As it continued its high-level segment this morning, the Commission on Sustainable Development heard calls for urgent action to address energy issues and the sustainable management of forest, as well as to ensure the provision of financial resources to implement Agenda 21, thus reversing a trend that could lead to "sustainable underdevelopment".
The latter call was made by the Minister for Planning, Environment and Tourism of Gabon, Jean Ping, who also said that any idea for drafting a binding convention on forests should be studied very deeply. Noting that forests covered more than 85 per cent of his country, he said his Government had put into operation a forest action plan that was in harmony with the Forest Principles adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was not legally binding but was authoritative.
The Minister for the Environment of Norway, Thorbjorn Bernstein, said "the international community needed a powerful wake-up call" since analyses had shown that poverty and environmental degradation were on the increase. The forthcoming special session of the General Assembly to review implementation of Agenda 21 must stress the urgency of concrete action at all levels, including the commitment to reach the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) to official development assistance (ODA). Norway was prepared to discuss the merits of a possible international panel on financing, he added.
The Vice-Minister for Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba, Ricardo Sanchez Sosa, said the process of globalization and the new trends in economic liberalization had led to poverty and hunger. He stressed the rights of the disadvantaged to achieve equality and access to health and education services without conditions or external pressure.
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On the issue of forests, the Minister for the Environment, Water Resources and the Legal Amazon of Brazil, Gustavo Krause, said international debate should continue, preferably through an intergovernmental forum which should also elaborate possible elements of a legally binding instrument or other arrangements and mechanisms and report to the Commission in 1999. Future dialogue on forests should focus on issues such as financial support and better conditions for market access and remunerative prices for forest products.
A continuity of dialogue was important to complete the process of implementation of the action proposals set out in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, the Minister for the Environment of Indonesia, Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, said. The ultimate objective of such a dialogue would be to seek agreement on a convention through which predictability, non-discrimination and transparency in sustainable forest management could be ensured.
Calling for a common strategy on sustainable energy was the Minister for the Environment of Luxembourg, Johny Lahure. He also emphasized the importance of diversification of energy sources, rational use of energy, increased use of renewable sources of energy and domestic development of energy. The State Secretary for the Environment of Switzerland, Philippe Roch, expressed interest in the creation of an intergovernmental panel on energy.
Statements were also made by the following: Secretary of State for the Environment of Algeria, Ahmed Noui; Minister for the Environment of Spain, Isabel Tocino; State Secretary for International Cooperation of Spain, Fernando Villalonga; Minister for the Environment of Australia, Robert Hill; Minister for the Environment, Youth and Family Affairs of Austria, Martin Bartenstein; Secretary for the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries of Mexico, Julia Carabias; Minister for the Environment and Tourism of Namibia, Gert Hanekom; Minister for the Environment of Ireland, Brendan Howlin; and Vice-Minister for Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, Marco Antonio Gonzalez.
Statements were also made by the representatives of China and the Philippines. The representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Indigenous People's Network Caucus; Greenpeace International; and the Local Environment Management Group of the United Kingdom.
The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its high- level segment.
Commission Work Programme
The Commission on Sustainable Development met this morning to continue its high-level segment which is focusing on the reports of the Commission's Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group and Open-ended Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. Also before the Commission are a number of documents which review the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (Rio de Janeiro, 1992).
At the current session the Commission is functioning as a preparatory and negotiating body for the forthcoming nineteenth special session of the General Assembly, to be held from 23 to 27 June, which will review the implementation of Agenda 21. (For background information, see Press Releases ENV/DEV/406 of 4 April and ENV/DEV/409 of 8 April.)
AHMED NOUI, Secretary of State for the Environment of Algeria, said Rio had showed the way for achieving sustainable development worldwide. His country had launched its national Agenda 21 despite its economic and financial constraints. It was pursuing the fight against poverty, which was a root cause and one of the consequences of environmental degradation. Reviewing other measures taken by his country, he said Algeria had developed an energy policy, projects for integrated rural development, and a pollution policy to reduce pollutants from industry and urban sites. An environment council, a national environment fund and a national environment plan had been prepared.
