Daily report for 2 June 1992



UNCED Pre-Conference Consultations got off to a slow startyesterday. The formal meeting was scheduled to resume at 3:00 pm.,after regional group meetings and informal consultations. However,it was 4:30 pm before the Chairman, Brazilian Foreign MinisterCelso Lafer, convened the meeting.

The regional groups held meetings Monday afternoon and Tuesdaymorning to address a variety of issues including the nomination ofVice Presidents for the Plenary and the Main Committee as well asthe selection of "Friends of the Rapporteur-General" of thePlenary. Each of the five regional groups were asked to select two"Friends." The African Group also had to decide on its nominationsfor Vice Presidents of the Plenary, since on Monday it had tabled12 nominations for its 11 seats. The Asian Group had to resolve asimilar problem as it, too, had tabled more nominations thanallotted seats.

Lafer convened "Friends of the Chair" meetings on Monday andTuesday with the heads of the regional groups. On Monday night,they agreed on several matters related to the Summit portion of theConference. Speeches by the Heads of State or Government during theSummit will be limited to 7 minutes. The additional time allottedfor speeches (from 5 to 7 minutes) thus requires a change in theSummit timetable. On 12 June, the meeting will start earlier, at9:00 am, and end later, at 6:00 or 7:00 pm. On 13 June the speecheswill also begin at 9:00 am but will end at 5:00 pm so that theHeads of State or Government can hold a one-hour roundtablediscussion. During this discussion, statements will be made by theUnited Nations Secretary-General, the Secretary-General of theConference, and one representative from each of the five regionalgroups. The meeting will conclude with a statement from thePresident of the Conference, Brazilian president Fernando Collor deMello. Several changes in protocol related to the introduction andtiming of the Heads of State or Government will be required. Forexample, it is believed that one Head of State or Government willbe able to start his or her speech before the other is seated so asto speed up the process.

When the formal Pre-Sessional Consultations finally reconvened at4:30 pm, the first item on the agenda was the continuation of theelections of officers for the Plenary and the Main Committee. TommyKoh was elected as Chairman of the Main Committee and Algeria waselected as Rapporteur-General of the Conference. The matter of theVice Presidents of the Plenary was not as easily resolved. One ofthe members of the African Group continued to insist that hiscountry be one of the Vice Presidents of the Plenary. With 12African nominees for 11 seats, and no compromise reached within theGroup, another solution had to be found. At one point during theday, the delegate in question suggested that an additional positionfor a Rapporteur be added to the Bureau for the Main Committee andthat seat should be given to him. The Bureau for the Main Committeewas intended to include a Chair (Koh) and four Vice Chairs, onefrom each of the remaining regional groups, with one of the ViceChairs acting as Rapporteur.

After much discussion between Lafer and the heads of the regionalgroups, the Latin American and Caribbean Group agreed to give upone of its eight seats (Colombia) on the Plenary Bureau and give itto the African Group, providing that it was understood that thiswould not be a precedent-setting move. As part of the package, theBureau for the Main Committee would remain as originally planned.Thus, the Latin American and Caribbean Vice Presidents for thePlenary are Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Braziland Jamaica. The African Vice Presidents now include Tanzania,Kenya, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe,Mozambique, Gabon, Zaire and Mauritania.

Now the sole remaining issue on the composition of the Bureau ofthe Plenary is the list of Vice Presidents from the Asian Group. Inorder to avoid a vote, it was decided to postpone the finalselection of Vice Presidents until the Asians could make a finaldecision. Problems in reaching a consensus decision on this issueis understandable given the disparate geo-political composition ofthe Asian group, which stretches from Jordan to Japan.

The meeting broke up Tuesday night when it was announced that theinvitations for the opening ceremony were available at the ProtocolDesk and the delegates streamed out of the conference room. It wasunclear whether the delegates had finished discussing all of theitems on their agenda, however, a set of recommendations will beforwarded to the Plenary for its opening session today.


"UNCED will accomplish a great deal more than most people expect",predicted Secretary-General Maurice Strong. Speaking to severalhundred newspaper, radio and television journalists from around theglobe, Strong stated that he was not concerned about mediaspeculation that the Earth Summit was in trouble and in danger ofcollapsing. He said that the same idle predictions were made on theeve of the 1972 Stockholm Conference. Strong also guaranteed thereporters that they would have more than enough story material overthe course of the next two weeks. In response to questions from themedia, Strong also suggested that they should not view the EarthSummit as a two-week session that will solve all the Earth'sproblems. He emphasized that UNCED is "a launching pad, not a quickfix" and that this conference will hopefully be the beginning of aprocess that will lead to fundamental change.


There was much discussion in the corridors of RioCentro yesterdayabout a number of procedural questions that must be addressedbefore substantive negotiations can commence. Some of these havebeen addressed during the pre-sessional consultations, others inthe "Friends of the Chair" meetings and still others will be leftto be decided by Tommy Koh and the Bureau of the Main Committee.These decisions are critical in determining the speed, flexibilityand possible success of the negotiations over the next two weeks.The decisions that many delegates feel are most important include:

