Daily report for 3 June 1992



Amidst the chirping of cellular phones, the UN Conference onEnvironment and Development officially opened yesterday morning.The consensus among the morning's speakers appeared to be thatregardless of what comes out of the Conference, the process mustcontinue to meet the challenges that face the planet. UNSecretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali opened the Earth Summitwith two minutes of silence for the earth. He said that we cannotlimit ourselves to words. Just because things have been said doesnot mean that challenges have been met.

The Plenary then elected Brazilian President Fernando Collor deMello as President of the Conference. In his welcome speech, Collorstressed the need for greater evidence of brotherhood from thericher, more developed countries. "The struggle to reduceinequalities between countries still remains."

The next speaker was UNCED Secretary-General Maurice Strong whodelivered a speech that he wrote himself. "We are the mostsuccessful species ever, but now we're a species out of control,"he said. The world's population has grown by 1.7 billion since theStockholm Conference in 1972 and 1.5 billion of those live indeveloping countries that are unable to support them. This growthcannot continue, he stressed. "If we don't control it, naturewill." He expressed hope that the Rio Declaration form the basis ofan Earth Charter to be developed in conjunction with the 50thanniversary of the UN in 1995. Among other things, Strong called onUNCED to mandate a convention on desertification and work towardsa forest regime.

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, the President of the 1972Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, then addressedthe Plenary. "Governments cannot do it alone," he said. He stressedthat the role of NGOs is vital for the long-term success of theConference. He stressed the fact that follow-up is as important asthe conference itself.

Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland spoke next in hercapacity as Chair of the World Commission on Environment andDevelopment. "There are less than 400 weeks left in the 20thcentury," she announced. "We must eradicate poverty and achievegreater equality.... We should rise to the challenge that confrontsus." She added that the momentum is irreversible and narrowlyfocussed national priorities will only stand in the way. The finalspeaker of the morning was Portuguese President Mario Soares whostressed the need to control the population explosion and the greatinequality between nations.

The Plenary then adopted the rules of procedure as contained indocument A/CONF.151/2 and the provisional agenda as contained inA/CONF.151/1. The next item on the agenda was the election ofofficers. Professor Celso Lafer, Minister of External Relations ofBrazil, was elected as the ex officio Vice President of theConference. The Plenary then elected Vice Presidents from four ofthe five regional groups. The Vice Presidents from the Asian Groupwill be elected by secret ballot in the Plenary at 3:00 pm today.In other elections, Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi waselected as Rapporteur-General and Amb. Tommy Koh of Singapore waselected Chairman of the Main Committee.

The Plenary then adopted the organization of work, including theestablishment of the Main Committee, as contained in A/CONF.151/3.It also approved recommendations on the signing of conventions andthe organization of the Summit portion of the Conference. Finally,the following states were appointed to the Credentials Committee:Belgium, Belize, Chile, China, Lesotho, the Russian Federation,Singapore, Togo and the United States. The Plenary adjourned at1:00 pm.

The second meeting of the Plenary was called to order yesterdayafternoon by the ex officio Vice President, Celso Lafer, althoughone Brazilian diplomat commented that Collor would probably chairthe Plenary most of the time because he was "adoring" the job. Thefirst speaker was H.E. Mr. Anwar Saifullah Khan, Minister forEnvironment and Urban Affairs of Pakistan (speaking on behalf ofthe G-77). He criticized the inadequacy of the Climate Change andBiodiversity Conventions, vowing that other agreements at UNCED"not repeat such shortcomings."

The second speaker was H.E. Mr. Carlos Borrego, Minister forEnvironment and Natural Resources of Portugal, who spoke on behalfof the EC. He restated the Community position on the Conventions(early ratification and protocols); endorsed the Rio Declaration asit now stands; and emphasized the importance of institutionalarrangements for the follow-up and implementation of Agenda 21(including a revitalized ECOSOC in combination with a SustainableDevelopment Commission).

The third speaker, William Reilly, Administrator of the USEnvironmental Protection Agency, stated that the US gives forestshighest priority at this Conference. He urged quick implementationof the Climate Change Convention and the development of an UNCEDaction plan to control land-based sources of marine pollution. Hepointed toward Eastern Europe as an example of how the lack ofpollution controls in the interest of economic stimulation willultimately devastate an economy.

