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GA/EF/2742

SPECIAL SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON AGENDA 21 WOULD BE HELD FROM 23 TO 27 JUNE, BY TEXT INTRODUCED IN SECOND COMMITTEE

1 November 1996


Press Release
GA/EF/2742


SPECIAL SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON AGENDA 21 WOULD BE HELD FROM 23 TO 27 JUNE, BY TEXT INTRODUCED IN SECOND COMMITTEE

19961101 Debate on Agenda for Development Begins

The General Assembly would decide to convene the special session to review and appraise the implementation of Agenda 21 from 23 to 27 June 1997 at the highest possible level, by the terms of a draft resolution introduced in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning, as it began consideration of the agenda for development and of renewal of the development dialogue through partnership.

The 40-chapter Agenda 21 is the programme of action adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It covers all areas affecting the relationship between the environment and the economy.

Sponsored by the "Group of 77" developing countries and China and by the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, the draft resolution would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to provide, not later than 15 January 1997, all reports required for consideration by the fifth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development and its inter-sessional working group, the bodies which will be in charge of the final preparations for the special session.

In addition, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to enhance the public information programme of the United Nations to raise global awareness of the special session and the work undertaken by the Organization in the follow-up to UNCED. Also, governments would be invited to make voluntary contributions to support the public outreach activities of the United Nations for the special session.

In the debate on the agenda for development and the renewal of the development dialogue, the representative of Costa Rica, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said growing interdependence among nations suggested the need for that dialogue, which should involve the United Nations system and other actors in the development process.

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The representative of Ireland, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that while the Union was ready to listen to new constructive ideas, it did not believe that inputs to the agenda for development should be formally sought at such a late stage from the United Nations system and other institutions.

The United States was committed to a well-defined role for the United Nations on development issues, its representative said. While it wanted the negotiations on the agenda for development to conclude expeditiously, it was prepared to continue them to arrive at an outcome which all Member States could accept.

Statements were also made by the representatives of China, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Russian Federation, India, Ghana, Yemen, Indonesia, Bahrain, Belarus, Belize, Japan, Romania, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community-CARICOM), Guinea, Uganda and Brazil (on behalf of the Common Market of the Southern Cone-MERCOSUR).

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its deliberations.

Committee Work Programme

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to begin consideration of the agenda for development and of renewal of the dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership. It was also scheduled to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the special session of the General Assembly to review the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

Draft for Introduction

A draft resolution on the special session for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal and implementation of Agenda 21 (document A/C.2/51/L.9) is sponsored by Costa Rica, on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, and by Colombia, on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

Under its provisions, the Assembly would decide to convene the special session for the duration of one week, from 23 to 27 June 1997, at the highest possible level of participation. It would also decide that the Commission on Sustainable Development devote the forthcoming meeting of its ad hoc open- ended inter-sessional working group to be held from 24 February to 7 March 1997, to prepare for the special session. Moreover, the Commission would devote its fifth session, to be held from 7 to 25 April 1997, as a negotiating meeting, to final preparations for the event.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would call upon the international community to engage the full participation of high-level scientific and technical experts, consistent with the outcome of UNCED, both in the preparatory meetings and the special session. The Secretary-General would be requested to provide, not later than 15 January 1997, all relevant reports, including all reports related to the outcome of UNCED, for the consideration by the working group of the Commission and by the Commission itself at its fifth session. He would be further requested, in his report for the special session on cross-sectoral issues of Agenda 21, to give special consideration to poverty, financial resources and mechanisms, education, science, the transfer of technology, production and consumption patterns, and trade and environment, with respect to the importance of sectoral issues.

In addition, the Assembly would welcome the outcome of the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), held at Istanbul from 3 to 14 June, and would call for effective interaction and exchange of information on work carried out by the Commission on Sustainable Development and the Commission on Human Settlements. Moreover, it would invite the

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Commission on Human Settlements to make a contribution to the special session in connection with the implementation of the "Habitat Agenda" adopted in Istanbul.

Further by the draft, governments would be invited to participate in the proposed joint meeting of ministers for finance and ministers responsible for the environment during the high-level segment of the fifth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Secretary-General, the draft continues, would be also requested to enhance the public information programme of the United Nations in order to raise global awareness in a balanced manner, in all countries, of both the special session and the work undertaken by the United Nations in the follow-up to UNCED. Governments would be invited to promote widespread dissemination at all levels of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and to make voluntary contributions to support the public outreach activities of the United Nations for the special session.

