Curtain raiser



The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development(UNCED) begins officially on Wednesday. The expected outcomes --Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,the Statement on Forest Principles, the Climate Change Conventionand the Biodiversity Convention -- are the results of over twoyears of preparation by the UNCED Preparatory Committee and theIntergovernmental Negotiating Committees for FrameworkConventions on Climate Change and Biodiversity. The PreparatoryCommittee (PrepCom) was created by the UN General Assembly tocarry out the preparatory work and negotiations leading up toUNCED. The PrepCom (composed of approximately 175 nationaldelegations who are participating in UNCED) completed its work on4 April 1992.

PrepCom I was held in August 1990 in Nairobi. At thatmeeting, the agenda and the negotiating procedures were agreedupon. As well, Working Groups I and II were established.Countries also requested UNCED Secretariat to prepare reports onthe various UNCED issues.

PrepCom II, which was held in March 1991 in Geneva, wasdevoted primarily to the review of the Secretariat's reports.Although substantive negotiations did not commence as planned,two important decisions were made: the creation of Working GroupIII and the decision to proceed with a statement on forestprinciples that would serve as the basis for a futureinternational convention.

PrepCom III, which was held in August 1991 in Geneva, sawthe actual start of negotiations. The Secretariat preparedinitial negotiating texts for each Agenda 21 subject area.PrepCom III also addressed the legal and institutional issueswithin the mandate of Working Group III and the cross-sectoralissues under the mandate of the Plenary. These negotiationsresulted in little agreement on most of the text.

PrepCom IV, which was held in March 1992 in New York, wasthe final and most serious negotiating session of the preparatoryprocess. After five weeks of negotiations and the production of24 million pages of documentation, the PrepCom reached agreementon close to 85 percent of Agenda 21. It is, however, theremaining 15 percent that is most problematic. The outstandingcontentious issues to be resolved here in Rio include: thestatement of forest principles; climate change and atmosphericissues; high seas fisheries; biotechnology safety concerns;technology transfer; institutional arrangements; poverty andconsumption; and financial resources. The only unbracketed textsent to Rio from New York is the draft Rio Declaration onEnvironment and Development (formally known as the EarthCharter). The result of long procedural debates and agonizingsubstantive negotiations, the Declaration represents a verydelicate balance of principles considered important by bothdeveloped and developing countries.

Thus, all of the PrepCom's unfinished business has been forwardedto Rio, where what was expected to be a two-week gold-pen cummassive photo opportunity has quickly been transformed into acritical negotiation session.


As the sky brightened over the East River in New York on themorning of 4 April, hundreds of exhausted delegates, NGOs,Secretariat staff and interpreters poured out of the UNHeadquarters after an all-night final session of PrepCom IV.During the period between PrepCom IV and UNCED, there have beenseveral meetings held around the world where decision-makers havegathered to discuss UNCED issues.

EMINENT PERSONS' MEETING ON FINANCING ENVIRONMENT ANDDEVELOPMENT: Former Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshitaand Mr. Gaishi Hiraiwa, Chairman of the Japanese Federation ofEconomic Organizations hosted this meeting of approximately 30eminent policy and financial leaders, including former andcurrent heads of state, on 15-17 April in Tokyo. The meetingproduced a series of recommendations to the governments of theworld on how funding for sustainable development might beincreased to finance implementation of Agenda 21.

SECOND MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ONENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT: The environment and developmentministers from 50 developing countries met in Malaysia from 26-29April. Their final statement, the Kuala Lumpur Declaration,includes a large section dedicated to UNCED. They called fornegotiations on financial resources to resume in Rio withPC/100/L.41/Rev.1 (the G-77 and China text from PrepCom IV). Theyalso stated that negotiations should continue on the forestprinciples document, but that a further legally bindinginstrument "would not be required." They also called for a haltto unreasonable unilateral trade measures, such as bans orrestrictions on the trade in forest products from developingcountries. The statement was significant in that it sent todeveloped countries a strong and unified message of the Southernposition related to key UNCED issues.

THE IMF AND WORLD BANK DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE MEETING: The43rd meeting of the IMF and World Bank Development Committee tookplace in Washington, D.C., in late April, under the chairmanshipof Mr. Alejandro Foxley, Minister of Finance of Chile. In theirfinal communique, the participants addressed a range of topicsincluding debt, trade, the transfer of resources, economies intransition as well as other UNCED issues. This meeting wassignificant as it provided a forum for finance ministers todiscuss the "interaction between environment and developmentpolicies and the preparations for UNCED." They called for areformed GEF to serve as the leading mechanism for new andadditional UNCED funding. As well, they called for a specialsubstantial increase in the form of an "Earth Increment" to thetenth replenishment of the International Development Association(IDA-10) by the end of 1992.

GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL FACILITY (GEF) PARTICIPANTS MEETING:The GEF participants met in early May to discuss the future ofthe GEF and, in particular, changes in GEF principles, governanceand funds management. The GEF is being used as the fundingmechanism for both the Biodiversity and Climate ChangeConventions. The proposals made at this meeting addressed many ofthe UNCED participants' concerns with the GEF, such as costeffectiveness; avoidance of the creation of new institutions;transparency, accountability and flexibility; and democraticdecision making.

OECD COUNCIL MEETING AT THE MINISTERIAL LEVEL: The OECDCouncil met on 18 and 19 May. OECD countries pledged to continuegiving high priority to cooperation with developing countries.Such cooperation will take the form of the following:macro-economic policies conducive to non-inflationary growth;further liberalized access to OECD markets for developing countryproducts; and substantial additional aid efforts including debtrelief and implementation of the ODA target of 0.7 percent. OECDcountries also pledged to cooperate on such fundamental issues asenvironmental protection, population, poverty, education andtechnology cooperation. The OECD statement addresses a number ofthe changes in the North-South relationship that must be made toensure that the goals of sustainable development are met.

