UN CSD Secretariat Report

19th October

UN GA Agenda item 95a


Committee Continues Consideration of Agenda 21 Implementation

“Earth Summit” 2002 represented a real opportunity to take a bold step towards global sustainable development, the representative of Canada told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning, as it continued its consideration of the implementation of Agenda 21 -- the plan of action adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro.

It was up to the international community to seize that opportunity and make the vision of a healthy, safe and prosperous world a reality, he said. The preparatory process for “Rio + 10” would provide an opportunity to consider successes, as well as remaining gaps in implementation.

Speakers this morning stressed that Agenda 21 must not be renegotiated at Rio + 10, but rather that the review should result in action-oriented decisions and renewed political commitment for the implementation of agreements for sustainable development. The key to ensuring a successful 10-year review, it was emphasized, would be an effective preparatory process.

Also, the proposal for the tenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development to be turned into the preparatory committee for the review received wide support. In addition, as the issues and concerns of developing countries would be high on the agenda, several delegations strongly believed that the review should take place in a developing country.

With regard to the agenda for the review, Brazil’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that the theme of education and sustainable development should receive special attention. Focusing solely on poverty eradication at the review, she warned, could lead to the unbalanced treatment of environmental issues. Rio + 10 should not be reduced to a mere discussion of the relationship between environment and poverty.

China’s representative believed that the priority theme of the review should be how to assist the developing countries in overcoming the difficulties and obstacles encountered in sustainable development. The protection of the global environment would not be possible if the developing countries did not achieve genuine sustainable development.

Also this morning, the representatives of Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Federation introduced draft resolutions in connection with sustainable development and international economic cooperation.

In addition, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ed Tsui introduced the report of the Secretary-General on international cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Iceland, Russian Federation, Colombia (on behalf of the Rio Group), Tajikistan, Pakistan, Belarus, Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Kenya, United States, Bulgaria, Morocco and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The observer for Switzerland and a representative of the International Labour Organization also spoke.


ELMIRA IBRAIMOVA (Kyrgyzstan), introducing the text on preparations for the International Year of Mountains, 2002, said that Angola, Israel and Madagascar had also joined as co-sponsors. She said that mountains or highlands made up more than a quarter of the Earth’s land surface. More than half of the world’s population depended on freshwater that originated in mountain regions. Twenty-five per cent of forests grew in upland areas. Mountain resources such as minerals were of more than national or regional importance. They had a truly global significance for the future of the planet. Mountain hydro-power potential was enormous and mountain tourism was growing rapidly.

Chapter 13 of Agenda 21 recognized the vital and interrelated importance of the mountain ecosystem to the survival of the global ecosystem, she added. On the threshold of a new millennium, it was vital to adopt a new approach to the understanding of and attitudes towards mountain regions and to raise public awareness.

YURIY N. ISAKOV (Russian Federation) introduced the text on the integration of the economies in transition into the world economy. The draft was designed, he said, to reflect the need to continue United Nations assistance to those countries to ensure their speedy integration into the global economy. It also reflected the relevant portions of the Millennium Declaration and the Ministerial Declaration adopted by the Economic and Social Council. His country stood ready to discuss any proposals and comments by other delegations and hoped others would support the text.

ED TSUI, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on international cooperation to reduce the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon. Of all abnormal weather and climate events, El Niño was perhaps the most likely to lead to extensive and devastating natural events affecting humankind. Unlike other disaster-inducing natural phenomenon that have mostly local or regional impacts, the influence of the El Niño phenomenon traversed the globe and assumed many diverse effects.

El Niño and La Niña had the potential to produce widespread devastation, he said. In addition to the loss of over 24,000 human lives, more than

6 million people had been displaced. It was estimated that 110 million had been affected in some way or another. The international community had not yet begun to assess the effects of La Niña that had followed the 1997/1998 El Niño. Although more research was needed, the dramatic floods in Mozambique and the recent drought in the Horn of Africa provided a pattern that was consistent with the previous La Niña events.

