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United Nations General Assembly
19th Special Session
New York, 23-27 June 1997

Resolution Adopted By The General (A/S-19/29)] S/19-2. Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, paras. 107-110

International legal instruments and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

107. The implementation and application of the principles contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development should be the subject of regular assessment and reporting to the Commission on Sustainable Development by the Secretariat in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme, in particular.

108. Access to information and broad public participation in decision-making are fundamental to sustainable development. Further efforts are required to promote, in the light of country- specific conditions, the integration of environment and development policies, through appropriate legal and regulatory policies, instruments and enforcement mechanisms at the national, state, provincial and local levels. At the national level, each individual should have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in the communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision- making processes. Governments and legislators, with the support, where appropriate, of competent international organizations, should establish judicial and administrative procedures for legal redress and remedy of actions affecting environment and development that may be unlawful or infringe on rights under the law, and should provide access to individuals, groups and organizations with a recognized legal interest. Access should be provided to effective judicial and administrative channels for affected individuals and groups to ensure that all authorities, both national and local, and other civil organizations remain accountable for their actions in accordance with their obligations, at the appropriate levels for the country concerned, taking into account the judicial and administrative systems of the country concerned.

109. Taking into account the provisions of chapter 39, particularly paragraph 39.1, of Agenda 21, it is necessary to continue the progressive development and, as and when appropriate, codification of international law related to sustainable development. Relevant bodies in which such tasks are being undertaken should cooperate and coordinate in this regard.

110. Implementation of and compliance with commitments made under international treaties and other instruments in the field of the environment remain a priority. Implementation can be promoted by secure, sustained and predictable financial support, sufficient institutional capacity, human resources and adequate access to technology. Cooperation on implementation between States on mutually agreed terms may help reduce potential sources of conflict between States. In this context, States should further study and consider methods to broaden and make more effective the range of techniques available at present, taking into account relevant experience under existing agreements and, where appropriate, modalities for dispute avoidance and settlement, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. It is also important to further improve reporting and data-collection systems and to further develop appropriate compliance mechanisms and procedures, on a mutually agreed basis, to help and Encourage States to fulfil all their obligations, including means of implementation, under multilateral environmental agreements. Developing countries should be assisted to develop these tools according to country-specific conditions.


UN Commission on Sustainable Development
4th Session
New York, 18 April - 3 May 1996

Report of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development on the Fourth Session (18 April-3 May 1996), Decision 4/6. International legal instruments and mechanisms

1. The Commission on Sustainable Development, having examined the report of the Secretary-General on international legal instruments and mechanisms (E/CN.17/1996/17 and Add.1), welcomes the progress made in reflecting the integrated nature of sustainable development in international legal instruments and in the further development of international law related to the implementation of Agenda 21.

2. The Commission takes note of the report of the Expert Group on the Identification of Principles of International Law for Sustainable Development, which was made available to the Commission as a background document, and expresses its appreciation of the work of the Expert Group, which was convened by the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of the Secretariat.

3. The Commission recalls that at its second session it requested the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to study further the concept, requirements and implications of sustainable development and international law; welcomed the adoption by the Governing Council of UNEP of decision 18/9 on the further development of international environmental law aiming at sustainable development; 10/ and noted with appreciation the steps undertaken by UNEP towards the review of the Montevideo Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law scheduled for 1997 as an important contribution to achieving the tasks set out in Agenda 21.

4. The Commission recognizes the potential value of identifying generally recognized principles of international law as they pertain to sustainable development and decides to keep this issue under review at its session in 1997 with a view to its further consideration by the General Assembly at its special session, and to take into account the results of the review of the Montevideo Programme, as appropriate.

5. The Commission calls upon Governments to consider, as appropriate, the work of the Expert Group in the development of both national legislation and national policies for sustainable development, and requests Governments to provide information on their experiences in this regard.

6. The Commission considers flexible approaches as important in international law-making, as they allow international consensus to develop, especially under new scientific and technical information, and recognizes the positive role of framework conventions and of non-legally binding instruments as steps in the evolution of international rule-making related to sustainable development.

7. The Commission emphasizes the necessity, as recognized in UNEP Governing Council decision 18/9, of further exploring, in the interest of sustainable development, mechanisms for dispute settlement or avoidance and, with the aim of preventing international disputes, for facilitating the implementation of international environmental instruments by assisting and encouraging parties to fulfil their obligations and commitments, and notes that, in the case of several international environmental instruments, such mechanisms have either become operative, have been established, or are at present under discussion. In this context, the Commission notes the importance of compliance and monitoring mechanisms of international agreements, including reporting requirements, and stresses the importance of national and local capacity- building aimed at improving compliance, monitoring, inspection and enforcement of international obligations.

