United Nations System-Wide
  Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development (IACSD)

The IACSD has taken the following actions at its 12th and 13th meetings in response to recommendations from the Fourth Meeting of the Earthwatch Working Party (Geneva, 2-3 April 1998)

IACSD Twelfth Meeting
(Geneva, 28-29 September 1998)
EXTRACT from the Report of the Meeting

C. Report of the Earthwatch Working Party

18. The Committee considered document ACC/IACSD/XII/1998/CRP.3, a report of the Earthwatch Working Party. The report was introduced by a representative of DSD/DESA and the Chairman of the Earthwatch Working Party. The following items of the report were considered by the Committee: (1) Strengthening UN System Coverage of Waste Issues; (2) Incorporating the Information Dimension into the CSD Work Programme; (3) Common Core Data Sets and (4) Development Watch.

(a) Strengthening UN System Coverage of Waste Issues: The Committee acknowledged the importance of waste issues (the "brown agenda") and the need to strengthen systematic UN coverage of such issues. While the Committee felt it might be premature at this stage to establish a technical level working party to provide system-wide coordination, the need to more clearly identify the interests, capacities and expertise of the different UN organizations in this field was recognized. Consequently, the Committee requested that an assessment be prepared which would provide information on the activities of the various agencies concerned with waste management issues, particularly in terms of the role of the agencies and the focus and scope of their respective activities. UNCHS agreed to take the lead responsibility in this regard, and would prepare the report based on submissions and contributions made by the various concerned organizations, including proposals for further action by the Committee on this important topic. This compilation would form the basis for further consideration by the Committee of what steps might subsequently be taken by the Committee to strengthen the UN system response to these issues.

(b) Incorporating the Information Dimension into the CSD Work Programme: Information for decision-making was seen as a cross-cutting issue that has important implications for most of the sectoral and cross-sectoral themes of Agenda 21. The Committee endorsed the idea that Task Managers should be reminded about the need to incorporate this dimension into the substantive reports they are preparing for CSD. For those reports being prepared for the 1999 session, the Committee requested the CSD Secretariat to send faxed or electronic reminders to the concerned Task Managers to include information for decision-making in their respective reports. The Committee also agreed that Task Managers might be convened in the context of other related meetings to discuss how the information component could be more fully integrated into their reports. In this context, the Committee noted that FAO in preparation for CSD8 is giving special attention to the information component.

(c) Common Core Data Sets: The Committee recognized the valuable work done by a wide variety of UN system agencies and other organizations in preparing excellent data sets in their respective areas of expertise, and noted the importance of building on what already exists while seeking to ensure that such data can be shared and be accessible to other UN agencies and organizations. It was agreed that further work needed to be done to identify common data interests among agencies and to identify gaps where data may not exist. The Committee therefore agreed to establish an informal working group to be convened by UNEP to address the issues identified by the Earthwatch working party. It was agreed that some of this work could be carried on electronically, but that more formal meetings might be required in the future.

(d) Development Watch: The Committee did not feel it had enough information to make any definitive statement on this issue, but requested UNDP to prepare a report for the next meeting of IACSD, based on comments and inputs to be provided by interested agencies. Such a report would provide the basis for the Committee to decide what, if any, further action might be needed on this issue. The results of any country level experience with Development Watch would be taken into consideration in the report, as appropriate.

Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development (IACSD)
13th Meeting (New York, 8-9 March 1999)

The IACSD has taken further action at its thirteenth meeting on two of the above issues referred to it by the fourth Earthwatch Working Party, including UN coordination on waste management issues, and Development Watch. The following are relevant extracts from the report of the meeting:

D. Strengthening of UN system coverage of waste management issues

24. The representative of UNCHS presented the results of the initial survey of ongoing activities and readiness to collaborate in strengthening the UN systemís coverage of waste management issues (ACC/IACSD/XIII/1999/CRP.8). He noted that while the number of responses to the survey was limited, the message of those who responded was clear in that there is an interest in developing three options for IACSD to promote collaboration in this field. These are: (a) maintaining an inventory of UN approaches and activities related to waste issues; (b) maintaining a tool box with guidelines, standards, methods and techniques; and (c) establishing a technical working party on waste management issues. It was proposed that all three options be developed incrementally starting with the inventory and establishing technical working parties only in a time-bound and issue specific fashion, e.g., on standards. The Committee noted that this was an important area which requires more attention and a more common approach from the UN system and expressed its appreciation to UNCHS for undertaking the survey. Members of the Committee endorsed the proposal for further work and reiterated their interest and commitment in participating. They stressed that in this context the waste covered has to go beyond the municipal waste category to include e.g. pesticide and other chemicals. The timeliness of this endeavour was highlighted in view of UNEPís planned Conference on Sewerage in the year 2000. The Committee also welcomed the readiness of Habitat to explore the possibility of mobilizing required resources through existing programmes with related agendas such as the Urban Environment Forum.

E. Status of Development Watch

25. The history and status of Development Watch was outlined by UNDP (ACC/IACSD/XIII/1999/ CRP.6). While the activities and efforts undertaken related to Development Watch were welcomed by the IACSD, it was noted that these had been conceived at an early stage as a sustainable development indicators (SDI) process. Since then a more systematic discussion of SDI had devleoped at the inter-agency level and much progress in the area of SDI had been achieved. It was thus the view of the Committee that a separate Development Watch mechanism should not be pursued. Rather it was recommended that the relevant activities be incorporated into the efforts regarding indicators in the context of ECOSOC and elsewhere. It was reiterated that there is a need for further inter-agency coordination regarding SDI, especially related to national level coordination and capacity-building at the country level. The Committee also agreed that DESA and UNDP should keep the IACSD informed about progress made regarding development indicators.

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