11 April 1997


Press Release
ENV/DEV/415



STRENGTHENED LINKS NEEDED AMONG CONVENTIONS ON CLIMATE CHANGE, BIODIVERSITY, DESERTIFICATION, COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TOLD

19970411
Representatives of Three Conventions Address Commission; Speakers Describe Efforts To Implement Agenda 21 Since 1992 Rio Conference

The need to strengthen links among international conventions addressing biodiversity, climate change and desertification was highlighted in the Commission on Sustainable Development this morning, as it heard from a variety of speakers among them representatives of regional commission, on efforts to further implement Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (Rio de Janiero, 1992).

The Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Michael Zammit-Cutjar, said strengthened links between conventions -- the others being the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification -- were crucial for sustainable development. There was need for an integrated scientific assessment that took into account the links between global warming, desertification and species extinction, among other issues. Further, the conventions and their secretariats needed efficient support and services.

The Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Calestus Juma, agreed that progress in implementing Agenda 21 at the national level would only be achieved though sustainable cooperation between the biodiversity related convention and the other conventions. He emphasized the importance of setting targets and identifying key indicators of progress for the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Chairman of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to elaborate an International Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, Bo Kjellen, focused on the need for political support for the first conference of parties of that Convention. The Convention would make an important contribution to the future work of the Commission on Sustainable Development, he said.


Sustainable Development Commission - 1a - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

Also this morning, representatives from the United Nations regional commissions stressed the importance of regional initiatives for global action on implementing Agenda 21. In a statement delivered on his behalf, the Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Yves Berthelot, said global activities produced a framework for regional exercises. The regional commissions had the proven advantage of close proximity to regional problems and well-established governmental contacts and were, therefore, in a unique position to monitor and coordinate regional sustainable development activities.

The representative of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Sarim Kol Eao, said that at a meeting in Burkina Faso in March 1997 the African ministers for environment and development had called for the establishment, within the framework of the General Assembly special session, of an international financial mechanism on cross-sectoral issues, such as poverty eradication and sustainable human settlements.

Referring to regional developments in trade and environmental issues in the Latin American and Caribbean region, the Chief of the Environment and Development Division, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Helga Hoffman, described the effort made by countries of the region to use the World Trade Organization to prevent the use of trade bans for the extraterritorial enforcement of national environmental policies. Unilateral use of trade as an instrument might give certain environmental policies a bad name, she said. It was only fair that the use of trade as an instrument for environmental policy should be at least internationally negotiated.

Statements were also made by: Director, Environment and Natural Resources Management Division of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Guangchang Shi; Manager for Social Programmes and Sustainable Development, Inter-American Development Bank, Waldemar Wirsig; the National Secretary of Planning of Bolivia; and the Deputy Minister of Environment of the Republic of Korea.

Representatives from Israel, Bangladesh, Japan, Austria, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation reported on national workshops and regional initiatives in their countries. The Executive Director of the Earth Council and the President of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety also spoke.

The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m today to consider other matters, including streamlining of national reporting on implementing Agenda 21 and modalities of the 1999 comprehensive review of the Barbados Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States.


Commission Work Programme

The Commission on Sustainable Development met this morning to hear the results of a wide variety of regional and other activities from, among others, the secretariats of conventions and regional commissions in the implementation of Agenda 21, the programme of action adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro.

The presentations are also expected to provide information on preparations for the General Assembly's nineteenth special session, which will review the implementation of Agenda 21. Documents concerning the review and appraisal are being considered, in addition to numerous others presented during the Commission's high-level segment. (For summaries of other documents, see Press Releases ENV/DEV/406 of 4 April and ENV/DEV/409 of 8 April.)

A note by the Secretary-General transmits a statement by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) (document A/S-19/6) for consideration by the forthcoming Assembly special session to review implementation of Agenda 21. The annex to the note states that the collective view of the executive heads of the organizations of the United Nations system participating in the ACC was that the concept of sustainable development provides an overarching policy framework for the entire spectrum of United Nations system-wide activities at the global, regional and country levels.