At Rio the international community had accepted common but differentiated responsibility by which developed countries had accepted to make resources available to developing countries and undertake transfer of appropriate technology, he said. Rio, therefore, gave hope to the developing countries. Since then, there had been a discouraging turn of events. Official development assistance (ODA) had decreased. The Rio promises had become a dead letter. Even the Global Environment Facility (GEF) did not live up to the hopes placed in it. Contributions to it should be increased.
The Commission's proposed final document for the special session did not appear to reflect the current state of affairs in the quest for sustainable development, he said. There were inadequacies that must be corrected. Action must be taken by the Commission to ensure the transfer of technology to developing countries. A United Nations fund could be established for that purpose. The proposed final document should be adjusted to take up satisfactorily sectoral and cross-sectoral issues. A fresh look should be taken at the promotion of sustainable development and the issue of improved
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coordination of the numerous organizations active in the field. There was need for reform of the United Nations system to ensure the improvement of action to achieve sustainable development.
ISABEL TOCINO, Minister for the Environment of Spain, said commitments by heads of State to attend the special session for the review of Agenda 21 were paramount. She stressed that every one would have liked to see greater strides in the post-Rio period in preventing environmental degradation. In that regard, Spain supported the suggestions made by the representative of the Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union. Further, the report presented by the Co-Chairmen of the Intersessional Working Group of the Commission had suggested specific guidelines which called for specific actions from governments in that regard.
She emphasized that Spain had committed itself to working in a focused way on sustainable development. It was involved in reforestation and desertification efforts. She also called for specific attention to oceans and seas and hoped that the upcoming June session would be able to agree on a forest policy. Further, there was need to give attention to the financing of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). She announced that Spain's Prime Minister would attend the special session in June.
FERNANDO VILLALONGA, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of Spain, reiterated his country's commitment to the goals of sustainable development. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21 had laid solid groundwork for development that was human focused. To that end, 35 per cent of Spain's bilateral aid went to environment-related areas. Further, it had entered into 19 conventions which were committed to sustainable development. Also, it would very soon hold the first international conference on indigenous intellectual property.
The special session should go beyond the 1992 documents, he said. Sustainable development was a shared responsibility. While developed countries must try to increase the level of ODA, the developing countries should contribute to the efficiency of what was done for development. He also stressed the role of civil society and the business community in protecting the environment, and called on transnational corporations to allocate greater resources to sustainable development. Moreover, there had to be support for governability and good governance.
SARWONO KUSUMAATMADJA, State Minister for the Environment of Indonesia, said the two main sources of environmental degradation, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production together with pervasive poverty, had not improved. Too many countries were currently experiencing deteriorating economic circumstances thereby propelling their drift into poverty and marginalization as well as further endangering fragile ecosystems. Income inequality had increased among countries, unemployment had grown and the gap
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between least developed countries and other countries had continued to widen. In the industrialized countries the rise of environmental hazards had persisted and thus wasteful patterns of consumption and production had continued unabated.
The follow-up to UNCED had to be effectively addressed, he said. One core cross-sectoral issue that urgently needed to be addressed was that of financing sustainable development. While the importance of foreign direct investment was recognized, it could not replace ODA. Without adequate ODA, little implementation of Agenda 21 could take place for the majority of developing countries. Another critical issue was that of transfer of environmentally sound technology to the developing countries, and also market access for their exports and the need for a comprehensive development and durable strategy for debt relief.
He also stressed that a continuity of dialogue was important to complete the process of implementation of the action proposals set out in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. However, it should be remembered that the ultimate objective of such a dialogue would be to seek agreement on a convention. Through such a convention, predictability, non-discrimination and transparency in sustainable forest management could be ensured. To that end, cooperation among the United Nations agencies and other governmental bodies was important.
