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GA/EF/2785

ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL COMMITTEE BEGINS CONSIDERATION OF OUTCOME OF ASSEMBLY'S SPECIAL SESSION ON IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21

5 November 1997


Press Release
GA/EF/2785


ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL COMMITTEE BEGINS CONSIDERATION OF OUTCOME OF ASSEMBLY'S SPECIAL SESSION ON IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21

19971105 Need for Balanced, Comprehensive Approach In Environmental Negotiations Stressed by Speakers

The environmental negotiations agenda should be designed to look after the interests of both the developed and developing countries, the representative of Pakistan told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon, as it began consideration of the implementation of decisions and recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the outcome of the special session to review and appraise the implementation of Agenda 21.

There should be undoubtedly attempts to address pressing sectoral issues, he said, but that should not be at the expense of the structural causes of environmental degradation. A balanced agenda should include issues such as fish stocks and forests, but those issues of serious concern to the developing countries such as the global distribution of consumption; resolution of the debt crisis of the developing countries; sharing the benefits of technology; providing requisite financial resources; and seeking agreements on the elimination of poverty and underdevelopment.

Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania drew attention to the critical issue of freshwater, which was important to developing countries and remained unresolved. The improvement of water supply and sanitation coverage required not only the provision of requisite resources and technical support, but also involved broader socio-economic policies, he added.

The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said poverty eradication, changing consumption and production patterns, protection and sustainable management of the seas and oceans, freshwater supplies, climate change, biological diversity, the sustainable management of forests and desertification and natural disasters deserved particular attention.

Wrenching a national economy into environmental awareness was not an easy task and that was rarely at the forefront of the national agenda, the representative of Israel said. The international community must recognize

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that the general momentum towards an awareness of the importance of sustainable development had slowed down.

Statements were also made by the representatives of the United States, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Paraguay (on behalf of the Rio Group), China, India, Morocco, Libya, Slovakia and Kazakhstan. Representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also addressed the Committee.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Elizabeth Dowdeswell; the Director of the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Joke Waller-Hunter; and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Michael Zammit-Cutajar, made introductory statements.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 6 November, to continue its consideration of the implementation of decisions and recommendations of UNCED and the outcome of the special session for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by UNCED.

Committee Work Programme

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to begin its consideration, under the general heading "environment and sustainable development", of the implementation of decisions and recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (Rio de Janeiro, June 1992) and the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by UNCED.

Before the Committee is the Secretary-General's report on the outcome of the special session to review implementation of Agenda 21 (document A/52/280), which was held at Headquarters from 23 to 28 June.

Agenda 21 is the programme of action adopted by UNCED. The Conference also adopted the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Non- legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests. Those documents were subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/190 of 22 December 1992. By the same resolution, the Assembly decided to convene, no later than 1997, a special session for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21.

In his report, the Secretary-General states that the special session adopted resolution S-19/2 of 28 June, the annex to which contains a "Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21". That document includes the following:

-- statement of commitment to Agenda 21 and to the goals of sustainable development, which call for integration of economic, social and environmental policies and actions at all levels, and to global partnership aimed at achieving sustainable development worldwide;

-- assessment of progress made since the Conference in all main areas of Agenda 21 and other outcomes and commitments made at the Conference;

-- a broad range of decisions and recommendations to foster progress in various sectoral and cross-sectoral areas of Agenda 21, particularly concerning means of implementation;

-- decisions aimed at strengthening global and regional institutional arrangements for achieving sustainable development; and

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-- recommendations on the future methods of work of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the programme of work for the Commission for the period 1998-2002.

Also in the Programme, the Assembly underscored that the achievement of sustainable development required continued support from international institutions, he continued. The Assembly also stressed that in the light of the ongoing discussions on reform within the United Nations, international institutional arrangements in the area of sustainable development were intended to contribute to the goal of strengthening the entire United Nations system. Furthermore, the Assembly stated the necessity of strengthening the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development and its system of task managers to further enhance system-wide, inter-sectoral cooperation and coordination for the implementation of Agenda 21 and for the promotion of coordinated follow-up to the major United Nations conferences in the area of sustainable development.

