10 April 1997


10 April 1997

Press Release


19970410 More than 100 Speakers Address Environment, Development Issues; As Agenda 21 Negotiations Continue, Forests Critical Issue, Says Chairman

Reaching agreement on issues related to a legally binding instrument on sustainable forest management would be one of the "hottest potatoes" as Member States began negotiating the implementation of Agenda 21, the Commission on Sustainable Development was told by its Chairman, Mostafa Tolba (Egypt), this afternoon as it concluded its high-level segment. During the three-day high-level segment, more than 100 government ministers responsible for environment and development issues, as well as representatives of regional groups, addressed the Commission. It also heard from representatives of United Nations agencies, Bretton Woods institutions and non-governmental organizations. The Commission Chairman this afternoon, summarizing the high-level debate, offered advice on ways to proceed with the commission's negotiations. Specific targets and time-frames could be set for implementing aspects of Agenda 21 that were of concern to the Commission, he said. Such targets could then receive the support of the General Assembly in the upcoming special session in June. Also, it should be possible to seek the agreement of developed countries to return to specific targets on official development assistance (ODA), which should be geared to developing physical infrastructure and the economies of developing countries that lacked foreign investment, particularly the least developed countries. Also, he said, the Commission must agree on a political statement and guidance on the demarcation of the roles the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Commission, he said. The political statement would include a specific set of commitments to be adopted by heads of State and government who would attend the Assembly's special session. Also this afternoon, as the Commission discussed the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, the Vice-Minister of the Environment of Colombia, Ernesto Guhl-Nanneti, questioned the validity of establishing a legally binding convention on forests. He wondered about the effectiveness of existing conventions and asked how the proposed new convention would relate to existing ones. The representative of Guyana said many countries which depended heavily on forest resources had legitimate concerns about the intentions of those who wanted to rush into a legally binding convention.

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A convention on forest was essential for all countries, regardless of whether some of them clearly understood the issues, said the representative of the Russian Federation. Those who opposed such a convention believed that existing conventions were unsatisfactory. However, the implementation of a convention depended on the financial and economic structures made available to implement it. The Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer and the related Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer provided a model for developing a convention on sustainable forest management, he said.

Stressing that the General Assembly's special session would be the most appropriate forum for establishing a negotiating committee for a convention on forest, the representative of Indonesia said a convention would ensure predictability, non-discrimination and transparency in sustainable forest management. Inequitable treatment and practices would continue until a common set of regulations or a convention treated all countries on an equitable basis, he said.

The representative of Chile said in forest policy formulation the conditions of each national society should be kept in mind. It should be noted that various sectors of society had different understandings about forest-related issues. It was imperative, therefore, that the international community and individual countries move with caution. The process of sustainable development would be established gradually, as would the generation of political will.

Statements were also made by the: Minister for the Government of Australia, Robert Hill; Vice-Minister for the Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, Marco Antonia Gonzalez; Federal Minister for the Environment of Austria, Martin Bartenstein; and the Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Bolivia, Jorge Rivera. The representatives of Peru, Mongolia, Panama, Brazil, Ecuador, Marshall Islands, Israel, India, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Japan, Egypt, Iraq, France, Uruguay, Turkey, Chile, Philippines and Argentina also spoke.

In addition, a statement was made by the Director General of Environment, Nuclear Safety and Protection of the European Commission, Marius Enthoven. The representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke: the Sierra Club; the World Council of Churches; Friends of Siberian Forests; and Women's Caucus.

Statements in the exercise of the right of reply were made by the representatives of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 11 April, to hear the presentation of the results of various regional and other preparatory activities.

Commission Work Programme

The Commission on Sustainable Development met this afternoon to conclude its high-level segment, which had focused on the reports of the Commission's Ad Hoc Open-ended Inter-sessional Working Group and Open-ended Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. (For background, see Press Releases ENV/DEV/406 of 4 April and ENV/DEV/413 issued today.)

ROBERT HILL, Minister for the Government of Australia, said a key objective of international efforts to protect and sustainably manage the world's forests should be the maintenance of forest biological diversity worldwide, through national networks of forest reserves and sustainable off- reserve management.