The ACC is resolved to meet the major challenges involved in effective implementation of commitments made at the Rio Conference, it states. However, an important constraint is the financial crisis affecting the United Nations and many of the specialized agencies, which leaves little room for expanded initiatives. The expectations of additional resources raised at Rio had not been fulfilled. As a result, many organizations were having difficulty in carrying out the important activities resulting from the Conference and responding to the additional work requirements of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Focusing on the experience gained since the Conference, the ACC states that the time had come for a new approach to policy-making, which stressed practical actions to achieve sustainable development. Intergovernmental policy discussions should focus on a limited number of strategic priority issues, the emphasis being on linkages between resource management and the role of economic actors and major groups. Such an approach would stimulate greater attention to such cross-cutting issues as population, gender, health, the impact on children, production and consumption patterns, and to the means of implementation, in particular financing mechanisms and technology transfer, capacity-building and education.


Sustainable Development Commission - 4 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

The ACC attached the greatest importance to improving field-level implementation of the Rio commitments, through a coordinated approach at the country level, including the strengthening of inter-agency cooperation at the regional level, according to the statement. Enhanced cooperation will include regional organizations outside the United Nations system. It was also committed to the further enhancing cooperation among organizations of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations, major groups and other components of civil society.

On the task manager system for implementing the chapters of Agenda 21, the ACC states that the system of the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development had led to more effective use of resources and expertise within the United Nations system and was a promising improvement over previous efforts at inter-agency cooperation. However, the system had not yet reached its full potential in terms of defining policy linkages and the sharing of responsibilities.

Also before the Commission is a note by the Secretary-General on the contribution of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to the special session (document A/S-19/5/Add.1).

It contains additional information from the Governing Council of the UNEP in relation to its contribution to the special session of the General Assembly. The document concerns the mid-term review by the Governing Council of the Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law for the 1990s. That includes the report of the Executive Director of UNEP on the subject, which was submitted to the Governing Council at its nineteenth session. Also included is the mid-term review of the Programme.

The report of the Executive Director states the Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law for the 1990s (Montevideo Programme II) was adopted by the Governing Council by its decision 17/25 of 21 May 1993, as a broad strategy for UNEP activities in the field of environmental law for the 1990s. Under that programme, progressive development in international law, assistance in legal capacity-building and promoting wider appreciation of environmental law had been focused on.

Annexed to the report of the Executive Director are recommendations that had emerged from a mid-term review of the programme. Those recommendations had emerged at a UNEP convened meeting of senior government officials held in Nairobi from 2 to 6 December 1996. It was recommended that the capacity of States to participate effectively in the implementation of environmental law be enhanced. Further, suggestions were made on the review of the adequacy of existing international instruments and dispute avoidance mechanisms. The question of redressing pollution and environmental damage was also discussed.


Sustainable Development Commission - 5 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

Statements

BO KJELLEN, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to elaborate an International Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, said it was a pleasure to present the Convention to the Commission. The Convention had entered into force on 26 December 1996, following the fiftieth ratification on 27 September. The first Conference of parties would be held in Rome at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters from 29 September to 10 October. The horizontal integrated vocation of the Commission was perfectly reflected in the Convention. In fact, the legally binding text of the Convention gained strength from linkages to essential elements of the discussion in the Commission's present session, such as combating poverty, water management and the potential of energy in the drylands.

He said he looked to the General Assembly special session to give guidance to the Convention. He stressed that the Convention differed from previous initiatives in the area, in a number of respects. First, it was a legally binding document with a global aim. Institutions and processes with a permanent vocation had been established under it. Second, it prescribed a pragmatic approach to achieve its objectives and stressed the need for a consultative process that brought all the entities together. The major issues requiring further negotiations for the first Conference of Parties related to the decision on the location of a permanent secretariat, the identification of an organization to house a global mechanism and the draft rules of procedures.

CALESTUS JUMA, Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said he would focus on the central message that the Convention wanted the Commission to convey to the special session of the Assembly. A review of the Convention had led to two conclusions. First, that the Convention had played an important role in translating chapters of Agenda 21 into national action. Second, the Commission, in general, and Agenda 21, in particular, had served as inspirations for the Convention. He stressed that mutual cooperation between the two bodies would further help translate Agenda 21 into national action.

