United Nations


General Assembly

4 March 1997


             Contribution of the United Nations Environment
                   Programme to the special session

                     Note by the Secretary-General

1.  In paragraph 8 of its resolution 51/181 of 16 December 1996, the
General Assembly invited the Governing Council of the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP) to include in its report to the Assembly
at its special session information and views on ways to address, in a
forward-looking manner, national, regional and international
application of the principles contained in the Rio Declaration and the
implementation of Agenda 21 in the interrelated issues of environment
and development.

2.  At its nineteenth session, the Governing Council requested the
Executive Director of UNEP to transmit to the General Assembly at its
special session the annexed report, which includes the Nairobi
Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP (sect. I), the note by the
Executive Director to the Governing Council on preparations for the
review and appraisal of Agenda 21 (sect. II) and the executive summary
of Global Environment Outlook-1 (sect. III).

3.  The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit the report to the
General Assembly.  In accordance with paragraph 6 of Assembly
resolution 51/181, the present note will also be made available to the
Commission on Sustainable Development at its fifth session for its


      Contribution of the United Nations Environment Programme to
      the special session of the General Assembly for the purpose
      of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of
                    Agenda 21, 23-27 June 1997



     ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME.............................................. 3


     A. State of the environment.......................................  7

     B. Implementation of Agenda 21.................................... 10



   Declaration of the ministers and heads of delegation attending the
     high-level segment of the nineteenth session of the Governing
          Council of the United Nations Environment Programme,
                held from 5 to 7 February 1997 in Nairobi 1/

    We, the ministers and heads of delegation attending the nineteenth
    session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment
      Programme, held in Nairobi from 27 January to 7 February 1997,

     Recalling the goal of the Rio Declaration on Environment and
Development, 2/ which is to establish a new and equitable global
partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among
States, key sectors of society and people,

     Reiterating our commitment to the implementation of the Rio
Declaration, Agenda 21, and the Non-legally Binding Authoritative
Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management,
Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests, 3/
adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,
as well as other environmental conventions agreed upon in the Rio

     Recognizing the progress made in the implementation of the Rio

     Deeply concerned, nevertheless, at the continuing deterioration of
the global environment, including the worsening trends in environmental
pollution and the degradation of natural resources, as reflected in the
Global Environment Outlook report of the United Nations Environment
Programme, 4/

     Aware of the rapid changes currently taking place in the world and
the increasing complexity and fragmentation of the institutional
responses to them, as well as the far-reaching significance of the
concept of sustainable development which encompasses economic, social and
environmental dimensions, supported by capacity-building, transfer of
technology and financial resources to developing countries, in particular
least developed countries,

     Convinced that a strong, effective and revitalized United Nations
Environment Programme is essential to assist the international community
in its efforts to reverse environmentally unsustainable trends,

     Aware that the special session of the General Assembly for the
purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of
Agenda 21 offers a unique opportunity to review and appraise the follow-
up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and to
confirm the revitalized role of the United Nations Environment Programme,

     Determined to assist the General Assembly in this important task,
and guided by the principles agreed in the Rio Declaration on Environment
and Development,


     1.   That the United Nations Environment Programme has been and
should continue to be the principal United Nations body in the field of
the environment and that we, the ministers of the environment and heads
of delegation attending the nineteenth session of the Governing Council,
are determined to play a stronger role in the implementation of the goals
and objectives of the United Nations Environment Programme;

     2.   That the role of the United Nations Environment Programme is
to be the leading global environmental authority that sets the global
environmental agenda, that promotes the coherent implementation of the
environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United
Nations system and that serves as an authoritative advocate for the
global environment;

     3.   That, to this end, we reaffirm the continuing relevance of the
mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme deriving from General
Assembly resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 15 December 1972 and further
elaborated by Agenda 21.  The core elements of the focused mandate of the
revitalized United Nations Environment Programme should be the following:

     (a)  To analyse the state of the global environment and assess
global and regional environmental trends, provide policy advice, early
warning information on environmental threats, and to catalyse and promote
international cooperation and action, based on the best scientific and
technical capabilities available;

