Earth Negotiations Bulletin

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 A Reporting Service for Environment and Development Negotiations

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Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

Vol. 16 No. 27
Wednesday, 5 February 2003

UNEP GOVERNING COUNCIL HIGHLIGHTS

TUESDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2003

Delegates met in Plenary throughout the day, discussing policy issues, outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), and linkages among environment-related conventions, with a particular focus on chemicals, trade and water issues. The Committee of the Whole (COW) also met in morning and afternoon sessions to consider programmatic, administrative and budgetary matters, the state of the environment, emerging policy issues, and the role of civil society. A drafting committee convened to begin deliberations on various draft decisions, and contact groups met on the budget and chemicals.

PLENARY

WSSD OUTCOMES, POLICY ISSUES, AND LINKAGES: Governing Council President Ruhakana Rugunda indicated that the agenda items on WSSD outcomes, policy issues, and linkages among MEAs would be taken-up together. He asked delegates to focus first on chemicals-related outcomes from the WSSD and on trade and environment issues raised by the Doha Ministerial Declaration.

Chemicals and Trade Issues: Jim Willis, Director of UNEPís Chemicals Programme, reported on its work (UNEP/GC.22/10/ Add.1) and highlighted the focus on issues emphasized at the WSSD. Drawing attention to the chemicals-related draft decisions before the Governing Council (UNEP/GC.22/L.1), he noted that some delegations Ė including the EU, Norway, Switzerland, and US Ė had submitted alternative texts.

Hussein Abaza, Chief of UNEPís Trade Programme, reflected on UNEPís work in this area and on key issues emerging from the WSSD and the fourth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization, held at Doha in November 2001 (UNEP/GC.22/10/ Add.2/Rev.1).

Many delegates congratulated UNEPís Chemicals Programme on its efficiency and the high standard of its work. SWITZERLAND, NEW ZEALAND, and CANADA supported giving the Programme a higher funding priority.

On the global mercury assessment, the EU and NORWAY supported a legally-binding instrument, while CANADA, COLOMBIA, the CZECH REPUBLIC, and MEXICO opposed this.

On trade issues, many Parties supported UNEP having observer status at relevant WTO meetings. The US, AUSTRALIA and others opposed a proposal that UNEP host bi-annual meetings of environment and trade ministers, while EGYPT felt the idea had some merit. The US said capacity building was the best entry point for UNEPís work on trade issues.

On the proposal for an Intergovernmental Panel on Global Environmental Change (IPEC), ETHIOPIA said it could improve efficiency, while JAPAN and MAURITIUS noted their objections to the idea.

Water Issues: In the afternoon, President Rugunda invited delegates to consider implementation of WSSD outcomes in relation to water policy and strategy (UNEP/GC.22/2/Add.3). UNEP Executive Director Klaus TŲpfer drew attention to the Millennium Development Goals, adding that 2003 has been declared the International Year of Freshwater, and that the third World Water Forum will be held in March. Delegates were then briefed by UNEP representatives Salif Diop and Veerle Vandeweerd on UNEPís response to the WSSDís outcomes relating to freshwater, water supply and sanitation, coastal zones and oceans, and small island developing states (SIDS).

In the subsequent discussion, many speakers highlighted the importance of commitments made at the WSSD on water issues. Reflecting on UNEPís water-related activities, MONGOLIA and others expressed support for UNEPís work, and the EU and NEW ZEALAND encouraged strengthening its freshwater efforts. SWITZERLAND, BELGIUM, and the EU endorsed an ecosystem approach, while TURKEY questioned its appropriateness for water management. CANADA supported strengthening implementation of the Global Environment Monitoring Systemís water quality programme.

On other water-related issues, the HOLY SEE said patterns of consumption among the wealthy should be reviewed, and the CZECH REPUBLIC highlighted the problem of flood prevention and control. TURKEY said UNEPís work on dams should be "more balanced" than that of the World Commission on Dams. SPAIN drew attention to the London Convention on Marine Pollution and VENEZUELA underscored the need to view water as a public good. The RAMSAR CONVENTION noted its development of guidelines for integrated coastal zone management and for water management in maintaining wetlands.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

WORK PROGRAMME AND ADMINISTRATIVE AND BUDGETARY MATTERS: Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel presented the major elements of the proposed UNEP budget for 2004-2005 (UNEP/GC.22/6, UNEP/GC.22/6/Add.1 & UNEP/GC.22/7), noting a net increase of US$41.6 million from the 2002-2003 budget. He outlined UNEPís proposed Programme of Work, highlighting seven key areas: assessment and early warning; environmental policy development and law; environmental policy implementation; technology, industry and economics; regional cooperation and representation; environmental conventions; and communications and public information (UNEP/GC.22/6).