The effects of El Niño and La Niña did not always have to be negative, he said. Through improved understanding and early warning of El Niño related events, the international community could take advantage of the benefits through modifying normal practices in the field. It was already understood that international cooperation was vital. It must be understood that cooperation had to involve every part of the globe. It was equally important that organizations and agencies of the United Nations system engage in both the technical and developmental aspects of capacity-building efforts.

THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) thanked the Secretary-General for his report on ways and means of ensuring effective preparations for the 10-year review of Agenda 21. It was important that the review be forward-looking while taking stock of the commitments from the 1992 Rio Summit. It should take into account the changes in the international system over the last decade, in particular the accelerated rate of globalization and the spread of new technologies. This should not distract attention from a focus on sustainable development. "Rio + 10" should produce a renewed commitment to the Rio process. This renewed commitment needed to be clearly communicated in a statement.

To maintain a clear focus on the key issues ahead for the international community, Iceland suggested that the focus be on broad themes that were recognized as the main challenges. The focus could be on the three pillars of sustainable development: the social, economic and environmental. In that regard, his delegation suggested that the first focus be on fighting poverty. The second focus that they suggested was resource efficiency. The third was maintaining functional integrity of ecosystems. Iceland supported holding

Rio + 10 in a venue outside the premises of the United Nations, particularly in a developing country.

Mr. ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said that his country’s national strategy for sustainable development was in the final stages of drafting and agreement. In the past year, there had been a substantial restructuring of the Russian Government with the creation of a ministry for natural resources. His Government took constructive part in intergovernmental environmental meetings and was signatory to major environmental legal instruments. He attached special importance to the creation of the United Nations Forum on Forests and hoped to see a speedy start to its work. The effectiveness of UNEP must be improved and strengthened. He also supported the implementation of the resolution to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations work in environmental protection.

An important issue on which the Committee must focus was the

Rio + 10 conference, he said. The review should take the form of a high-level meeting held in a developing country and should draft approaches for the international community to further implement Agenda 21, taking into account new developments and challenges. It would be counter-productive to reopen during the review the fundamental agreements already achieved in Rio. The review’s success would require high quality and substantive preparations, including national and regional reviews to assess the progress of countries in their implementation. He hoped the General Assembly would allow the tenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development to be turned into the preparatory committee for the review. The preparatory process must involve the appropriate organs of the United Nations system as well as regional organizations.

MAURICIO BAQUERO (Colombia), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the item on the environment and sustainable development covered issues that were of prime importance to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Group reaffirmed its support for the principles of sustainable development agreed upon in Agenda 21. It believed that the commitments undertaken by the international community for the conservation and protection of the environment at the 1992 Rio Conference were still valid and pending implementation. Agenda 21 must not be renegotiated. Rio + 10 must have an action-oriented agenda that included a comprehensive and detailed analysis of such cross-cutting issues as financial resources and the transfer of technology.

The Rio Group had had a meeting of heads of State and government in Cartegena, Colombia, last June, he said. As reflected in the final declaration of that meeting, the issues of crucial importance in achieving sustainable development were the transfer of technology, trade and development, climate change and the ozone layer, as well as biosafety, forests and desertification. For the Rio Group, the adopting of a long-term international strategy to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon had been a priority. The Group wished to underscore the importance of strengthening international cooperation in all its forms in order to achieve genuine sustainable development.

RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan) said that the achievement of sustainable development was of primary importance. His country was making efforts to meet the goals of Agenda 21 and was a party to the most important environmental legal processes. He was pleased to notify the Committee that Tajikistan had recently taken the decision to accede to the Kyoto Protocol and would be signing it soon. His delegation attached great importance to the 10-year review of the Rio Conference. The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development was playing a key role in the area of sustainable development. He noted with satisfaction the timely start of the work of the special session of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the General Assembly. Tajikistan supported efforts to strengthen the complementarity of the international instruments in the areas of the environment and sustainable development.

