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20 June 1997

Press Release


19970620 Background Release World Leaders to Confront Challenges of Strengthening Global Partnership Towards Sustainable Development, Recommitting Themselves to 1992 UNCED Outcome

Reactivating and intensifying international cooperation, mobilizing stronger political will and invigorating a genuine new global partnership towards achieving sustainable development are among the challenges before the nineteenth special session of the General Assembly, as it convenes to review and appraise implementation of Agenda 21 -- the programme of action adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Over 50 heads of State and government, 80 ministers and other senior government officials will face those challenges during the five-day session, to held from 23 to 27 June. The special session, also known as "Earth Summit + 5", will consider for adoption a three-part document as its proposed outcome. It is also expected to consider a political statement which is still to be negotiated.

The two consensus texts adopted by UNCED and to which Member States are expected to recommit themselves are the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21, a comprehensive programme of action to be implemented into the twenty-first century by governments and organizations in all areas where human activity affects the environment. In conjunction with the 27 principles of the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21 established a comprehensive global approach to the achievement of sustainable development.

The high-level debate to review and appraise the implementation of the Rio outcome will be held in plenary meetings. Simultaneously, an Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole will meet to finalize negotiations on the texts which will then be submitted to the Assembly for adoption.

From the perspective of the developing countries, Member States at the special session should renew their commitments to eradicating poverty, as well as to making new and additional resources available for implementing Agenda 21. Other priorities are energy and freshwater issues and the question of transfer of environmentally sound technology to the developing countries.

Contentious issues before the session, from the perspective of both developed and developing countries, include ways of financing the implementation of Agenda 21, through both official development assistance (ODA) and domestic financial resources, particularly in view of the declining levels of ODA. The use of private sector resources in the quest for sustainable development, the subject of intense negotiations during the preparatory process for the session, is expected to draw much attention during the negotiations. Other major areas of concern are the question of changing consumption and production patterns and climate change issues.

The draft final outcome is contained in the report of the Commission on Sustainable Development on its fifth session, which met from 8 to 25 April as the preparatory body for the special session. The proposed outcome still contains language in brackets, signifying text still to be agreed upon. The removal of those brackets is the major task before the Committee of the Whole.

A key issue before the session is the question of whether to establish an ad hoc open-ended intergovernmental forum on forests or an inter- governmental negotiating committee on a legally binding instrument on all types of forests with a focused and time-limited mandate.

Also contentious are sections in the final document addressing consumption and production patterns, forests, energy, transport, atmosphere, desertification and drought, financial resources and mechanisms, international legal instruments -- including the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development -- and the multi-year programme of work of the Commission for the period 1998-2001. In addition to negotiating the outcome of the session, the Committee of the Whole will also be addressed by the heads of secretariats of the various sustainable development-related conventions, as well as by representatives of United Nations programmes and organizations, international financial institutions and regional organizations.

Major groups -- non-governmental actors considered critical for the effective implementation of Agenda 21 -- will also have the opportunity to address Member States in plenary. Representatives of children and youth, the scientific and technological community, women's groups, workers and trade unions, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, farmers and industry organizations are expected to address the Committee of the Whole.

The criteria for identifying non-governmental organizations which will address the session was established by a resolution adopted by the Assembly on 18 April. Those criteria include a demonstrated commitment to and involvement in the implementation of Agenda 21, equitable geographical representation, gender balance, and high-level representation.

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Agenda 21 consists of a preamble and 40 chapters divided into programme areas addressing topics in terms of basis for action, objectives, activities, and means of implementation. The chapters address, among other issues, combating poverty, changing consumption and production patterns, protecting the atmosphere, combating deforestation, meeting agricultural needs, sustaining biological diversity, safeguarding ocean resources, managing hazardous wastes, and ways of obtaining the financial resources required to tackle those problems.

Previous special sessions of the Assembly were held on major issues of concern to the international community, such as the Organization's financial situation ((1963), issues related to development and the new international economic order (1974 and 1975), disarmament (1978, 1982 and 1988), the critical economic situation of many developing countries (1980), apartheid (1989) and international economic cooperation, particularly the revitalization of economic growth and development of developing countries (1990).

In addition to the meetings of the Assembly plenary and of the Committee of the Whole, a number of side events are scheduled to be held during the five-day session. They include a World Wildlife Fund presentation on the implementation of Agenda 21, as well as the opening of an exhibition on sustainable technologies organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank and Canada.

