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Standard-setting

Central to the ability of Governments to formulate policies for sustainability and to regulate their impact is the development of a set of internationally accepted criteria and indicators for sustainable development. The Commission on Sustainable Development is spearheading this work, which will enable countries to gather and report the data needed to measure progress on Agenda 21. It is hoped that a “menu” of indicators — from which Governments will choose those appropriate to local conditions — will be used by countries in their national plans and strategies and, subsequently, when they report to the Commission.

Achieving sustainable development worldwide depends largely on changing patterns of production and consumption — what we produce, how it is produced and how much we consume, particularly in the developed countries. CSD’s work programme in this area focuses on projected trends in consumption and production; impacts on developing countries, including trade opportunities; assessment of the effectiveness of policy instruments, including new and innovative instruments; progress by countries through their timebound voluntary commitments; and extension and revision of UN guidelines for consumer protection.

In 1995, the Commission also adopted a work programme on the transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation and capacity building. The programme places an emphasis on three interrelated priority areas: access to and dissemination of information, capacity building for managing technological change, and financial and partnership arrangements. The Commission is working with the World Trade Organization, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to ensure that trade, environment and sustainable development issues are mutually reinforcing.


Financing Sustainable Development

At Rio, it was agreed that most financing for Agenda 21 would come from within a country’s own public and private sectors. However, new and additional external funds were considered necessary if developing countries were to adopt sustainable development practices. Of the estimated $600 billion required annually by developing countries to implement Agenda 21, most — $475 billion — was to be transferred from economic activities in those countries.

A further $125 billion would be needed in new and additional funds from external sources, some $70 billion more than current levels of official development assistance (ODA). According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), between 1992 and 1995, levels of ODA fell from about $60.8 billion to $59.2 billion, despite a call at Rio for donor countries to more than double their official assistance.

Other monies are available for implementation of Agenda 21. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was set up in 1991. It is implemented by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme. The GEF provides funding for activities aimed at achieving global environmental benefits in four areas: climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution of international waters and the depletion of the ozone layer. At Rio, the Facility became the funding mechanism for activities under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. In 1994, the scope of the GEF’s funding was broadened to include land degradation, primarily desertification and deforestation, where this is linked to the four focal areas above. Since 1992, some $2 billion has been pledged for activities supported by the GEF.

In the years since the Earth Summit, the level of funding channelled to many of the developing countries as direct private investment has increased significantly and now far outstrips official flows. In 1995, this reportedly amounted to some $95 billion. Efforts are being made to ensure that activities supported by these funds are also environmentally sustainable.


Five Years After Rio

In June 1997, the world’s attention will again focus on the Earth Summit. When Governments meet in New York for the UN General Assembly’s special session to review progress since Rio, the question will be: What changes have the major players — including Governments, international policy makers, businesses, trade unions, farmers and women’s groups — been able to bring about in the five years since Rio? A great deal has happened, but, in the view of some, not nearly enough to achieve the Summit’s goals. There is growing awareness of the many “negative incentives” which continue to encourage people to become wasteful consumers. The Commission intends to elaborate for the 1997 special session of the GA concrete proposals for mechanisms and policy instruments to facilitate achieving the aims of Rio.



 

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© Copyright United Nations 23 May 1997 | Department of Public Information | Revised 23 May 1997