THORBJORN BERNSTEIN, Minister for the Environment of Norway, said his country was ready to contribute to international efforts to achieve sustainable development. Analyses had shown that poverty and environmental degradation were on the increase, thus "the international community needed a powerful wake-up call". The forthcoming special session must stress the urgency of concrete action at all levels.
He said the session's final document should reflect a number of issues, including those related to peace, security, democracy, solidarity and respect for human rights, which were preconditions for sustainable economic and social development. Also reflected in the document should be the unfortunate negative trends of globalization, including poverty and marginalization of groups. In addition, the commitment to reach the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) for ODA must be reaffirmed. The "20/20" initiative agreed by the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, which is based on the idea of allocating 20 per cent of ODA and 20 per cent of national budgets to priority social programmes, should be fully implemented.
Proposals for an international tax on aviation fuel should also be discussed by the special session, he said. A tax on air transport should be considered. New and alternative ways of generating financial resources for sustainable development should be examined. Norway was prepared to discuss further the merits of a possible international panel on financing. Other
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proposals which should be considered by the session included giving increased attention to promoting sustainable production and consumption patterns.
He added that the use of renewable sources of energy should be increased. Trade liberalization should not be allowed to weaken environmental standards. The UNEP should be strengthened to provide a clear and authoritative voice on environmental contributions to sustainable development. The special session would be an opportunity to renew the commitment of the international community and provide leadership to restore the environment and to fight poverty, which were investments in a better future for all.
QIN HUASUN (China) said financial needs set out in Agenda 21 had not been met. The commitments made by developed countries at UNCED on "new and additional financial resources" were far from being fulfilled. There was still no marked improvement in the external economic environment which remained unfavourable to developing countries. Besides, the trend of turning environmental factors into new non-tariff barriers against the exports of developing countries had been growing. Some developed countries unilaterally called on developing countries to undertake obligations beyond their level of development in disregard of their special conditions, which was very much at odds with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities".
He emphasized that observing the principles set forth at the Rio Conference should be the basis for international environment and development cooperation. Proper handling of cross-sectoral issues, particularly those concerning financial resources and technology transfer, should be the core of international cooperation for sustainable development. Further, providing a favourable external environment for sustainable development in developing countries was part and parcel of international cooperation. He stressed that international cooperation called for joint efforts of the international community and the governments of all countries.
GUSTAVO KRAUSE, Minister for the Environment, Water Resources and the Legal Amazon of Brazil, said UNCED was both the starting and finishing line -- a finishing line for ideas that warned against the route of collision between a pattern of civilization and the forces of nature, and a starting line for new commitments based on an international partnership in pursuit of sustainable development. He noted that Brazil had recently hosted the Rio + 5 Forum which undertook stocktaking of the progress of the international community in achieving sustainable development.
Determination was needed to recognize the persistent gap between concepts and actions to promote sustainable development, he continued. Even though progress had been slow, what had been achieved was enough to reaffirm sustainability as a necessary path. Progress had been made in promoting partnership at the international level. The international community had witnessed a broad effort by emerging nations to foster an enabling environment
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of political and macroeconomic stability capable of promoting qualitative leaps towards the future. At the same time, he said, the international community was facing the growing challenge of changing the economic logic of access to natural resources and of realizing that environmental problems required economic solutions which were market induced and technological solutions which should be adequately shared. In that connection, there was a need for adequate technological absorption and development for developing countries.
On the issue of forests, he said the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests should be endorsed. The international debate on forests should continue to take place under the aegis of the Commission, preferably through an intergovernmental forum that should monitor and implement the Panel's proposals and elaborate possible elements of a legally-binding instrument or other arrangements and mechanisms. Such a forum should report to the Commission in 1999.