Renewal of Development Dialogue/Agenda for Development

Before the Committee is a note by the Secretary-General on renewal of the dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership (document A/51/485).

The note recommends that the high-level dialogue that the Assembly had agreed to hold for a period of two days at its fifty-first session on the theme of the social and economic impact of globalization and interdependence and their policy implications should be postponed until the latter part of the fifty-second session. The Assembly had agreed to hold such a dialogue in its current session under its resolution 50/122 of 20 December 1995.

The date, modalities and focus of those discussions were to be decided in the context of the outcome of the work of the Assembly's working group on an agenda for development, says the note. However, the agenda for development was yet to be finalized. Moreover, the Assembly had decided that the working group should continue its work at its fifty-first session. In the light of those facts, the note recommends a postponement of the dialogue.

Another note from the Secretary-General (document A/51/319) draws attention to relevant provisions of Assembly resolution 50/227 addressed to its working group on an agenda for development. One provision (paragraph 79) refers to the close review that has to be made of the relationship of the Economic and Social Council with the specialized agencies. The Council is to provide overall guidance and coordination, identify points of duplication with funds and programmes and make appropriate recommendations.

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In paragraph 84 of the resolution, the General Assembly called for consideration of issues relating to the strengthening of the relationship between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, and possibly also the World Trade Organization. Lastly, it requests (paragraph 89) consideration of the establishment of a post of deputy secretary-general for international cooperation and development, by the Assembly's working groups on the strengthening of the United Nations system and on an agenda for development, respectively.

Introduction of draft

PATRICIA CHAVES (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and for Colombia, on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, introduced the draft resolution on the special session for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21.

Statements

Ms. CHAVES (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the language of the agenda for development already agreed upon should not be renegotiated or reopened. Due consideration should be given to the progress achieved by the adoption of resolution 50/227, which addresses several institutional issues that should not be contained in chapter III of the agenda. The adoption of that resolution had been the result of complex negotiations. Repeating the same exercise would not be advisable if Member States had a particular interest in finishing the elaboration of the agenda as soon as possible. She reiterated the commitment of the Group of 77 to the sustained economic growth and sustainable development of their countries. It was important that the future role and functions of the working group on an agenda for development be considered, and that it should be allowed to continue. Under no circumstances should the working group end its contribution as a mechanism for the follow-up, review and assessment of the implementation of the agenda and the commitments already agreed. The Group of 77 would continue its endeavours in that regard until the agenda's adoption.

She said that the fact that a number of developed countries had joined the developing countries in sponsoring last year's resolution 50/122 indicated the new spirit of cooperation and partnership that the Assembly wished to invoke in renewing the development dialogue. Several compelling challenges facing the world community called for a renewal of constructive dialogue. It was now recognized that the trends towards globalization could also have potentially negative impact for large groups of people or even countries. Similarly, the growing interdependence among nations suggested the need for a dialogue. The Group of 77 agreed that the preparations for the dialogue should not only involve organizations of the United Nations system, but be broadened to include other actors in the development process. The Group

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supported recommendations that the high-level dialogue should be deferred until the Assembly's fifty-second session.

CONOR MURPHY (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland Romania, Slovakia and Iceland, recalled that members of the Union had expressed regret that agreement had not been reached on the terms of the agenda for development. The draft for the agenda, particularly its chapters I and II, embodied changes in the development thinking and strategies, as established in the recent series of United Nations conferences and summits.

Those texts were relevant to the continuing efforts to increase the impact of the activities of the United Nations in the field of development, he said. It was for the sake of development that the European Union believed that it was important to finish the negotiations on the agenda without delay. While it remained ready to listen to new constructive ideas, the European Union did not believe that inputs should be formally sought at that late stage from other parts of the United Nations system and other institutions. The Union was anxious to have the negotiating process restarted as soon as possible with a view to its early completion.

BAI YONGJIE (China) said the agenda for development could be meaningful only when it played a positive and promotional role in boosting international cooperation for development, in helping implementation of international consensus and in fulfilling commitments. A true-to-its-name agenda for development would facilitate developing countries' sustainable growth and development. It would give impetus to international cooperation in the new era.

