Skip to main content
GA/EF/2732

REVIEW OF AGENDA 21 AT SPECIAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION DISCUSSED IN ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL COMMITTEE

23 October 1996


Press Release
GA/EF/2732


REVIEW OF AGENDA 21 AT SPECIAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION DISCUSSED IN ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL COMMITTEE

19961023 Speakers Stress Role of Non-Governmental Organizations, Private Sector; Say Review of 1992 Rio Conference Commitments Should Recommend New Resources

The role of non-governmental organizations and the private sector must not be overlooked at the special session of the General Assembly expected to review implementation of Agenda 21, which was adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held at Rio de Janeiro, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) was told this afternoon.

Speaking as the Committee continued its debate on environment and sustainable development issues, the representative of Slovenia said the review should be action-oriented and serve as a forum for consolidation of global and regional initiatives on sustainable development.

The representative of Nepal also stressed the important role of non- governmental organizations and the private sector in the review process. Moreover, he said the special session must not only review progress, but give clear recommendations for new resources, as well as institutional mechanisms to implement the commitments made at the Rio Conference.

Within the special session, there should be a special meeting on the private sector's role in development, said the representative of Malaysia. The representative of Belarus stressed that the special session should result in the adoption of an action-oriented document. The representative of Bulgaria said some of the priority issues for the special session should be freshwater, land degradation, forests, oceans, environmental indicators and innovative sources of funding.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Lebanon, Libya, India, Romania, Norway, Senegal, South Africa, Iran and Syria.

Also this afternoon, the Committee heard a statement by the Director, Sustainable Energy and Environment Division, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 24 October, to continue its deliberations.

Committee Work Programme

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to continue consideration of environment and sustainable development issues. (For background information see Press Releases GA/EF/2728 of 21 October and GA/EF/2730 of 22 October).

Statements

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOU (Belarus) said the reduction of financial resources allocated for the achievement of sustainable development in the last few years should be a major subject for discussion at the upcoming special session of the General Assembly for the purpose of overall review of implementation of Agenda 21. Belarus shared the opinion of the Bureau of the Commission on Sustainable Development that the special session should result in the adoption of an agreed document in the form of a statement or a declaration which would be action-oriented. The elaboration of such a document could be started at the fifth session of the Commission.

In addition, Belarus believed that the movement of countries with economies in transition towards sustainable development and their integration into the world economy were intercommunicated processes, he said.

FAWZI FAWAZ (Lebanon) said of the several factors contributing to the degradation of Lebanon's natural resources could be added Israel's persistent occupation of a large area of the country. Israel's policy of hot pursuit, during which green areas were burnt, created a "new dimension for a premeditated policy of desertification". The Ministry of Agriculture had taken some actions to combat desertification, including such measures as a law to protect forests from grazing, and a national programme to combat desertification was being prepared. A national committee involving all the concerned parties was being created and affected populations would be consulted before the plan was applied. A pilot project might be started as part of a planned national seminar to show participants efficient ways of fighting desertification. The programme could take several years and would require international assistance to be executed.

BINOD BHATTARI (Nepal) said the special session of the General Assembly to review implementation of Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) should take supportive measures towards the achievement of sustainable development goals, in particular through the provision of adequate financial resources, transfer of environmentally sound technology and creation of institutional mechanisms. He was confident that the special session would identify priorities and devise measures for institutional follow up by the United Nations system, in particular the Commission on Sustainable Development. It had noted that the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development had been working to find ways to implement the Rio commitments. He hoped that the report of the Committee, due in April 1997, would help during the review of Agenda 21.

Second Committee - 3 - Press Release GA/EF/2732 14th Meeting (PM) 23 October 1996

His country was doing its best to ensure that its development efforts were "pro-poor, pro-nature, pro-women and pro-children", he said. It was also interested in seeing that the roles of non-governmental organizations and the private sector were fully assessed during the review. The special session must not only review the progress achieved, but must give clear recommendations for new resources, as well as an institutional mechanism to implement the commitments made at Rio.

EMIL FERJANCIC (Slovenia) said cooperation for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea and the Danube River basin were being supported by international technical and financial assistance programmes, including the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The comprehensive approach of the concerned countries for the protection of the Alps was another example of how Agenda 21 could work. In the framework of the Convention on the Protection of the Alps, adopted at Salzburg in 1991, the participating countries -- Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, Switzerland and the European Union -- were confronting problems in the fields of physical planning, energy, transport, agriculture and nature protection.