The surprising speech of the afternoon was presented by UriMarinov, Director General of the Ministry of the Environment ofIsrael. Although it was expected that Israel would follow up on itsvehement objections to the politicizing of the UNCED documents,Marinov offered what many considered a conciliatory speech aimed atrepairing the diplomatic rifts created at the end of PrepCom IV. Hepresented ten principles or commandments "to regulate man'srelationship with the environment." These include: 1) respect forthe environment; 2) change behavior; 3) integrate environmentalconcerns into decision making; 4) improve the environment; 5)conserve resources; 6) use renewable resources; 7) don't pollute;8) study the environment; 9) be pro-active in the interest ofenvironmental welfare; 10) take our trusteeship of the world toheart.

This speech was followed by Mr. Klaus Toepfer, German FederalMinister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety, who called for thestrengthening of environmentally sound behavior, the inclusion ofNGOs in the post-UNCED process and a follow-up meeting for thesignatories to the Climate Change Convention to be held in Germanyin 1994.

Mr. Mustafa Tolba, Executive Director of UNEP, pointed out the"sign posts" on the road ahead. He was followed by statements fromDr. Hiroshi Nakajima, Director-General of the WHO, H.E. Mr. LuisAlvarado, Minister of Lands of Chile, Mr. Abel Matutes,Commissioner for North/South Relations at the Commission of the ECand Lord John Chatfield, International Union of Local Authorities.


The Main Committee held its first session yesterday afternoon. Themeeting was devoted primarily to organizational matters. ChairmanTommy Koh opened the meeting by establishing a number of proceduralrules to help expedite the work of the Committee and urgingdelegates to focus solely on issues where agreement has not beenreached (bracketed text). Koh then requested that the Committeeestablish eight contact groups to deal with finance, technology,atmosphere; forest principles; biodiversity and biotechnology;freshwater; legal instruments; and institutions. Other bracketedtext and pending issues that do not fall in these groups will bedealt with by the Main Committee. Koh added that these groups areopen to any and all interested delegations and not more than twocontact groups would meet at same time as the Main Committee andthe Plenary. Most delegates, including Tunisia, supported theestablishment of the eight contact groups.

After the Committee approved the formation of these contact groups,Koh asked the Committee to approve the following Chairs: Finance:Amb. Rubens Ricupero of Brazil; Technology: Minister Hans Alders ofthe Netherlands; Atmosphere: Amb. Bo Kjell‚n of Sweden;Biodiversity and Biotechnology: Amb. Vincente Sanchez of Chile;Freshwater: Amb. Bukar Shaib of Nigeria; Legal instruments: Amb.Nabil el-Arabi of Egypt; and Institutions: Amb. Ismail Razali ofMalaysia. No Chair has been appointed for the contact group onforest principles as Koh is still holding consultations. Anannouncement is expected today. Koh was scheduled to meet with hisextended Bureau (the Vice Chairs and the heads of regional groups)last night to finalize a schedule of contact group meetings. Hesaid that he was sorry if he appears as a "neurotic East Asian"preoccupied with work, but unfortunately "his karma has fated himto work" and, therefore, he was compelled to ask the delegates towork on Saturday as well as during the evenings. The afternoonmeeting concluded with statements from Jean Ripert, the Chairman ofthe INC for a Framework Convention on Climate Change, and VincenteSanchez, the Chairman of the INC for a Framework Convention onBiodiversity, who reported on the Conventions that will be openedfor signature this week.


PLENARY: The majority of speakers on today's seeminglyendless list may well be addressing their remarks primarily towardtheir home television audiences with few surprises expected.Tomorrow's list includes Lewis Preston, President of the WorldBank, who is expected to pledge bank support to help developingcountries develop environmental action plans and, as well, that theWorld Bank will make a contribution to the IDA-10 "Earth Increment"for national environmental issues. Other notable speakers includeEnrique Iglesias, President of the Inter-American Development Bank,who will probably call for regional institutions to play a greaterrole in the financing and follow-up of UNCED activities.