Referring to differences that existed in approaching the agenda for development, she expressed the hope the parties concerned would intensify consultations and display flexibility and pragmatism.

ALAN MARCH (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand -- the CANZ Group -- said that work on the agenda for development had been embraced by the United Nations system with very important considerations in mind. It was considered that with the passage of time and emergence of post-cold war interests, a new development agenda was warranted. An agenda for development was seen as an important part of the process of reform and revitalization of the United Nations system in the economic, social and related fields. Moreover, it was a step forward by the United Nations system in describing a strategic direction and policy priorities for both United Nations development organs and oversight bodies.

Calls from many countries had been heard for an early conclusion of the agenda for development, he said. The CANZ Group joined those calls and expressed its desire that the agenda for development be concluded without

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delay, within the life of the current Assembly session. That was essential to reflect clearly the understanding that had been achieved in the economic and social sectors.

EDUARD KUDRYAVTSEV (Russian Federation) said his delegation favoured continuation of the dialogue on the basis of partnership while the United Nations was given a central role in it. The dialogue should be dictated by mutual interests to ensure the economic development of all countries. His delegation shared the Secretary-General's opinion that resolving the question of carrying out the dialogue at a high level, including choosing its main theme, should take place in light of the work done in the context of the agenda for development.

His delegation hoped negotiations on the agenda would be completed during the Assembly's current session, he said. The Russian Federation had already assessed its progress and favoured the integrated nature of the document on the work done to date. A great deal of work had been carried out which should not at that stage be undone, otherwise the negotiating process could be delayed.

VICTOR MARRERO (United States) said the agenda for development had been launched in 1992 as the shadow of cold war divisions receded from the community of nations. In place of the old confrontations, there had emerged the near unanimity that the common goal was to improve the quality of life of all peoples of the world. Since the beginning of the agenda for development, a series of major conferences had been held. Those conferences had defined through their declarations a broad global consensus and had laid out the means to operationalize that consensus. If such a consensus existed today, one could be confident that the process in which the international community was jointly engaged had succeeded.

The challenge that the international community faced in the agenda for development was to craft a single document articulating the priorities of the United Nations on economic growth, the environment, population, human rights, social development, women's issues and human settlements, he said. The goal was to define concisely the United Nations development agenda for the next century. The United States was committed to a well-defined role for the United Nations on development issues. It had participated actively in the major United Nations conferences and its enthusiasm for the consensus achieved was undiminished. Although negotiations on the draft for the agenda had continued for many years, it was far from being finalized. However, while the United States would like the negotiations to conclude expeditiously, it was prepared to continue them to arrive at an outcome which all Member States could accept.

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SURJIT SINGH BARNALA (India) said the process for an agenda for development had emerged at a time when the East-West rivalry was ending and there was an opportunity for enhanced cooperation for mutual benefit. At that time it was felt that the United Nations should be reoriented in the direction of development, away from excessive preoccupation with peace-keeping and humanitarian assistance. It was an opportunity to establish the centrality of the United Nations in the development dialogue.

Unfortunately, it coincided with an atmosphere of aid fatigue and severe budgetary pressures in the developed countries, questioning the efficacy of international development cooperation and protectionist pressures, he said. While efficiency and effectiveness were important, so was the cause of development. Efforts to complete the agenda at an early date needed to be re- energized.

MESSIE AMOAH (Ghana) said the agenda for development should provide a comprehensive framework for an integrated follow-up of the recent major United Nations conferences that culminated in various commitments aimed at achieving development for all. Guidelines should be established in the course of the negotiations on the agenda that would operationalize those commitments as well as other United Nations development programmes. It was her delegation's hope that the negotiations would be successfully concluded by the end of the current Assembly session.

Ghana was concerned at the lack of political will which, to a large extent, was responsible for the non-implementation of many commitments made in the past, she continued. It hoped that the agenda for development, when completed, would not suffer the fate of similar United Nations programmes that contained all the ingredients for achieving success but had remained unimplemented. That was why it was necessary, even after the successful conclusion of the agenda for development, for the United Nations, as the only universal body, to continue to ensure constructive dialogue on the issues of development. It was also why the Organization itself should be strengthened to enable it to further the dialogue on international economic cooperation for development.

