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International Legal Instruments & Mechanisms <ARCHIVE>

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Chapter 39 of Agenda 21 deals with International Legal Instruments and Mechanisms and is concerned with assisting States in promoting sustainable development at national and international levels through enhancing the effectiveness of such instruments and mechanisms.

The Commission on Sustainable Development reviewed Chapter 39 at its second and fourth sessions. It was also one of the subjects addressed by the General Assembly in 1997 Earth Summit in its Resolution S/19-2 on the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, new and emerging issues were addressed in Chapter X of the Plan of Implementation (WSSD, 2002) in respect of legal developments in the area of sustainable development.

Three Conventions are closely associated with the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, or Earth Summit): the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). Both the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Statement of Forest Principles were also adopted at UNCED.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was opened for signature at UNCED and entered into force on 29 December 1993.  On 29 January 2000, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention adopted the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which entered into force 11 September 2003.  The secretariat of CBD is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 

The Framework Convention on Climate Change, was also opened for signature at UNCED and entered into force on 21 March 1994.  Its Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the Conference of the Parties, in Kyoto, Japan on 11 December 1997, and it was opened for signature at UN Headquarters in March 1999.  The Secretariat of UNFCCC is located in Bonn, Germany. 

The issue of desertification was highlighted at UNCED in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21.  The Conference called upon the UN General Assembly to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare, by June 1994, a Convention to Combat Desertification, particularly in Africa.  In December 1992, the General Assembly agreed and adopted resolution 47/188.  As a result, the Convention was negotiated, adopted in Paris on 17 June 1994 and opened for signature there on 14-15 October 1994.  It entered into force on 26 December 1996.  the Secretariat of CCD is located in Bonn, Germany. 

The Statement of Forest Principles was adopted at UNCED, and, in 1995, both an Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and an Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) were established under the UN Commission on Sustainable Development  In 2000, ECOSOC established the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), to promote “… the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end…”based on the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the outcome of the IPF/IFF Processes and other key forest policy milestones. 

The Rio Declaration contains 27 principles of sustainable development.  Among them are several that have had a strong influence on both international and national law. Examples include intergeneration and intragenerational equity; the precautionary principle; the polluter-pays principle; common but differentiated responsibilities; participation and access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings; environmental impact assessment and prior notification.