Progress in implementation at the national level would only be achieved if there was sustainable cooperation between biodiversity-related conventions and sustainable development-related conventions, he said. In that context, national strategies for the implementation of the Convention were important. The Convention should be used as a tool to translate international agreements into national conventions. He emphasized the importance of setting targets and identifying key indicators of progress in the Convention.

MICHAEL ZAMMIT-CUTAJAR, Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, said he would focus on the linkages


Sustainable Development Commission - 6 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

among the three so-called "Rio conventions" and other conventions. He stressed that the conventions and their secretariats needed efficient support and services. There was a need for integrated scientific assessment that took into account the linkages between global warming, desertification and species extinction, among other issues.

Further, an information base should be available to the Convention and Member States for mobilizing public support for the Convention, he said. The UNEP should be entrusted with the task of providing such a base. Thus far, there was a high degree of compartmentalization in implementing the conventions at the national level. He stressed the need for better integration, especially in the areas of training and capacity-building. Also, there was the possibility of an overarching legal framework for the various conventions. However, that was a controversial idea and should be allowed to mature.

DANIEL AYALON (Israel) reported on an expert meeting on synergies among the "Rio Conventions", hosted by the Blaustein Institute at Sde Boqer, Israel's national institute for desert research, and organized jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Norway, Japan, and Denmark. The purpose of the meeting was to explore ways to create synergy among the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention to Combat Desertification and the Forest Principles.

He said the underlying assumption was that cost savings from synergy among the instruments, in particular at the national level, would stimulate more extensive and rapid implementation, which would enhance the prospects for sustainable development. Four key areas of implementation were examined: national planning, institutional requirements, capacity requirements; and reporting and information.

He said some of the messages emerging from the meeting included that: the parties to the international instruments could support synergy by instructing their secretariats to work collaboratively with one another; shared reporting schedules and other ways to streamline reporting requirements could be developed between instrument, lessening reporting burdens on the Parties; the four instruments could be analysed in detail to identify data and information needed to monitor and assess progress; and the convening secretariats could contribute to develop and disseminate training modules. The meeting established that synergies in implementing the convention at all levels were clearly possible and most desirable.

GUANGCHANG SHI, Director, Environment and Natural Resources Management Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said implementing Agenda 21 was a major objective of the regional commission's work programme. A report -- "Regional review of progress achieved in the implementation of the outcome of UNCED in the ESCAP region" -- gave an


Sustainable Development Commission - 7 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

overview of national and regional initiatives that had been undertaken in the Asia and Pacific region towards implementing Agenda 2. It highlighted promising changes and unfulfilled expectations, as well as the emerging priorities in the region.

A regional meeting was now planned for May 1997 to identify a set of new regional projects in line with the regional action programme that would promote implementing Agenda 21, he said. A milestone activity was the adoption by consensus of the Framework of North-East Subregional Programmes of Environmental Cooperation. The ESCAP was also implementing projects in cooperation with the Asian Development Bank, as well as promoting regional cooperation on several sectoral issues, such as energy, freshwater, land degradation and desertification, and controlling hazardous waste movement. A monitoring mechanism had been created for implementing the Programme of Action of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, held in Barbados.

The regional commission was also making efforts in the area of capacity building, he continued. He stressed the need for a strong regional focus during sessions of the Commission. That would be an important development to ensure the link of regional, national and international implementation. He welcomed the recommendation of the Commission's intersessional working group on improving that body's regional focus. To assist that process, the regional commissions could prepare a report for each session of the Commission, in collaboration with other United Nations intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, for the Commission to monitor and review.

HELGA HOFFMAN, Chief, Environment and Development Division, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said the main activities of ECLAC in support of governments of the region in implementing Agenda 21 included policy analysis and technical assistance in such areas as water resources management, the mining boom, energy, aspects of urban management, trade and environment and the Barbados Programme of Action, being carried out by the ECLAC Port of Spain office.

She said the regional dimension in implementing Agenda 21 in areas relevant to ecological resources had not been homogenous, since priorities were not the same in various regions. As a result of the recent emphasis on liberalization in the region, there was a need for strong governmental regulation that would set clear signals for entrepreneurial activity, in particular as it applied to integrating environmental concerns into overall policy.