In the ensuing discussions, Kakakhel agreed with delegatesí comments on the need to focus on regional implementation. Replying to statements about the priority given by UNEP to WEHAB, he emphasized that WEHAB does not divert funds from UNEPís activities and agreed on the importance of managing its resources efficiently, noting the mechanisms in place to ensure efficiency.

POLICY ISSUES: State of the Environment: Kakakhel outlined policy issues relating to support to Africa, stating that WSSD decisions on regional implementation and the emergence of initiatives such as NEPAD have laid the foundation for UNEP to take greater steps in this area. He then reviewed policy issues concerning the global assessment of the state of the marine environment (UNEP/GC/22/2/Add.5). Referring to the relevant decision of the 21st Governing Council (UNEP/GC/21/13), which launched UNEPís process of marine assessment, he explained that the current draft decision outlines UNEPís follow-up activities. He also reviewed the draft decision on post-conflict environmental assessments (UNEP/GC/22/2/Add.7).

In the ensuring discussion, SYRIA expressed concerns regarding the environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. INDIA, PAKISTAN and INDONESIA questioned the appropriateness of discussions on the Asian Brown Cloud issue, and the US argued against UNEP playing a role in climate change and coral reef initiatives.

Emerging Policy Issues: Kakakhel then introduced draft decisions relating to: the implementation of the outcome of the Global Judges Symposium to promote capacity building among judiciaries; the application of Rio Principle 10 on access to information and legal redress; the legal dimension of sustainable patterns of production and consumption and environmentally and socially responsible behavior; and the status of environment-related conventions and protocols (UNEP/GC/22/3/Add.2).

Role of Civil Society: Kakakhel reviewed draft decisions regarding the engagement and involvement of youth in environmental issues (UNEP/GC/22/3/Add.1) and UNEPís strategy for sport and the environment (UNEP/GC/22/3/Add.3). He also presented UNEPís policy responses on: enhancing civil society engagement in the work of UNEP; strengthening the engagement of business and industry; and UNEPís participation in the work of the GEF. The US, supported by others, urged that no action be taken on civil societyís role until the UN Secretary-Generalís report is completed, and argued that guidelines on civil society participation be based on those used by ECOSOC. Several delegations acknowledged the role of the private sector and the need for partnerships to achieve sustainable development.

Kakakhel also reviewed documentation on UNEPís cooperation with UN-HABITAT and a draft decision on environmental emergency prevention, preparedness, assessment, response and mitigation (UNEP/GC/22/3).

DRAFTING COMMITTEE

On Tuesday morning, Chair Juergen Weerth opened the Drafting Committeeís first session, and introduced draft decisions submitted by the CPR (UNEP/GC.22/L.1). The Committee approved decisions addressing the restructured GEF and the revision of financial rules of the Environment Fund, while a draft decision on the loan from the Environment Fund financial reserve was finalized with minor changes. Draft decisions on long-term strategies for the involvement of young people in environmental issues and for sport and the environment were supported following the inclusion of several minor amendments.

The draft decision on the management of trust funds was approved with the incorporation of a request that the Executive Director propose to the Governing Council at its 23rd session that it reduce the number of trust funds, in order to improve UNEPís efficiency. The draft decision on sustainable development of the Arctic was also approved.

Regarding the draft decision on the World Conservation Monitoring Center (WCMC), a developed country, supported by some developing countries, expressed concern that expanding the Centerís mandate to include policy development would conflict with its current role as a non-biased body. Consideration of the draft was deferred.

Draft decisions on post-conflict environmental assessments and on environment and cultural diversity provoked protracted debate, with both decisions remaining unresolved.

The draft decision on the follow-up to the General Assembly Resolution 57/251 on the Report of GCSS-7 revealed strongly held opposing positions, in particular on the process of consultation on universal membership of the Council, the indicative scale of contributions to the Environment Fund and funding from the UN regular budget. The text underwent heavy editing and will be taken up again.