Other side events include a business roundtable co-led by the General Assembly President, Razali Ismail (Malaysia), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and a presentation by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the theme "Global Partnerships on Technological Innovations for Sustainability".

The provisional agenda for the special session is contained in document A/S-19/1.

Highlights of the proposed final document before the special session follow.

Draft Final Outcome

The draft final outcome of the special session (document A/S-19/14- E/1997/60) contains an assessment of progress made since UNCED (Part B); implementation in areas requiring urgent action (Part C); and international institutional arrangements (Part D).

Assessing progress made since UNCED, Part B, containing 15 paragraphs, notes that although economic growth reinforced by globalization had allowed

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some countries to reduce the proportion of people in poverty, marginalization had increased for others. Five years after UNCED, the state of the global environment has continued to deteriorate. While some progress has been made in terms of institutional development and international consensus-building and a number of countries have succeeded in curbing pollution and slowing the rate of environmental degradation, overall trends are worsening. Marginal progress has been made in addressing unsustainable production and consumption patterns. However, progress in adequately controlling the transboundary movements of hazardous and radioactive wastes remains insufficient.

Further, while there was progress in material and energy efficiency, particularly with reference to non-renewable resources, overall trends remained unsustainable, the documents states. Among the achievements since UNCED, the text notes the entry into force of the Conventions on Climate Change, on Biodiversity and to Combat Desertification. Moreover, agreements were concluded on straddling and migratory fish stocks and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States was adopted. Also, the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of Marine Environment and Land-based Activities was elaborated.

Local authorities have made Agenda 21 and the pursuit of sustainable development a reality at the local level through the implementation of "Local Agenda 21s", the report says. Similarly, hundreds of small and large businesses have made "green business" a new operating mode.

Part C of the draft final document -- addressing implementation in areas requiring urgent action -- contains the following three sections: integration of economic, social and environmental objectives; sectors and issues; and means of implementation.

Within the section on integration of economic, social and environmental objectives, there are subsections on eradicating poverty; changing consumption and production patterns; making trade, environment and sustainable development mutually supportive; population; health; and sustainable human settlements.

The introductory paragraph of the section on integration of economic, social and environmental objectives has bracketed text referring to "sustained economic growth" as essential to the economic and social development of all countries, in particular developing countries. Such language points to the controversial debates that have arisen in many intergovernmental forums as to what is the most relevant concept to refer to economic growth and development objectives of developing countries. Other bracketed text states that "democracy, respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, transparent and accountable governance in all sectors of the society, as well as the effective participation by civil society, are indispensable foundations for the realization of sustainable development".

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Another paragraph of bracketed text states that the implementation of policies aiming at sustainable development may enhance the opportunities for job creation -- while protecting basic workers rights -- thus helping to achieve the fundamental goal of eradicating poverty. In addition, a heading -- enabling economic environment -- remains bracketed. However, there is agreed text supportive of the continued need for a dynamic and enabling international economic environment supportive of international cooperation, particularly in the fields of finance, technology transfer, debt and trade. Such an environment is necessary if the momentum for global progress towards sustainable development is to be maintained and increased.

Poverty eradication, the draft goes on, is an overriding theme of sustainable development for the coming years. It notes that, since Rio, there has been an increase in the number of people living in absolute poverty, particularly in the developing countries. There was now an urgent need for the timely and full implementation of all the relevant commitments, agreements and targets already agreed upon since Rio by the international community, including the United Nations system and international financial institutions.

The text calls for a number of priority actions to be taken for the full implementation of the Programme of Action adopted by the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development. Such actions include providing universal access to basic social services; progressively developing social protection systems to support those who cannot support themselves; and empowering people living in poverty and addressing the disproportionate impact of poverty on women. Language on ensuring access of people living in poverty to micro- credit remains bracketed.

The subsection on changing consumption and production patterns calls for the development and further elaboration of national policies and strategies, particularly in industrialized countries, to encourage changes in unsustainable consumption and production patterns. It acknowledges the need to strengthen international approaches [and policies] that promote sustainable consumption patterns on the basis of the principle of common, but differentiated, responsibilities, applying the polluter-pays principle, and encouraging producer responsibility and greater consumer awareness. A number of actions that should be taken relating to eco-efficiency, cost- internalization and product policies for sustainable consumption and production are listed.