Regarding the impact of globalization on the Caribbean and Latin America, she said the countries of the region had to go to the World Trade Organization to prevent the use of trade bans for the extraterritorial enforcement of national environmental policies. Unilateral use of trade as an


Sustainable Development Commission - 8 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

instrument might give certain environmental policies a bad name. It was only fair that the use of trade as an instrument for environmental policy should be at least internationally negotiated.

She then made a statement on behalf of Yves Berthelot, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), in which she highlighted some of the work carried out by that Commission. The environment for Europe process had started in 1991, but it encompassed many of the guiding principles of Agenda 21. It involved the ECE member States, other international organizations, non-governmental organizations and industry. The ECE conventions on air, water, environmental impact assessment, among others, were tools to promote sustainable development.

Of particular importance within the ECE region was that countries in transition from centrally planned to market economies were experiencing dramatic changes in their societies, she said. Their efforts to achieve sustainable development were being threatened. To assist them in achieving economic progress with due consideration to the environment and sustainability, more concrete efforts were needed on policies, economic instruments, technology and cooperation that the Commission on Sustainable Development should launch.

She stressed that regional initiatives could feed into the global work. The global activities produced inputs and a framework for regional exercises. The regional commissions had the proven advantage of close proximity to regional problems and well-established governmental contacts. They were in a unique position to monitor and coordinate regional sustainable development activities and coordinate such activities.

SARIM KOL EAO, Food Security and Sustainable Development Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said in order to prepare for the special session of the General Assembly in June, the African ministers responsible for environment and development had met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 18 to 21 March 1997. They had stressed that the efforts on the follow-up to Rio should concentrate on the issues of desertification and drought, freshwater resources, land and sustainable agriculture, forests, energy and natural disasters. At the cross-sectoral level, they had called for a focus on poverty eradication, sustainable human settlements, health and trade and environment.

With regard to implementation, the ministers had stressed the importance of financial resources and mechanisms, capacity building, transfer of environmentally sound technologies and information and tools to measure progress, he said. Governments and relevant actors had been urged to focus on commitments undertaken, and a yearly review and evaluation of the progress of implementation had been recommended for the period 1997-2002. The ministers had also called for the establishment, within the framework of the special session, of an international financial mechanism on cross-sectoral issues, especially poverty eradication, sustainable human settlements, changing


Sustainable Development Commission - 9 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

consumption and production patterns and development of environmentally sound traditional and local technology.

WALDEMAR WIRSIG, Manager for Social Programmes and Sustainable Development, Inter-American Development Bank, said the Bank was the oldest and largest of the regional development banks. Its unique feature was that the borrowing member countries had a majority voting power in the institution. He recalled that Agenda 21 had called on international financial institutions to review their policies. In that context, the Bank had received a renewed mandate on sustainable development. It had been mandated to focus on poverty reduction, modernization and integration. In accordance with its mandate, a greater portion of the Bank's resources had been allocated to sustainable development. In fact, 40 per cent of its lending had been in that area.

The Bank had also focused on diversification, he said. There had been increase in technical cooperation. Furthermore, it had promoted economic reform, the modernization of the public sector and the strengthening of civil society. The level of poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean was high. Now that the region had recovered economically from the 1980s, the focus was on poverty eradication. In order to carry out its mandate, the Bank had reorganized its structure and updated and revised its operational policy. The procedure for the Internal Environment Committee had been revised, with the aim of addressing environmental issues at an early stage of a project cycle.

RAMIRO ORTEGA, National Secretary of Planning of Bolivia, reporting on the Summit of the Americas on sustainable development held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on 6 and 7 December 1996, said the main focus had been to outline a plan of action at the hemispheric level, in particular with regard to Agenda 21. Today, the hemisphere had democratic systems and market economies, for the most part. At the Summit, that had translated into the signing of the Santa Cruz Declaration. It stressed that the asymmetry between countries of the region had to be overcome and common priorities set. There had been a broad participation of the civil society at the Summit.

He said the following principles had emerged: the sovereignty of States over their natural resources; and recognition of differentiated responsibilities, as well as the special needs of small island developing States. The importance of transparent and sufficient financial mechanisms and the transfer of clean technology had also been stressed. In combating poverty, five areas had been highlighted: health and education; agriculture and sustainable land development; water; sustainable cities; and energy and minerals. The Declaration contained 65 initiatives on sustainable development. However, some problems remained, such as properly clarifying what constituted unsustainable development.