He said some basic aspects should not be ignored in the future dialogue on forests and the achievement of forest sustainability, such as the need for establishing international mechanisms for financial support, research, codes of conduct for businesses in the field of forestry and technological development centres. Above all, he stressed, there should be better conditions for market access and remunerative prices for forest products. For forests rich in biodiversity, sustainability depended on well-organized production systems capable of replacing the present extractivist patterns which were often predatory. ROBERT HILL, Minister for the Environment of Australia, said bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests had produced programmes which, if implemented, would produce a better outcome in terms of both sustainable use and conservation of forests. There was now recognition of the importance of drawing capital and environmental considerations together, of joining sustainable agriculture and environmental consideration, and of critical linkages between the reduction of poverty and sustainable development. Financial mechanisms such as the GEF had been established, and the World Bank, in terms of development philosophy, had been transformed. However, what was now required was a commitment to action. It was critically urgent because "process fatigue" was already setting in.
So far as oceans were concerned, Australia shared with the rest of the world the adverse consequences of land-based pollution and unsustainable exploitation of fish and other marine resources, he said. In areas such as coral reefs, Australia had developed multiple-use sustainable practices which it believed led the world. On climate change, it would continue to work for a better global greenhouse outcome. Australia was committed to reducing emissions through reducing vegetation loss and increasing the uptake of carbon dioxide through rehabilitation of its lands.
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In the area of forests, it had worked on measures and indicators for sustainable forest management, he said. As the driest inhabited continent, it treasured its freshwater and had learned a great deal about the basis for preserving the quality and quantity of that water. It was also interested in the concept of sustainable cities. In the Asia-Pacific region, there would be an equivalent of a new city of 1 million people every week until the year 2000. That would raise issues associated with transport, housing, waste disposal and pollution. Cleaner production technologies, emission controls, planned transport systems and other manageable solutions were possible.
JEAN PING, Minister for Planning, Environment and Tourism of Gabon, said he wished to associate himself with the statement made by the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. Gabon was committed to sustainable development. However, such development required a genuine global partnership and international cooperation. Sustainable development was in the interest of and part of the "common but differentiated responsibility" of all. While Gabon was committed to Agenda 21, it could not, on its own, carry out such a vast programme. He stressed that the consensus on financing Agenda 21 had not been fully respected. The levels of ODA had continued to drop. If that trend was not reversed, it would lead to "sustainable underdevelopment".
He said the goal of 0.7 per cent of the GNP of developed countries for ODA could be reached. Also important was transfer of environmentally sound technology to developing countries. Such transfer at present remained generally low. Further, the positive effects of globalization and liberalization had not been felt equally in all places, and there was a risk that African countries might be marginalized. Gabon had so far joined the Convention to Combat Desertification and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, among others. Its National Assembly had adopted new laws to regulate forest, oil and mining activities. Forest covered more than 85 per cent of Gabon's territory and the Government had moved to their rational protection by putting into operation a forest action plan. Those steps were in harmony with the Forest Principles which were not legally binding, but were authoritative.
He stressed that it was important for the international community to implement existing instruments. Any idea of drafting a binding convention should be studied very deeply. Gabon's efforts in the management of forest had an important impact on its national budget. In that context, it was important to note that debt payment and debt repayment took up half its national budget. Any discriminatory measures which made it ineligible for aid in any form were unacceptable.
MARTIN BARTENSTEIN, Federal Minister for the Environment, Youth and Family Affairs of Austria, said 1997 was going to be a crucial year for sustainable development, as the international community prepared for the overall assessment of the implementation of the Rio commitments. The world
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was far than it was five years ago from achieving the global turn around that was needed to have sustainable development. Poverty eradication and the promotion of sustainable development and consumption patterns were overriding concerns and warranted priority attention. The industrialized countries must take the lead for the latter.
He stressed that the following areas were of particular concern: freshwater, forests, energy, climate change, transport, tourism and sustainable mountain development, sustainable development indicators and institutions that promote sustainable development. Regarding water, he supported the European Union's proposals to elaborate urgently a global plan of action under the auspices of the Commission that would deal with the protection, sustainable management, use and access to water at the national, regional and international levels. The special session should decide to undertake urgent steps to develop a strategy for a sustainable energy future and should stress the increased use of safe and environmentally sound energy technologies.