Several paragraphs in the subsection contain bracketed phrases such as in reference to "targets", measures aimed at assisting developing countries and the need for cooperation of developed countries, which are called on to take the lead in changing consumption patterns.

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One paragraph focuses on the need to give balanced consideration to both the demand and the supply sides of the economy in matching environmental concerns and economic factors which would encourage changes in the behaviour of consumers and producers.

On trade and environment issues, the draft document refers to the need for continuing the elimination of discriminatory and protectionist practices in international trade relations [particularly those affecting developing countries and countries with economies in transition]. Moreover, the root causes of environmental degradation should be addressed so as not to result in disguised barriers to trade. The subparagraphs list a number of actions that should be taken, including the timely and full implementation of the results of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, as well as full use of the Comprehensive and Integrated World Trade Organization (WTO) Plan of Action for the Least Developed Countries. Also, the promotion of an open, non-discriminatory, rule-based, equitable, secure, transparent and predictable multilateral trading system.

One bracketed paragraph at the end of the subsection refers to action in the WTO to ensure that trade rules do not prevent or undermine effective and legitimate environmental policies and measures at the international, regional and national levels.

The three remaining subsections take up issues related to population, health and sustainable human settlements. The draft document notes the need to recognize the critical linkages between demographic trends and factors and sustainable development.

On health, it states that an overriding goal for the future is to implement the Health for All Strategy of the World Health Organization (WHO) and to enable all people, particularly the world's poor, to achieve a higher level of health and well-being, and to improve their economic productivity and social potential. Priority should be attached to eradicating the major infectious diseases, especially malaria. New and additional financial resources from various sources are necessary to achieve the goals of adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world, the draft states.

Other sections deals with matters such as freshwater, oceans and seas, forests, energy, transport, atmosphere, toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, radioactive wastes, land and sustainable agriculture, desertification and drought, biodiversity, sustainable tourism, small island developing States and natural disasters.

On freshwater, the report states that there is an urgent need to strengthen regional and international cooperation for technological transfer

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and the financing of integrated water resources programmes and projects, in particular those designed to increase access to safe water supply and sanitation. It recognizes that there is an urgent need to ensure the continued participation of local communities, and women in particular, in the management of water resources development and use.

Further, the need to provide an enabling national and international environment that encourages investments from public and private sources to improve water supply and sanitation services in fast growing areas is stressed. In that regard, efforts of developing countries to shift to higher- value, less water-intensive modes of agricultural and industrial production should be supported.

In the paragraphs on oceans and seas, the report states that there is urgent need for better identification of priorities for action at the global level to promote conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment. Further, it stresses the need for international cooperation to support the strengthening, where needed, of regional and subregional agreements for the protection and sustainable use of the oceans and seas. The text calls on governments to prevent or eliminate overfishing and excess fishing capacity through the adoption of management measures and utilization of fishery resources and to undertake programmes of work to achieve the reduction and elimination of wasteful fishing practices, wherever they may occur, especially in relation to large-scale industrialized fishing.

The text relating to forests states that there is an urgent need for countries to develop national forest programmes in accordance with their respective national conditions. The need for enhanced international cooperation to implement the proposals for action pertaining to management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, is also recognized. In addition, the report stresses the need to further clarify all issues arising from the Panel's process, in particular international cooperation in financial assistance and technology transfer, and trade and environment issues in relation to forest products and services.

Text relating to the establishment of an ad hoc open-ended inter- governmental forum on forests remains bracketed as is the text on establishing an intergovernmental negotiating committee on a legally binding instrument on all types of forests, with a focused and time-limited mandate. Also bracketed are references to "traditional forest-related knowledge".

In the text on energy, the need for concrete measures to strengthen international cooperation to assist developing countries in efforts to provide adequate modern energy services to all sections of their population in an environmentally sound manner is stressed. Also stressed is the need to

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promote research and development and the use of renewable energy technologies at the international and national levels. A reference to the "provision of concessional finance for capacity development and transfer of relevant technology" remains bracketed in the text.

Also bracketed is a paragraph which states that governments should commit themselves to develop and promote sustainable energy policies, involving all actors. The same paragraph states that the Commission should devote one of its sessions in the near future to the establishment of a common strategy in that regard. Further, that strategy should be prepared by an intersessional high-level forum of the Commission.

