Report of main proceedings for 19 April 1996

CSD-4

Delegates to the fourth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-4)completed their discussion on cross-sectoral issues not dealt with by the Ad HocWorking Groups (technology, education, capacity building, trade, poverty, population,decision-making, institutions, major groups and national reporting). During the afternoonsession, delegates elected Daudi Ngelautwa Mwakawago (Tanzania), Adam Vai Delaney(Papua New Guinea) and Enrique Provencio (Mexico) to the Bureau.

CROSS-SECTORAL ISSUES

The CZECH REPUBLIC outlined findings from the Prague Workshop on Education andPublic Awareness for Sustainable Development. Awareness of sustainable development isstill limited. Education for sustainable development should incorporate the needs ofminority groups, and indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge should berecognized as a valuable resource. He stated that indicators are a powerful informationtool for identifying sustainability changes and trends. He noted that there is no generalconsensus on a clear, workable definition of sustainable development, in part because it isa dynamic process.

The EU stressed the need to address population, consumption and production patterns, foodpolicy, and widespread poverty and inequality to achieve sustainability. He called forinternational cooperation on the ICPD Program of Action, notably on access to andutilization of reproductive health services. More attention should be given to the delicatebalance between individual rights and common responsibilities. INDIA said the 1997Special Session of the General Assembly should focus on Agenda 21 implementation. Hehighlighted poverty eradication, resource use, and the unsustainable patterns of productionand consumption in developed countries, and outlined India’s national plan to integrateenvironmental decision making in all ministries.

AUSTRALIA noted that CSD should consider environmental, economic and social aspectsof development as a complete package. She also welcomed the focus of CSD-4 on theBarbados Programme of Action on SIDS, and did not support an intergovernmental processto develop non-binding guidelines on the use of trade measures in MultilateralEnvironmental Agreements (MEAs). SWITZERLAND drew attention to a recent report onthe transfer of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs), and noted that commercialpolicies and action to protect the environment can reinforce one another. He noted thatvoluntary labeling programmes can have a positive effect, but must also serve otherconsumer goals. The UK said that the CSD should take the political lead on key sustainabledevelopment issues, and cautioned against attempts to cover too much ground. The HighLevel Segment will look ahead to the Special Session and should identify a small numberof high profile issues. He asked that the CSD give further consideration to simplifying thereporting process.

MEXICO stressed the importance of fighting poverty in strategies for sustainabledevelopment. He noted the need for sustainable economic growth that encourages links tosustainable development and implementation of the commitments from Rio. He also statedthat environmental protection should not be a pretext to conceal protectionist policies.COLOMBIA agreed there should be no question of re-writing Agenda 21 commitments atthe Special Session of the UNGA in 1997. On poverty eradication, he called for a balancebetween economic, social and environmental aspects and noted slow progress in theimplementation of chapters 23 (major groups) and 24 (women) of Agenda 21 and set backsregarding financial resources. He also noted that, in regard to changing consumer patterns,environmental standards should depend on the exporting country’s standards.

SWEDEN underlined the importance of efforts made by local authorities. He noted theneed for clearer policy signals, cooperation and information from central levels ofgovernment. He noted that Habitat II will meet in June on the same dates that Rio met in1992. JAPAN described a workshop on indicators of sustainable development (ISDs),which it sponsored in February to consider improvements in methodology sheets.Governments were invited to conduct pilot tests. The Workshop identified gaps, includingguidance on sub-national data, e.g. institutional indicators for capacity building, keyindicators for national decision making and linkages between different indicators.

The US noted its submission to the CSD of its National Environmental TechnologyStrategy, and described a nascent process of developing federal and local ISDs. Hesupported a strengthened and broadened institutional CSD role as a “main commission” forECOSOC, and proposed that it move to Geneva after 1997 to facilitate inter-agencyinteraction. He raised concerns about the Secretariat’s paper on trade, and expresseddisappointment that the UNCTAD Secretariat had chosen to press its own views. He notedweaknesses in the depiction of ongoing key discussions MEAs.

The EU stated that the international community has a responsibility in promoting specialcoordinated efforts to assist developing countries in their capacity building efforts. Donorcountries’ development agencies should readjust to the need to foster capacity building byimproving their own skills in institutional and capacity analysis. The NATURALRESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL presented a report containing 65 country reports onthe actions taken to implement the ICPD. The survey documents significant progress onimplementation worldwide, but notes that less than one-fifth of the reports reflectministerial or high-level governmental consideration of implementation.

COSTA RICA, on behalf of the G-77/CHINA, emphasized the critical importance ofimplementation and follow-up measures to the Rio conference. He said that the transfer ofESTs should be on preferential and concessional terms, guarantee appropriate financialmeans and include expertise and training. Trade liberalization will assist societies inraising money to meet environmental needs. Environmental standards should not beimposed but adopted according to the economic needs of each country.

