Report of main proceedings for 18 April 1996


On the first day of the fourth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development(CSD-4), delegates heard introductory statements at the opening Plenary and a progressreport on the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. They also considered several cross-sectoral issues (technology, education, capacity building, trade, poverty, population,decision-making, institutions, major groups and national reporting) and participated in apanel discussion on education.


Outgoing Chair HENRIQUE CAVALCANTI (Brazil) commented on CSD activities overthe past year and on the contribution of the CSD to the construction of peace andsustainability. He suggested that: the CSD Chair be elected at the end of the annualsession; the CSD Bureau’s mandate be extended to two years; and the Chair serve asVice-Chair during the year prior to serving as Chair.

Delegates then elected RUMEN GECHEV (Bulgaria) as CSD-4 Chair. He noted theimportant role of this session in finalizing the Multi-Year Programme of Work andserving as a bridge to the preparations for the 1997 Special Session of the UN GeneralAssembly (UNGA). He noted the high expectations attached to CSD-4 as demonstratedby: continuing interest at a high political level in the work of the CSD; activeinvolvement of civil society, major groups and NGOs; and strong commitment on behalfof UN institutions. He said that delegates will share their views on implementation ofAgenda 21 during the high-level segment, but noted a consensus that the CSD andUNGA should not attempt to rewrite Agenda 21.

NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and SustainableDevelopment (DPCSD), stressed that this session must mark the beginning ofpreparations for the special session of UNGA, and must raise expectations about whatwill come out of this review. The CSD should address its roles and responsibilities in thecontext of a coordinated follow-up process. The CSD can fill the gaps in the UN systemwhere no single institution has responsibility, such as with fresh water and oceans, andcan also inject an economic sectoral perspective into issues often viewed only asmanagement or environmental problems.

Delegates elected Paul de Jongh (Netherlands), Deputy Director General, Ministry ofHousing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, as a Vice-Chair. The additional bureaumembers will be elected following completion of regional group consultations. Delegatesalso adopted the provisional agenda contained in document E/CN.17/1996/1.

Three working groups will consider draft recommendations and conclusions for CSD-4.The first will consider atmosphere, oceans and seas, and small island developing States(SIDS). The second, finance, consumption and production patterns, transfer oftechnology, trade, poverty and demographics. The third, decision making (Agenda 21chapters 8, 38, 39 and 40) and national reporting.

JOKE WALLER-HUNTER, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development(DPCSD), presented a brief progress report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests(IPF). NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION, on behalf of several US NGOs,encouraged recommendations for action at IPF-3 and cautioned against focusing only onthe timber trade.


The task managers then introduced the Secretary-General’s Reports and documentationrelevant to CSD-4 consideration of several cross-sectoral issues.

UNCTAD introduced the Secretary-General’s report on trade, environment andsustainable development (E/CN.17/1996/8 and Add.1). UNFPA introduced the report ondemographic dynamics (E/CN.17/1996/10 and Add.1). UNESCO introduced the reporton education (E/CN.17/1996/14 and Add.1). UNDP introduced the report on capacitybuilding (E/CN.17/1996/15 and Add.1). JOKE WALLER-HUNTER introduced DPCSD-prepared reports on the following issue areas: combating poverty (E/CN.17/1996/9);integrating environment and development in decision making (E/CN.17/1996/11 andAdd.1); national reporting (E/CN.17/1996/19); roles of major groups (E/CN.17/1996/12and background paper #2); transfer of environmentally sound technology(E/CN.13/1996/13, Add.1 and background paper #5); international legal mechanisms(E/CN.17/1996/17, Add. 1 and background paper #3); information for decision-making(E/CN.17/1996/18 and Add.1); and institutional arrangements (E/CN.17/1996/16).

SWITZERLAND called delegates’ attention to a Swiss publication, “Passport to theFuture,” regarding education. The EU suggested that the CSD could recommend thatStates take into account: establishing programmes to reinforce all groups’ awareness ofsustainable development; promoting increased participation by major groups; developingthe role of national CSDs; encouraging the synergy between different components ofmajor groups; and assisting cooperation between major groups. The NETHERLANDShighlighted a recent expert meeting on National Technological Needs Assessments(NTNAs), which will contribute to the ongoing discussions on technology transfer andcapacity building. The meeting identified the value-added of NTNAs, provided that theyare properly followed-up by capacity-building actions and technology transfer projects.