The report states that the General Assembly also stressed that in order to facilitate the national implementation of Agenda 21, all organizations and programmes of the United Nations system should strengthen the support for national efforts to implement Agenda 21 and make their actions consistent with national plans, policies and priorities of Member States. The Assembly also underscored that coordination of United Nations activities at the field level should be further enhanced through the resident coordinator system in full consultation with national governments.

According to the report, the Assembly invited the Secretary-General to review the functioning of the High-Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development and present proposals on ways to promote more direct interaction between the Board and the Commission on Sustainable Development to ensure that the Board contributed to the deliberations on specific themes considered by the Commission in accordance with its programme of work. As it was outlined in his report on reform (document A/51/950), he believed that with the Commission's new arrangements for participation in its work by actors from civil society, the functions of the Board could now be effectively performed through those processes, and the Board could be discontinued. The Assembly also decided that the next comprehensive review by the Assembly of progress achieved in the implementation of Agenda 21 would take place in the year 2002.

The report also states that the new functions of the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs would lead to the enhancement of the Secretariat's capacity to support action to implement Agenda 21, and to ensure greater coherence in the Secretariat's work in the area of sustainable development. That would include stronger support to regional, national and local activities, as well as further enhancing the

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dialogue and interaction with the major groups and actors involved in the implementation of Agenda 21.

According to the report, the Economic and Social Council, acting on the Assembly's decisions and the recommendations at the special session, adopted two relevant resolutions at its substantive session of 1997 (Geneva, 30 June-26 July).

By its resolution 1997/63, the Council approved the programme of work of the Commission on Sustainable Development for the period 1998-2002 and the provisional agenda for the sixth session of the Commission. By its resolution 1997/65, the Council established the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, which will report to the Commission at its eighth session, in the year 2000. The Forum, following the Council's decision, held its first organizational session in New York from 1 to 3 October.

After the closure of the Assembly's special session, on 9 July, the report says, the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development met informally in Geneva during the Council's substantive session. That meeting was intended to serve as a "brainstorming" session to assess the results of the special session and to prepare for a discussion on ensuring an effective and collaborative response to its outcome by the United Nations system during the tenth meeting of the Inter-Agency Committee held at Geneva on 17 and 18 September. Member States will be informed of the specific decisions taken and actions initiated by the Inter-Agency Committee in the context of a report of the ACC.

Also before the Committee is the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on its nineteenth session (document A/52/25) held in Nairobi from 27 January-7 February and 3-4 April. Among the 48 decisions adopted by the Council at the session which require the special attention of the General Assembly and/or the Economic and Social Council are the following:

-- By decision 19/1, the Governing Council adopted the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme to the Assembly's special session for the purpose of review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21. The Council requested the Executive Director to transmit the Declaration to the Secretary-General to be considered in the ongoing reform process of the United Nations system.

-- By decision 19/2, the Governing Council requested the Executive Director, in accordance with Assembly resolution 51/181, to bring to the attention of the Commission on Sustainable Development, its Ad Hoc Open-ended Inter-sessional Working Group and the Assembly, at its special session, the outcome of the Council's consideration of the issues related to UNEP's implementation of Agenda 21. In addition, the Council requested the Executive

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Director to take measures to follow up the actions requested of the UNEP by the Assembly at its special session.

-- By decision 19/3, the Governing Council noted the timely production of the new, comprehensive report on the state of the world environment, Global Environment Outlook-1, and recommended that its text be made available to the Assembly at its special session. The Council also urged Governments, United Nations agencies and bodies, and other institutions to participate in, and contribute to, the future activities of the Global Environment Outlook process.

-- By decision 19/10, the Governing Council took note of the progress report of the Executive Director on good environmental housekeeping practices and guidelines in UNEP and the United Nations system and requested her to communicate with the Under-Secretary-General for Management to urge the adoption of good environmental housekeeping practices throughout the United Nations system.

-- By decision 19/13 A, the Governing Council confirmed the current mandate of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for an International Legally Binding Instrument for the Application of the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals in International Trade. It also requested the Executive Director to convene in 1997, with the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a conference for the purpose of adopting and signing an international legally binding instrument for the application of the prior informed consent procedure.

-- By decision 19/14, the Governing Council endorsed the proposed role for the UNEP as secretariat of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities and requested the Executive Director to expand the activities of the Global Programme of Action to all regional seas programmes and to establish links with other appropriate regional plans and programmes or conventions. It also urged Governments to accord priority to the implementation of the Global Programme of Action in the work programmes of their relevant organizations and programmes.

