21 April 1997

Press Release


Reviews Negotiating Progress on Texts Concerning Agenda 21 Reporting, Programme for Small Island Developing States, Sustainable Forest Management

The Commission on Sustainable Development discussed organizational matters this morning, as it began the last week of its three-week session as preparatory and negotiating body for the Assembly's forthcoming special session, which will review implementation of Agenda 21 -- the programme of action adopted by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

During its negotiations, the Commission is focusing on the reports of its Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group and Open-ended Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, as well as on such matters as the proposed review of the implementation of the Programme of Action of the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in 1999.

Reporting on the Commission's progress to date, Commission Chairman Mostafa Tolba (Egypt) stressed the need for the Commission to make faster progress in its negotiations, since a number of issues were still pending with only a few days left. Mr. Tolba told the Commission that a number of draft texts were now available, including one on national reporting on progress made in implementing Agenda 21 at the national level, and another on the review of the Programme of Action on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

Mr. Tolba added that further consultations would take place with the Chairperson of the Alliance for Small Island Developing States (AOSIS), the European Union and the United States on the draft text on the review of the Barbados Programme of Action. As soon as an agreement was reached on that matter, a draft text would be circulated to the Commission.

Regarding institutional issues relating to the implementation of Agenda 21 in the Co-Chairmen's text (document E/CN.17/1997/13), Mr. Tolba said that a number of specific paragraphs amending the text had been submitted and

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had been sent to delegations for their comments. He had tried to reach a formulation to capture the different views on those issues. Regarding the negotiations on sustainable forest management, being chaired by Vice-Chairman Bagher Asadi (Iran), the Chairman said a draft text existed. However, there was still some disagreement on institutional issues and on the need for a convention.

On the Commission's work programme for the remainder of the week, Mr. Tolba said the Commission's bureau had agreed that only two drafting groups would function simultaneously. Negotiations on sustainable forest management and on institutional arrangements for implementing Agenda 21 would continue this afternoon. In addition, the proposals for the budget of the Division on Sustainable Development for inclusion in the negotiated text were still being prepared and were expected to be circulated tomorrow.

Responding to the Chairman's report, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, wanted to know why papers were being circulated without the inclusion of the Group's views. "Are we late or are we not supposed to make a contribution?", he asked. The Group was not happy with the way informal consultations were being conducted.

Further, the Group had comments on the consultations on forests, he said. A draft on that subject had been circulated but it had not included the Group's views. Therefore, those views would be presented to the relevant Vice-Chairman. The Group was now united on its views on issues related to forests and its contribution should be taken into account, keeping that fact in mind.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said a "very drafty" draft had been given to him in strict confidentiality on the proposed political declaration. Since he had been told that the Union was supposed to make comments on it as a group, he would consult with the Union on it.

Also this morning, the Commission was told that reports would be available on the outcome of the dialogue sessions held with major groups last week. A Vice-Chairman of the Commission, John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), would submit a report on the dialogue session with business and industry. Vice-Chairman Bagher Asadi (Iran) had prepared a report on final synthesis session of the major groups, which was held on Friday, 18 April.

Mr. Asadi (Iran) said that during the synthesis session the representatives of the various major groups had a lively exchange with delegations, with an appreciation expressed for the roles of the major groups in implementing Agenda 21. All the major groups had presented proposals and

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recommendations. An integrated text with those proposals had been transmitted to the Drafting Committee.

Dialogue sessions with representatives of major groups -- in general, non-governmental actors considered critical to the effective implementation of Agenda 21 -- took place throughout last week, he said. Participation included representatives of children and youth, the scientific and technological community, women's groups, workers and trade unions, indigenous peoples, non- governmental organizations, local authorities, farmers, and business and industry organizations.

Commission Chairman, Mr. Tolba (Egypt), said that all the major groups recommendations would be complied. It would be determined which of them would be taken up in the Commission's negotiations and which could be incorporated into the final draft text that would be agreed upon by the end of the session.

Mr. Asadi (Iran), as Chairman of the negotiations on forests, said he would welcome the proposals of the Group of 77 and China and that he was also available for bilateral discussions on issues related to forests.

The Commission will meet again at a time to be announced in the Journal.

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