     (b)  To further the development of international environmental law
aiming at sustainable development, including the development of coherent
interlinkages among existing international environmental conventions;

     (c)  To advance the implementation of agreed international norms
and policies, to monitor and foster compliance with environmental
principles and international agreements and stimulate cooperative action
to respond to emerging environmental challenges;

     (d)  To strengthen its role in the coordination of environmental
activities in the United Nations system in the field of the environment,
as well as its role as an Implementing Agency of the Global Environment
Facility, based on its comparative advantage and scientific and technical

     (e)  To promote greater awareness and facilitate effective
cooperation among all sectors of society and actors involved in the
implementation of the international environmental agenda, and to serve as
an effective link between the scientific community and policy makers at
the national and international levels;

     (f)  To provide policy and advisory services in key areas of
institution-building to Governments and other relevant institutions;

     4.   That, for the effective discharge of its focused mandate and
to ensure the implementation of the global environmental agenda, we have
decided to improve the governance structure of United Nations Environment
Programme. In doing so, we have been guided by the following

     (a)  The United Nations Environment Programme should serve as the
world forum for the ministers and the highest-level government officials
in charge of environmental matters in the policy and decision-making
processes of the United Nations Environment Programme;

     (b)  Regionalization and decentralization should be strengthened
through the increased involvement and participation of regional
ministerial and other relevant forums in the United Nations Environment
Programme process, complementary to the central coordinating role of the
Programme's headquarters in Nairobi;

     (c)  The participation of major groups should be increased;  

     (d)  A cost-effective and politically influential inter-sessional
mechanism should be designed;

     5.   That, in order to operationalize its mandate, the revitalized
United Nations Environment Programme needs adequate, stable and
predictable financial resources and, in this regard, we recognize the
interrelationship between excellence, relevance and cost-effectiveness in
programme delivery, confidence in the organization and a consequent
increase in the competitive ability of the Programme to attract funding;

     6.   That ways must be sought to assure financial stability for the
implementation of the global environmental agenda.  In this regard, the
predictability and early notification of expected contributions to the
Environment Fund would facilitate an effective planning and programming

     7.   That we reaffirm the central importance of the Environment
Fund as the principal source of financing for the implementation of the
programme of the United Nations Environment Programme;

     8.   That we are convinced that the expeditious implementation of
our decisions and the principles contained in this Declaration, adopted
in the year of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the United
Nations Environment Programme, will revitalize and strengthen the
organization and place it at the forefront of international efforts to
protect the global environment for present and future generations and in
the pursuit of sustainable development;

     9.   That we request the President of the Governing Council to
present this Declaration to the high-level segment of the fifth session
of the Commission on Sustainable Development and to the special session
of the General Assembly for the purpose of an overall review and
appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21.


                    A.  State of the environment 5/

1.   Any assessment of progress since the United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development (UNCED) must begin with the environment.  As
the first Global Environment Outlook report concludes:  from a global
perspective, the environment has continued to deteriorate over the last
decade, and significant environmental problems remain deeply embedded in
the socio-economic fabric of nations in all regions (UNEP/GC.19/26).

2.   In regions where food security and poverty alleviation are
priorities, such as Africa, West Asia and parts of the Asia-Pacific
region and Latin America, the primary concern relating to land is its
availability, the prevention and control of land degradation, and
efficient land and water management.  The limited availability of arable
land and loss of land to urban expansion are of particular importance to
small island States and the West Asia region.  Degradation of drylands is
an urgent global problem, placing some one billion people in 110
countries at risk, mainly in developing regions.  In highly
industrialized regions, ameliorating soil contamination and combating
acidification are priorities.