  • Meeting Flexibility: Many feel that the decisions related to the number and timing of meetings must be as flexible as possible to ensure rapid progress in the negotiations. At present, the draft rules of procedure state that the Main Committee may establish sub-committees or working groups, as necessary, for the performance of its functions. During the Preparatory Committee meetings, Conference rules limited the number of meetings that could be held simultaneously, so as to avoid overtaxing countries with small delegations. If seven or eight sub-committees or contact groups are established by the Main Committee, the possible number of meetings could surpass this limit and may be objected to by G-77 members. In a related issue, many delegates feel that the G-77 should schedule its meetings so as not to conflict with the limited time available for sub-committee or contact group meetings on the problematic substantive areas of Agenda 21.
  • Text Under Negotiation: The vast portion of text in Agenda 21 has been negotiated with only the most contentious issues remaining in brackets. Although the formal rules of the Conference permit any country to open discussion on any item of text, many delegates feel that negotiations will quickly digress if unbracketed text is opened for debate. A possible agreement not to reopen negotiated text would have to take the form of an informal pact between governments. Many feel that the likelihood of such an agreement is slim given the chances that certain countries may well call for previously agreed text to be revised.: There is also a great deal of discussion about reopening the text of the Rio Declaration for further negotiation. The G-77 and the EC have announced that they do not want to reopen the document. Some believe that if the document is reopened it is highly unlikely that there will be a Declaration ready for signature at the conclusion of the Earth Summit. There are a few countries, including a member of the G-77, which have expressed concern about the current text and are trying to gain sufficient support to reopen negotiations. Some delegates maintain that it would be better to have no Declaration at all than one that is inadequate.
  • Coordinators: Some delegates have expressed concern that the selection of the Main Committee's sub-committee or contact group coordinators should be based on experience and familiarity with the subject matter and not necessarily on political rank. It is likely that some of coordinators from the PrepCom will be asked to continue their roles here in Rio. The final decision, which is ultimately the responsibility of Main Committee Chair Tommy Koh and his Bureau, is a critical one.


An increasing number of delegations have expressed tremendousfrustration about the virtual lack of access to the UNCEDSecretariat. Since Monday, the Secretariat offices (located in thePlenary Hall) have been heavily guarded and off limits to all butSecretariat staff. Delegations are required to make priorarrangements to meet with Secretariat staff. This has beenproblematic since delegations must often consult with Secretariatstaff on an impromptu basis and do not have the time nor energy totrack down individuals by phone. Another "grumbling point" has beenthe lack of access to press conferences to NGOs and delegates whomaintain that if important information is to be communicated in apublic forum, they should not be expected to rely on intermediariesfor this information.


PLENARY: The UN Conference on Environment and Developmentformally opens this morning at 10:00 am when UN Secretary-GeneralBoutros Boutros-Ghali will give the keynote address. The Plenarywill then formally elect Brazilian President Fernando Collor deMello as President of the Conference and hear speeches by Collor,UNCED Secretary-General Maurice Strong, King Carl XVI Gustaf ofSweden, Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, andPortuguese President Mario Soares. The remainder of the morning'ssession will be spent on a number of procedural matters including:adoption of the rules of procedure; adoption of the agenda;election of officers other than the President; organization ofwork, including establishment of the Main Committee of theConference; and credentials of representatives to the Conference,including appointment of the members of the Credentials Committee.

The Plenary will reconvene at 3:00 pm to commence the GeneralDebate, which will continue through 11 June. The first hour of theDebate should be especially interesting, since the first fourspeakers will most likely set the tone for the rest of the Debateby touching on the full spectrum of issues to be addressed here atUNCED. Pakistan (on behalf of the G-77) will speak first, followedby Portugal (on behalf of the EC), the US and Israel. The otherspeakers listed for the afternoon are Germany, UNEP, World HealthOrganization, Chile and the EEC. Although the first three speaker'sstatements may be key in determining the positions of these majorplayers, it is Israel that could trigger the first diplomaticfirestorm at UNCED.

During PrepCom IV, the representative of Palestine, Yemen (onbehalf of the Arab Group) and the G-77 inserted text into a numberof chapters of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration that refers to"people under occupation." This prompted Israel to intervene in theclosing hours of PrepCom IV to decry the "threat of politicalpollution" and to question whether Rio would be another Middle Eastbattleground. Israel then requested that the entire Rio Declarationbe put in brackets. Koh responded that there would be no bracketsor amendments to the text and closed discussion on the document,noting Israel's reservation and its subsequent vow to protest.

If, in its intervention today, Israel calls for the removal of allreferences to "people under occupation" it may create a politicalbattle that would complicate work at the Conference. The first houror two of Plenary this afternoon should not be missed.

THE MAIN COMMITTEE: The Main Committee will convene for thefirst time this afternoon to elect its four Vice-Chairs. Each ofthe four regional groups, other than Asia (which is represented byTommy Koh), were expected to nominate one Vice-Chair. Thenewly-elected Chair Tommy Koh will probably also announce theestablishment of a number of contact groups to deal with the mostcontentious chapters of Agenda 21. It is expected that Koh mayannounce the selection of the contact group coordinators. Bycontrast, the Main Committee will be charged with theresponsibility of reviewing each chapter of Agenda 21 and resolvingall of the minor outstanding issues that do not necessarily warranta contact group.

To date, it is expected that contact groups will be formed for suchoutstanding issues as financial resources, technology transfer,institutions, atmosphere, biodiversity and biotechnology, and theStatement of Forest Principles. Additional contact groups may beformed where the need arises.

SPECIAL EVENTS: During the course of the Conference, anumber of special events will be held to give multi-shareholderfocus to several important cross-sectoral issues. The first ofthese will be held today. At 3:00 pm in Conference Room 4, a panelof experts will meet to discuss the "Urban Challenge". This panelwill examine issues to the sustainable development of humansettlements, exploring how a better balance can be reached betweenrural and urban areas; distribution of people and activities in amanner adapted to the resource base; and how essential services canbe provided to all. The second panel of the day, which will takeplace in Conference Room 4 at 4:40 pm is entitled "HealthyPeople/Healthy Planet". This panel will focus on human health as anintegral part of development and environmental policies.