He said the Convention could serve as a possible model for similar approaches in other geographical regions. Slovenia supported proposals that the special session of the General Assembly on Agenda 21 should be action- oriented and should serve as a forum for consolidation of global and regional initiatives. The catalytic impact of non-governmental organizations should not be overlooked, as they were an important partner in the post-Rio process.

EL MEHDI MEJRBI (Libya) said the developing States attached particular importance to the special session that would review implementation of Agenda 21. The international community must be mobilized to provide developing countries with resources, particularly those fighting drought and desertification. Positive measures for ecologically healthy technology transfer would have to be taken. The failure of the developed countries to fulfil their commitments under Agenda 21 was also a matter of concern.

He emphasized the need for efforts to take stock of natural disasters. Moreover, increased attention to early warning systems was required. He stressed that the blockade and sanctions on Libya imposed by certain countries must be lifted. However, despite those blockades, Libya had been able to implement development projects. His country also needed technical assistance in demining Second World War minefields. Those existing mines hampered development.

Second Committee - 4 - Press Release GA/EF/2732 14th Meeting (PM) 23 October 1996

NALIN SURIE (India) said a situation of poverty and underdevelopment precluded the generation of adequate resources to tackle environmental concerns. It had been agreed at the 1992 Rio Conference that global environment concerns required immediate action by the industrialized world -- both corrective and preventive. However, no significant steps had been taken by developed countries to change their unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Moreover, no measures had been adopted to alter resource intensive technology.

He expressed concern at the lack of progress on the question of environmentally sound technologies. Technologies critical for agricultural and industrial development should not be denied on such dubious external grounds as alleged dual use. Some of the priority areas for action in the post-1997 phase should be in the areas of technology transfer, transport and energy.

SORIN TANASESCU (Romania) said sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development had revealed an imbalance between implementation of Agenda 21 at international, regional and national levels. The most impressive achievement was at the international level, with the adoption of a number of conventions and instruments related to the environment. Few countries could, however, present similar achievements. The special session of the General Assembly could address difficulties experienced at the national level in the implementation of Agenda 21. Action at the national level was crucial to the success of the global programme of action adopted in 1992 at Rio.

He said sessions of the Commission had also confirmed the need to further elaborate some conceptual aspects of sustainable development, which were essential to the efficient implementation of Agenda 21. The special session could also clarify the contributions of the United Nations system in the implementation of Agenda 21. The final goal should be to ensure the complementarity of the existing bodies.

OLE KRISTIAN HOLTHE (Norway) said the special session presented an opportunity for new impetus to international work on sustainable development and it should attract participation at the highest political level. Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration should not be rewritten. Rather, they should be formulated into priorities for future work at the local, national, regional and global levels. Those priorities should be combined with concrete examples on how to proceed in practice. The session should also provide guidelines for governments and the United Nations system, as well as major groups in the private sector.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said his country supported the statement made by Costa Rica on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. Agenda 21, which had been adopted four years ago, had sounded a warning to the international community about the negative impact of environmental

Second Committee - 5 - Press Release GA/EF/2732 14th Meeting (PM) 23 October 1996

degradation. Although the Rio Conference had led to improvement in many areas, it had not resulted in the provision of adequate resources and the transfer of technology to developing countries. It had also failed to establish more sustainable patterns of consumption. Therefore, much remained to be done. However, negotiations on Agenda 21 must not be reopened, although the consensus on shared but differentiated responsibilities must be reaffirmed.

In the post-Rio period, Senegal had tried to raise consciousness about the environment, he said. It had set up a national framework for coordination in that area. Moreover, the Government was studying a plan to establish a national foundation on the environment.

MATHE DISEKO (South Africa) said the special session on Agenda 21 should recognize the significant contribution and opportunity that Agenda 21 provided. A constructive approach to the appraisal of Agenda 21 should avoid its renegotiation. The session should concentrate on identifying problem areas relevant to the implementation of the document and attempt to develop positive solutions. Despite its absence at the Rio Conference, his Government had actively taken up its responsibilities in implementing the Agenda and looked forward to actively and constructively participating in the review process. It was disappointing that commitments made in 1992 at Rio, particularly in the areas of technology transfer and financial resources, remained unfulfilled.