BUDGET CONTACT GROUP

Contact Group Chair John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) invited questions on the Executive Directorís report on the Environment Fund budgets and the proposed biennial programme and support budget for 2004-2005 (UNEP/GC.22/6). Replying to several developed countries, a UNON representative clarified issues pertaining to: the expected income of UNEP in 2004-2005; the authority of the Executive Director to reallocate resources between programmes; the financial reserve; and the carry-over of resources. Several delegates raised concerns that decisions from parallel meetings would impact on budgetary matters.

On the thematic focus of UNEPÔŅĹs Programme of Work, a developed country proposed numerous deletions relating to UNEPÔŅĹs role in promoting MEA ratification, trade and environment, access and benefit sharing regimes in relation to biodiversity, and the policy integration of the WEHAB agenda, arguing that the proposals were outside UNEPÔŅĹs mandate.

CHEMICALS CONTACT GROUP

In the Chemicals Contact Group, chaired by Halldor Thorgeirsson (Iceland), developed countries emphasized the need for openness and transparency in the strategic approach to international chemicals management, suggesting that key recommendations be drawn from GCSS-7/GMEF-3 and the WSSD outcomes, the Bahia Declaration, and the Steering Committee on the Strategic Approach. Delegates stressed the need for clarity and avoiding duplication of other work in formulating a mercury programme.

IN THE CORRIDORS

According to observers, some delegates "began playing hardball" on Tuesday. As substantive negotiations started in the Drafting Committee, participants noticed strong positions emerging as delegates reopened debates on several draft decisions previously approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives. While at least one diplomat felt the Council may have "bitten off more than it can chew" with its heavy agenda, others were not so sure, noting that at least positions were now becoming clear on potentially thorny issues such as the environment and cultural diversity, and the indicative scale of contributions. Several added that the tough positions taken by negotiators on Tuesday were probably due to an unwillingness to give too much away prior to the arrival of their ministers on Wednesday. They predicted that the situation could well become more settled and "consensus-friendly" as the week progresses.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

MINISTERIAL CONSULTATIONS: The high-level ministerial segment of the meeting begins at 9:00 am in Conference Room 2. The segment will consist of consultations on the implementation of the WSSDÔŅĹs outcomes. In the morning, discussions will focus on sustainable production and consumption, while in the afternoon talks are expected to turn to environment-poverty linkages and UNEPÔŅĹs contribution to the WSSDÔŅĹs biodiversity-related commitments.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE: The COW will convene at 3:00 pm in Conference Room 2. It is expected to resume its consideration of policy issues and the role of civil society.

DRAFTING COMMITTEE: The drafting group is expected to convene at 10:00 am in Room R310 to continue its work on the remaining draft decisions.

CONTACT GROUP ON THE BUDGET: The contact group will reconvene at 11:00 am in Conference Room 7 to begin negotiating the draft decision on the Environment Fund budgets, the proposed biennial programme, and the support budget for 2004-2005. Extensive discussions are expected on the programmeÔŅĹs thematic focus and the subprogramme narratives.

CONTACT GROUP ON CHEMICALS: Delegates will convene at 10:00 am in Room C224, and are expected to consider the global mercury assessment, plans for immediate action at the national level, directions to UNEP on how to proceed, and international initiatives.

This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin ÔŅĹ [email protected] is written and edited by Catherine Ganzleben [email protected], Richard Sherman [email protected], Chris Spence [email protected], Andrey Vavilov [email protected], and Hugh Wilkins [email protected]. The Digital Editor is Leila Mead [email protected]. The Editor is Pamela S. Chasek, Ph.D. [email protected] and the Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James "Kimo" Goree VI [email protected]. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the Swiss Agency for Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL), the United Kingdom (through the Department for International Development - DFID), the European Commission (DG-ENV), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Government of Germany (through German Federal Ministry of Environment - BMU, and the German Federal Ministry of Development Cooperation - BMZ). General Support for the Bulletin during 2003 is provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment of Finland, the Government of Australia, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Environment of Norway, Swan International, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES), the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (through the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute - GISPRI), and the Ministry for Environment of Iceland. Specific funding for coverage of the UNEP Governing Council has been provided by the Governments of Canada (DFAIT and Environment Canada) and the United Kingdom (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - DEFRA). The opinions expressed in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Earth Negotiations Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at [email protected], +1-212-644-0217 or 212 East 47th St.#21F, New York, NY 10017, USA.

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