3.   The decade of the 1980s witnessed a decline of some two per cent in
the area of the world's forests and wooded land.  While the area under
forest cover in developed regions remained fairly unchanged over the
decade, natural forest cover in developing regions declined by eight per
cent.  In Europe, air pollution (including acid rain), pests and
diseases, and forest fires were the main causes of forest degradation. 
Biological diversity is of particular concern in both the Latin American
and Caribbean region and the Asia and Pacific region, which together
house 80 per cent of the world's ecologically megadiverse countries.  As
yet no region-based assessment of the state of the world's biological
diversity is available, and of a working figure of 13 million species,
only 13 per cent have been scientifically described.  Worldwide habitat
loss and fragmentation, the lack of biological corridors and the decline
in biological diversity outside protected areas constitute the primary
threats to biological diversity.

4.   All regions experience problems related to either groundwater or
surface water, or both.  Every day, 25,000 people die as a result of poor
water quality.  Some 1,700 million people, more than one third of the
world's population, are without a supply of safe water and, in the
absence of an adequate sanitation infrastructure, the problem of
pathogenic pollution is severe in many developing countries.  An
estimated one quarter of the world's population will suffer from chronic
water shortages in the beginning of the next century.  The development
and efficient management of water resources are of particular concern in
West Asia, Africa and Asia and the Pacific.  In Europe and North America,
the protection of water resources from contamination, acidification and
eutrophication feature high on the agenda.  Water supply to regions
hosting megacities is a worldwide concern, mainly with regard to
groundwater resources, the intrusion of salt into freshwater supplies and
land subsidence.  More than 1,500 million people depend on groundwater
for their drinking water.  Other global priorities are the equitable
distribution of water between riparian countries sharing international
river basins and the impacts of major dams and diversion projects.  By
the year 2000, more than 60 per cent of the world's total stream flow
will be regulated by dams.

5.   About 60 per cent of the global population lives within 100
kilometres of the coastline and more than three billion people rely on
coastal and marine habitats for food, building sites, transportation,
recreation, and waste disposal.  One third of the world's coastal regions
are at high risk of degradation, particularly from land-based activities. 
European coasts are the worst affected, with some 80 per cent at risk,
followed by Asia and the Pacific, with 70 per cent at risk.  In Latin
America, some 50 percent of the mangrove forests are affected by forestry
and aquaculture activities.  Oil spills are particular threats in West
Asia and the Caribbean, while infrastructure development for the tourism
industry is placing severe stress on natural coastal areas around the
world, particularly in small island developing States.  There is
widespread anxiety in Asia and the Pacific, North America, Europe and
West Asia regarding the over-exploitation of marine fisheries and the
consequent decline in stocks of commercial fish species.  Globally, over
60 per cent of marine fisheries are heavily exploited.

6.   Air pollution problems are multifaceted and pervasive.  Acid rain
and transboundary air pollution, once considered a problem only in Europe
and parts of North America, are now increasingly apparent in parts of
Asia and the Pacific and Latin America.  Large regions are at risk from
the effects of both climate change and acidification.  All major cities
in the world suffer urban air quality problems.  In Eastern Europe, air
quality is considered the most serious environmental problem.  Despite
coordinated action worldwide, damage to the ozone layer continues faster
than expected, with the next ten years predicted to be the most
vulnerable.  Non-compliance and growth in illegal trade in ozone
depleting substances are emerging problems.  All regions express concern
over global warming but special emphasis is placed by the developing
countries on the need for adaptive mechanisms to cope with accompanying
climate variability and sea-level change.  The rapidly rising demand for
energy to fuel economic development will aggravate these problems,
particularly in Asia and the Pacific, where a 100 per cent increase in
energy use is predicted for the period 1990 - 2010 and in Latin America,
with a predicted energy growth of 50 - 77 per cent for the same period. 
It appears that, for the foreseeable future, fossil fuels will continue
to be the primary source of energy.

7.   The impacts of current consumption and production patterns and
associated waste generation, particularly on personal health and well
being, are high on the priority list of both North America and Western
Europe, and of concern to the other regions.  Subregions with emerging
economies, such as those of Eastern Europe, South-East Asia, and parts of
Latin America and West Asia, face problems associated with rapid
industrialization.  Rising levels of pollutants pose serious problems of
acidification, urban air quality deterioration and transboundary
pollution, all increasing health risks.  The accumulation of radioactive
waste and the continued impacts of the Chernobyl disaster and the effects
of past radioactive spills remain of particular concern in Eastern
European countries.  These problems are compounded by rapidly increasing
urbanization, particularly in coastal zones, and the widening gap between
the rich and the poor.  More than half of humankind will live in urban
areas by the end of the century, a figure that will increase to 60 per
cent by 2020, with Europe, Latin and North America having more than 80
per cent of their population living in urban areas.

