Volume 3, Issue 2 - April/May 1996

In this issue:

CSD Looks Ahead to 1997
Forest Panel Begins Substantive Discussion
Sustainable Development Board Submits Reports
Innovation at CSW
Web Site Given Award
Commission for Social Development to hold Special Session
Efficiency Review Launched
Joint Inspection Unit Visits DPCSD
UN Gopher Gets a Spring Cleaning

CSD Looks Ahead to 1997

Twelve days of meetings for twelve hours a day, sixty-five reports and papers to consider, four conference rooms permanently booked, panels, parallel sessions, a high level segment, 30 or so special events, ministers, diplomats and over 200 NGOs in attendance: the numbers alone spell the role of CSD as the cross-road of the policy debate on sustainable development.

But beyond numbers, what should the interested layman, or the attentive practitioner want to be sure to follow in the current fourth session of the commission?

Certainly the two panel discussions, respectively on finance/production and consumption patters (22 April), and on transport and related issues of air pollution and energy efficiency (23 April), where the participation of ministers is expected.

And certainly also the parallel sessions on 25-26 April, where representatives from each region will exchange national experiences on coastal area management and sustainable development strategies; and the high (ministerial) level segment on 1-3 May, which will focus on preparation for 1997 Special Session of the GA to review 5 years’ progress after Rio.

Among the special events, top billing goes to the panel to discuss the priorities for the special session (2 May, 5-7 p.m.). Members of the Panel will include Maurice Strong, who was the Secretary-General of UNCED, Ambassador Tommy Koh, and the presidents of the last three sessions of the CSD, Ambassador Razali of Malaysia, Minister Töpfler of Germany, and Mr. Cavalcanti of Brazil, the implementers of today.

Finally, to have a look at the implementers of tomorrow, one shouldn’t miss the Panel of Youth and Agenda 21 (1 May, 5-7p.m.)

A tentative programme of work of CSD 4 follows.

WEEK 1 (18 - 19 April)

Thursday and Friday

Presentation of the progress report of the Panel on Forests.
General discussion on those cross-sectoral issues that were not dealt with by the Ad hoc Working Groups (namely, technology, education, capacity building, trade, poverty, population, institutions, decision-making, major groups and national reporting)

18 April (5-7 p.m):

Panel on Education for Sustainable Development organized by UNESCO.

WEEK 2 (22-26 April)

Monday, 22 April

Presentation of the report of the Ad hoc Working Group on Finance/Production and Consumption Patterns followed by a discussion.

Panel discussion followed by a discussion among delegations. The Panel will focus on relevant national mechanisms and policies (i.e. tax reform, pricing, etc.), as well as on ODA, with linkages, to the issue of changing consumption and production patterns.

Tuesday 23 April:

Presentation of the report of the Ad hoc Working Group on Sectoral Issues, followed by a panel and discussion among delegations.

The Panel could focus on energy and transport in the context of Chapter 9 of Agenda 21, and could include national policy makers, prominent scientists, and representatives of industry.

Wednesday 24 April:

Presentation of the outcome of the work of the panel on island developing states and external trade (GA resolution 49/100).

Discussion of the progress achieved in the implementation of the SIDS Programme of Action.

Thursday and Friday 25-26 April:

Parallel sessions - (a) exchanges of national experiences; (b) work of drafting groups on draft conclusions and recommendations under all items on the agenda.

Themes for national presentations:

Thursday - coastal area management.

Friday - sustainable development strategies.

WEEK 3 (29 April - 3 May)

Monday and Tuesday 29-30 April:

Work of the drafting groups.

30 April (5-7 p.m):

Special Event "Day of the Workplace"

Wednesday to Friday (a.m.):

High-Level Segment.

1 May (5-7 pm):

Panel on Youth and Agenda 21. 2 May (5-7 pm):

Panel on 1997 Special session of the General Assembly.

The Panel will consist of former chairmen of the CSD and eminent persons involved in UNCED and its follow-up.

Friday (p.m.):

Chairman's summary of the High-level Segment.

Adoption of the agenda of the 1997 session.Adoption of the report. Conclusion of work.


There may be other informal panels/presentations/special events during the session organized by governments, organizations and major groups during lunch breaks and in the evenings.

The events made known to the CSD Secretariat by early March are listed in the CSD Update, vol. 2, issue 5, available through the DPCSD web site at http://www.un.org/DPCSD/csdup.htm, and on the DPCSD gopher at gopher.un.org.