Sustainable Development Commission - 10 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

ABDUL LATIF MONDA (Bangladesh), Vice-Chairman of the ad-hoc expert group meeting on the implementation of special measures for least developed countries in Agenda 21, said in the area of financing sustainable development, the group had discussed the need for donor countries to take further positive action to support the actions of least developed countries to halt their marginalization in the world economy. In that context, the need to establish concrete targets and timetables for fulfilling official development assistance (ODA) commitments in the Paris programme of action for least developed countries had been discussed. It had been stressed that developed countries should fulfil their commitments by providing new and additional resources and that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding for least developed countries should be increased.

With regard to trade and development, he said the group had called for the full and expeditious implementation of the World Trade Organization plan of action in favour of least developed countries. It had emphasized that environmental measures should not be used as trade restrictions, and the list of dangerous goods should be expanded to include obsolete equipment and expired products that were dumped on least developed countries. Further, adequate support should be provided to commodity diversification. In the area of capacity-building, the group had called on donor countries to facilitate the transfer of environmentally sound technologies, taking into account local needs.

MAXIMO KALAW, Executive Director of the Earth Council, reported on the Rio Plus Five Forum, held in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year. A previous report had been made by the Chairman of the Earth Council, Maurice Strong, during the high-level segment. Mr. Kalaw stressed the importance of stakeholder participation in implementing Agenda 21. There had been a number of levels of experience in translating Agenda 21 into action. It was generally accepted that Agenda 21 was a new paradigm and its implementation had not integrated the social and economic aspects of sustainability.

At the national level, he said, a framework policy was needed to ensure the achievement of sustainable development with the build up of social capital. At a regional level, a multi-stakeholder forum should be set up to participate in global trade and investment regimes and to make global accords nationally and locally relevant. The Commission on Sustainable Development should become a multi-stakeholder body.

KAZUYOSHI OKAZAWA (Japan) reported on the Global Partnership Summit on the Environment, which was jointly hosted by Global Environment Action and the United Nations Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development. Held in Tokyo in March, the Summit had adopted the Tokyo Declaration. The recommendations and proposals for action contained in the Declaration, which would be submitted to the special session in June, focused on financial issues, transfer of technology, reform of production and consumption patterns


Sustainable Development Commission - 11 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

and science/technology and information. The Summit had underscored the importance of the forthcoming third meeting of the Conference of parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997.

ROY HICKMAN (Canada), President of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, said the forum was a mechanism for promoting chemical risk assessment and the environmentally sound management of chemicals. It operated by building consensus among governments, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations representing the public interest, scientific disciplines, trade unions and industry. Its purpose was to provide policy guidance and strategies and to improve coordination. However, it did not have a mandate to carry out its recommendations, which was a task for governments and intergovernmental organizations.

The second Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety was held in Ottawa in February, with participation from more than 80 countries, he continued. Stressing the importance of chemicals which, if not wisely used, had adverse effects on biodiversity, freshwater resources and the marine environment, he said chemical pollutants from fossil fuels could have an impact on human health, agricultural productivity and climate. Two major recommendations of the forum were that: development policies and investment in programmes and projects that entailed chemical management should include support for the necessary capacity building for developing countries and countries with economies in transition to ensure the environmentally sound management of chemicals; and that governments should take the lead in enhancing the efforts of all partners in finding innovative ways to provide the necessary resources for the sound management of chemicals.

IRENE FREUDENSCHUSS-REICHL (Austria), speaking on behalf of the expert group on fostering the linkage between energy and sustainable development within institutional arrangements, said that group had met in Vienna in preparation for the special session from 22 to 24 January 1997. The meeting had concluded that energy was at the core of the sustainable development debate, as it played a key role in achieving the economic, social and environmental objective of sustainable development. Access to and adequate availability of energy services was a prerequisite to achieving the socio- economic development required to improve the quality of life and satisfy basic human needs, including access to jobs, food, running water, housing, health services, education and communication.

