Commission on Sustainable Development Background Paper No. 29 Sixth Session 20 April-1 May 1998 EXTRACT FROM THE REPORT OF THE IPU COMMITTEE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT Adopted without a vote by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 162th session (Windhoek, 6 April 1998) (* The Inter-Parliamentary Council is the plenary policy making body of the IPU, comprising representatives of the Unionžs 137 member parliaments.) A. Preparation of a draft declaration on declining official development assistance and financial aid in general 1. The Committee held hearings on declining official development assistance and financial aid in general ... and adopted ... a draft declaration which it submits to the Council for its consideration and adoption (Annex I). B. Strengthening parliamentary input in the UN Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 2. Members of the Committee reaffirmed their belief that parliaments and governments have a crucial role to play in the implementation of Agenda 21 and of the outcome of the 1997 special session of the UN General Assembly. Having reviewed the results of that session, the Committee agreed that much greater efforts and a significantly stronger political will are urgently needed to foster progress towards sustainable development and to translate the spirit of Rio into reality. 3. Parliaments need to develop and promote greater understanding and awareness of the concept of sustainable development as an integrated policy framework aimed at achieving the triple goals of economic growth, social development and equity and the protection of the environment. Parliaments also need to exert pressure on their respective governments, at all levels, to implement their commitments made at UNCED and reconfirmed in the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 adopted by the special session of the UN General Assembly in June 1997. 4. Members of the Committee found it particularly important that in this Programme the General Assembly for the first time explicitly called upon national legislative assemblies to act in support of national actions aimed at achieving sustainable development and thanked the IPU Secretary General for his efforts in obtaining this reference. 5. Of particular significance is paragraph 24 (b) of the Programme in which the UNGA stressed that in integrating economic, social and environmental objectives, it is important that a broad package of policy instruments - including regulation, economic instruments, internalization of environmental costs in market prices, environmental and social impact analysis and information - be worked out in the light of country-specific conditions to ensure that integrated approaches are effective and cost-efficient. In this context the UN General Assembly underscored the need for an active involvement of national legislative assemblies in promoting policy reforms aimed at sustainable development. 6. Furthermore, in paragraph 108 of the Programme, the UNGA stressed that further efforts are required to promote appropriate legal and regulatory policies, instruments and enforcement mechanisms at the national, state, provincial and local levels. The UNGA felt that at the national level, each individual must have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. It therefore called upon Governments and legislators to establish judicial and administrative procedures for legal redress and remedy of actions affecting environment and development that may be unlawful or infringe on rights under the law, and should provide access to individuals, groups and organizations with a recognized legal interest. Access should be provided to effective judicial and administrative channels for affected individuals and groups to ensure that all authorities, both national and local, and other civil organizations remain accountable for their actions in accordance with their obligations, at the appropriate levels for the country concerned, taking into account the national judicial and administrative systems. 7. The Committee feels that another important area for parliamentary action relates to ensuring participation in and compliance with international legal instruments. Parliaments have important functions relating to the ratification of international instruments as well as in the development and adoption of national laws and policies which aim at their implementation. Expeditious ratification of, universal participation in and effective compliance with various conventions and protocols related to environment and sustainable development are essential for the attainment of these goals. 8. Likewise the Committee stresses the importance of parliamentary action to promote education for sustainability and draws attention to paragraph 105 of the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 which outlines the rationale for an adequately financed and effective educational system at all levels as a prerequisite for sustainable development. 9. The Committee summarizes its views on the need for strong parliamentary action for sustainable development in the attached draft political statement (Annex II). It submits this statement and the above recommendations for consideration and adoption by the IPU Council. It also suggests that the Secretary General bring them to the notice of member parliaments for follow-up action and that parliaments be encouraged to inform the IPU of action they have taken in this regard. 10. With a view to enhancing the contribution of the IPU to future sustainable development deliberations in the United Nations, the Committee decided to consider whether the thematic programme of work of the CSD for the period until 2002 could be used for organizing the agendas of its own future meetings. 11. Moreover, the Committee invites the IPU Council to encourage member parliaments to : (a) Mobilize stronger political will and promote governmental action aimed at achieving sustainable development ; (b) Implement specific recommendations outlined in the Programme of Action for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 ; (c) Engage themselves, as appropriate, in the preparation of national reports which governments submit to the CSD on action taken and progress achieved. This can play a significant role in promoting governments' responsibility and accountability for actions they undertake to advance sustainable development and implement commitments emanating from various international agreements; (d) Promote greater social and environmental awareness of the public and private sectors. 12. The IPU Council may also consider establishing modalities for collecting and exchanging experiences and promote best practices in parliamentary action in promoting sustainable development through national policy and legal reforms, as well as in promoting compliance with international agreements. 