The CSD NGO Steering Committee will produce regular schedules of events as a service to all participants.


18 April - 3 May, New York
Commission on Sustainable Development
Fourth Session

27 April - 11 May, Midrand
UN Conference on Trade and Development
Ninth Session

April/May, Addis Ababa
ECA Conference of Ministers
Thirty-first Session

2 - 3 May, New York
Economic and Social Council
Resumed Organizational Session

6 - 17 May, New York
Cttee on Natural Resources
Third Session

13 - 17 May, New York
Cttee on Non-Governmental Organizations
1996 Session

21 - 31 May, New York
Commission for Social Development
Special Session

Forests Panel Begins Substantive Discussion

The second session - of a scheduled total of four - of the Open-ended ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) was held at the Palais de Nations, Geneva, Switzerland from 11 to 22 March 1996. The Panel is serviced by the IPF Secretariat in the Division for Sustainable Development. The meeting was attended by CSD member countries and countries with observer status, in addition to a number of NGOs, UN agencies, and other organizations.

The first week was dedicated to substantive discussion on the Programme Elements of the IPFs programme of work: I.2 underlying causes of deforestation; I.4 afforestation, reforestation and the restoration of fragile eco-systems, and the effects of air pollution on forests; I.5 needs and requirements of countries with low forest cover; II international cooperation in financial assistance and technology transfer; III.1 (a) forest assessment and scientific knowledge; and (b) methodologies for valuing the multiple benefits of forests.

The first half of the second week was occupied by initial discussions on the remaining Programme Elements: I.1 progress through national forests and land use plans; I.3 traditional forest related knowledge; III.2 criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management; IV trade and environment relating to forest products and services; and V.1 international organizations and multilateral institutions and instruments. As agreed during IPF I, no discussion took place on Programme Element V.2 legal mechanisms.

During the second half of the second week the Panel commented on the draft Co-chairmen's summaries of the substantive discussions and provided inputs and suggestions for the work to be carried out in preparation for the substantive discussions at IPF III.

Finally, the Panel approved the report of the meeting, emphasizing that the Co-chairmen's summaries did not represent negotiated texts. Negotiation of the conclusions of IPF's deliberations and an agenda for action will be initiated during IPF III (9-20 September 1996), and finalized during IPF IV (February 1997), which will be the last meeting of the Panel.

The questions of transfer of technology and financing, as well as international trade in forest products are among the most controversial issues with developing countries insisting that UNCED commitments have not been implemented. However, the discussions which took place on these and other sensitive issues were approached in an open and pragmatic manner, with delegations making substantive interventions at this stage, while reserving their right to intervene on all issues once the process of negotiation starts. The NGOs also participated actively in the discussions and made useful contributions to the deliberations.

As agreed during the First Session of the Panel, the question of the need, or otherwise, of a legally binding instrument on forests, which is probably the most controversial political issue, was not discussed. This topic is scheduled for initial discussion only at the Third Session, and for substantive discussion and final consideration at the Fourth and last session.

The high political support for the work of the Panel continues to be demonstrated by the large number of Government-sponsored initiatives on issues under consideration by the Panel. In this connection a number of side events took place during the two weeks of the meeting including: Swiss-Peruvian Expert meeting, Quaker Colloquium on Forests, NGO (WWF) Forum, Bionet/Greenpeace Biodiversity Forum, DPCSD/IUCN Forum, and many others.

The home page for the Panel with documents and related information is available through the DPCSD web site http://www.un.org/dpcsd.

NGO commentary on the Second Session of the IPF, parallel events and Government-sponsored initiatives can also be found in Earth Negotiations Bulletin Vol 13, No 14, dated 25 March 1996.

Tage Michaelsen, DSD

Sustainable Development Board Submits Reports

CSD 4 will consider two reports of the advisory body of eminent persons created by the Secretary-General to advise him on issues of sustainable development (see Kiosk, vol. 3, no. 1). The reports focus respectively on financing, cooperation and coordination (E/CN.17/1996/2); and on the communications revolution, and sustainable transport systems (E/CN.17/1996/31). The text of the reports is available through the DPCSD web site at http://www.un.org/dpcsd, and through the DPCSD gopher at gopher.un.org. The current composition of the Board is given below.

Ms. Maria Julia ALSOGARAY, (Argentina): Member of the National Cabinet; Secretary of the Secretariat for Natural Resources and Human Environment.

Dr. Christine AMAOKONUAMA, (Ghana): Minister for Environment, Science and Technology.