8.   The polar regions, representing the largest remaining natural
ecosystems on Earth are also coming under increasing stress, particularly
from long-range pollutant transport and deposition. Their crucial role in
climate regulation and the vulnerability of their fauna and flora warrant
special attention.

9.   While this assessment may contain no surprises, the following
fundamental global environmental trends demand concerted and more timely

     (a)  The use of renewable resources, land, forest, freshwater,
coastal areas, fisheries and urban air, is beyond their natural
regeneration capacity and therefore unsustainable;

     (b)  Greenhouses gases are still being emitted at levels higher
than the stabilization target internationally agreed upon under the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;

     (c)  Natural areas, and their attendant biological diversity, are
bound to diminish as a result of the expansion of agricultural land and
human settlements;

     (d)  The increasing, pervasive use and spread of chemicals are
causing major health risks, environmental contamination and disposal

     (e)  The continued heavy reliance on hydrocarbons in the energy
sector to fuel economic development is unsustainable;

     (f)  Rapid unplanned urbanization, particularly in coastal areas,
is placing severe major stress on adjacent ecosystems; and  

     (g)  A better scientific understanding is needed of the causal
relationships between socio-economic driving forces and their
environmental impacts; in particular, scientific analysis and subsequent
policy recommendations are urgently required to deal with complex
interactions among global biological cycles, long-term chemical impacts
and climatic changes.

An effective policy response to these trends will require a blend of
policy instruments that address the social fabric of life, ensure
effective institutional arrangements, improve the economy, and protect
the environment.

                 B.  Implementation of Agenda 21 6/

10.  Since UNCED, UNEP has continued to promote sound environmental
management and sustainable development, through the provision of
information, guidance and assistance on environmental assessment, policy
and management, and by building consensus on international environmental
policy and action.  The UNEP Governing Council, with careful
deliberation, consolidated and prioritized the Environment Programme to
enable UNEP to respond to the needs of countries and institutions in
implementing Agenda 21.  UNEP took steps to ensure that the content,
focus and manner of delivery of the Environment Programme were in line
with the Rio Principles.

11.  Through a process of reflection, consultation and discussion, UNEP
defined its mission, recast the focus and content of its programme and
revised the modalities of its work with an emphasis on devolution,
partnerships, decentralization and the cultivation of new constituencies
while strengthening old ones.  The integrated programme was refocused
around four environmental problems:  sustainable management and use of
natural resources; sustainable production and consumption; a better
environment for human health and well-being; and globalization and the
environment.  Not only was it necessary for UNEP to ensure that its work
was scientifically and technically sound, but it also had to be developed
and delivered to facilitate its partners' action for the environment and
for sustainable development.

12.  As a result, noteworthy features of the implementation of Agenda 21
by UNEP have been:  strengthened and extended partnerships with
international and intergovernmental institutions and the development
community; a broadening of constituencies beyond non-governmental
organizations to include business, industry, women, youth and
parliamentarians; a more decentralized and participatory approach to
programme development and delivery with accentuated roles for the UNEP
regional offices; greater integration in the design and delivery of
programmes such as freshwater, marine resources and coastal areas; land,
forests and biodiversity; environmental information, assessment and toxic
chemicals; a deliberate effort to relate programme policy and design to
promote sustainable development, including its economic, social and human
aspects, such as poverty, women, population, equity and international
economic cooperation participation, a deliberate emphasis on responding
to the needs of countries and institutions, achieving and monitoring
results, and accountability (UNEP/GC.19/INF.17).