-- By decision 19/17, the Governing Council welcomed the entry into force of the Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa, and urged all States that had not yet ratified the Convention to do so. The Council also requested the Executive Director to maintain the function of UNEP as a global centre of excellence on desertification control, to intensify research and development collaboration with world scientific institutions, and to assist Governments and non-governmental organizations in implementing the Convention.

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-- By decision 19/32, the Governing Council decided to establish a High-level Committee of Ministers and Officials as a subsidiary organ of the Governing Council, with the mandate to make reform and policy recommendations to the Governing Council, to provide guidance to the Executive Director between sessions of the Governing Council and to support the Executive Director in mobilizing adequate and predictable financial resources for UNEP.

In addition, the Council also decided to hold its own special session for a three-day period between late 1997 and the end of January 1998, to review the results and decisions of the Assembly at its special session on Agenda 21.

Statements

ELIZABETH DOWDESWELL, UNEP Executive Director, said UNEP was engaged in increasing civil society participation in its programme development and delivery. Modern information technology and institutional networking would play a vital part in that regard. The International Environment Outlook report series, for example, demonstrated how the involvement of major groups, including the private sector, could make the Programme more effective.

Drawing attention to the decreasing contributions to the Environment Fund, she said UNEP was exploring ways and means to ensure adequate, stable and predictable financing for its programmes. The prospects for mainstreaming environment and development considerations throughout the work of the United Nations system and of ensuring overall coherence within the environmental sector were major challenges facing the international community. Priority must be given to ensuring that UNEP had the status, strength and access to resources that it required to function effectively as the environmental agency of the world community.

JOKE WALLER-HUNTER, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the nineteenth special session was the first session of the Assembly that was organized for the purpose of a five-year review of progress achieved since a major global conference was held under the auspices of the United Nations. Experience gained during the preparations for and the proceedings of the special session would be carefully examined and taken into account in the preparations for other forthcoming special sessions of the Assembly that would carry out reviews of progress achieved in the implementation of the outcomes of other recent global conferences.

She said the outcome of the special session gave clear directions for the further implementation of Agenda 21. It was a very good action-oriented document, and it would receive the appropriate dissemination in the Secretariat. It also gave recommendations on the future working methods of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Both the Economic and Social

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Council and the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development had met after the special session to discuss its outcome.

The Inter-Agency Committee had met in a formal meeting in September, after the publication of the Secretary-General's report was finalized, and had taken a number of positions that focused on the support of implementation at the national level. It had also discussed preparations for the sixth meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development. There was discussion about addressing an economic sector during each session of the Commission and getting that sector actively involved in the discussion. That idea had already received a strong interest on the part of industry to participate in the Commission's sixth session.

MICHAEL ZAMMIT-CUTAJAR, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the content of the greenhouse gases to be controlled had not been decided by the international community. Some countries had listed additional gases that must be controlled. The lack of agreement on the content of gases whose emission must be controlled had effects on the level of efforts called for by countries at the national level. The content of gases to be controlled would have to be worked out by the international community.

Expressing disappointment over the fact that the developed countries had not been on track in bringing down their greenhouse gas emissions to a target called for by the year 2000, he said developing countries were also slow in providing communications support that would supply accurate and timely data on climate change in their countries. The challenge was one of leadership, especially by the developed countries. Too much was said about the cost of enforcing environmental programmes and not enough about the cost of not doing something and about the benefits that would accrue from taking the right measures to address climate change.

KATINDA KAMANDO (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the outcome of the special session showed that there had been little progress in achieving the goals of UNCED. That was primarily due to the developed countries' failure to fulfil their obligations regarding the provision of new and additional financial resources and the transfer of technology.