Her Highness Princess Basma BINT TALAL, (Jordan): Founder of Queen Alia Fund for Social Development and Chairperson of its Board of Trustees; Chairperson, Jordanian National Committee for Women.

Mrs. Birgitta DAHL, (Sweden). Speaker, Parliament of Sweden. Member, Executive Committee of the Social Democratic Party. Member, Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs.

Dr. Nikolai DROZDOV, (Russia): Environmental writer and biologist. Associate Professor, Faculty of Geography, Moscow State University; Presenter and producer of Russian TV programme "In the World of Animals", and other nature programmes.

Dr. David HAMBURG, (United States of America): President, Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Dr. Abid HUSSEIN, (India): Chairman, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

Prof. Jörg IMBERGER, (Australia): Professor of Environmental Engineering, currently Chair of the Western Australia Esturaine Research Foundation and Scientific Adviser to Earthwatch.

Mr. Jacques LESOURNE, (France): Professor, Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers. Former positions include Director, Le Monde; Leader, OECD Interfutures Project.

Mr. Marcilio Marques MOREIRA, (Brazil): Director of the Programme of Advanced International Studies, State University, Rio de Janeiro; Special Adviser to the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

Ms. Laura NOVOA, (Chile). President, PARTICIPA, (a Chilean non-governmental organization on education and democracy); Council, PAZ CIUDADANA; member of the law firm Philippi, Yrarrazaval, Pulido and Langlois (mining and corporate matters).

Prof. David PEARCE, (United Kingdom): Professor of Environmental Economics at University College, London and Chairman of the ECE Economic Group on Acid Rain; member of the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility.

Mr. Emil SALIM, (Indonesia). Member of the Economic Team to the President of the Republic of Indonesia; member of the People's Consultative Congress; member of the Academy of Sciences, Indonesia.

Mr. Maurice STRONG, (Canada). Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Hydro. Former positions include Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; Under-Secretary-General and Executive Coordinator, the United Nations Office for Emergency Operations in Africa; Director, United Nations Environment Programme.

Dr. SUH Sang-Mok, (Republic of Korea): Member of National Assembly.

Dr. Mostafa TOLBA, (Egypt). Professor, Faculty of Science, Cairo University.

Mr. QU Geping, (China). Chairman, Environmental Protection Committee, National Peoples' Congress. Prof. EnstUlrich von WEIZSÄCKER, (Germany): President, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Science Centre NorthRhine Westphalia. Member of the Club of Rome.

Innovation at CSW

You've completed the largest United Nations conference in history which adopted a large, ambitious Platform for Action. What do you do for an encore?

That was the question faced by the Commission on the Status of Women at its fortieth session from 11-22 March 1996 in New York. The reply was to focus the meeting on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to dramatically change the method of work.

Prior to the session, the Bureau of the Commission decided to completely restructure the agenda to base most of its substantive work on a series of dialogues on three separate issues: poverty, women and the media, and child and dependent care including sharing of family responsibilities. Each dialogue began with a panel of experts and concluded with a meeting devoted to dialogue among governments leading to action-oriented agreed conclusions and recommendations that were adopted by the Commission.

The expert panels consisted generally of one independent expert named by the Secretary-General, an expert from a non-governmental organization or other element of civil society, an expert from one of the main organizations of the United nations system, and a number of experts from governments. The purpose was to stimulate and channel discussion towards key issues. During a three-hour meeting, with the chair of the Commission or a Vice-Chairperson acting as moderator, the experts made short presentations for about an hour and then received questions and comments from the floor, from Governments, other organizations of the UN system and from NGOs to which the experts replied. The presentations were often provocative, as were the questions posed by the audience, leading to a lively interchange of views.

Each panel had its own characteristic. The panel on poverty emphasized strongly the need for institutional reform among poverty-agencies, both national and international, to ensure that the gender dimension eas incorporated into their work. The panel on media debated the issue of how to ensure media responsibility for gender equality while maintaining freedom of expression. The Panel on Child and Dependent Care wrestled with the relative roles of the State, the family and the community in providing support to women through sharing of responsibilities.

The innovation was well received and in its resolution on methods of work, the Commission decided to continue the approach through 2000.

John Mathiason, DAW

Web Site Given Award

The Fourth World Conference on Women world wide web site (http://www.undp.org/fwcw/daw1.htm) has been given a "4-star" rating by the McKinley Group, a private sector team of professional web editors based in the United States. This is the highest rating an Internet site can achieve in the McKinley Group's Magellan project, a comprehensive directory of nearly 2 million sites and 40,000 reviews.