13. The Committee urges the Council to invite national parliaments to consider holding regional and sub-regional parliamentary meetings to address specific themes on the sustainable development agenda. Taking into account the provisions of paragraph 47 of the report of CSDž s Working Group on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management, one or more of such meetings may be devoted to the issue of sustainable water management. 14. Finally, in considering this subject, the Committee recommends that the IPU Council give consideration to proclaiming the year 1999 as the Year of Parliamentary Action for Sustainable Development and that it devote one of its statutory sessions in the year 2000 to the issue. In this manner, the IPU could make an important contribution to the next comprehensive review of progress achieved since UNCED, which will take place in 2002. C. Miscellaneous 15. The Committee wishes to place on record its appreciation to the Council for having acted on many of the recommendations the Committee submitted in its report in 1997. At the same time, the Committee believes that the IPU can do more to increase parliamentary awareness of sustainable development issues. It therefore reiterates its recommendation of 1997 that the IPU consider publishing, in co- operation with the United Nations, a brief manual or brochure explaining where and how information relevant to sustainable development and already in the public domain can be obtained. Similarly, the Committee reiterates its 1997 recommendation that the UN Commission on Sustainable Development make further efforts to interest parliamentarians in its work and encourages the Secretariat to discuss this matter further with the relevant units of the United Nations. ANNEX I DECLARATION ON DECLINING OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE (ODA) AND FINANCIAL AID IN GENERAL Adopted without a vote by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 162th session (Windhoek, 6 April 1998) (* The Inter-Parliamentary Council is the plenary policy making body of the IPU, comprising representatives of the Unionžs 137 member parliaments.) Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been declining at an alarming rate. Rather than closing the gap with the target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product (GNP) set by the international community as far back as 1972 and reaffirmed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, overall ODA has fallen from an average of 0.35 percent of GNP in the early 90s to less than 0.25 per cent today. In absolute terms, ODA has decreased during the last seven years by 25 percent, falling from a high of 60 billion dollars in 1990 to 45.5 billion dollars in 1997. This decrease is the result of many factors. The political commitment to aid in donor countries is being challenged by chronic fiscal pressures compounded in many countries by high rates of domestic unemployment. The end of the Cold War has done away with security and ideological justifications for aid. A perception of aid dependence among the poorest countries and growing scepticism generally of past effectiveness of aid in promoting development and reducing poverty are further additions to the list of disincentives. Changes in fundamental development theories have also played their role. The shift in beliefs from development being equated with growth and led by public sector planning efforts towards more complex, multidimensional concepts of development as being people-centred, participatory and market-driven has led to uncertainty about the most appropriate role of aid. In short, there is a crisis in confidence in the utility of aid. The decline in ODA is cause for very serious concern. ODA is an essential source of funding for many developing countries and particularly in the area of social development cannot be replaced by private financial flows. And it is at the core of the commitments made by States at the several world conferences held this last decade addressing sustainable development. While States have agreed that funding for the implementation of Agenda 21 and other international commitments towards sustainable development should mainly come from countriesž own public and private sources, they have also reaffirmed time and again the need to mobilise and provide new and additional, adequate and predictable financial resources to meet the targets of poverty reduction, protection of the environment and economic growth. Beyond financial concerns, decreasing ODA has serious political repercussions on the possibility to forge international consensus on sustainable development in the future and, in particular, on its environmental aspects. The Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in June 1997 (Rio+5) to make an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21 provides one example where lack of progress on financing of sustainable development had a noticeable negative effect. Hence, the urgent need to reverse the decline in ODA. This will require pursuing strategies which aim at improving the performance of development assistance and restoring donor support for ODA. We propose that national Parliaments launch a debate in plenary on the subject of declining ODA with a view to fostering a broader public understanding and support for official development assistance and consequent government action. Such a debate should focus on the following parameters for the future direction of aid : (i) The development goal of Official Development Assistance, implicit in its very name but often obscured by a narrow view equating development with growth, must be reasserted. We need to repeat that the ethical case for ODA rests ultimately on aid's ability to alleviate poverty, for this and future generations. To that end, ODA must address sustainable development conceived as a broad objective based on the need to achieve - in an integrated and mutually supportive way - the triple goals of economic growth, social progress and equity, and the protection of the environment. By definition, these goals must prevail over short-term commercial or partisan motivations. (ii) At the same time, overall effectiveness of ODA must be improved. Both donor and recipient countries need to ensure that existing ODA funding is used in the most effective and efficient way and that it contributes to economic growth, social development and environmental protection in the context of sustainable development. More effective use of ODA is essential in overcoming current donor fatigue and in promoting political support for increase of ODA levels by the governments and general public in donor countries. (iii) To achieve these