13.  Information and database development and networking in various
areas of environmental concern have helped UNEP respond more effectively
to the needs of countries and institutions and promote the successful
experiences of others.  UNEP will pursue its efforts in this area
further, drawing upon the capabilities of modern information technology,
and its own strengthened regional presence.  The traditional
environmental assessment and monitoring work of UNEP is also becoming
more closely integrated with the analysis of trends, impacts and driving
forces and, consequently, becoming more policy relevant and action-
oriented.  UNEP will continue to build bridges and enhance the dialogue
between science and policy.  UNEP has to sustain and intensify its
networking with the scientific and technological communities to remain
abreast of their work and to help orientate the direction of research, so
that it will contribute effectively to addressing priority problems.

14.  UNEP has given priority in capacity-building to providing technical
and policy guidance in environmental information, assessment, database
development, environmental legislation and institutions.  It is essential
that more attention is given to the building of capacities for policy
development which will help countries integrate environment and
development considerations in decision-making.

15.  The role of UNEP as a builder of consensus among Governments on
environmental policy and action will become increasingly critical as
competition over natural resource use and access intensifies, and as
transboundary environmental impacts significantly affect the quality of
life.  Equally important, however, will be the systemwide promotion of
compliance and the enforcement of international environmental agreements. 
The linkage of global and regional environmental objectives with local
and national development needs must be systematically factored into
projects and programmes aimed at implementing such agreements.

16.  In the course of implementing its Agenda 21 responsibilities UNEP
has learned some practical lessons, including the following:

     (a)  Considerably more emphasis needs to be given to identifying
and analysing the development of policies, programmes and practices to
integrate environment and development in action at the country level and
to provide the benefit of such knowledge to other countries and

     (b)  The UNEP contribution must be reexamined to ensure that
substantive value is added and that the potential role of partners,
including the private sector and non-governmental organizations is

     (c)  Preventive and anticipatory approaches, with particular
attention to "win-win" avenues, enhanced economic efficiency, social
development and better environmental management, must be emphasized;

     (d)  Relationships with constituencies, including civil society in
general and the financial services sector in particular, must continue to
be broadened and strengthened;

     (e)  The institutional and financial means of implementation must
be secured in the process of building intergovernmental agreements;

     (f)  Achievement milestones for specific responsibilities under
Agenda 21 should be set and progress towards them monitored regularly;

     (g)  An integrated, holistic approach to programme development must
be pursued.  Programme activities need not be developed and implemented
in all areas all the time:  in some areas it is sufficient to perform a
review and information networking function; in others, to monitor
progress; and in others still to advocate policy options and mobilize
action.  Resource allocation needs to become more sensitive to such
distinctions to deliver the most effective service to countries with
available resources;

     (h)  Strong emphasis should be placed on issues-specific, action-
oriented and policy-connected environmental advocacy, rather than on
generic awareness-raising; and

     (i)  Attention needs to be given to issues concerning the
prevention and mitigation of conflicts relating to natural resource use
and access and transboundary environmental impacts.


17.  This first report in the biennial Global Environment Outlook series
was initiated in response to the environmental reporting requirements of
Agenda 21 and to the UNEP Governing Council decision of May 1995
requesting production of a new, comprehensive report on the state of the
world environment in time for the UNEP Governing Council in January 1997. 
The decision recognized the need to advance consensus on several
essential environmental issues and on the implementation of the
recommendations of Agenda 21.  The report is a snapshot of an ongoing
worldwide environmental assessment process.

18.  A regional and participatory process was used to produce Global
Environment Outlook-1.  Input was solicited from 20 regional
collaborating centres, United Nations organizations and independent
experts.  Draft chapters benefited from discussions and recommendations
of participants in regional consultations, which also provided valuable
suggestions for the improvement and future direction of the Global
Environment Outlook series.  In later reports, the regional inputs will
be strengthened through the further development of the global network of
collaborating centres.