He said that two critical issues of importance to developing countries remained unresolved at the special session: freshwater and forests. Freshwater was a primary and basic need, and in many developing countries freshwater was not readily available for all the segments of the population. The improvement of water supply and sanitation coverage required not only the provision of requisite resources and technical support, but also involved broader socio-economic policies. The Group of 77 welcomed the convening of the organizational session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, and

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hoped that it would adequately address the issues of funding and technology transfer. The UNEP and Habitat in Nairobi faced a major crisis, partly due to fragmentation and dispersion of their mandates and the deliberate policy of some governments of developed countries which had often caused North-South friction, he said. The institutional quandary had become more complicated because the World Bank now had substantial activities in the environmental field and, therefore, considerable influence on those matters at the international level. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was also now involved in environmental matters through the "environment-trade" link, which presented an additional challenge for developing countries in particular because they were the likely targets for both environmental conditionalities and environment-related trade protectionism. HENRI SCHUMACHER (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Cyprus, said the Union had made unremitting efforts to take better account of the objectives of Agenda 21 in its national and community policies. It was continuing to make efforts in the fields of finance and technology transfer, technical assistance and capacity-boosting to help developing countries to achieve sustainable development. The special session affirmed that national resources would play an important role in funding sustainable development. The European Union was ready to step up its efforts to reverse the downward trend in the percentage of gross national product (GNP) allocated to official development assistance (ODA), given the need to enhance the quality and impact of that assistance.

The proposals and recommendations contained in the final text of the special session could not be put into effect without a spirit of partnership among all countries, and without the equal participation of all men and women, he said. Regarding eradication of poverty, a number of issues deserved particular attention: changing patterns of consumption and production; protection and sustainable management of the seas and oceans; freshwater supplies; climate change; biological diversity; the sustainable management of forests; desertification; and natural disasters. Those issues concerned the international community, even though it was primarily the business of national governments to ensure their own sustainable development. Bodies and programmes of the United Nations system must continue to implement Agenda 21 at all levels and must ensure that the Rio Programme of Action become an integral part of every development strategy.

The European Union was pleased with the balance that would exist in the Commission on Sustainable Development between the three components of sustainable development, he said. It particularly welcomed that fact that the urgent issue of freshwater supplies appeared on the programme of the Commission's next session. A high-level dialogue should also take place on economic and cross-sectoral topics, such as industry and patterns of production and consumption.

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JACK J. SPITZER (United States) said sustainable development required that governments integrated their economic, environment and social decision- making processes. Long-term economic growth was not sustainable without proper safeguards for the environment and natural resources and without social equity, human rights and democratization.

Noting that climate change was a global problem requiring the participation of all countries, he urged the adoption of market-based domestic and international systems to ensure that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were made in the most cost-effective manner possible. All countries should adopt a comprehensive programme that would put the world in a position to truly deal with climate change. Toxic chemicals and pesticides remained in the environment for a long time. They were transported long distances through the atmosphere and oceans, presenting a long-term hazard at the local, national, regional and global levels. The international community must work together to deal with that problem. All countries must participate actively in the negotiations to reduce the damage done by those substances to the world.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said his Government had made sincere attempts to prioritize environmental concerns in development decision-making and adopt policies, plans and strategies. It had enacted laws for the protection of the environment; set up "Green Courts" to handle violation of those laws; formulated a National Environment Management Action Plan (NEMAP); ratified almost all major international conventions; and established a national coordination mechanism for sustainable development. Bangladesh continued to face obstacles, however, in the full implementation of the measures adopted. As a least developed country, Bangladesh had severely limited resources to implement the adopted programmes, yet, at the same time, it faced grave threats from continued environmental degradation. His Government hoped that its strong national commitment would draw international attention and that countries would respond by honouring their own commitments to sustain Bangladesh's efforts.

There was a tendency to impose complex environmental trading requirements on the least developed countries, although their share of global trade remained insignificant, he said. Those requirements threatened to further marginalize the least developed countries in world trade. Those countries required increased technical assistance, not increased restrictions, for access to their products in the global markets and for progressive integration in global trade.

The sustainable management of forests was of great importance to all countries, he said. That was especially true for Bangladesh, due to its large population and diminishing forest. His Government welcomed the establishment of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests and hoped that its work would result in protection and development of forest resources.

ALEKSANDR PANKIN (Russian Federation) said access to freshwater and sustainable energy use were major areas in which the international community should focus its efforts. Russia welcomed the strengthening of cooperation

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among various international institutions in the field of the environment. Continuous dialogue within the United Nations was needed to find generally acceptable approaches to the funding of sustainable development activities, including from new and innovative sources.

He said future modalities for interaction between the United Nations General Assembly and the governing bodies of the conventions in the field of environment protection was a broader and more practically relevant issue to focus upon by the international community. After the entry into force of all three major conventions initiated in Rio, it was necessary to define the scope of issues which the General Assembly could act on. The Assembly should focus on the assessment of the efficiency of the activities carried out under the conventions with the aim of making real progress in the areas covered by those conventions.