ABDULAZIZ AHMED KAID (Yemen) said he supported the statement by the representative of Costa Rica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. Development was a major task for mankind and all the major United Nations conferences had focused on it. However, that focus should be followed with action. Developing countries needed transfer of technology and the elimination of a protectionist climate so that investments could flow.

In the beginning of the 1990s, globalization and liberalization worldwide had been accompanied with reduction of donor country aid and economic barriers, he said. That had impeded the promotion of development. He called for the implementation of recommendations made by United Nations

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conferences. Yemen was one of the least developed countries and needed cooperation in the area of development to overcome obstacles. There had been a recent integration of economic and social structures in the country following its reunification. It had also been faced with catastrophes in the recent past. As a result of floods, 60,000 families had been uprooted, land had become submerged, cattle had perished and infrastructure had been damaged. To overcome those obstacles to development, Yemen would need the help of the international community.

MALIKUS SUAMIN (Indonesia) said the agenda for development was an essential process to strengthen international cooperation for development. The discussion by the Assembly's working group was now entering its fourth and crucial stage. While much had been achieved, a lot still remained to be done for the completion of the agenda. Many countries, during the discussion, had shown a positive spirit of partnership and Indonesia hoped that such a spirit would prevail.

Indonesia looked forward to the speedy finalization of the blueprint for development, he said. Failure to do so would result in the international community "questioning the seriousness of our efforts to bring development to the forefront of the United Nations agenda". Moreover, the agenda for development should not be seen as a stop-go event, but rather as a continuing process. As soon as the agenda was finalized, the focus should be on its implementation.

MOHAMMAD A. AL-KHAJA (Bahrain) said new formulas should be established to deal with international economic problems through joint international efforts, with the participation of the United Nations. The agenda for development required the elaboration of international rules through shared responsibilities and international solidarity. The particular situations of countries should be taken into account. Bahrain was in the forefront of human development, as had been attested to by the Human Development Report. He was convinced of the need of dialogue and its importance in strengthening the development process and the role the United Nations should play in it.

ULADZIMIR GERUS (Belarus) felt maximum effort should be made to speed up negotiations. The negotiating process had demonstrated the need for decisive joint steps to deal with global problems and to promote development. He commended the efforts of the Group of 77, the European Union, the United States and Canada in helping to build a consensus in very difficult situations and in giving dynamism to the negotiating process. He noted that consensus had been achieved on a number of provisions of the draft agenda, but work still remained. More efforts would be required, and he suggested that work should continue during the current session, otherwise some provisions could become obsolete before the final adoption of the text. Attention should be focused on chapter III of the draft agenda for development. There should also be focus on the strengthening of international cooperation and on the

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relationship between the Economic and Social Council and the specialized agencies and between the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization.

EDWARD A. LAING (Belize) proposed the convening of a special session of the Assembly annually in the context of an agenda for development to assess the state of the world and evaluate progress made, in much the same way as was done by the "Group of Seven" most industrialized countries. At that session, there would be opportunity to study priorities and fine-tune public policy in the face of private sector-driven globalization and other dynamic changes.

That proposed special session, he continued, should be held just before the start of the Assembly's annual regular session with the highest possible level of participation. Several Second Committee items could be dealt with at that time, profiting from the presence of high-level government officials. One substantive aspect of development could be highlighted at each annual special session.

AKIO TANAKA (Japan) said the United Nations was in great danger of losing contact with the reality of the outside world, where in some areas the development process had been moving forward, while in others economic misery and military conflicts continued to make development impossible. In the outside world, the private sector and non-governmental organizations and many new actors other than governments participated in the development process.

The end of the cold war had released the world from the traditional notion of North-South conflict, he said. The ever-increasing trend towards economic globalization had forced the international community into a relationship in which "we must all be partners in promoting economic cooperation and development". He wondered if discussion on the agenda for development reflected the changes that had occurred and the new realities. In May this year, Japan had submitted a proposal to the working group on the agenda for development. It had proposed a new partnership, not only between developed and developing countries, but also between government and the private sector and the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions.

In addition, it had proposed shared responsibility between donor and recipient countries, based upon developing country ownership of the development process, he said. In order for the United Nations and the Second Committee to play a more significant role in international cooperation for development, Japan's proposed new approach to development cooperation should be discussed more intensively.