The special session should also urge the Secretary-General to develop a common strategy for energy-related activities of the United Nations system. Forthcoming sessions of the Commission should be devoted to energy issues. The call for an energy decade, as proposed by the European Union Presidency, should be taken up by the special session. It would further focus the attention of the wider public on energy issues and enhance the public's access to information and catalyse action at all levels. Austria advocated the establishment and implementation of appropriate financial adjustments between lowland and mountain regions, as well as a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach in sustainable mountain development.
JULIA CARABIAS, Secretary for the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries of Mexico, said although strides had been made, stagnation had also been experienced in achieving sustainable development. Focusing on UNEP, she said that body's Governing Council had taken a number of decisions such as establishing a ministerial level intersessional body which would strengthen its role. The UNEP was decentralizing and emphasizing developments at the regional level. It was now a more consolidated Programme with a clear role. The Commission should reaffirm that role, while the Commission itself must become the forum for a holistic analysis of integrated social, economic and environmental issues. It should be the forum for the building a new paradigm for sustainable development.
Progress in sustainable development had been made in recent years, she said. However, it was time to act. The institutions were in place, everything else that was necessary was in place. But the international community must now role up its sleeves and act. National sustainable development agendas also reflected uneven progress. At the same time, the issues of sustainable development were global in nature, and there was need
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for acceptance of differentiated responsibilities. International conventions must spell out those responsibilities and that principle must be focused on. She stressed the importance of issues such as forests, oceans and water.
PHILIPPE ROCH, State Secretary for the Environment of Switzerland, said there was a need to have a strong organization within the United Nations system which functioned as an advocate for the environment. Such an organization did exist, and it was UNEP. He called on the special session to confirm UNEP's role as the leading global environmental authority within the United Nations system. Switzerland endorsed the Nairobi Declaration adopted by the UNEP Governing Council as a clear expression of the core mandate of the Programme and of the elements on which it should focus. Further, it noted the successful outcome of the negotiations on UNEP's governance structure and was glad that consensus had been reached on how to provide the necessary political guidance to strengthening it. He announced that Switzerland would make its full payment to UNEP.
He called for a clear commitment by all countries on energy. Switzerland was interested in the creation of an intergovernmental panel on energy. Further, it believed that the discussion on forests should move forward. It was not opposed to the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee to elaborate a global convention on forests. Also, it believed that there was a need to continue a global dialogue on the issue of forests. So far as the issues of water, oceans and fisheries were concerned, Switzerland's views had already been voiced by other States. It had also been very active in mountain development. So far as trade and environment were concerned, he said they should be forces for sustainable development, adding that development must not hinder environment.
GERT HANEKOM, Minister for the Environment and Tourism of Namibia, said his country was the driest in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, it had to combat desertification; develop and manage water resources wisely; develop energy sources that were renewable; promote land and resources-use planning; and address poverty, underdevelopment and unequal access of people to resources. To that end, it supported those countries which had called for environmental and socio-economic monitoring. That monitoring had to be linked to an information service and to the promotion of environmental literacy.
In order to compete economically with agricultural activities, it was essential that the wildlife industries derive maximum returns for local communities, he said. To that end, Namibia needed to be in a position to market valuable wildlife products. Further, as a country at high risk of drought and desertification resulting in loss of productivity and declining living standards, Namibia called on the international community to mobilize adequate resources to complement efforts of all affected countries to fully implement the Convention to Combat Desertification.
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While Namibia had made progress in some areas, social and economic constraints continued to hamper its development efforts, he said. Therefore, it was imperative that development efforts were complemented by assistance from development partners. He called on them to fulfil their financial commitments as pledged at Rio. "The environment is everyone's responsibility", he said, adding that "governments must put the enabling framework in place and help conduct the orchestra. The rest of society must help play the various instruments that together make the music sweet."
BRENDAN HOWLIN, Minister for the Environment of Ireland, said the need to pursue sustainable development actively was even stronger today because of the globalization of economic activities that had occurred since 1992. The problems and issues which the Rio outcome had addressed remained critical. However, progress was being made. The outcome of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests offered hope that deforestation would be addressed in the next few years. The value of the Commission on Sustainable Development lay in its role as a source of inspiration and support for everyone engaged at the national and regional levels in implementing sustainable development. The transformation envisaged by Rio required continued commitment over a long period and would bear fruit in the years to come.