Access to drinking water had become an extremely important issue, he said. At least 5 million were affected every year from contaminated water. Drinking water ecosystems were damaged in all continents. One important task was to attract the attention of governments to the need to develop a comprehensive strategy in the area of water resources. One of the steps in solving this problem could be the holding of a drinking-water year. This would make it possible to carry out targeted measures to improve and preserve the environment. Tajikistan has proposed that 2003 be the international drinking water year and hoped for cooperation from all interested delegations.

SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said that economic growth had generally declined in developing countries, poverty had increased manifold since 1992 and environmental degradation continued unabated. Sustained economic growth and sustainable development still seemed to be elusive goals. It seemed that the world was confronted with an environmental crisis. For developing countries, it was a crisis of development. However, in the case of developed countries, it was a crisis of ever-increasing consumerism. Unsustainable consumption and production patterns had led to over-exploitation of the natural wealth of the planet. The crisis had to be averted and the world must act together on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Agenda 21’s provisions included the recognition that the goals of sustainable development would be inconceivable without the infusion of new and additional resources and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries, he said. There was hardly a chapter of Agenda 21 that did not contain estimates of the resources required to meet the agreed goals. However, the developing countries were being asked to achieve results without having the means of implementation. Time-bound targets on cross-sectoral issues were the missing pieces of the puzzle. Without sufficient official development assistance, durable solution of the debt burden, market access and development finance, among other things, sustainable development would remain a mirage.

ANDREI POPOV (Belarus) said that the question of sustainable development was extremely important. He expressed his country’s satisfaction with the eighth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. One of the most important elements of that session was the Commission’s discussion of the

10-year review of the Rio Conference. A complete and detailed assessment of the implementation of the agreements of that conference should give a powerful boost to the principles of Agenda 21. Belarus called upon the international community to develop cooperation in the areas of the environment and sustainable development in order to realize the goals of Agenda 21.

Since 1992, the world had changed at an extremely fast pace, he said. Belarus was convinced that Agenda 21 was a solid basis for future work in achieving sustainable development, but there were many new issues that had to be addressed. Belarus would like to sharpen the focus in the area of financing for sustainable development. That was an essential condition for carrying out sustainable measures. Therefore, the most detailed work should be based on the new possibilities for financing sustainable development. Concrete efforts had to be made for its improvement.

STUART LESLIE (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean

Community (CARICOM), welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Agenda 21. Although much had been done to implement the Agenda’s objectives, implementation had fallen far short of the expectations of CARICOM Member States. The CARICOM agreed with the recommendations of the Commission on Sustainable Development that further renegotiation of Agenda

21 was unnecessary. It also agreed that the 10-year review should result in action-oriented decisions and renewed political commitment for the implementation of agreements for sustainable development.

Developing countries continued to be affected by the actions of those with greater influence, he said. Those who possessed the ability to effect the changes appeared the least concerned with the effects of global warming and the emissions of greenhouse gases. A case in point was the continued resistance of the developed countries to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

He said the CARICOM States believed that the burden must be shared. Cooperation by the international community was vital to the achievement of sustainable development. There needed to be a responsible global partnership for the protection of the environment for the future generations. The CARICOM Foreign Ministers had endorsed South Africa as the country to host the Rio + 10 review in 2002.

GUY O'BRIEN (Australia) said that there were two critical ingredients for achieving a successful outcome from the 10-year review process. It must have high political visibility, and international preparations should commence as soon as possible. Political will was critical to ensuring that progress was made on moving the sustainable development agenda forward. Australia's preference was for a ministerial conference, including a summit with the participation of heads of State and government. A credible outcome should give guidance to future efforts, and he would support the development of an action programme for advancing those issues over the next 10-year period.

He said that water management had environmental, health, economic and security implications. Unfortunately, little if any progress was being made in reducing the number of people lacking access to safe water supply and suitable sanitation facilities. Between 10 and 25 million people died each year because of the lack of clean water and adequate sanitation. Greater national and international efforts were required.