While he supported the proposals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, a number of those proposals required further development and needed a mechanism to promote and coordinate their implementation, he said. His country supported the establishment of an intergovernmental forum on forests under the auspices of the Commission. Such a forum should provide high-level policy guidance and identify priorities and emerging issues. It would also promote the establishment of a comprehensive network of forest reserves and the adoption of sustainable off-reserve forest management practices.

Some nations argued that a separate forest convention was required, he said. He was not yet convinced of the need for such a measure. While he would support consideration for such a convention in the Commission's report in 1999, he would not want to see such consideration divert attention from the implementation of the proposals developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. His proposal left all options open and provided a sensible means of advancing the issue based on the excellent work of the Panel.

ALEXANDRA CUGLER (Peru) said the eradication of poverty was one of the top priorities for her country. She also drew attention to the unsustainable consumption and production patterns of the developed countries. Moreover, it was important to deal with the problem of drug trafficking in its economic and social aspects. It was also important that legally binding conventions, such as climate change and biodiversity, be fully implemented. Limited financial resources endangered their implementation. It was notable that five years after Rio the progress achieved had been limited. The levels of financial assistance, as well as transfer of technology, had been low. Despite that, it was essential to mention the efforts of Nordic countries, who has provided 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) as official development assistance (ODA).

She said Peru had participated actively in the international debate on forests. It was committed to the sustainable use of forests and had declared

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1997 the year of reforestation. It would plant 1 million trees this year. She also called for strengthening the sub-regional and regional processes in sustainable forest management. The intergovernmental policy dialogue should be continued in the Commission on Sustainable Development. She agreed with the United States there was still no common ground for a consensus on the proposed forest convention. Further, it was a matter of concern that very little had been done on the reduction of greenhouse gases. Her country was committed to the Convention on Biological Diversity and believed that linking trade to biodiversity should be supported by the international community. Also important was the question of sustainable tourism and the sustainable development of high forest areas.

S. ERDENEBILEG (Mongolia) said five years had elapsed since the Rio Conference. Many countries had adjusted their development priorities according to Agenda 21 and public awareness about the environment had been generated and increased. Mongolia believed that to fully implement Agenda 21, the availability of resources was important. It looked forward to the forthcoming special session. The review process should be balanced and focused. There was no doubt that the major responsibility for the implementation of Agenda 21 rested with national governments. However, in the face of limited national resources the capacities of national governments were limited.

The commitments undertaken in Rio about adequate financial resources and transfer of technology had fallen far short as had the Global Environment Facility (GEF), he said. He called for a reaffirmation of the ODA and said that countries with structurally weak economies needed the most assistance. He hoped that the special session would focus on cross sectoral issues. Mongolia was also convinced of the importance of sub-regional and regional cooperation.

DIMAS ARCIA, Deputy Director of the National Institute for Renewal Natural Resources of Panama, stressed the importance of the sustainable management of forests. His country had developed relevant institutions and legal instruments on forests and had encouraged the participation of non- governmental organizations and indigenous groups in forest management. Forty per cent of Panama's territory was covered by forests. Large areas had been subjected to deforestation as a result of agricultural practices and industrial exploitation. However, there was great forest potential. Panama had received international cooperation in the areas of research and forest management to assist it in the scientific development of its forest resources.

Regarding a convention on forest, he said a forum could contribute to elaborating a code of conduct on forests, through an education process that took into account cultural heritage. The countries on the Central American

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isthmus had an interest in the development of sustainable forests and of indicators to monitor sustainability.

MARCO ANTONIA GONZALEZ, Vice-Minister for the Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, said he would support the adoption of a convention on forests that would support the existing international conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification. A timetable should be established to achieve that objective. A convention on forests would supplement the forest agreements reached at the Rio Conference. His country was ready to serve as a catalyst for that important initiative.

NAVIN CHANDERPAL (Guyana) said his country shared the international concern that continued depletion of forest resources required effective action. The priority at the present time was to rapidly improve the rate of delivery on the initiatives to which the international community had already committed itself. Many countries that depended heavily on forest resources had legitimate concerns about the intentions of those who wanted to rush into a legally binding convention.

A more genuine approach lay in an honest assessment of the extent to which the financial and other resources needed for implementation were provided by those who had the means to do so, he said. At the same time, the practical steps that needed to be taken in each country to develop sustainable management of their forests, could be considered. The limitations of current processes and conventions should be considered before plunging into new ones.