BERNARDINO HUGO SAGUIER CABALLERO (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the member countries of the Rio Group, called on all Member States to redouble their efforts to fully comply with the agreements made at the Rio Conference. The decisions adopted during the special session must not be interpreted as a substitute for Agenda 21. The establishment of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests was among the principal decisions adopted during the special session. In addition, the issue of freshwater deserved high priority in the international agenda in the coming years. The Rio Group welcomed the decision to establish an intergovernmental dialogue on water within the Commission on Sustainable Development. That process, however, would only be effective if the international community committed itself to providing new and additional resources for the task.

The regional initiatives launched during the preparatory process of the special session on the issue of environment and sustainable development were of vital importance, he said. The Rio Group stressed the commitments made in the Declaration of Principles, the Plan of Action, and the agreements obtained during the Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development, held in December 1996 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Those commitments and agreements constituted an important hemispheric move to conduct national and international action, taking into account the economic, social and environmental objectives in the region. He urged the international agencies and financial institutions to continue working together until the programmed levels of development had been reached.

YU QINGTAI (China) said global environmental degradation continued partly because of the lack of progress in synchronizing international cooperation with national efforts. While developing countries had done a lot in implementing Agenda 21, their efforts towards environmental protection were still seriously constrained by poverty and underdevelopment. The failure of developed countries to fulfil their commitments to provide new and additional financial resources had short-changed the "new and equitable global partnership" launched by UNCED.

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Adequate financial resources constituted a necessary precondition for developing countries in their implementation of Agenda 21, he said. First, effective measures must be taken to reverse the present downward trend in ODA. Second, developed countries should make tangible and measurable progress in resource mobilization, providing developing countries with new and additional financial resources required for their sustainable development. Third, the international community should encourage and channel foreign direct investment to the sustainable development of developing countries. Fourth, developed countries should foster an enabling external climate, including assistance in addressing the debt problem of developing countries.

It was also necessary to enhance cooperation in the area of science and technology and promote the transfer of technology, he said. Developed countries, with their capital and technology, had the ability and obligation to transfer environmentally sound technology to developing countries on favourable terms. The governments of developed countries should take the lead from the public sector in the transfer of technology, promote technological cooperation and capacity-building and study measures to direct the private sector technology flow into developing countries.

ARIEL KEREM (Israel) said despite the hopes which marked the beginning of the decade and the achievements of Rio, the international community must recognize that the general momentum towardS an awareness of the importance of sustainable development had slowed down. Perhaps, expectations were too high. The clash of interests, particularly between the developed and the developing countries, had sometimes proved impossible to bridge. Agreement had proved elusive and major global problems, and in particular the run down of renewable resources such as forests and top soil, continued to fester and sap at the global environment.

Noting that a sound environment was an essential component of a future Middle East at peace, he said consensus had been achieved on several concrete projects, such as marine pollution and desertification, within the framework of the multilateral peace talks for regional cooperation. Wrenching a national economy into environmental awareness was not an easy task and it was regrettably rarely at the forefront of the national agenda. Israel nevertheless was attempting to formulate a comprehensive sustainable development programme founded upon a policy of cooperation between the requirements of economic development and environmental protection. It was also seeking, through fiscal incentives and national standards setting, to internalize environmental costs and assist industry and the general public in improving the environment.

B.S. RAWAT (India) said many developing countries had established local versions of Agenda 21 at considerable costs. In India, which continued to fight poverty and illiteracy, many of the development programmes were devolved to provincial governments. Despite being subject to the pressures of democratic governance, his Government had put in place a legislative and policy framework as exhaustive as any in the world to implement the commitments undertaken at

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UNCED and renewed at the special session. It had evolved a National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, a National Forestry Policy and a Policy Statement on Abatement of Pollution. India also worked to ensure a broad-based participatory approach involving all sectors of society, including non-governmental organizations and women.

The international community needed to address the failure of developed countries to fulfil their commitments to assist developing countries, he said. There had been efforts to erode the framework of partnership established at UNCED, with efforts to prescribe equal obligations and liabilities among unequal players. His Government had hoped that the special session would effectively identify and address obstacles in implementing Agenda 21, particularly transfer of technology on favourable terms for developing countries. That was a crucial component if the objectives of sustainable development were to be achieved.