For those reasons, he continued, Australia supported the proposed international year of freshwater in 2003. It was an area where his country's long experience of dealing with water scarcity and the expertise it had developed as a result could assist in making progress. Through the Australian Development Assistance programmes, his country had devoted over 40 million Australian dollars last year to improving water supply and sanitation infrastructure in developing countries.

PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said that Earth Summit 2002 should have a clear, action-oriented, forward-looking agenda, focused on cross-cutting organizational, strategic and policy issues. The goal should be to engage leaders in a collective vision of the future. He would like to see leaders consider issues such as global governance and sustainable development; poverty and sustainable development; financial resources, including trade and investment; and capacity-building and international cooperation. The issues and concerns of developing countries would be high on the agenda. He strongly believed that the Summit should take place in a developing country.

Preparatory work for the review would be the key to its success, he said. It should provide an opportunity for due consideration of successes as well as the remaining implementation gaps. He supported the incorporation of the review preparations into the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development. It would be important to draw in other organizations and agencies, such as UNEP, UNDP and the international financial institutions, as preparatory work moved forward. Earth Summit 2002 represented a real opportunity to take a bold step towards global sustainable development. It was up to the international community to seize that opportunity and make the vision of a healthy, safe and prosperous world a reality.

GRANT ROBERTSON (New Zealand) said that there would be some significant milestones for sustainable development over the next two years. New Zealand supported the proposal made in the Secretary-General’s report that the tenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development should be the preparatory committee for the 10-year review. That process must be open and participatory. His delegation believed that the event was best held in a developing country. It was important to reach an agreement on how the 10-year review would deal with the myriad environment and sustainable development challenges that were faced by the international community.

New Zealand was committed to playing its part in implementing the commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, he said. It recognized that in order to meet those commitments, developed and developing countries alike had to acknowledge that the Protocol reached the heart of economic activity. While all nations were affected by climate change, none were more demonstrably so than the small island developing countries. New Zealand continued to accord high priority to assisting those countries, particularly those in the Pacific region, to overcome their vulnerability and isolation and to achieve sustainable development.

He was pleased to inform the Committee that his country had recently signed the instrument of accession to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. New Zealand continued to believe that a key to success in meeting the challenges of sustainable development lay in coordination and cooperation between the various conventions. His delegation would join with other delegations again this year in seeking to emphasize that point through the resolution on complementarities between environmental instruments.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), as well as Bolivia and Chile, said that the review conference should be oriented towards identifying the areas within Agenda

21 where implementation had not been satisfactory, so that the causes might be evaluated and corrective actions might be proposed. The spirit of the Earth Summit should be renewed without reopening Agenda 21 as far as its terminology, concepts and commitments were concerned. The review should focus on the evaluation of the implementation of commitments made in Rio in 1992.

The preparatory discussions should take into account the fact that important themes identified in Agenda 21 had been increasingly tainted by commercial and protectionist considerations, she said. The theme of education and sustainable development should receive special attention in the review agenda. The issue of poverty eradication, which was very important, already had a specific forum within the United Nations -- the Copenhagen conference on social development. Focusing solely on poverty eradication at the 10-year review could lead to the unbalanced treatment of environmental issues.

Rio + 10 should not be reduced to merely a discussion of the relationship between environment and poverty.

NURY VARGAS (Costa Rica) said it was clear that peace, development and environmental protection were interdependent and inseparable. Costa Rica was known as a country of peace and democracy. It was also known as a country with some of the greatest biodiversity in the world. Its geographic location made it a bridge between two continents. Tourism, the production of hydroelectric energy and the cultivation of water resources depended largely on protecting forest areas, which accounted for 26 per cent of Costa Rica’s national territory.