ANTONIO DAYRELL DE LIMA (Brazil) said that, so far as forests were concerned, there were five types of countries. In the first group of countries were those with high per capita income and low forest coverage, such as Japan, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. They depended on third countries for their patterns of consumption and tended to be in favour of a convention on forests. Countries in the second group were those with high per capita income and high forest coverage, such as Canada, Finland and Sweden. They also tended to favour a convention.

He said the third group of countries were those with low per capita income and low forest coverage, such as India and China, to whom forests were a question of subsistence. A large portion of their population used wood from forests for food and those countries tended to see the convention as illusory. In the fourth group was the United States all by itself, a big producer, consumer and importer of forest resources. In the fifth group were countries like the Russian Federation, Brazil and Gabon. Those countries had a low per capita income and high forest coverage. They had no scarcity of wood and were interested in the sustainability of the forest. Brazil's position on the convention was well known.

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The name of Brazil came from the word for hard wood, he said. When the question of forests was considered, however, it was not just a question of lumber. What was being discussed was the need for an integrated instrument on the question of forests. Further, the question of forests was not just a question of conservation and management. It involved economics. "The price of a tree is the price of the soil underneath", he said. Brazil supported the examination of a wide range of forest issues in a holistic, integrated and cohesive manner to build consensus in a number of areas.

VICTOR DANILOV-DANILIAN, Chairman of the State Committee for Environmental Protection of the Russian Federation, said he could not remain silent on the issue of a convention on forests, since his country had the largest area of forests in the world, even though it did not possess the same biological diversity as in tropical forests. Forests and oceans were critical in the context of sustainable development. The forest in the Russian Federation belonged to the world community.

He was in favour of a convention, even though the basis for it could be improved, he said. A Convention should be adopted by consensus by the majority of countries of the world. Those who were opposed to adopting a convention felt that existing conventions were unsatisfactory. The implementation of a forest convention depended on knowing whether the financial and economic structures would be made available to implement it. The Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer and the related Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer provided a model for developing a convention on sustainable forest management, since they also included economic interests. A convention was essential for all countries, regardless of whether some of them clearly understood the issues.

MARIUS ENTHOVEN, Director General of Environment, Nuclear Safety and Protection of the European Commission, said that the Rio Conference had made clear that there was no inherent conflict between trade liberalization and environmental protection, provided that national and international policies were in place. Trade liberalization could actually contribute to more efficient -- and thus a more sustainable -- use of resources. But since Rio, little progress had been made in developing new laws, or in integrating sustainable development into trade policies. The forthcoming special session should explore the application of agreed international standards to ensure that competition for foreign direct investment did not reduce environmental standards.

Important agricultural issues such as food security, employment, water protection, soil erosion and biodiversity had been dealt with in a fragmented way for too long, he said. Integrated rural development programmes should take into account the impact of those issues on agriculture. Regarding fisheries, he said a decision on fisheries protection and the marine

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environment, taken at the fourth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, should be put into practice to arrest the deterioration of marine ecosystems. The European Union was now finalizing a policy document on fisheries management and nature conservation, which would be based on an ecosystem approach and on the precautionary principle. Fisheries management and conservation shared common objectives.

A steady increase in the volume of current methods of transport presented a serious obstacle to sustainable development, he said. All available expertise and political support should be pooled to find effective ways of addressing air pollution, damage to health at the local level and impacts on global warming. The Auto-Oil Programme of the European Commission was examining the cost effectiveness of different measures and their potential to reduce emissions. As a result of that programme, the Commission had adopted proposals for new legislation in the areas of auto emissions and fuel standards, as well as a number of other instruments being discussed by European Union Member States and by the European Parliament.

FABIAN PALIZ (Ecuador) said his country supported the statement by made by the United Republic of Tanzania on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. The special session would enable leaders of the world to reaffirm Agenda 21. He stressed that the human person was at the centre of development. His country had undertaken significant efforts to implement the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21. In that regard, international economic cooperation should be strengthened through intergovernmental bodies.