The FWCW web site was set up by DAW to cover the conference in real-time from the Beijing International Convention Centre. Over 160,000 queries from 68 different countries were handled during the month of the Conference alone. Our 4-star site now links to both the archives of the Beijing Conference, and to the new web page of the Division for the Advancement of Women, keeping the world involved in follow-up to this important event.

Oliva Acosta, DAW

Commission for Social Development to hold Special Session

The Commission for Social Development will meet this year from 21-31 May, here in New York, in a special session called for by ECOSOC. In its decision, ECOSOC requested the Commission to hold the special session in order to review its mandate, terms of reference and scope of work; to elaborate its multi-year programme of work; and to review the frequency of its meetings. It is hoped that the session will result in recommendations to strengthen the Commission, to confirm its role as the primary intergovernmental body responsible for consideration of policies and programmes for social development and to ensure the contribution of the Commission to the follow-up of the World Summit for Social Development.

In addition, as part of the follow-up to the Copenhagen Summit, ECOSOC decided that the Commission should adopt as a priority topic for in-depth discussion at its special session, "Strategies and actions for the eradication of poverty: (a) formulation of integrated strategies; (b) meeting basic human needs of all; and (c) promotion of self-reliance and community-based initiatives".

To support the constituencies developed during the preparation of the Social Summit, and to maintain the momentum for social development, all the NGOs accredited to the Summit have received invitations to observe the special session. Further decisions regarding the longer term involvement of civil society in the Commission are expected to be taken during the session.

The Commission for Social Development, which has 32 members, is one of the oldest of the functional commissions of ECOSOC, having been established in 1946. Yet it does not seem to be very well known here. Maybe this is because for the past 15 years or so the Commission held its biennial meetings in Vienna, where its Secretariat servicing unit, the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, was located. When the Centre was incorporated into the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development and moved to New York in 1993, the Commission's meetings were moved as well. The special session marks only the second time the Commission will meet in New York since 1979, and we hope that it will receive much more attention and an infusion of new life as a result of its central role in follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development.

Bob Huber, DSPD

Efficiency Review Launched

Like all other departments in the United Nations Secretariat, DPCSD has embarked on an "efficiency review" exercise to improve the quality of its services to its governmental and non-governmental constituencies and, where possible, to improve the value of its services (more or the same output at less cost).

Our department has decided to focus on three areas: documentation for intergovernmental meetings, publications and relations with and outreach to NGOs. In the documentation and NGOs areas, the department is building on efficiency efforts initiated previously. In fact, task forces had been set up to improve procedures and practices. In the third area, publications, while some problems had previously been identified, a systematic, department-wide effort had not been made to address them. The review exercise is thus an opportunity to move forward in a more focussed manner on fronts that need attention.

The approach of the reviews is hard, fresh scrutiny of what we do in these areas, why we do it, and how it is done, in order to find ways to simplify processes and improve quality. A key to its success is bringing in as many views as possible on what is wrong, why, and how to do the job better. Teams have been set up to carry out the reviews during March and April. However, any staff member who thinks he or she could contribute to the exercise can do so by posting suggestions on special E-mail bulletin boards set up for this purpose. Under-Secretary-General Nitin Desai has sent a personal E-mail message to each staff member inviting such participation.

As progress is achieved, Kiosk will be reporting....


Joint Inspection Unit Visits DPCSD

This year, the JIU plans to issue a report on the use of information systems and information technology in the United Nations, in response to strong interest in these topics by ECOSOC and many system organizations. The Joint Inspection Unit, a body of experts appointed by the General Assembly, is responsible for ensuring that the activities undertaken by the organizations of the United Nations system are carried out in the most economical manner and that optimum use is made of available resources. The JIU may propose reforms and recommendations aimed at improving management and achieving greater co-ordination between UN organizations.

Given DPCSD's dual role as the Secretariat's policy coordination body, both at the intergovernmental and inter-agency levels, and as a strategic provider of information services in the economic and social fields, the JIU inspectors met at length with the USG together with the Information Support Unit in March to solicit the Department's views. The observations of the USG touched on four main areas: the nature of organization-wide strategic planning; innovative uses of IT by substantive programmes; management of information services; and, management of infrastructure and development of skills. Below is an abridged version of a paper prepared by ISU on the issues.