Text on "time-bound commitments for" the transfer of technology to developing countries also remains bracketed. Among other texts in brackets is a paragraph stating that governments and the private sector should be encouraged to move towards energy pricing that better reflects economic, social and environmental costs and benefits.

The text on transport emphasizes the need for promoting integrated transport policies. It also stresses the need for partnerships at the national level, involving governments, local authorities, non-governmental actors and the private sector for strengthening transport infrastructures and developing innovative mass transport schemes. A reference to a proposal for an initiative to prepare, at the international level, a tax on aviation fuel remains in brackets. Also still to be agreed on is a suggestion for phasing out the use of leaded gasoline as soon as possible, as well as a paragraph on reducing vehicle emissions.

On atmosphere, the report states that the Commission agreed that rising levels of transboundary air pollution should be countered, including through appropriate regional cooperation to reduce pollution levels. The need for increased focus on capacity-building programmes in developing countries with multilateral funds is recognized, as well as the need for effective measures against illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances. References to insufficient progress by developed countries in meeting the aim of returning greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 remain bracketed. Also bracketed are references to a legally binding commitment for specified reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide below the 1990 level in a specified time period.

Concerning toxic chemicals, the report states that environmentally sound management of chemicals should continue to be an important issue well beyond 2000. Particular attention should also be given to cooperation in the development and transfer of technology of safe substitutes and in the development of capacity for the production of such substitutes. The decision on the sound management of chemicals adopted by the governing council of UNEP

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at its nineteenth session should be implemented in accordance with the agreed timetables for negotiations on the prior informed consent (PIC) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) conventions.

On hazardous wastes, the report states that substantial progress has been made with the implementation of the Basel Convention, the Bamako Convention, the Fourth Lomé Convention and other regional conventions, although more remains to be done. It is important that work under the Basel Convention be completed to define which hazardous wastes are controlled under the Convention and to adopt and implement a protocol on liability and compensation for damage resulting from transboundary movements and disposal of hazardous wastes. Land contaminated by the disposal of hazardous wastes needs to be identified and remedial actions taken. Integrated management solutions are also required to minimize urban and industrial waste generation and to promote recycling and reuse.

In the text on radioactive wastes it is stated that the international community should make all efforts to prohibit the export of radioactive wastes to those countries that do not have appropriate waste treatment and storage facilities. Further, increased global and regional cooperation, including exchange of information and transfer of appropriate technologies, is needed to improve the management of radioactive wastes.

References to the principle that States should pursue the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes in the State in which they are generated remain bracketed. Also bracketed is a suggestion that governments should continue to undertake disposal activities in accordance with the proximity principle. The same paragraph goes on to say that, where such activities are likely to have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect, States shall provide prior notification and relevant information and consult, at an early stage, with States that could be impacted by such activities. Also within brackets is a sentence pertaining to the need to clean-up sites contaminated as a result of military activities and uranium mining.

The text on land and sustainable agriculture, stresses that governments should attach high priority to implementing the commitments of the Rome Declaration on World Food Security as adopted by the World Food Summit held in November 1996. The challenge for agricultural research is to increase yields on all farmlands while protecting and conserving the natural resource base. A reference stating that developed countries should provide adequate resources and technical assistance to developing countries for sustainable food security among both the urban and the rural poor remains bracketed in the text. Also bracketed is a mention of the need for further empirical work and analysis in discussions on the benefits of removing trade restrictions.

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In the section of the report on desertification and drought, governments are urged to conclude and to implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly In Africa, as soon as possible. However, references to the Global Mechanism created by the Convention and to the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries remain in brackets.

On biodiversity, the report states that there is an urgent need for governments to ratify and implement the Convention on Biological Diversity. Further, they should pay attention to the provision of new and additional financial resources for its implementation and facilitate the transfer of technologies, including biotechnology to developing countries, consistent with the Convention's provisions.

Concerning sustainable tourism, the draft states that the efforts of developing countries to broaden the traditional concept of tourism to include cultural and eco-tourism merits special consideration, and the assistance of the international community, including international financial institutions. It stresses that for sustainable patterns of consumption and production in the tourism sector to be obtained, it is essential to enhance capacity in the areas of physical planning, impact assessment and the use of economic and regulatory instruments. Concern is expressed over the degradation of biodiversity and fragile eco-systems, such as coral reefs, mountains, coastal areas and wetlands. In the paragraph on small island developing States, the international community would reaffirm its commitment to the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. Efforts at the national and regional level to implement the Programme of Action must be supplemented by effective financial support from the international community. External assistance for the building of requisite infrastructure, national capacity-building, including human and institutional capacity, and for facilitating access to information on sustainable development practices and transfer of environmentally sound technologies is crucial for those States to effectively attain the goals of the Programme of Action, according to the document.