EUROPEAN COMMUNITY ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT MINISTERSMEETING: The conclusions of the EC Joint Environment andDevelopment Council meeting held on 5 May include: support forthe Rio Declaration in its current form; a "package" approach tofunding, including a commitment to new and additional resources;commitment to cooperate with developing countries to develop andfacilitate access and transfer of environmentally soundtechnologies on favorable terms, while taking into accountintellectual property rights; support for the forest principlesdocument as a basis for a future global convention; support for aglobal convention on desertification; and reaffirmation of itscommitment to the development of internationally agreedprinciples for safety procedures in a biotechnology convention.

INC FOR A FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE: TheIntergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a FrameworkConvention on Climate Change held its fifth and final meeting inNew York at the end of April. When the INC failed to reachagreement on a number of contentious issues during the first partof its fifth session in February, the session was reconvened atthe end of April. The most contentious issues at that timeincluded: commitment on specific targets and timetables for thereduction of carbon dioxide emissions and financial resources(whether funds will be provided on a voluntary or assessed basisand how the provision of funds will be linked to the commitmentstaken by developing countries).

The convention was finally adopted on 9 May, after chairman JeanRipert of France took it upon himself to draft a compromise text.The convention, which does not include any concrete targets ortimetables, encourages nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissionsto "earlier levels" by the end of the decade and to reportperiodically on their progress. The target of reducing carbondioxide emissions to 1990 levels by the end of the decade, asadvocated by the European Community, has been reduced to avoluntary goal, thus making major concessions to the UnitedStates in order to obtain its approval of the draft. The treatyis expected to be opened for signature on 4 or 5 June here inRio.

INC FOR A FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON BIODIVERSITY:Biodiversity negotiations drew to a close on 22 May in Nairobi.The final draft contains provisions that are intended to ensureeffective international action to curb the destruction ofbiological species, habitats and ecosystems. The most importantprovisions include: the requirement that countries adoptregulations to conserve their biological resources; theimposition of legal responsibility upon nations for theenvironmental impacts of their private companies in othercountries; funding in the amount of US$200 million to beadministered temporarily through the GEF (pending theestablishment of a new institutional structure); technologytransfer on preferential and concessional terms, where suchtransfer does not prejudice intellectual property rights orpatents; regulation of biotechnology firms; access and ownershipof genetic material; and, finally, compensation to developingcountries for extraction of their genetic materials.

Several Northern and Southern countries support the substance ofthe draft. However, to date, France has indicated that it willnot sign the convention in protest of the lack of support forglobal list of biogeographic regions. As well, at this point, itappears likely that neither Japan nor the United States will signthe convention. They argue that many of the substantiveprovisions unduly restrict their biodiversity and pharmaceuticalindustries. Many developing countries remain opposed to the useof the GEF as the funding mechanism for the Convention. Theyargue that a separate fund altogether should be established sincebiodiversity resources are resources within the sovereign controlof the nation of origin, unlike other resources, such as theatmosphere, that is recognized as part of the "global commons".The treaty is expected to be opened for signature on 4 or 5 Junein Rio.


PRE-SESSIONAL CONSULTATIONS: Two days of pre-sessionalconsultations will begin this morning. During theseorganizational meetings, delegates will make important decisionsregarding the structure and the procedural mechanisms of theConference. At the conclusion of these meetings, a set ofrecommendations will be forwarded to the Plenary for adoption on3 June.

One of the first items on the agenda of the pre-sessionalconsultations will be the election of officers, including theChair of the Conference, 39 Vice Chairs, an ex officio Chair andRapporteur. Elections will also be held for Chairman of the MainCommittee and four Vice Chairs, one whom will serve asRapporteur. It is generally accepted that Brazilian PresidentFernando Collor de Mello will be elected as Chair of theConference and will preside over the Plenary. The ex officioChair, who will take over the responsibilities of chairing thePlenary when the Chair is not able to attend, is expected to beBrazilian Foreign Minister Celso Lafer. It is also expected thatTommy T.B. Koh of Singapore will be elected Chair of the MainCommittee.

Other items on the agenda of the organizational meeting includedecisions on the agendas for the Plenary and the Main Committee,the agenda for the Summit portion of the Conference, the adoptionof rules of procedure, and the organization of the MainCommittee. With regard to the Main Committee, one of the issuesto be dealt with is the creation of either formal sub-bodies orinformal contact groups to deal with individual problem areas,including finance, technology transfer, atmosphere, biodiversity,biotechnology and the Statement of Forest Principles. Due to thelack of time, it is most likely that the Chair of the MainCommittee will simply appoint coordinators who will then holdinformal consultations and meetings in an attempt to resolve theoutstanding issues left in bracketed text at PrepCom IV.

ORGANIZATION OF THE CONFERENCE: The Conference itself isto be divided into two main bodies: the Plenary and the MainCommittee. The Plenary will be the site of the opening ceremonyon Wednesday morning and the general debate from 3-11 June. On 12June, the Summit segment of the Conference is expected to begin.At that point, only Heads of State will be allowed to speak inthe Plenary. The Summit will continue on 13 June. If timepermits, the Plenary will adjourn for a roundtable discussionrestricted to Heads of State. On 14 June, the Plenary is expectedto reconvene to adopt the report of the Main Committee and toconduct the closing ceremonies. The Main Committee will be theworking committee of the Conference where negotiations will beconducted on the outstanding items in Agenda 21, the RioDeclaration and the Statement of Forest Principles.


National governments
Negotiating blocs
European Union
Group of 77 and China
Non-state coalitions