The EU supported international, preferably regional, mechanisms to exchange experiencesin public awareness strategies. He stated that sustainable development education shouldencompass social, economic and environmental aspects and develop interlinkages betweenthem. He also proposed a programme of work for the CSD on education. Regardinginformation for decision-making, he emphasized indicators and stated that the CSD-3 workprogramme on indicators will have a significant impact on the process of monitoringprogress achieved since UNCED. Regarding institutional arrangements, he suggested thatthe institutional implications for forging new alliances for sustainable development beexamined in the course of the preparatory work for the Special Session.

GERMANY presented the report of the Scientific Workshop on Indicators of SustainableDevelopment, held 15-17 November in Wuppertal, Germany. She stated that policy makerscannot wait for a perfect ISD system and called for testing of ISDs on a voluntary basis toincorporate this experience into the process of refining ISDs. BRAZIL highlighted transferof ESTs and trade. He noted that: technical cooperation involves governments as well asthe private sector; MEAs should act as instruments to facilitate EST transfer;environmental policies should enhance competitiveness; technology transfer is the mosteffective way to achieve environmental objectives; and UNCTAD-9 should reaffirmUNCTAD's special role in trade and environment.

MALAYSIA focused on trade liberalization and distorting practices, cautioning againstunilateral trade sanctions. He stated that poverty is the major contributor to environmentaldegradation. He also highlighted the importance of access to ESTs in the public domain, aswell as facilitating this through innovative legislative and market mechanisms. JAPANstated that economic and environmental performance should not be incompatible. Herecalled the recommendations of CSD-3 to study the environmental impact of tradepolicies, capacity building, and the internalization of environmental costs in developingcountries.

The PHILIPPINES highlighted the importance of education in achieving sustainabledevelopment goals. The EU described integrating environment and development indecision-making through the following means: market based instruments; environmentaldimensions of law making; raising public awareness; and enhanced international action. Hestated that the Secretary-General’s report overemphasizes legal aspects of integrateddecision-making, while neglecting economic aspects. He also highlighted the key role ofinternational law.

The EUROPEAN COMMUNITY elaborated upon trade liberalization and environmentalprotection, stating that: they should be mutually supportive; environmental policy shouldnot be detrimental to competitiveness; both “eco-duties” and unilateral trade actions shouldbe avoided; the WTO Committee on Trade and the Environment (CTE) should invitegreater input from NGOs; and current discussions should lead to rapid practicaldevelopments.

OECD presented a 1996 progress report on the implementation of Agenda 21, whichdetails the OECD activities pertinent to the CSD-4 agenda. It addresses cross-cuttingissues and sectoral issues, and includes an Annex describing OECD’s contributions to thepost-Rio conventions. INDONESIA asked whether trade and environment issues wereincluded in the agenda as an attempt to justify trade barriers. He said the CSD must send aclear message against unilateral and discriminatory measures, and noted that somecountries would keep developing countries from benefiting from the fruits of liberalizedtrade. CUBA has been developing an alternative approach to economic and socialdevelopment, which will help improve understanding of the role of the environment. Hiscountry is incorporating environmental issues into its educational system and strengtheningenvironmental training at university level. UNEP presented a survey on environmentaltechnology, which was carried out through an extensive survey of 400 institutions and ninein-depth case studies. The survey represents a first step in environmental technologynetworking and proposes an informal network of institutions.

IUCN proposed an international strategic alliance between a number of UN agencies andinternational NGOs, and suggested that the group’s work programme could include supportfor the development and implementation of national action plans.

IN THE CORRIDORS

The chair of the Ad Hoc Group on oceans-related issues, Svante Bodin, isconducting informal consultations. Some expect that these consultations will resolve manyrelated disagreements before they go to the drafting group. NGOs have expressed concernthat this process is excluding their input and limiting their ability to influence the agreementwith regard to issues they are following, such as by-catch, subsidies and overcapitalizationof fishing fleets. In addition to oceans issues, participants have been anticipating debatingpoints on finance and trade issues.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: The Plenary will meet in Conference Room 1 during the morning tohear a report on the Ad Hoc Working Group on finance and changing consumptionand production patterns, presented by the Chair, Dr. Lin See-Yan (Malaysia). A discussionwill follow, and continue during an afternoon meeting.

PANEL ON FINANCE: Dr. Lin See-Yan will chair the panel on finance, whichwill meet from 4:00 to 6:00 pm in Conference Room 1.

NGO MEETING: Elizabeth Dowdeswell will meet with NGOs in ConferenceRoom 8 from 10:00 to 11:30 am to discuss environmental citizenship and ways that UNEPcan work with the NGO community.

Further information

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