In the text on natural disasters, the report stresses that programmes for sustainable development should give higher priority to the implementation of the commitments made at the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction held in Japan in May 1994. There is a special need to provide developing countries with further assistance in access to resources for disaster mitigation and preparedness, response and recovery. Further, they should be provided with technical, scientific and financial support for disaster preparedness. However, text stating that the international community should intensify cooperation in the prevention and reduction of technological and man-made disasters remains bracketed.

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The section on means of implementation takes account of financial resources and mechanisms; transfer of environmentally sound technologies; capacity-building; science; education and awareness; international legal instruments, including the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; and information and tools to measure progress.

The subsection on financial resources and mechanisms refers to the need for all financial commitments [and objectives] of Agenda 21 to be urgently fulfilled. Issues such as the provision of new and additional resources that are both adequate and predictable, ODA as a main source of external funding for developing countries, private capital flows, fulfilment of the accepted United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) and the problems of external debt in the context of achieving sustainable development are taken up in the subsection.

The draft document states that strategies should be worked out for increasing donor support to aid programmes and revitalizing the commitments that donors made at UNCED. Donor commitments to adequate, sustained and predictable funding for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) operations are seen as important for developing countries so that global environmental benefits can be achieved.

Among bracketed text in that subsection are references to increased levels of resources in implementing Agenda 21 and a sentence on a proposal for collaboration between the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Secretariat for further consideration of the interrelationship between indebtedness and sustainable development for developing countries.

The issue of financial resources remains one of the most contentious in the draft document. Of the 11 potential paragraphs, only five have been agreed on. The remainder contains bracketed paragraphs and sentences dealing with issues such as the essential nature of ODA; the need for a substantial increase in resources for operational activities for development; countries' public and private sectors as the source of financing for implementing Agenda 21; and establishing an intergovernmental process to consider practical responses to the recommendations of the expert group meetings on financial issues.

Continuing, the draft document acknowledges the need to reduce constraints for the transfer of publicly and privately sound technologies. Other ideas elaborated include: the need to stimulate private sector investment in and transfer of such technologies to developing countries; efforts to facilitate the transfer of privately owned technology on concessional terms to developing countries, especially the least developed countries; and the potential for the generation of publicly owned technologies

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that could be made accessible to developing countries and which could catalyse private sector technology transfer.

The draft document calls on governments to create legal and policy frameworks that are conducive to technology-related private sector investments and long-term sustainable development objectives. The creation of centres for the transfer of environmentally sound technologies, including at the regional level, is proposed as a means of contributing to achieving the objective of the transfer of such technologies to developing countries.

Still in brackets in that subsection are references to the role of governments in providing research and development institutions with incentives to promote and contribute to developing institutional and human capacities for effective technology transfer. The text of eight of the 10 paragraphs in that subsection have been agreed on.

Most of the text in the subsections on international legal instruments and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and on information and tools to measure progress are still to be negotiated.

The last part of the draft final document (Part D), on international institutional arrangements to support the achievement of sustainable development, contains the following four subsections: greater coherence in various intergovernmental organizations and processes; the role of relevant organizations and institutions of the United Nations system; the Commission's future role and programme of work; and the Commission's methods of work. The Commission's proposed multi-year work programme is annexed to it.

That part of the draft final document focuses on the need for better policy coordination at the intergovernmental level and on enhancing collaboration among the secretariats of decision-making bodies. In that connection, reference is made to the means of advancing the collaborative work of the conferences of the parties to conventions related to sustainable development, including giving consideration to the co-location of convention secretariats and integrating national reporting requirements.

Two paragraphs are devoted to the question of enhancing UNEP's role as "the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda", to promote the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and to serve as the authoritative advocate for the global environment. A revitalized UNEP should be supported by adequate, stable and predictable funding and continue to provide effective support to the Commission on Sustainable Development, the draft document states.

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The strengthening of the roles of the UNDP, UNCTAD and the WTO, and the implementation of commitments by international financial institutions are also considered in the context of implementation of Agenda 21.

