Report of main proceedings for 15 June 1993
At the beginning of the morning session, Amb. Razali announced thepassing of Amb. Hamadi Khouini, the Permanent Representative ofTunisia to the UN and Vice Chair of the CSD. Razali noted thatKhouini was a man of great energy and strong spirit and a strongfaith and that he made many things happen in the United Nations.The Tunisian representative thanked all delegations for theirexpressions of condolences and sympathy.
EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21 AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL
Most of the discussion on Agenda Item 4 focussed on documentE/CN.17/1993/L.3, a draft decision prepared by the Chair on"Guidelines to the Secretariat for organizing information providedby governments on issues related to the implementation of Agenda21."
Colombia, on behalf of the G-77, made some general pointsincluding: information provided by the governments should bevoluntary and the guidelines for the Secretariat are relevant anduseful. Colombia remarked that other points would be taken up laterafter the G-77 developed a more specific position. Razali agreedthat the paper works on the basis of voluntary reporting, thatthere is no attempt to have individual reports examined, no attemptto make comparisons, and countries are not expected to submitvoluminous documents. Venezuela thought that the guidelines shouldcover questions with a view to organizing information provided bygovernments. Paragraph 1 should include the word "voluntarily"after the phrase "information provided." Venezuela stressed that alinkage between trade and the environment be included in governmentreports. A sub-paragraph should include language about the impacton national economies and development of protectionistenvironmental measures. Venezuela also disagreed with the 3-monthreporting period.
Australia stated that a culture of reporting must evolve over timeand there will have to be identifiable benefits for the countriesproviding the information. Requirements should be flexible andreports should be relevant to the Agenda 21 clusters to bediscussed in a particular year. This information should berequested in the form of a questionnaire. Australia supportedVenezuela's suggestion for a reference to protectionist tradepractices. As for the proposal that the Secretary-General shouldpresent two reports, Australia suggested the preparation of onereport having three headings: national priorities, progress inachieving them, and problems encountered.
China thought that the exchange of information was important andthat reports could assess the main problems and contradictions inthe implementation of Agenda 21 and that countries would learn fromdialogue and mutual example. Saudi Arabia agreed that reports mustbe voluntary. This is one way of assessing how sustainabledevelopment is being accomplished. There should be less text andmore numbers in the use of statistical format. Indicators should bedeveloped that are realistic, easy and understandable. The CSDshould lead coordination of efforts already underway by the UNEPGoverning Council and the WMO in developing environmentalindicators. Pakistan said that the objective of national reportingis not to see detailed scrutiny in every area of Agenda 21, but toreport on implementation activities. Reports should be standardizedand broad enough to include a variety of areas, and should treatpoverty alleviation, consumption patterns, trade issues, andfinancial resources. Some type of funding should be provided tohelp developing countries prepare reports.
Iceland, speaking on behalf of the Nordics, said that nationalreports should be limited to the clusters of the multi-yearprogramme being discussed at each session, with reports as briefand concise as possible. The CSD should benefit from the work ofthe OECD in the area of environment and development indicators.Guidelines should accomplish two objectives: provide a standardizedpresentation of national reports and define for each cluster thecontent, timing and precision of the information. The United Statessupported Australia in endorsing a process beneficial toparticipants. The US suggested distributing questionnaires ninemonths ahead of time so that reports could be finished six monthsin advance of each meeting. New Zealand saw the benefits of astandardized format and stated that reports should emphasizeself-monitoring and evaluation rather than preparation for externaluse. All major sectors should help in preparation.
The Russian Federation stated that Rio showed that globalpartnership is not only North-South but East-West. The process ofmutual information sharing and reporting should be both pragmaticand secure possibilities for corrective action. He supportedAustralia's ideas on a single report. Egypt said that reportingshould assist the CSD in reviewing progress on Agenda 21.Guidelines are given to the Secretariat and not to the governmentson how to collect the information. An executive summary of 3-5pages would highlight important activities. India said that therewas need for statistical indicators for sustainable development.
Brazil expressed concern about the discussion as a whole. Hereminded the Commission that yesterday the Chair cut shortdiscussion of the timing of the high-level segment as that had beendecided at the organizational session. However, this agenda itemwas also addressed at the organizational session. He stated thatthis discussion was a waste of time, given the heavy agenda. azaliresponded that he was sure that Brazil did not mean to say that theefforts of delegations so far have been a waste of time.
Switzerland stated that the experience gained during UNCEDdemonstrated that little use can be made of large amounts ofinformation. He suggested some comparability of data and monitoringat the international level; a framework to respond to the clustersto be covered each year; a peer review process to provide anefficient instrument for national reporting; and the establishmentof a set of indicators, possibly under the work of the high leveladvisory board. Denmark, on behalf of the EC, stressed that the CSDand reporting on the implementation of Agenda 21 is a gradual,evolving process and there is a need to maintain sufficientflexibility. In paragraph 8, Denmark suggested that the Secretariat"should" send questionnaires to Governments at least six monthsprior to the CSD meeting, and in paragraph 9 it was suggested thatthree months may not be enough time to allow the Secretariat toprepare the documentation.
The Philippines welcomed the free, voluntary and spontaneousexchanges of information but does not want to be constrained byobligatory reports that will be inspected. He urged more financialand technical support for the preparation of reports. Mexico warnedagainst a situation where governments would have to establishbureaucratic bodies to prepare the reports. He also expressedconcern about the time-frame for preparing reports and the workloadinvolved. Austria supported comments made by Australia and Egyptthat the Secretariat should only have to prepare one reportencompassing both the overview and thematic reports. She emphasizedthe importance of sharing information on national-levelimplementation of Agenda 21, particularly on what has worked andwhy, and solutions to what has not worked, so mistakes will not berepeated in different parts of the world. She also was concernedabout the three month preparation time.
