN.17/1993/4. The second item on the agenda is the adoption of amulti-year thematic programme of work for the Commission(E/CN.17/1993/5). At its organizational session in February 1993,the CSD requested the Secretary-General to prepare a draftprogramme for consideration and adoption by the Commission at itsfirst session, taking into account comments and views expressedduring the organizational session.

The third item on this afternoon's agenda will be issues relatingto the future work of the Commission. At its organizationalsession, the Commission decided that at each session it woulddetermine the need for and the number of informal negotiatinggroups, as well as the need for other specific sessionalarrangements for its work. It is likely that the Chair will proposethe establishment of two working groups, one of which may coveragenda items 2, 3 and 4 (multi-year programme of work, issuesrelating to the future work of the Commission and exchange ofinformation regarding the implementation of Agenda 21 at thenational level) and the other may cover agenda items 5, 6 and 7(progress in the incorporation of recommendations of UNCED in theactivities of international organizations; progress achieved infacilitating and promoting the transfer of environmentally soundtechnology, cooperation and capacity building; and initialfinancial commitments, financial flows and arrangements).


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