An adequate supply of energy was urgently needed in developing regions, in particular in the least developed countries, remote rural areas and small island developing States, where more than 2 billion people had little or no access to commercial energy resources, she said. It was also a prerequisite for sustainable development in the industrialized world and in the countries with economies in transition. The supply of energy should be secure and


Sustainable Development Commission - 12 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

reliable. Also, it was essential that access to energy services and the supply of energy be realized at affordable costs. The meeting had noted that current patterns of production, distribution and use of energy were in general not sustainable.

The meeting had stressed the need for more efficient use of energy, an increased use of environmentally sound energy technologies, in particular renewable sources of energy, and a shift towards cost-effective production and use of depletable energy resources, she said. Further, it had called on the Commission to dedicate a session to sustainable energy not later than the year 2001.

JIN SEUNG CHUNG, Deputy Minister of Environment of the Republic of Korea, speaking on the Round Table Meeting of World Environment Leaders on Environmental Ethics, said that meeting had led to the Seoul Declaration on Environmental Ethics. The first objective of that Declaration was to preserve the earth's environment. It had stressed the principle that the earth supported all life forms and international cooperation was important for its preservation. All human beings shared responsibility and there must be equity in the sustainable development of the earth's resources.

Further, the Declaration emphasized that all life could be sustained and universal well-being was possible, he said. Materialism should be reduced and the equity of all human beings, nations and ethnicities recognized. Moreover, environmentally friendly technology should be developed and encouraged and the integrity of the whole life system supported.

SERGUEI KAREV (Russian Federation) reported on the forthcoming international seminar "Chernobyl and Beyond: Humanitarian Assistance to Victims of Technological Disasters" to be held in May. He said the Chernobyl disaster continued to have a negative impact on his country, Belarus and Ukraine. The purpose of the seminar was to define the role of all countries participating in the clean-up of the disaster and in providing humanitarian assistance.

He said the seminar would encourage dialogue between the relevant parts of the United Nations system, donor countries and the governmental bodies of three States. It was expected to develop a policy for disaster prevention in light of the lessons of Chernobyl and improve coordination among international humanitarian organizations. The seminar would be preceded by a needs assistance mission that would report to the meeting.

Mr. JELLEN, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Elaborate an International Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, reported on progress achieved in the Baltic Sea region, which covered a range of countries bordering on that Sea with a population of more than


Sustainable Development Commission - 13 - Press Release ENV/DEV/415 7th Meeting (AM) 11 April 1997

80 million people. He said the political changes since the 1980s had offered new opportunities for cooperation in that region, particularly on the environment and on spatial development and planning.

The increased cooperation had coincided with the Rio process, he said. A regional approach had been taken. A ministerial level meeting had been held in Sweden last year to develop a Baltic Agenda 21. Another would be held in 1998. From that process, an agreement would be adopted covering energy, transport and fisheries, among other issues. The issue of finance would be considered as well. Information on the developments was available on an Internet home page. The initiative was an example of how a shared sea could help to create a general feeling of cooperation in that region. The initiative should also have an impact on the issues of fresh water and the oceans internationally, he added.

Turning to issues related to the Convention to Combat Desertification, he focused on the following aspects: the need for political support for the first conference of parties of the Convention; the unique global mechanism for financing the implementation of the Convention, which would involve several donors and several financial mechanisms; and the importance of such issues as poverty, the empowerment of women and water resources. The Convention would make an important contribution to the future work of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

ZEYNEP DEMIRHAN-DARVISH (Turkey), speaking on the important developments in the field of the environment in her region, said the Black Sea Environment Programme, supported by the GEF, had been developed under Turkey's organizational responsibility in the context of the Bucharest Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea from Pollution. In that regard, the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan would play a major role in rehabilitating the Black Sea. That Plan had been approved by the Ministers of the Environment from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russian Federation and Ukraine at a ministerial conference held in Istanbul on 31 October 1996.

She said her country had also hosted the last expert meeting and diplomatic conference on the Protocol concerning the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution by Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. At the global level, Turkey had ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1996. Further, in the last two years it had signed approximately 25 agreements covering economic, trade, scientific, industrial and technical cooperation activities. In addition, ministries and various institutions had signed a total of 55 agreements with their counterparts in developing countries. Also, various Turkish institutions provided training and study tours to some 600 officials from developing countries.

* *** *