                         A.  Global overview

19.  The Global Environment Outlook-1 report shows that significant
progress has been made in the last decade in confronting environmental
challenges in both developing and industrial regions.  Worldwide, the
greatest progress has been in the realm of institutional developments,
international cooperation, public participation and the emergence of
private-sector action.  Legal frameworks, economic instruments,
environmental impact assessment methodologies, environmentally sound
technologies and cleaner production processes have been developed and
applied.  As a result, several countries report marked progress in
curbing environmental pollution and slowing the rate of resource
degradation, as well as reducing the intensity of resource use.  The rate
of environmental degradation in several developing countries has been
slower than that experienced by industrial countries when they were at a
similar stage of economic development.

20.  Nevertheless,  from a global perspective, the environment has
continued to degrade during the last decade, and significant
environmental problems remain deeply embedded in the social and economic
fabric of nations in all regions.  Progress towards a global sustainable
future is just too slow and the necessary sense of urgency is lacking. 
Internationally and nationally, the funds and political will are
insufficient to halt further global environmental degradation and to
address the most pressing environmental issues - even though the
technology and knowledge are available to do so.  The recognition of
environmental issues as necessarily long-term and cumulative, with
serious global and security implications, remains limited.  The
reconciliation of environment and trade regimes in a fair and equitable
manner still remains a major challenge.  The continued preoccupation with
immediate local and national issues and a general lack of sustained
interest in global and long-term environmental issues remain major
impediments to environmental progress internationally.  Global governance
structures and global environmental solidarity remain too weak to make
progress a world-wide reality.  As a result, the gap is widening between
what has been achieved thus far and what is realistically needed.

21.  In the future, the continued degradation of natural resources,
shortcomings in environmental responses, and renewable resource
constraints may increasingly lead to food insecurity and conflict
situations.  Changes in global biogeochemical cycles and the complex
interactions between environmental problems such as climate change, ozone
layer depletion, and acidification may have impacts that will confront
local, regional, and global communities with situations for which they
are quite unprepared.  Previously unknown risks to human health are
becoming evident from the cumulative and persistent effects of a whole
range of chemicals, particularly the persistent organic pollutants
(POPs).  The effects of climate variability and change are already
increasing the incidence of familiar public health problems and leading
to new ones, including a more extensive reach of vector-borne diseases
and a higher incidence of heat-related illness and mortality.  Global
Environment Outlook-1 substantiates the need for the world to embark on
major structural changes and to pursue with vigour environmental and
associated social and economic policies.

                   B.  Regional status and trends

22.  Global Environment Outlook-1 confirms both striking similarities
and marked differences among regions in terms of the environmental issues
which are of primary concern today.  Although poverty and the growing
global population are often targeted as responsible for much of the
degradation of the world's resources, other factors - such as wealth, the
inefficient use of resources (including those of others), waste
generation, pollution from industry, and wasteful consumption patterns -
are equally driving us towards an environmental precipice. 

23.  In the report, prominence is initially given to issues associated
with poverty alleviation, food security and development, namely, natural
resource management to control land degradation, provide an adequate
water supply, and protect forests from overexploitation and coastal zones
from irreversible degradation.  Attention is then given to issues
associated with increasing industrialization.  Such problems include
uncontrolled urbanization and infrastructure development, energy and
transport expansion, the increased use of chemicals, and waste
production.  More affluent societies focus on individual and global
health and well-being, the intensity of resource use, heavy reliance on
chemicals and the impact of climate change and ozone destruction, as well
as remaining alert to the long-term protection needs of natural

                    C.  Regional policy responses

24.  The review of policy responses to environmental issues in different
regions indicates that, typically, these responses focus first on
institutional and constitutional issues, and then on the implementation
and enforcement of often disjointed sectoral environmental legislation
and regulations.  Subsequent actions concentrate on developing
comprehensive strategic and integrated plans for the protection of the
environment, such as national environmental action plans, and an array of
concerted command-and-control measures.  Later, attention is given to
introducing market-based incentives, creating conducive environments for
voluntary, flexible, and innovative actions and stimulating increased
participation and commitment by all sectors of society. 

25.  Progression through the cascade of policy responses is often
constrained in developing regions by weak institutions, insufficient
human and financial resources, ineffective legislation, and a lack of
compliance monitoring and enforcement capabilities.  In other instances,
environmental institutions and regulations have been introduced at the
request of external forces, such as international conventions and
strategies, donor requirements, and structural adjustment programmes, and
are only later internalized by countries.