Organization-wide strategic planning
It was noted that organization-wide plans for development of information systems and information technology, where these exist, are not generally communicated to line managers, nor are substantive Departments invited to participate in strategic-planning exercises. Therefore, despite standardization of infrastructure across the organization, information services tend to be fragmented with development driven by individual unit mandates on the authority of GA and ECOSOC resolutions, requests from GA/ECOSOC subsidiary bodies, directives of Heads of Department, etc. without enforced linkages between these interests at the Secretariat level. Examples of inefficiency include the proliferation of NGO mailing lists and databases, and the duplicative tracking of intergovernmental meetings at the Divisional, Departmental and Organizational levels.

User representation is another area of planning that is lacking, limited as it is within the Secretariat to infrequent meetings of the Technological Innovations Board. Formal user evaluation seldom involves Member States even when a system has been developed to satisfy an official resolution.

What may be required in the area of strategic planning is a means of addressing integration of services (as opposed to looser coordination), greater use of structured methodologies for systems analysis and design, and inclusion of a formal user evaluation phase in the systems development process.

Innovative uses of IT by substantive programmes
The ISU pointed out that the goal of DPCSD is to use new technologies, in particular the Internet, as a means of enhancing delivery of services to our primary audiences. An essential criteria for new services is whether there is value added to existing output. For example, the services provided through the DPCSD web attempt to model the information-seeking behaviour of delegates. The DPCSD online meeting coverage is more than a basic calendar. It also includes hyperlinks to relevant documentation commonly sought by meeting participants. The online document distribution centre, integrated with online meeting coverage, includes advance unedited drafts of reports to help overcome the persistent problem of late issuance of reports.

The JIU was also informed of an ISU plan to build an online compendium of policy instruments and national reports, correlated with national statistics, to "automate" some of the most labour-intensive aspects of the monitoring function, and to make this information available to independent researchers worldwide.

Management of information services
Organization-wide information processes may be susceptible to duplication and inefficiency in part because structured methodologies for systems analysis and design (broadly defined to include both manual and automated functions in the processing of information) are unfamiliar to both information officers and decision-makers. Given that information services are further managed by discrete units within the framework of the organizational structure, insufficient attention is given to establishing a smooth flow of information between different but related functions across two or more departments (e.g. in the management and distribution of documentation; for a description of this rather involved process, see the lead article in Kiosk, Volume 2, Issue 6).

The complex nature of the management of information services, and the relative lack of information services integration, is as much a political and structural issue as it is a technical one.

Management of infrastructure and development of skills
Finally, the ISU noted some specific deficiencies in the management of infrastructure and skills development. On behalf of many DPCSD users, it was pointed out to the JIU that Secretariat procurement procedures frequently lead to substantial delays (up to one year) in delivery of needed hardware and software. Ironically, strict controls and centralized accounting can increase costs noticeably in this area since goods are billed at the rate set on the date of requisition, not on the date of delivery, while there can be a substantial drop in the going rate for electronic goods within a period of weeks. An ISU suggestion to allow for distributed purchase of computer equipment by Departmental representatives, at rates not higher than those set by some central administering authority, was received with some interest.

In the areas of skills development, the idea of rewarding general service staff for advanced systems qualifications was floated. Computer skills are arguably as important to this information-based organization as the ability to communicate in several languages. While general service staff are awarded salary increments based on tested language skills, those with exceptional computer proficiency are not.

Generally, the professional information function is seen as central to Secretariat operations and appropriate resources continue to be committed to it by DPCSD.

Patrick Spearing, ISU

UN Gopher Gets a Spring Cleaning

Acting on long-standing concerns about ease-of-use, and in response to a recent request by the ECOSOC Working Group on Harmonization of UN Information Systems, DPCSD's Information Support Unit took the lead last month in coordinating efforts to give the UN gopher server a good spring cleaning. The document collections of the General Assembly and ECOSOC, and of their subsidiary bodies, have been reformulated and simplified to aid users in navigating the extensive material posted by DPI and DPCSD.

At the same time, the DPCSD-related portion of the UN gopher has moved from the UNDP host to the new UN gopher server maintained by the Electronic Services Division. Our gopher address, which took effect on 29 March 1996, has changed from gopher.undp.org to gopher.un.org. This applies to all bodies and conferences serviced by the Department, as well as all DPCSD substantive programmes.

Chief complaints of Member States and NGOs alike have been DPI's complex system of organizing official documents by month of posting, and the lack of consistency in the arrangement of ECOSOC materials. The UN gopher is now decidedly more user-friendly, and more accurately represents the range of UN activities in the economic, social and related fields.