If there was to be measurable progress by the next review of Agenda 21, there needed to be effective follow-up mechanisms to Agenda 21 and the decisions and recommendations of the special session aimed at fostering progress in the various sectoral and cross-sectoral areas, he said. The multi-year programme for the Commission on Sustainable Development provided a valuable basis for energizing the international community's efforts towards that end.

AHMED AMAZIANE (Morocco) said the threats to the environment, unchecked population growth and poverty had the most harmful effect on the human community since the end of the Second World War. Those problems posed new threats to global security and well-being. Attempts had been made by the international community to tackle those problems.

However, in spite of the efforts of the international community, those problems persisted, he said. The threats to the environment remained, including radioactive waste, air pollution and chronic poverty, which was exacerbating the degradation of the environment and impoverishing biodiversity. Morocco would continue to support efforts to make the world pollution free, he stressed.

ALU SULEIMAN AUJALI (Libya) said the Rio Conference had adopted a declaration that expanded on the concept of the rights and responsibilities of States towards the environment. After the Conference, the conflict that arose reflected two basic concerns: the deterioration of the environment and the potential for the creation of sustainable development; and the need to protect the environment. United Nations agencies had played an important role in steering a dialogue on sustainable development. The availability of financial resources and the transfer of environmentally sound technology to developing countries were essential elements for the implementation of Agenda 21. Yet, no tangible progress had been achieved in those areas. Developed countries had not reached the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA. External indebtedness also remained a basic barrier to sustainable development in many developing countries, especially in the heavily indebted countries.

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Libya was deeply concerned by dangers facing the Mediterranean Sea, he said. The presence of foreign fleets in that sea was greatly detrimental to the environment. Damage was not only caused by the amount of combustibles, but also by new wide-net fishing in the deep sea, which was threatening the environment. His Government was also concerned with drought and desertification, which were caused by certain practices that could be direct or contributing factors, such as activities that destroyed the ozone layer and industries that produced pollution. The future strategies to combat desertification must confirm the rights of developing countries to develop their rates of economic performance and human resources, with the international participation of developed countries in pledging effective support. There should also be an intensification of research and studies in desalination of sea water, drought resistant plants, mine clearance, and the detection of ground water using new technology.

AKRAM ZAKI (Pakistan) said growing poverty, stagnating economies, swelling population, fragile institutions, diversion of meagre resources towards debt servicing and declining export earnings had led to shrinking human welfare and deteriorating environment. The continuing deterioration was mainly due to the reluctance of the developed countries to implement Agenda 21 in its letter and spirit. The basic concepts such as "common but differentiated responsibilities", "access to sustainable technologies and financial resources", and "enhanced international cooperation" of Agenda 21 were essential to the promotion of the goals of sustainable development.

He said the agenda of environmental negotiations should be designed to look after the interests of both the developed and the developing countries. There should be attempts to address pressing sectoral issues. But that should not be at the expense of the structural causes of environmental degradation. A balanced agenda should not only focus on issues such as fish stocks and forests, but should also include issues of serious concern to the developing countries, such as the global distribution of consumption; resolution of the debt crisis of the developing countries; sharing the benefits of technology; providing requisite financial resources; and seeking agreements on the elimination of poverty and underdevelopment.

MILOSLAV HETTES (Slovakia) said economic development, social development and environmental protection were interdependent components of sustainable development. The international community needed to guarantee human living conditions for future generations. There was dissatisfaction with the results of the special session, and what was missing was political will. The UNCED was a milestone of environmental management in Slovakia. A new complex system of environmental legislation had been created, including the Strategy of National Environmental Policy and the National Environmental Action Plan. His Government was also implementing a public awareness programme as part of its sustainable development action plan.

His Government welcomed the Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21, he said. A national sustainable development strategy was an

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important mechanism for enhancing and linking national capacity and bringing together Slovak priorities in social, economic and environmental policies. His Government aimed to apply the decisions and recommendations of the special session step by step. The reforms oriented towards coordinating United Nations activities in the field were important. The new resident coordinator system should, in consultation with national governments, strengthen Agenda 21 implementation efforts.