Outlining his country's progress, he said it had developed a comprehensive environmental legislative and regulatory framework. Ireland had also expanded its development aid budget rapidly in recent years with a doubling of ODA expenditure since Rio. It was committed to further significant increases over the coming years and to achieving the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP as soon as possible. For the future, he said global sustainable development strategies and the follow-up of the Rio outcome must have, as a fundamental objective, the elimination of poverty, with action being taken at all levels.
RICARDO SANCHEZ SOSA, Vice-Minister for Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba, said the challenge for mankind now was more complex than what the international community had faced at Rio. Progress in development, including decreasing the gap between rich and poor, had been limited. Other major socio-economic problems had not been turned around. Political will was needed to ensure change. The promises of Rio, including providing new and additional financial resources, should be fulfilled. The process of globalization and the new trends in economic liberalization had led to poverty and hunger. If there were to be solutions to the problems of underdevelopment, action had to be made to implement Agenda 21. Economic adjustment fell heavily on low income groups. External debt had grown. There had been a decline in ODA. To achieve Agenda 21 objectives, the world must change the ways of living.
The tendency to apply coercion and blackmail against developing countries, as it was the case of the Helms-Burton Act which had reinforced an
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economic, trade and financial blockade against Cuba, were contrary to what was advocated by those who made such impositions, he said. It contradicted the principle of national sovereignty. The humanistic character of the Cuban revolution had promoted principles which underpinned sustainable development. As a result, Cuba had made great strides in achieving sustainable development after Rio. Its progress included a nationwide programme of environment and development; the adoption of relevant legislation; the dissemination of environment information throughout the society; and the introduction of sustainable development technology and programmes for reducing energy consumption. A priority in human development had been the increased participation of women in the economic, social, scientific and technical fields.
It was necessary to get to the root causes that prevented the achievement of sustainable development, he continued. He stressed the rights of the disadvantaged to achieve equality and access to health and education services without conditions or external pressure. Rio must be translated into tangible developments, particularly for the developing countries. Quoting Cuban President Fidel Castro as he addressed the Rio summit, he called for an end to deceit and hegemony and said "tomorrow would be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago".
LETICIA SHAHANI (Philippines) said UNCED had put people at the heart of development. Accordingly, the eradication of poverty among the world's people must be met. For that purpose, the Philippines had adopted a social reform agenda which was an integrated package of interventions consisting of programmes and services to combat poverty. She stressed that unless an effective communications programme was developed to accompany basic strategies on sustainable development, the work of the Commission would remain a beautiful concept embalmed in paper, understood only by policy planners, researchers, scholars and by the few thousands, constituting a small minority, who were able to attend international conferences.
Meaningful dialogue, effective outreach, and consultation based on a common development language was required if Agenda 21 was to move beyond the conference halls to villages in remote areas, she said. The Philippines shared many concerns with small island developing States. As such, an integrated approach in the development, conservation and management of oceans should be adopted with emphasis on the role of local communities as major stakeholders in the process. Resource management should not only aim at conserving environmental resources, it should also strengthen socio-cultural practices as the linchpin to community resources management.
The Philippines supported the call for an integrated approach to the development of freshwater resources, she said. In that regard, there was a need to identify or develop a multilateral fund to support efforts in water resource management to ensure that developing countries could develop their
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capabilities to address issues related to water management and to fund technology transfer and information exchange. JOHNY LAHURE, Minister for the Environment of Luxembourg, said joint action by all was required for sustainable development. Industrialized countries must take an in-depth look at their consumption and production patterns. In turn, the developing countries must agree not to blindly follow wasteful patterns of the developed countries. The special session of the Assembly in June must give a clear signal to the third Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention to be held Kyoto, Japan, in December.