AHMED AMAZIANE (Morocco) said it would be regrettable to see the agenda for development diluted to a point where it would have no effect. The agenda had emphasized that development was a multidimensional concept which involved sustained economic growth and good governance. It had further called for integrated growth. While it said that each player had a responsibility in the development process, it had not denied the complementary role and shared responsibility of all actors within the development process.

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Stressing the importance of an endogenous process for generating development, he said, in economic terms, domestic savings and investment determined growth more than external factors. In that context, appropriate macroeconomic policies should be adopted. In the social sphere, it had been noticed that economic take-off had been achieved in countries where expenditure on health and education had been high. Moreover, the state should ensure respect for the rule of law. He hoped that the final document of the agenda for development would be able to respond to the immense task of creating a better world, where progress and justice would have prevailed.

SORIN TANASESCU (Romania) drew attention to the delays in the completion of the work of the agenda and how agreed provisions could be overtaken by events. He said the agenda's chapter III had not struck the necessary balance between the search for practical solutions to economic problems and the definition of principles and changes. That was necessary to identify the principles which ensured flexibility and adaptability of the United Nations system. His delegation thought that the current difficulties on chapter III could be overcome by simplifying its structure and defining its objectives more clearly. The agenda should have a long-term approach.

CARLSTON B. BOUCHER (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said negotiations on the agenda should not seek to reinvent the wheel by designing some new macroeconomic blueprint for the global economy. It should rather reflect the realities of globalization and interdependence and the lessons of the development experience. The negotiations should underline the need for sustained international support for policy actions that had worked in promoting economic and social progress. The CARICOM countries shared the view that progress achieved in the negotiations so far had fallen short of expectations.

He said the negotiations should aim at constructing an agenda which could claim wide ownership to ensure wide acceptance and consequently effective implementation. The CARICOM countries called for closer consultations among operational ministries, especially ministries of finance and development. He welcomed the expert panel discussions which had enriched debate and enhanced understanding of the technical issues before the Second Committee. The CARICOM States remained strongly committed to an agenda for development which was central to United Nations mandates. It should reflect the differentiated needs of developing countries, he stressed.

ARAFAN KABINE KABA (Guinea) said he supported the statement made by the representative of Costa Rica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and stressed that the United Nations was the cornerstone of development partnership. It was irreplaceable in the search for solutions to the many challenges that the international community faced.

He stressed the need for strengthening dialogue on international economic cooperation for development through partnership, adding that there

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was need for a real political will on the part of developed countries. For three decades, Guinea, within the Organization of African Unity (OAU), had spared no effort at subregional cooperation. It had been committed to restructuring and that had started bearing results. He stressed that the partnership for development was feasible. It was a partnership where each actor would do his part to enable the community of nations to address development.

HAROLD ACEMAH (Uganda) said the international community appeared to have gone back on its commitment made in 1974 to work for the establishment of a new international economic order based on justice, which was an essential precondition for any serious attempt to eradicate global poverty. The first Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Raul Prebisch, had argued as far back as 1950 that the international economic system was structurally biased in favour of the industrialized States and worked against the development interests of the South. He had further argued that economic liberalization would maintain the dominant position of the North and perpetuate the dependency of the South. That analysis was as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.

The challenge facing the international community today was to muster the necessary political will to undertake profound transformation in basic perceptions, values and institutional structures, he said. The choices could not be left entirely to governments; non-governmental actors, including ordinary people, had to be involved in the exercise. A new definition of development should emphasize its moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions.

LUIZ T. CALDAS DE MOURA (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Common Market of the Southern Cone (MERCOSUR) (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as Bolivia and Chile), said that the agenda should be adopted by the Assembly at a special event that allowed for ample coverage and encouraged the participation of high-level representatives of the many institutions of the United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods institutions. The follow-up of the agenda should give equal importance to substantive and institutional issues, taking into account existing mechanisms, including those for integrated follow-up to avoid duplication.

He stressed that the purpose of the agenda was to reaffirm the role of the United Nations in the field of development. That purpose was still valid because of the pressures for cuts in United Nations activities. The agenda had acquired another significance, that of an instrument of transition between the cycle of global conferences on development and the institutional reforms in all the United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods institutions. Many delegations were frustrated with the results of the negotiations in the working group on the agenda for development, with some considering that chapters I and II of the agenda did not fully reflect the commitments made at United Nations conferences. Others also considered its chapter III to be minimalist when dealing with institutional reforms.

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For information media. Not an official record.