8. The Commission urges the international community to continue to develop procedures and mechanisms that promote informed decisions, mutual understanding and confidence-building with a view to avoiding or resolving disputes.

9. The Commission recommends the exploration of more effective participation of major groups in the elaboration of international legal instruments and mechanisms in the field of sustainable development.

10. The Commission recognizes the administrative burden imposed, particularly on the developing countries, by the implementation of international agreements, and recognizes the need for consolidation and integration of procedures, and for cooperation among the secretariats of different conventions to this end.


UN Commission on Sustainable Development
2nd Session
New York, 16-27 May 1994

Report of the Commission on Sustainable Development at its Second Session (New York, 16-27 May 1994), Chapter I: Matters Calling for Action by the Economic and Social Council or Brought to Its Attention, Part A, Section 2 on Decision-making Structures, paras. 5-14.

2. Decision-making structures

5. The Commission welcomes the entry into force of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the adoption of the Declaration of Barbados and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, and urges that appropriate follow-up action be taken. The Commission supports the successful conclusion in June 1994 of the negotiations for the elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa, and calls upon all States to accelerate progress in the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and to promote the successful conclusion of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, to be held in Washington, D.C. in November 1995.

6. The Commission expresses its appreciation to the Government of Austria for organizing the International Symposium on Sustainable Development and International Law, held at Baden bei Wien from 14 to 16 April 1994. The Commission welcomes the report of that Symposium (E/CN.17/1994/16), which opens a new and promising avenue in the field of codification and development of international law in support of the fulfilment of the goals and objectives of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The Commission recommends that relevant international treaty regimes contain effective machinery for consensus-building and dispute settlement. The Commission requests the United Nations Environment Programme to study further the concept, requirements and implications of sustainable development and international law.

7. The Commission, having examined the report of the Secretary-General containing an overview of cross-sectoral issues (E/CN.17/1994/2), in particular section IV on decision-making structures, takes note of the important measures taken by Governments to integrate environment issues into the development process within their decision-making structures, and requests all States and relevant intergovernmental organizations to submit, or continue to submit, information on an annual, voluntary basis on the implementation of Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and other agreements and conferences related to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), as appropriate.

8. The Commission also notes the establishment by the Secretary-General of the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development, and emphasizes the desirability of fostering close interaction between the Board and the Commission, including its Bureau.

9. The Commission takes note of the background paper containing the report entitled "Decision-making structures: international legal instruments and mechanisms", prepared by the task manager designated by the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development (IACSD). The Commission urges the Secretary-General to give high priority to coordination through the work of IACSD. The Commission supports the designation by IACSD of task managers as an important first step towards improving coordination. It calls upon the task managers to provide innovative proposals on ways to achieve more efficient results, including multi-agency joint programming, within available resources. The Commission requests the Secretary-General to inform the Commission on progress made in IACSD towards coordination among United Nations bodies in implementing Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and other UNCED-related agreements and conferences, as appropriate.

United Nations organizations, as well as international and regional financial institutions, intergovernmental organizations and other relevant institutions are invited to give priority to the implementation of Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration, and UNCED-related agreements and conferences, as appropriate.

10. The Commission emphasizes the importance of creating appropriate national frameworks for the implementation of Agenda 21 and other relevant agreements and conferences, bearing in mind the need for a progressive provision of financial resources and technology transfer, where appropriate. In this respect, the Commission requests all States to establish the necessary coordinating machinery for the promotion of sustainable development. The Commission also calls upon the United Nations system, through the IACSD task managers, to coordinate its capacity-building activities and to develop joint programming for this purpose, wherever feasible.

11. In accordance with their national sustainable development priorities, developing countries should, as appropriate, be supported in strengthening their capacity in the development or streamlining of sustainable development strategies, the development and maintenance of environmental law, including the development of environmental impact assessment procedures, as well as their capacity to participate effectively in the development of international law related to sustainable development, and the elaboration of conventions and other international instruments in this field.

12. The Commission recognizes the importance of full participation of all interested parties in the negotiation of international agreements relating to sustainable development, and therefore calls upon the relevant bodies to promote the provision, through transparent and accountable mechanisms, of financial support for the participation, in negotiating forums, of developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, at their request.

13. The Commission recommends that States and international organizations consider the use of partnerships with business and non-governmental communities leading to non-legally binding agreements as a first step in the preparation of international regulations.

14. The Commission notes the need for coordination and more efficient structural arrangements among the secretariats of conventions related to sustainable development.