By the draft document, Member States would agree to strengthen the implementation of the commitment of the international financial institutions to sustainable development. Although it is acknowledged that the World Bank has a significant role to play in that regard, proposals on replenishing by the donor community of the International Development Association (IDA) and on providing new and additional resources towards the satisfactory replenishment of the GEF are yet to be agreed on.

In a section on the future role and programme of work of the Commission, the report states that it should continue to provide a central forum for reviewing progress and urging further implementation of Agenda 21 and other commitments made at UNCED. Further, it should make concerted efforts to attract greater involvement in its work, particularly in the annual high-level segment, of ministers and high-level national policy-makers. It should continue to provide a forum for the exchange of national experience and best practices in the area of sustainable development. In addition, consideration should be given to the results of ongoing work aimed at streamlining requests for national information and reporting.

The Commission should organize the implementation of its next multi-year programme of work in the most effective way, including through shortening its annual meeting to two weeks, the text says. It adds that the next comprehensive review of progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 will take place in 2001. According to the multi-year programme of work recommended for the Commission for the period 1998-2002, the sectoral theme for 1999 would be oceans and seas, while the sectoral theme for the year 2000 would pertain to the integrated planning and management of land resources.

Other Documents

The special session will also have before it a number of reports that had been considered by the Commission on Sustainable Development, including reports of the Secretary-General on overall progress achieved since UNCED; global change and sustainable development: critical trends; an assessment of progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national level; a comprehensive assessment of freshwater resources of the world; and the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

A note by the Secretary-General transmits the contribution of UNEP to the special session (documents A/S-19/5 and Add.1) which includes the Nairobi Declaration on UNEP's role and mandate; a note by the Executive Director of

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the Governing Council on preparations for the review and appraisal of Agenda 21 and the executive summary of the report Global Environment Outlook. The addendum contains additional information from UNEP's Governing Council in relation to its contribution to the special session. It concerns the mid-term review by the Governing Council of the Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law for the 1990s.

Another note by the Secretary-General (document A/S-19/6) transmits a statement by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) for consideration by the special session. It addresses issues such as field-level implementation; enhancement of cooperation of organizations of the United Nations system and a wide variety of non-governmental stakeholders; and strengthening the task manager system of the inter-agency Committee on Sustainable Development. An important constraint, however, is the financial crisis affecting the United Nations and many of the specialized agencies. "The expectations of additional resources raised at Rio have not been fulfilled", the statement notes.

Also before the special session are two other notes by the Secretary- General transmitting a report prepared by the UNCTAD secretariat on trade and environmental matters (documents A/S-19/4 and Add.1 E/1997/13) and a decision of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/S-19/13). Annexed to the latter is a statement from the Conference of the Parties.

In addition, the special session will have before it a number of letters addressed to the Secretary-General transmitting documents from Member States concerning national and international seminars, workshops and other forums related to the review of implementation of Agenda 21.

Background on Special Session

The convening of a special session of the General Assembly to review and appraise the implementation of Agenda 21 was envisaged in paragraph 38.9 of that document when it was adopted by UNCED in June 1992. That recommendation was endorsed by the General Assembly in resolution 47/190 when it adopted UNCED's report.

At its fiftieth session, the Assembly considered a report of the Secretary-General containing proposals on the format, scope and organizational aspects of the special session and decided to convene it for one week during the month of June 1997 at the highest possible level of participation (in resolution 50/113). The Assembly also determined the preparatory arrangements, including the role of the Commission on Sustainable Development and of other relevant United Nations bodies.

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In addition, the Assembly -- in resolution 50/113 -- recognized the important role played by major groups, including non-governmental organizations, in the implementation of Conference recommendations and the need for their active involvement in the preparations for the special session as well as the need to ensure appropriate arrangements for their contribution during the session.

The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to prepare a number of reports to be considered by the Commission on Sustainable Development containing an overall assessment of progress achieved since the Conference, together with recommendations for future actions and priorities; and to mount a public information programme to raise global awareness of both the special session and work undertaken by the United Nations in the follow-up to the Conference.

During the fiftieth session, the Assembly also decided that the Commission would act as the central intergovernmental forum for the preparations for the special session. That process began in the Ad-hoc Open- ended Intersessional Working Group in February and continued in the fifth session of the Commission in April. It resulted in the draft final outcome that is now before the special session.

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For information media. Not an official record.