Costa Rica had been a pioneer in focusing on the preservation of forests at national, regional and international levels, she said. It had also promoted an international carbon market. Her country was pleased that many international organizations had chosen Costa Rica as the location for their headquarters. The Government of Costa Rica would like to be the host of the Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests and hoped for the support of delegations in that regard.

JENO C. A. STAEHELIN, observer for Switzerland, said that the main objective of Rio + 10 should be to renew and intensify commitments to sustainable development. While the programme for further implementation adopted at "Rio + 5" must be continued, Agenda 21 must remain the foundation on which any future initiatives for achieving sustainable development should rest. Action-driven and forward-looking approaches were required to achieve sustainable development. The review should be a world conference of heads of State and government rather than a special session of the General Assembly. It could be called the “world summit on sustainable development”. The preparatory process should enjoy the participation of various sectors, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and scientists.

To ensure success, he said that it was essential to begin comprehensive preparatory work at the national and regional levels without delay. In that regard, he welcomed plans already underway in the United Nations system, as well as the recommendations and proposals for the structure of the preparatory process contained in the Secretary-General’s report. Switzerland attached special importance to regional preparatory meetings and stood ready to support the preparatory process in Europe. Regional meetings would have to define the main political issues, priorities and follow-up measures for Rio + 10. It was important to fix the structure and timetable of the preparatory process to begin concrete initiatives at all levels.

The agenda of Rio + 10, he added, should provide for the strengthening of international institutions and instruments involved in environmental protection and sustainable development. Last, he would like to see the review take place in a developing country.

CINDY BERMAN, Policy Adviser, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the sustainability of social and economic development, and efforts towards poverty eradication depended fundamentally on addressing environmental concerns. An adequate balance between agricultural growth and the protection of the environment was crucial for the future of the world’s food production and for its sustainability. However, in order to achieve sustainable agriculture and rural development in the new millennium, rural workers and their families should have access to adequate working and living conditions, health and welfare. A recent ILO report showed that the agricultural sector had been effectively marginalized in the process of globalization. There was an urgent need to maximize the benefits of globalization and address its negative impacts on that sector.

In the age of globalization, she said, it was important to recognize the potential of the private sector to act as an agent of social change and protection in the fields of workers’ rights and environmental protection. As the agricultural industry became increasingly commercialized in the developing world, there was a greater urgency not only to foster the growth of small and medium-size sustainable agricultural practices in agro-business, but also to promote social responsibility among multinational corporations.

The ILO’s concept of “decent work” addressed some of the key elements for agricultural development on a safe and sustainable basis, she said. Adherence of governments to the ILO’s core labour standards would go a long way to ensuring that the promise of globalization did not become the prerogative of a minority in the modern agricultural sector, to the exclusion of the majority on the farms. But legal instruments were not enough. They must be supported by programmes to create decent work opportunities for men and women, social protection for those in vulnerable situations, and partnerships to foster good social dialogue.

MICHAEL K. KOECH (Kenya) said that during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)(Rio de Janeiro, 1992), his country had endorsed and adopted Agenda 21. Despite the harsh economic conditions prevailing in Kenya, his Government had made tremendous efforts in implementing the Agenda’s obligations. Kenya had also ratified most of the international agreements, treaties, conventions and protocols that were considered to be in harmony with the country’s plans for sustainable development. Sustainable development required an integrated approach to policy and decision-making, in which environmental protection and long-term economic growth were compatible with sustainable development strategies.

Kenya’s vision was to see to it that there would be a healthy environment providing abundant resources and ensuring food security for all of its people, he said. As repeatedly demonstrated in the priority issues highlighted in the African Common Position on Environment and Development, poverty was a widespread phenomenon. Unfortunately, the problem had not been given the attention that it deserved. The diminishing commitment by the North to honour their pledges resulting in inadequate financial resources continued to hamper the implementation process of the Rio decisions. Unfulfilled UNCED commitments on increasing official development assistance to the level considered useful to reduce poverty in Africa should be the concern of this General Assembly.