SWEDEN underlined its commitment to education and described recent nationalinitiatives, such as new national curricula that directly refer to the global approach. Healso looked forward to renewed efforts by UNESCO and others to produce proposals thatwill allow the special session to develop further ideas for sustainable development.CANADA said the CSD should further explore issues germane to poverty andenvironmental degradation, such as the health of the urban poor, environmentalprotection and resource management, afforestation and reforestation, and thedevelopment of sanitary sewage disposal. He urged the CSD to recommend confirmationof the roster status of the CSD NGOs and explicitly invite major groups to participate inthe special session preparations. He said the positive impact of trade liberalizationinitiatives on sustainable development will be maximized if accompanied by appropriateenvironmental policies.

The US called for attention to women and children in studies and measurements ofpoverty. He encouraged NGO and major group involvement, but stated that fundingshould not impose additional demands on the UN budget. CHINA stated that, in the fieldof international trade, countries should consult on an equal footing and should not createbarriers to trade with developing countries. VENEZUELA noted national efforts insupport of Agenda 21, including efforts to increase private enterprise participation andrecycling. The REPUBLIC of KOREA suggested that programmes to combat poverty begeographically and ecologically specific. He noted a recently announced national“environmental vision,” which will include the pursuit of preventive environmentalpolicies.

DENMARK stated that one of the most difficult challenges in national implementationhas been the need to change consumption and production patterns. CUBA noted theimportance of international trade and transfer of science and technology, and stated thatprotectionist policies create impediments for exports from developing countries.

The EU noted priorities for efforts to combat poverty, including basic health services,capacity building and support to women. He stated that the World Summit for SocialDevelopment follow-up should be coordinated by the Commission on SocialDevelopment, and that ECOSOC should consider the division of work between the twocommissions.


Gustavo Lopez Ospina, Director of UNESCO, introduced a panel discussion on the roleof education in sustainable development. The panel was chaired by AleksandraKornhauser (Slovenia), International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, andDirector of the International Center for Chemical Studies, Ljubljana.

Madeleine Kunin, Deputy Secretary of Education, United States, said the issues ofeducation and the environment were fundamental to survival. She welcomed the Delorsreport from the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century andunderlined the need to invest in education in all countries. She reviewed US initiativesincluding the GLOBE project, which involves students, teachers, and scientists in 33countries with 3000 children collecting data related to sustainable development, andcommunicating with each other across the world. Lubomir Nondek, Director ofEnvironmental Strategies, Ministry of Environment, Czech Republic, outlinedrecommendations from an international workshop on public awareness on sustainabledevelopment, including: development of national guidelines for sustainable developmenteducation; government cooperation with major groups on compiling information; and arole for UN agencies and NGOs in disseminating ideas.

Margarita Botero, Former Director General for the Environment, Colombia, and memberof the Brundtland Commission, said the most critical issues facing humanity today wereborn of a crisis in values and posed questions about the kind of society we haveconstructed. She noted that education would be a key response and that not all currentfacts and concepts will remain valid in the new century. A new recognition of theimportance of values in education will be required. She cited the Commission’s concernwith the persistent inequalities in access to education and called for a democratization ofknowledge. Aleksandra Kornhauser introduced the findings of the InternationalCommission on Education for the 21st Century. The Commission adopted a concept ofdevelopment based on quality requiring a combination of knowledge and values in thepursuit of wisdom. The 21st century will be one of quality: wealth and productivity willhave to be redefined. This will be made possible if life-long education is understood as amajor force for socio-economic development, a human need and human right.

A youth representative highlighted the role of young people in disseminating theknowledge passed on to them by their teachers. An example of peer education in Indiawas outlined. The UN Environment and Development-UK Committee supported aproposal for a major program of work by governments, major groups, educators and theUN system, with the title “Education 21,” linked to Agenda 21.


A progress report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) was presented duringday one of CSD-4. Privately, delegates and observers noted that much was left unsaidabout the IPF process, with many expressing disappointment at progress made during therecent IPF-2 meeting in Geneva. While some preferred that IPF-3 address its terms ofreference in the broadest manner to include such issues as forest management andunderlying causes of deforestation, others noted that doing so would ensure that thePanel’s work would not be completed by its fourth session. Additionally, some delegates admitted frustration with a perceived unwillingness to subject temperate and borealforests to the same level of scrutiny as tropical forests. While CSD-4 will not beconsidering forests, these delegates felt that the IPF is the beginning of a long process ofnegotiation in which CSD-5, during its review of the Forest Principles under Agenda 21,will play a key role in assigning responsibility for further discussion of this issue.


PLENARY: The Plenary will continue its discussion of Agenda Items 3 and 5(cross-sectoral issues) during morning and afternoon sessions in Conference Room 1.

Further information


Negotiating blocs
European Union
Small Island Developing States
Non-state coalitions