MAIN COMMITTEE: The Main Committee will begin to clean upthe remaining bracketed text not being discussed in the ContactGroups. The Committee will work its way through Agenda 21chapter-by-chapter over the next week, beginning with the Preamblethis morning. Contact Groups will also begin meeting today. Theschedule will be announced in this morning's Journal. What followsis a brief summary of the key problem areas to be addressed by theeight Contact Groups:

Financial Resources: It appears likely that the financial resourcescontact group will be divided into two sub-groups. The first onewill address the actual Agenda 21 chapter on finance and the secondsub-group will deal with the financial aspects of the means ofimplementation sections to each Agenda 21 chapter. It is possiblethat the newly-appointed finance coordinator, Amb. Rubens Ricupero,will possibly chair the latter, with Brazilian Finance MinisterMarcelio Marques Moreira to possibly chair the former. Whileagreement has been reached to base negotiations on the G-77 andChina text from PrepCom IV (L.41/rev.1), several Northern countrieswill attempt to transfer many of the provisions of the final textthat emerged from PrepCom IV (L.75) into the L.41 text. Anotherimportant issue that will arise pertains to the putative movementcurrently afoot to eliminate the "Means of implementation" sectionsin every Agenda 21 chapter and to replace them with one generalstatement of total estimated costs. Discussions will also focus onthe mandate and operations of the GEF as the funding mechanism forthe global conventions. One key issue with the GEF involves aproposal to involve developing countries within GEF decision-makingsubject to the proviso that donor countries cannot be overruled bya majority of developing countries. Discussions will also focus onissues regarding replenishment of existing resources for thefunding of Agenda 21. A potentially contentious issue pertains tothe Earth Increment to the IDA. The European Community has formallystated its commitment to IDA additionality while certain otherNorthern countries remain flatly opposed.

Technology Transfer: The key issue to be resolved pertains to theterms upon which environmentally appropriate technology will betransferred from North to South. The latter insists that technologybe transferred on preferential or concesssional terms, while manynorthern countries continue to insist that such technology betransferred at market rates. The European Community and the Nordicshave adopted positions supportive of technology transfer onfavorable terms that not only respect intellectual property rightsbut the special needs of developing countries as well.

Institutions: One of the key issues to be resolved pertains to thereporting process for the proposed Sustainable DevelopmentCommission. One option favored by many delegations would have theCommission reporting directly to ECOSOC, while another approachwould require the Commission to report to both ECOSOC and theGeneral Assembly.

Atmosphere: The entire chapter on Atmosphere was bracketed at thelast Plenary session of PrepCom IV by Yemen, on behalf of the ArabGroup. The Arabs protested not only the perceived "over-emphasis"on energy efficiency and fossil fuel consumption reduction, but thechapter's perceived prejudice of the work of the INC. The keychallenge for the contact group will be to find a compromisesolution to the programme area on energy. It is anticipated thatthe OPEC countries will insist on a clause-by-clause reworking ofthe document.

Biodiversity and Biotechnology: Unresolved issues deal with technology cooperation and transfer and the rights of countries that are the sources of biodiversity to share in the benefits from biotechnology development and the commercial utilization of such resources. Brackets remain in the biotechnology text on such issues as biotechnology safety and regulation and the contentious issue of fertility-related mechanisms.

Forest Principles: The forests principles document is in a state ofdisarray with such remaining contentious issues as: the right todevelop; the global interest in forests; the likelihood of a futureforest convention; historical compensation for forest loss;recognition of indigenous capacity; and trade in forest products.

Legal Instruments: Some of the more difficult issues to be resolvedinclude dispute settlement, the global environmental protectionconvention, developing country compliance with internationalagreements; and the consideration of means to prevent deliberatelarge-scale environmental destruction.

CLIMATE CHANGE CONVENTION: A ceremony to mark the openingfor signature of the Framework Convention on Climate Change willtake place in Conference Room 2 today at 11:00 am. The ceremonywill be chaired by Brazilian President Fernando Collor and willconclude with his signature of the Convention. The Convention willremain open for signature at RioCentro through 14 June andthereafter at UN Headquarters in New York from 20 June 1992 to 19June 1993.