Japan welcomed the Secretariat's documents, especially the need fora standardized format for national reports. He stressed theimportance of the quality of information provided in nationalreports and the need to encourage governments to provide thisinformation. Poland agreed on the voluntary nature of brief andconcise reports and encouraged governments to prepare them. Theimportant element is comparability. Poland agreed with previousdelegations that the Secretariat should produce one report devotedto the analysis of main problems and constraints of regions.Romania supported: analyzing the implementation of Agenda 21 at theregional and international levels; a standard format for reportingto ensure comparability; reports that are simple and effective andfocussed on activities, not statistics; and reports that refer tothe cross-sectoral nature of Agenda 21.
Malaysia supported flexibility, concrete proposals andcomparability of data, and associated itself with Venezuela'sproposal on the economic impacts of environmental protectionmeasures, Pakistan's comments on the cost of national reports,Saudi Arabia's proposal on indicators and Egypt's proposal forexecutive summaries. Morocco stated that governments should be freeto submit reports in the format that they decide. The preparationof reports is an enormous task for a developing country to carryout annually. The Republic of Korea said that governments shoulddetermine both the information provided and the format of nationalreports. Governments should be encouraged to provide information onclusters not being discussed in a certain year, and the Secretariatshould only have to prepare a single report.
Algeria supported flexible and voluntary reporting, but warned thathuman and financial constraints may prevent developing countriesfrom preparing the reports. Vanuatu expressed concern about theburden of preparing national reports and supported Australia'ssuggestions with respect to consolidating the Secretariat'sreports. Bolivia stated that the Chair's proposal focussed too muchon what information governments should provide. Some mechanismsshould be developed for including reports from internationalfinancial institutions, the UN system and other relevant subsidiarybodies of ECOSOC. France supported the idea of sustainabledevelopment indicators and suggested that both the CSD and the highlevel advisory board should contribute to the choice of indicators.
Uruguay said that there is a need to incorporate people involved insustainable development in the preparation of national reports;indicators must deal with the dynamics of the process; andparagraphs 3 and 5 should reference national and local programmesof action. In the final intervention on agenda item 4, JackieRoddick, an NGO representative from Scotland, spoke on behalf ofNorthern and Southern NGOs. She said that NGOs regard the reportingprocess as crucial. Governments should report on the participatoryprocess and include reports on NGOs and major groups in officialdocuments. Many NGOs support the use of indicators and targets butexpress caution in relying on them as data are only as reliable asthe scientists who collect them and the way in which they arecollected. Bad data leads to bad decisions. She also stated thatthe social context of sustainability must be kept in view.
IN THE CORRIDORS
One topic of conversation in the corridors is intersessionalactivities related to the work of the CSD. Many feel that theCommission's influence and effectiveness will be extremely limitedsince it only meets up to the three weeks per year. Severalproblems are associated with intersessional meetings, includingbudgetary implications, mechanisms, membership and venue. The G-77has historically opposed intersessional meetings, fearing that theymay foster limited participation. Some observers have said thismight be overcome if resources were made available for developingcountry attendance. Another issue is whether these meetings wouldbe inter-governmental or if participation were to include experts,NGOs and agencies. One possibility is that Razali might nameintersessional issue coordinators who would organize discussionsaround the upcoming cluster topics in cooperation with the CSDSecretariat. This idea builds on the suggestion in the Secretariatdocument on finance for the establishment of ad hoc groups to studythe adequacy of financial flows for the upcoming clusters. Anotheridea is to hold roundtables, possibly organized by outsideinstitutions, that would provide input to the Secretariat on theupcoming work programme.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: Discussion will begin this morning on Agenda Item7 and documents E/CN.17/1993/11 and Add. 1, addressing financialcommitments, financial flows and arrangements for theimplementation of Agenda 21.
THE WORKING GROUPS: Look for an announcement today on theChairs of the two working groups. Indications yesterday were thatGhazi Jomaa of Tunisia would take responsibility for Working GroupI, which will deal with the multi-year programme of work, issuesrelating to the future work of the CSD and national reporting.Arthur Campeau of Canada will probably chair Working Group IIdiscussions on technology transfer, financial commitments, flowsand arrangements, and progress in the incorporation of UNCEDrecommendations in the activities of international organizations.If the room and interpreters are available, one working group at atime will meet concurrently with the Plenary beginning Thursday.
NGO ACTIVITIES: The Women's Caucus will meet at 8:30 am inConference Room A, followed by the NGO Strategy Session at 9:30 amin Conference Room B. Regional and group caucuses in ConferenceRoom A or B include: Working Group on Agenda Item 6: Transfer ofTechnology, Cooperation and Capacity-Building (11:00 am); Businessand Industry (12:30 pm); Indigenous Peoples (1:00 pm); Financingand Economics (1:00 pm); International Task Group on Legal andInstitutional Issues on Agenda item 5 (2:00 pm); Working Group onFinance (2:00 pm); Southern NGO Caucus (3:00 pm); EuropeanCommunity and Nordic Regional Caucus (3:00 pm); OECD CountriesRegional Caucus (3:30 pm). The US Delegation Dialogue with US NGOswill be held in the Tillman Chapel, 1st floor, Church Center (1:00pm). The Youth Caucus will meet in the Church Center, 11th FloorHardin Room (4:00 pm). The NGO/Government dialogue will be held inConference Room 4 at 6:00 pm, followed by the NGO Plenary, at 7:00pm.