26.  In the more developed regions of the world, experience with
environmental management and conservation is extensive and of longer
duration.  Today, countries are increasingly using a mix of command-and-
control policies and market-based incentives to achieve cleaner and more
resource-efficient production systems and to modify consumers' attitudes. 
More integrated approaches that rely on cleaner production processes and
accounting on a cradle-to-grave basis have not yet been used to their
full potential anywhere.

27.  Although there is repeated acknowledgement of both the vicious
cycle of poverty and its intrinsic linkages with the environment and the
urgency to address poverty alleviation, little evidence emerged from the
regional reports that effective and concerted actions have been taken
since Rio to ensure that environmental policies benefit the poorest
members of society.  A vacuum still remains at the national level for
linking environmental protection to social investment, such as education,
better health care and employment generation for the poor, especially

28.  Empowerment of communities and the growth of environment-oriented
non-governmental organizations in civil society are increasingly
recognized in all regions as powerful mechanisms to advance sustainable
development.  Another heartening sign is the tendency to strengthen
regional and subregional cooperation worldwide.  This might well prove to
be one of the most powerful mechanisms to move national and global
institutions forward towards sustainable development.  

                      D.  Looking to the future

29.  The first Global Environment Outlook report concludes with an
exploration, based on model analyses, of what we might expect in the
future for a selected number of environmental issues if no major policy
reforms are initiated.  The results in this final chapter confirm trends
revealed by the regional chapters.  They highlight the integrated nature
of the environment and underscore the need for a more systematic analysis
of linkages between environment, social, economic, institutional, and
cultural sectors and among different environmental issues, such as
biodiversity, climate, land, and water.

                        E.  The way ahead

30.  Worldwide, rapid and profound changes are occurring in many social,
institutional, and economic systems.  The continued impoverishment of
large parts of the global population, increased disparities both within
and between nations, and rapid globalization - particularly through
developments in information technology, transport, and trade regimes -
are observed.  In many countries, there are trends towards the
decentralization of environment responsibilities from national to
subnational authorities, an increasing role for the transnational
corporations in environmental stewardship and policy development, and a
move towards integrated environmental policies and management practices. 
The increased willingness of Governments to cooperate on a global basis
is evidenced by the large number of world summits in the last decade. 
The question arises, however, as to how this willingness is translated
into concrete and effective actions.  There is greater recognition and
popular insistence that the wealth of nations and the well-being of
individuals lie not just in economic capital, but in social and natural
capital as well.

31.  Against this background of change, a number of fundamental global
environmental trends emerge in the Global Environment Outlook-1 report:

     (a)  The use of renewable resources - land, forest, fresh water,
coastal areas, fisheries, and urban air - is beyond their natural
regeneration capacity and is therefore unsustainable;

     (b)  Greenhouses gases are still being emitted at levels higher
than the stabilization target internationally agreed upon under the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;

     (c)  Natural areas and the biodiversity they contain are bound to
diminish as a result of the expansion of agricultural land and human

     (d)  The increasing, pervasive use and spread of chemicals to fuel
economic development is causing major health risks, environmental
contamination, and disposal problems;

     (e)  Global developments in the energy sector are unsustainable;

     (f)  Rapid, unplanned urbanization, particularly in coastal areas,
is placing major stress on adjacent ecosystems; and

     (g)  The complex and often little understood interactions among
global biogeochemical cycles are leading to widespread acidification,
climate variability, changes in the hydrological cycles, and the loss of
biodiversity, biomass, and bioproductivity.

32.  There are also wide-spread social trends, intrinsically linked to
the environment, that have negative feedback effects on environmental
trends, notably:

     (a)  An increase in inequality, both between and within nations, in
a world that is generally healthier and wealthier;

     (b)  A continuation, at least in the near future, of hunger and
poverty despite the fact that, at the global level, sufficient food is
available; and

     (c)  Greater human health risks resulting from continued resource
degradation and chemical pollution.