He stressed the importance of reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. Luxembourg had undertaken to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by the year 2000 from the 1990 levels. He also called for a common strategy on sustainable energy, adding that Luxembourg was dependent on energy import. Therefore, its goals were diversification of energy sources, rational use of energy, increased use of renewable sources of energy and domestic development of energy. He also emphasized the need for capacity-building in developing countries. In that context, the role of ODA remained crucial. Luxembourg intended to meet its commitment in that regard. It had committed itself to raise its ODA to 0.7 per cent of GNP by the year 2000. Thus far, all of its aid had been disbursed in the form of development grants.
MARCO ANTONIO GONZALEZ, Vice-Minister for the Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, said his country was committed to sustainable development. The President of Costa Rica had stated that his Government was committed to turning the country into a pilot project for sustainable development with the aim of creating a society which would better the quality of life for people on a permanent basis. He emphasized that sustainability of development presumed a stable political system and commitment to a democratic and civilian tradition. Costa Rica had adopted policies on poverty, health, housing and social security and it had high human development indicators.
The country's commitment to sustainable development had involved a major effort as its resources were limited, he continued. He expressed concern at declining levels of ODA and said that was "no good news". He congratulated Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden, which were some of the countries which had met the 0.7 per cent target of GNP for ODA. Further, he stressed the importance of replenishing the GEF. That had to be a priority for the special session. Also, an increased commitment was required by developed countries to adequate financing for development and to transfer of technology. In addition, timetables should be set up to get rid of obsolete technology which was not environment friendly. It had to be recognized that the planet could not withstand the kind of development seen in developed countries. Costa Rica did not call for fresh commitments but for more resolute action to implement the existing commitments.
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VICTORIA TAUPLI-CORPUZ, speaking on behalf of the Indigenous People's Network Caucus, said UNCED had been a high point in the recognition and respect for the basic rights of indigenous peoples. Although Agenda 21 fell short in affirming those rights, its recognition of indigenous peoples as a major group gave them additional opportunities to address governments.
To address the ills and the fundamental problems faced by indigenous peoples, she proposed a number of actions that should be taken by the Commission. They included that the Commission should support the immediate approval of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, in its present form, by the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly; contribute to establishing a permanent forum in the United Nations for indigenous peoples; organize a day on indigenous issues at future sessions of the Commission; and examine the impacts of globalization on indigenous peoples. In addition, the mandates for the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations and the Fund for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People should be expanded to provide for the participation of indigenous peoples in the Commission and other related forums.
CLIFTON CURTIS, of Greenpeace International, said he was disappointed with the tenure of the interventions made in the high-level segment so far. The actions being called for were inadequate for the task of achieving sustainable development, as were the measures proposed. While welcoming some of the proposals in such statements, as those of the United Kingdom and the Group of 77 and China, he said the high-level segment should lay down some strong imaginative markers. It should make sure that the special session was "special".
On aid issues, he said Greenpeace had made proposals for action, adding that action on fisheries was less than what was required. Many other efforts were "no more than a band-aid on cancer". If progress was made on implementing the more than 135 action proposals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, it could lead to sustainable forest management. Some countries were diverting attention by calling for a forest convention. It was action on the Panel's proposals that was needed. While dialogue continued, other problems could be resolved.
TONY HAMS, of the Local Environment Management Group of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of local government as a major group, said local governments had been represented at the Rio Conference. The group had also participated in the first interactive session of the Commission. He noted that a Commission survey had shown that local associations were important in the implementation of Agenda 21 activities.
Research had highlighted that much more of a contribution could be made by local organizations to sustainable development, he said. He hoped that suggestions emanating from those organizations would be taken seriously by the
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Commission. He noted that national local Agenda 21 campaigns had been established in only 20 countries. It was important that other countries follow their example. In the countries where local Agenda 21 campaigns existed, barriers had been identified to its, and included barriers in transport and in the enforcement of environment laws. There had to be consistent integration and interaction between the local and the nation levels, therefore, barriers between the different levels of government should be studied.
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