United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Statement


STATEMENT TO THE EIGHTH SESSION OF THE
COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
by MR. NITIN DESAI
UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL
FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

24 April 2000

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Delegates,

It’s a pleasure for me to be present at this opening of the eighth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. For somebody who was, very deeply involved in the Rio process, it is truly very gratifying to see that this particular Commission, which has the responsibility for the follow-up to Rio, retains its capacity to attract senior decision-makers from Capitals. This is something which is vital for maintaining the momentum of follow-up.

May I begin first, however, Mr. Chairman, by thanking you for the innovative and energetic leadership that you have shown through the year that we have been preparing for this session; the way that you have been able to enthuse a cross-section of people, both amongst governments as well as amongst non-governmental organizations. I believe that this really demonstrates the wisdom of the decision which was taken sometime back to change the pattern of election in the CSD so that the Chair has the responsibility to prepare for the CSD. I think we have once again seen the benefits of this and I truly wish to thank you for the support that you have provided in preparing for this session. Through you, I would also wish to thank the Bureau which has met regularly during this process and contributed in a very substantial way to the preparations.

 

 

Mr. Chairman,

In a way, what I would wish to do at this opening is to set out our expectations from this session of the CSD; what is it that we must have by the end of these two weeks?

You have before you basically four broad areas in your agenda. First, you have the whole complex of issues dealing with land and agriculture. This is part of the whole process of focussing the attention of the CSD at the sectoral level on the interface between environment and development. This was one of the innovations which came after the Rio+5 process in 1997; it covered sectors like tourism, industry in the first two years, agriculture this year and next year it will be energy. I would stress the importance of this exercise because this is the only way in which we are going to give practical expression to the type of integration of economic, environmental and social dimensions which sustainable development requires. What you have this year on your agenda under land and agriculture is in some ways a sector where this integration is absolutely central.

The integration which sustainable development calls for is not just in terms of these dimensions of policy at the sectoral level, it also requires integration of a cross-different actors -- the integration of stakeholders in the dialogue process. You have a very impressive group of interlocutors for the stakeholder dialogue and this is the second crucial element of innovation in the work of the CSD after Rio +5. What we want out of this process, is essentially something which moves Agenda 21 further towards implementation at the national, regional and global level. The type of integration of ecological, economic and social considerations which is there in the integrated management of land resources in Agenda 21 in its concepts of sustainable agriculture and in the subsequent developments which have taken place in the context of the Food Summit, for instance, have to find operational expression and I hope what we will get out of this first part of your agenda is like a set of guidelines which Governments, regional organizations, and international organizations can use effectively.

Let me take this opportunity here of expressing my deep and profound thanks to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, which has been our principal partner in preparing for this segment and which has taken on a very substantial load of work to prepare for this, along with other organizations of course, like IFAD the World Food Programme, UNEP, UNDP, World Bank and others. But, it is FAO which has carried the burden of preparations for this and I would like to use this opportunity to thank them.

The second major area which you have on your agenda is the issue of finance. We have to all recognize that this is certainly an area in which the degree of progress that has been achieved since 1992 leaves a lot to be desired. If you look at flows of Overseas Development Assistance, they have actually declined, not just in terms of percentage of GDP but also in absolute terms. It is possible that a larger proportion of these are available for what one could describe as sustainable development activities; but, nevertheless, we must all accept that the extent to which support was expected for the implementation of the Programme of Action which came out of Rio has not been forthcoming, at least as far as concessional resources are concerned. People often refer to the flows of private investment which have increased and certainly there is an important task in terms of ensuring that these flows of private investment are also guided by principles of sustainability. But, what I would like to stress is that there are large elements of the Rio Programme of Action which require public action, and public action requires public resources and Overseas Development Assistance is the global counterpart of this need for public resources and this is a dimension that you would have to consider. We did try to probe this issue further through a special meeting which was organized with UNEP. You have the material from this meeting and I hope we can move this issue beyond what one could describe as arguments about words and rhetoric into some genuine agreements on how we can move this issue forward in a feasible and doable way in the immediate future.

The third major area, very closely links to this. You also have to discuss the issue of trade, investment and economic growth. The trade environment connection, of course, was something which erupted with some force in the Seattle meeting of the WTO. It is something which has been discussed in the trade and environment group in the World Trade Organization and UNCTAD, our principal partner in preparing for this part of the segment, has also been working in this area. Once again, I want to thank UNCTAD for the support that they have given us in the preparations for this part of the work. I would only point out here that, the first intergovernmentally agreed text on trade and environment is what you find in Agenda 21. Much of the discussion that takes place elsewhere does take that as a starting point. Rio did lay out a set of princples on this issue but, of course, the matter has moved much beyond that since then and I hope that you will find. in the material that has been prepared by UNCTAD, an approach which will allow you to focus on this.

I link these two issues up in some ways because these deal really with the macroeconomics of development which is as important as the type of sectoral issues we have looked at when we looked at things like agriculture, or tourism, or industry or energy as we do next year.

The third major issue that you will have to look at is the follow-up on the outcome of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests. You have the report of the Intergovern-mental Forum on Forests; you will be discussing this. Certain options are laid out there in terms of the follow-up, and a major issue before you is to see how this issue is to be continued further, keeping in mind all of the different activities which are already underway in this area in the FAO and elsewhere. Of course, the decisions will be taken later in ECOSOC and the General Assembly, but the CSD which set up this forum has an important role to play in providing guidance.

And, the fourth and in some ways the issue which has perhaps exercised the greatest interest in general discussions is the fact that this CSD must start focussing on the Rio +10 process. On the Ten Year Review of the Outcome of the Rio Conference which is to take place in 2002, all our experience suggests that the sooner we start on the preparations for such a major review, the better for us. Decisions on this, of course, will be taken in the General Assembly because it is the General Assembly which has mandated this Ten-Year Review. The CSD is a vital stage in these preparations. What I would like to stress here is that one important thing which you must bear in mind is that, when it comes to sustainable development, there is an organized intergovernmental process, the CSD. There is an organized interagency process, Inter-Agency Commission on Sustainable Development, and there are organized secretariats dealing with this issue—the Division for Sustainable Development here and, of course, the Task Managers, who worked through the IACSD: UNEP, FAO, UNDP and the others. A certain structure of preparations at the secretariat level, at the interagency level, at the intergovernmental has been set up and I believe it’s important to see how one can factor in the preparations for the 2002 into the work processes that we have in these areas. What I would like to stress is that, at the secretariat level, we have been focussing on this. A Task Force has been working on generating ideas, options, possibilities for this area since the beginning of this year. The Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development also spent a great deal of time on this issue. In all cases, we were more or less convinced that, at least as far as the secretariat input is concerned, it must come soon rather than late; that the sooner it comes, the better for the intergovernmental process so that whatever material you need is available to you earlier rather than later. And, it is for this reason, that though we still have to await the specific mandates from this year’s General Assembly session, within the parameters that we do already have, we have at the secretariat level started initial work on this. I’ll have more to say on this on Wednesday, when the Chairman has kindly invited me to speak on this. I should not really go much beyond this.

These are the four basic areas that you have to address during this session of the CSD and I hope that no one item overwhelms everything else and that we do have time to cover all of these different dimensions. So, with this, with your permission, I would like to stop and to say that we look forward to this particular session of the CSD, as always, and I look forward particularly to working with you Mr. Chairman and your Bureau in ensuring the successful outcome in all of these four areas that I have outlined here.

Thank you very much.

 


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Date last posted: 28 September 2000
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