JAY T. SNYDER (United States) said that he believed that the carefully crafted and balanced language of Agenda 21 should remain intact. However, he sought a flexible approach to its 10-year review, which should allow for discussion of new sustainable development tools that had emerged since 1992. Those new tools included innovative financing designs, such as the Clean Development Mechanism; the use of microcredit at the local level; and a wider application of advances in information technology. All of those new developments would help deploy needed technologies and best practices in developing countries.

The United States fully understood the viewpoint that Rio + 10 should be a global conference held outside New York, he said. However, in light of a more general United States policy related to United Nations matters, his country had disassociated itself from consensus on the matter when it was raised at the Commission on Sustainable Development and at the Economic and Social Council. He noted that the United States would be unable to pay its share of United Nations funding for such a conference if current United States legislation were renewed. As a result, United States policy was to not support the convening of new global conferences in the United Nations system.

ZVETOLYUB BASMAJIEV (Bulgaria) commended the Secretary-General for the report before the Committee on the implementation of Agenda 21. Bulgaria shared the view that the regional preparatory processes for Rio + 10 should be established to determine regional priorities and new initiatives for the further implementation of Agenda 21.

His delegation supported the view that regional preparatory meetings should take place during March and November 2001 in order to benefit from various inputs and make timely contributions to the global intergovernmental preparatory process. It also supported the opinion that the meetings of the Commission on Sustainable Development at its tenth session should be transformed into an open-ended preparatory committee. The delegation of Bulgaria wanted to reiterate the importance of elaborating a strategy for mobilizing public support and media attention for the Rio + 10 Summit.

BAI YONGJIE (China) said that the main reasons why the goals of Rio were far from being achieved were that international cooperation had not been carried out in conjunction with the domestic efforts of different countries and, in particular, that the developed countries had not fulfilled their commitments. She emphasized four ideas to ensure the success of the upcoming review, to reinvigorate the spirit of Rio and to establish a new global partnership. First, the implementation of all the principles of Rio was the basis for the success of the review.

Second, she continued, the review should focus on the comprehensive implementation of Agenda 21 as well as on addressing the new problems and challenges which had emerged in the implementation process. Third, the priority theme of the review should be how to assist the developing countries to overcome the difficulties and obstacles encountered in sustainable development. The availability of adequate financial resources was the most important condition for the implementation of Agenda 21 by the developing countries. Fourth, the full participation of the developing countries was crucial for the success of the review. The protection of the global environment would not be possible if the developing countries did not achieve genuine sustainable development.

AHMED AMAZIANE (Morocco) thanked the Secretary-General for his report on the implementation of Agenda 21. He believed that the General Assembly should take all the substantive decisions necessary for the preparatory process of Rio + 10. The assessment work for Rio + 10 could be carried out properly only if all countries undertook a candid review of the progress of implementation. The issue of financing also had to be addressed. Morocco supported holding the review conference in a developing country, which would help these countries to achieve the common goals of sustainable development.

The five-year review had shown that the world’s environment had continued to deteriorate, especially in the area of climate, he said. Furthermore, the commitments of the 1992 Rio Conference had not been fulfilled. The principle of joint responsibility seemed to be eroding. Morocco agreed with the Secretary-

General when he said that the main objective of the review process was to achieve a high level of international solidarity to further promote sustainable development.

It would be futile to renegotiate the commitments made in Agenda 21, he said. Instead, the 2002 Conference should concentrate on themes of broad international interest as well as the burden of financing. Morocco would make a positive contribution to this process and had the political will to do so. His country had ratified all of the international conventions that had proceeded the Rio Conference. Only multilateral action would be capable of taking up the challenges that would otherwise be insoluble.

GORAN B. STEVCEVSKI (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that his country wanted to join as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution introduced this morning by the Russian Federation on the integration of the economies in transition into the world economy.

Mr. AMAZIANE (Morocco) said that his country also wanted to join as a co-sponsor of that text.