objectives, sustainable development and therefore also the use of ODA must be driven by domestic priorities. Aid projects have the best chance of succeeding when they are the result of a broadly based participatory process in which the political leadership, the agencies of the State and civil society agree on desirable policy changes and translate them into parameters of policy and administration which are generally accepted. (iv) Similarly, development projects should be implemented in the context of sound economic, social and environmental policies. Recipient States need to develop a sound policy framework and transparent, participatory and effective national institutions. While growth is necessary for poverty reduction, it will not achieve this result unless it occurs in an environmentally sustainable manner and within an institutional and policy framework which ensures that the benefits of growth are equitably shared. (v) Governments in both donor and recipient countries, as well as international financial institutions, need to ensure greater transparency with regard to the objectives of aid programs and the consistency of actual allocations and end uses with those objectives. Greater accountability in determining the objectives of aid and in the allocation of resources will help reduce donors' use of tied aid, and recipients' use of aid for short-term political and economic gains. (vi) ODA should be better targeted to the least developed countries and to those sectors in developing countries and countries in transition which do not benefit from adequate funding from various private sources, both domestic and external. Such sectors where the primary goal is to achieve human development are usually in the social area, particularly education, health, and poverty eradication, as well as environmental protection in many cases. (vii) ODA can be instrumental in covering incremental costs of national actions and policies aimed at achieving global environmental benefits, in particular actions aimed at the implementation of goals and objectives of various international conventions. Bearing in mind the overarching role played by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), governments have the responsibility to ensure the adequate replenishment of the Facility as well as to identify ways and means to improve access to its resources. Furthermore careful consideration has to be given to the scope of GEF's programme activities. (viii) There is a need for more systematic use of donor- recipient dialogues and more effective coordination among the donors themselves in order to ensure that ODA meets national priorities and, at the same time, facilitates the achievement of specific goals agreed at the international level. There also seems to be a need to improve greater policy coordination and collaboration between bilateral and multilateral donors, including international financial institutions, and various funding and technical co-operation activities carried out by the organizations of the United Nations system, as well as by NGOs. (ix) A most promising mechanism for donor-recipient coordination is a clear, recipient-driven strategy for sustainable development. National and sectoral sustainable development strategies can serve as the basis for designing funding programs using both domestic and international financial resources, including ODA. (x) There is also a need to explore and foster new approaches to the uses of ODA. This includes consideration of the possibility of further shifting the ODA financing from funding specific projects towards supporting broader goals of national policy reform aimed at sustainable development, including the need for addressing possible short-term social implications of such reforms. Furthermore, there are discussions regarding the role that ODA can play as a catalyst for leveraging private investment in support of sustainable development. (xi) Within the broad context of ODA, the problem of indebtedness of the poorest and the most indebted developing countries, must also be addressed. In addition to traditional mechanisms such as commercial bank debt buybacks and more innovative ones such as debt-for-nature swaps or debt-for-social-development swaps, particular mention should be made here of the Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs), a joint World Bank and IMF initiative now being implemented. (xii) A comprehensive policy regarding the financing of sustainable development must also address the issue of subsidies and particularly those that lead to unsustainable development. Existing subsidies will need to be made more transparent, examined in parliament, reformed, and as the case may be, removed. At the same time, support will have to be provided to the most vulnerable affected groups. (xiii) ODA is not a form of charity. In many cases ODA provides an important long-term service for the tax payers in donor countries themselves. By addressing urgent social needs, particularly the need to eradicate poverty, ODA can play an important role in avoiding potentially dangerous social dislocation which, in turn, can lead to national and regional conflicts. ODA, as shown above, can play a crucial role in ensuring that all countries join efforts aimed at addressing global environmental problems which, otherwise, can not be effectively dealt with by developed countries acting alone. ANNEX II Parliamentary Action for Sustainable Development Adopted without a vote by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 162th session (Windhoek, 6 April 1998) (* The Inter-Parliamentary Council is the plenary policy making body of the IPU, comprising representatives of the Unionžs 137 member parliaments.) So far parliamentary action for sustainable development has been spotty, progress has been modest, and governments' understanding of sustainable development policies has mainly resulted in well-meaning declarations of good intent. As we approach the next comprehensive review of progress achieved since UNCED, which will take place in 2002, and the proposed year of parliamentary action for sustainable development, it is urgent that parliamentarians become acquainted in greater depth with the social, environmental and economic significance of sustainable development and the IPU Secretariat assist parliamentarians in facilitating the understanding of this subject. If parliaments and governments are to give momentum to sustainable development policies, parliaments must ensure that sustainable development becomes the heart of national political concerns and pressure is exerted on their respective governments, at all levels, to implement their commitments at UNCED in 1992.
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Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30