33.  Four key priority areas emerge from the Global Environment Outlook-1
report for immediate, enhanced, and concerted action by the
international community if the world is to reverse the negative
environmental trends highlighted in the Global Environment Outlook-1
report.  Economic cost-benefit analyses will need to be conducted in
conjunction with concerted international action in these areas:

(a)  Energy efficiency and renewable energy resources

34.  Current patterns of energy use require drastic changes, because of
their destructive impacts on land and natural resources, climate, air
quality, rural and urban settlements, and human health and well-being. 
The need for ever higher levels of energy to fuel economic development in
all regions of the world and the absence of significant worldwide
advances in the development and application of alternative energy sources
and increased energy efficiency will inevitably exacerbate environmental
degradation.  Alternative energy sources need to be vigorously pursued
and their application enhanced.  Energy efficiency still needs to be
greatly improved, and emissions need to be reduced.  Consideration should
be given to declaring an energy decade, or even decades, until such time
as energy sustainability is reached.

(b)  Appropriate and environmentally sound technologies worldwide

35.  Appropriate technological improvements, which result in more
effective use of natural resources, less waste, and fewer pollutant by-
products, are required in all economic sectors.  Truly global
availability and worldwide application of best available and appropriate
technology and production processes, including best traditional
practices, need to be ensured through the exchange and dissemination of
know-how, skills and technology and through appropriate finance
mechanisms.  Despite years of deliberation, countries have yet to agree
on how to reach consensus on international mechanisms to serve the vital
interests of both developers of technologies and those countries that
need access to them, as well as on international finance mechanisms.

(c)  Global action on fresh water

36.  Water will be the major impediment to further development in
several regions.  Greater efforts are needed to resolve issues related to
land-based sources of pollution, non-point source runoff from
agricultural and urban areas, protection of groundwater reserves, water
pricing, the impact of development projects on ecosystems, and competing
demands for water among different social sectors, among rural and urban
communities, and among riparian countries.  Globally, a much stronger,
more integrated and extensive  programme on water is required, including
action to address food-related and health-related freshwater issues.

(d)  Benchmark data and integrated assessments

37.  Assessments are required continually to guide rational and
effective decision-making for environmental policy formulation,
implementation, and evaluation at local, national, regional, and global
levels.  To improve the global capability for keeping the environment
under continuous review, urgent action is required on several fronts:

       (i)     Investment in new and better national data collection and
               harmonization, and in the acquisition of global datasets;

      (ii)     Increased understanding of the linkages among different
               environmental issues, as well as of the interactions
               between environment and development;

     (iii)     Enhanced capabilities for integrated assessment and
               forecasting, and the analysis of the environmental impact
               of alternative policy options;

      (iv)     Better translation of scientific results into a format
               readily usable by policy-makers and the general public;

       (v)     The development of cost-effective, meaningful and useful
               methods for monitoring environmental trends and policy
               impacts at local, national, regional, and global levels.

38.  To achieve advances in one or all of these key areas for action, a
change in the hearts and minds of everyone will be required, along with a
worldwide transition towards resource equity and resource efficiency. 
The necessary financial resources will have to be made available at
national and international levels.  Estimates have indicated that if 2-3
per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) could be devoted to
environmental education, protection, and restoration, great strides could
be made in halting the progress of major negative environmental trends. 
Implementing the pledges made at Rio to increase development aid to the
equivalent of 0.7 per cent of industrial countries' GDP and to provide
new additional funding is the prerequisite for initiating action to
reverse global environmental degradation.



1/   As contained in the annex to decision 19/1 of 7 February 1997 of
the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council.

2/   Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,
Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference
(United Nations publication, sales No. E.93.I.8 and corrigendum), resolution
1, annex II. 

3/   Ibid., annex III.

4/   United Nations Environment Programme, Global Environment Outlook, (United
Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, 1997).

5/   Originally issued in documents UNEP/GC.19/26.

6/   Originally issued in document UNEP/GC.19/INF.17.

7/   Originally issued in document UNEP/GC.19/26.


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Date last posted: 15 January 2000 16:15:30
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