KERSTIN TRONE, Deputy Executive Director (Programme) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said rapid urban growth and increasing consumption were putting increasing pressure on natural resources and fragile ecosystems. And the widespread denial of reproductive rights continued every year to cause millions of deaths and immeasurable suffering among women in developing countries. Those developments underscored the importance of addressing population and reproductive health concerns as an integral part of sustainable development efforts.

Recognizing the links between population and the environment, she said the UNFPA was supporting the publication of "People and the Planet" to create awareness of the linkage between the issues of population and the environment. The UNFPA was also assisting countries in integrating population and environmental concerns into development planning. A UNFPA-supported research and policy analysis project in Mauritius had measured the interdependence among population size and structure, technological development and the environment.

ADO VAHER, Director, Office of United Nations Affairs and External Relations, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said it was important that the special session recognized that protecting children from environmental health threats and infectious diseases was a top priority. Despite the fact that over 80 per cent of the children in developing countries were now immunized, about 7 to 8 million children still died each year of preventable diseases complicated and aggravated by malnutrition. Environmental pollution intensified the afflicting of traditional diseases and could also cause profound and irreversible damage to a child's physical and mental development. It was vital to link health issues with environmental factors and to take a preventive approach.

The UNICEF also applauded the renewed global attention to the issue of freshwater, he said. Half of sub-Saharan Africans were still deprived of access to safe drinking water, and it was estimated that if the situation did not improve by the year 2000, 60 per cent of the world's population without access to safe drinking water would be in Africa. Sanitation required even more urgent attention. The total number of people without sanitation facilities had risen to 3 billion, nearly half of humanity. Sanitation and water were closely related, and unsanitary environments killed millions of children each year through diarrhoea

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Poverty eradication was vital to sustainable development, and development aid was vital to poverty eradication, he said. The UNICEF believed that multilateral aid was indispensable to the poorest of the poor. There was an urgent need for funds to reach and change the life of the unreached. Multilateral aid was vital to reach the unreached, the hard-to-reach, the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

ALFATH HAMAD, representative of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said UNESCO continued to give priority to education, natural and social sciences, capacity-building and transfer of environmentally sound technologies, oceans, freshwater resources, biological diversity, land use, including combating desertification, sustainable forest management, and renewable energy resources.

He said the level of financial resources available to UNESCO for the implementation of its priority programmes on the environment and sustainable development were far from being commensurate with the level of its political commitment. The UNESCO would put greater emphasis on the mobilization of extrabudgetary resources, including from multilateral financial mechanisms within the United Nations system. Donor countries were also invited to consider favourably proposals for fund-in-trust cooperation in the areas of the environment and sustainable development.

AKMARAL KH. ARYSTANBEKOVA (Kazakhstan) said, despite economic difficulties, her Government was integrating environmental requirements into domestic economic policy. A strategy was drawn up to protect the environment and water resources for 1998-2000, and a National Council on Sustainable Development had recently been established. In addition, environmental security in Kazakhstan had been identified as one of the strategic components of national security. The Outline Plan for Environmental Security, adopted in April 1996, formulated the basic priorities aimed at preventing further deterioration of the environment and ensuring environmental security.

Unfortunately, almost all of the environmental problems of modern industrial civilization were concentrated in Kazakhstan, she said. Polluted water, poisoned air and low-quality food severely threatened the health of the population and reduced life expectancy. Those problems involved the environmental disaster areas in the region, including the former Semipalatinsk nuclear-test site. Nuclear weapons were a tragedy not only for the people of Kazakhstan, but for all the people of the world. At the special session, Kazakhstan's President proposed that the nuclear Powers establish an international fund for the rehabilitation of the health of the population and nature in regions that had suffered from nuclear weapons tests. That proposal was in line with the principles of the Rio Declaration regarding the differentiated responsibilities of States, depending on their role in global environmental degradation.

Second Committee - 16 - Press Release GA/EF/2785 29th Meeting (PM) 5 November 1997

In an interdependent world, no problem could be approached solely from the standpoint of the interests of any given State, she said. There could be no sustainable development in one country when, in others, there were people experiencing shortages of drinking water and food, incurable disease were passed from parents to children, and families were compelled to leave their homes in search of the most basic living conditions. Her Government called on all States to unite their efforts to solve urgent environmental problems.

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For information media. Not an official record.