MOHSEN ESPERI (Iran) said the Department of the Environment, Forests and Rangelands in his country had been restructured and an Iranian National Committee on Sustainable Development established in accordance with the recommendations of Agenda 21. Strategies and policies were in place to deal with the protection of biological diversity, climate change, ozone depletion reduction and the use of renewable energy sources, among others. Other recent activities of the Government included adoption of new economic and financial instruments, and the establishment of a programme office for regional research and training on desertification control, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

SHUKRI IBRAHIM (Malaysia) said the special session should consider various innovative financial mechanisms to move forward the implementation of Agenda 21. It was ironic that for developing countries to become sustainable, they had to first become dependant on developed countries to support their sustainability. Within the special session, the private sector's role in development should be considered. A session should also be devoted to non- governmental organizations, modelled upon the non-governmental organization consultations at the GEF council meetings. Following the restructuring of the GEF, various options were now open for non-governmental organizations

Second Committee - 6 - Press Release GA/EF/2732 14th Meeting (PM) 23 October 1996

participating in GEF activities. At the policy level, non-governmental organizations could attend and observe the GEF council meetings and participate in the associated non-governmental organization-GEF consultations.

The basic thrust of the special session should be on the implementation of Agenda 21 in all its aspects, he said. The special session should not be a renegotiating forum to amend or change things already agreed upon. Moreover, clear linkages should be established in the implementation of Agenda 21 vis-a-vis those activities resulting from major United Nations conferences.

ROBERTO LENTON, Director, Sustainable Energy and Environment Division, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the agency had responded to the challenge of the Rio Conference, devoting considerable resources to environment and development activities at the country, interregional and global levels. Sustainable human development had become UNDP's objective during the immediate post-Rio period, with environment and poverty alleviation identified as key themes for UNDP assistance, along with sustainable livelihoods, gender equity and governance. The UNDP was undertaking a series of special projects that could widen and deepen the examination of progress, constraints and prospects in the implementation of Agenda 21.

Noting that energy issues were at the heart of sustainable development, he said systematic work was needed to increase reliance on renewable energy sources and their sustainable use. The UNDP believed that current approaches to energy production, distribution and utilization were unsustainable in economic, social and environmental terms. Energy would increasingly be a barrier to socio-economic development in industrializing countries. There were currently 2.5 billion people in developing countries without adequate energy services.

The UNDP's Initiative on Sustainable Energy would guide its country programmes and would serve as the basis for creating global energy partnerships, he said. He drew attention to the Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa and said its implementation was one of the principal tools for achieving sustainable human development in affected countries and regions. The Convention to Combat Desertification constituted a platform for new partnerships towards sustainable development in dry lands worldwide.

ZVETOLYUB BASMAJIEV (Bulgaria) said the special session should not make attempts to renegotiate Agenda 21 or redefine principles of sustainable development. Moreover, it should avoid duplication of the work that was under way in other forums. It should concentrate on future activities and gaps in the international agenda. Priority areas for the special session should include freshwater, land degradation, forests, oceans, environmental indicators, and new and innovative sources of funding.

Second Committee - 7 - Press Release GA/EF/2732 14th Meeting (PM) 23 October 1996

The highest possible level of participation should be ensured for the special session, he said. Moreover, the attendance of ministers and those responsible for such things as the economy, finance, planning, development cooperation, forestry and agriculture should be encouraged, as is done at the high-level segment of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

HUSSAM EDIN A'ALA (Syria) said his country endorsed the statement made by the representative of Costa Rica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. He stressed that progress had not been commensurate with the aspirations at the 1992 Rio Conference and that follow-up measures to the Conference had not been taken by all States. Adequate progress had not been made in changing consumption or production patterns.

In Syria, a separate ministry entrusted with environmental affairs had been established, he said. In addition, various measures to limit pollution had been promulgated. Syria had also participated in a Council of Arab Ministers for Environment held in 1996. That meeting had been held at the suggestion of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. He stressed that negotiations regarding commitments undertaken at the Rio Conference should not be stalled. Moreover, the special session should stress global responsibility. He added that Syria had acceded to the Convention to Combat Desertification and was taking steps to ratify it.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.