His country wholeheartedly supported forest conservation, he said. However, it also believed that the traditional knowledge on forests should be respected. Further, there was a need to reaffirm the content of Agenda 21. In that context, it was essential to achieve the goal of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA. He also called for development financing, reduction of external debt and transfer of technology. It was important that unsustainable consumption and production patterns should stop. Also, the five year review should give priority to the gender perspective. Moreover, Ecuador was committed to participating in the dialogue guided by shared but differentiated responsibilities.

MARTIN BARTENSTEIN, Federal Minister for the Environment of Austria, said the special session of the General Assembly provided a unique opportunity for the international community to embark on a holistic and comprehensive approach to the sustainable management of the world's forests by way of a global forest convention. Such a legally binding instrument would provide the framework for pursuing further action in achieving sustainable forest management.

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He hoped that the Commission would recommend to countries and international organizations the rapid and effective implementation of the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, he said. Further, the Commission should recommend to the special session the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee to negotiate a global forest convention.

UNTUNG ISKANDAR (Indonesia) said it was important to ensure that during the current session tangible progress was made on the issues that had not been resolved satisfactorily. The funds available for implementing sustainable forest management fell far short of what was needed for the minimal implementation of existing international instruments. Developed countries should be more forthcoming on the creation of an international fund, since it would address the critical needs of developing countries. The failure to reach consensus on a possible agreement on forest products, based on non- discriminatory rules and multilaterally agreed procedures, had also been disappointing. One set of rules should apply equally to all forest product producers.

He was concerned that no consensus had been reached on the relationship between the obligations under international agreements and national measures, he said. Most tropical countries, including Indonesia, had been subjected to unfair treatment by consumer countries in their application of national measures that ran counter to the various obligations under international agreements. Although tropical countries had complied with all the obligations of international agreements, there had been little or no reciprocal measures undertaken by the other side. Additional burdens had been imposed on the tropical forests producers, none of which contributed to their overall development or sustainable forest management.

Such inequitable treatment and practices would continue until a common set of regulations or a convention treated all countries on an equitable basis, he continued. Such a convention would ensure predictability, non- discrimination and transparency in sustainable forest management. It would greatly enhance awareness and would contribute to the sustainability of national forests, as well as strengthening international cooperation and partnership in fostering forest management. The special session would be the most appropriate forum for establishing the negotiating committee for a convention.

LAURENCE N. EDWARDS, (Marshall Islands) announced that his country would host a high-level regional consultation on fisheries in early June this year and its outcome would be presented to the forthcoming special session. As an extremely vulnerable small island developing State, his country had taken an active interest in the climate change negotiations. The obstacles that had been placed before the country in that process were extremely difficult to

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overcome. It had been his country's hope that the international community should wake up to the dangerous path that inaction, or lack of sufficient action, would entail for all, not just the small island developing States.

The island States had been completely forthright in their intentions under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, he said. That intention was to have a science-based process that would secure their future. They only wished that others would do the same. The role of industry, such as the oil companies, should be to work with the process, not attempt to undermine it. It was, therefore, difficult for them to understand how some countries and businesses were willing to sacrifice that future for short-term gains.

On nuclear waste, it was his country's strongly held view that there was an international responsibility to assist Marshall Islands in dealing with the problem of radioactive waste arising from nuclear testing in the region. Those countries or agencies with the necessary expertise must be more forthcoming in making such assistance available. On the other hand, international cooperation was needed on how to deal with the long-term medical and environmental impacts of the radiation.

He said Marshall Islands had, unfortunately, had much experience with the devastating environmental impacts brought on by outside forces. A national study had concluded that the people of Marshall Islands were an expendable population who, as well as their lands, could be exploited to better understand the destructive nature of nuclear weapons. As a marginal population, illness, death and contamination of the land were justified to meet the larger national security interests of a great Power. Clearly, the premium placed on preserving the high quality of life for the citizens of that Power was reciprocated by the expensive price paid by Marshall Islands.

JORGE RIVERA, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Bolivia, said there had to be a commitment by civil society articulated through political will for the sustainable development of forests. In that process, the participation of the indigenous community was important. His Government had taken steps to protect its forests and had reached subregional and regional agreements on the harmonization of policies. In that regard, it was important to support the continuity of regional cooperation. The 1996 Summit of the Americas on sustainable development had been important and had led to the Santa Cruz Declaration.

It was necessary to focus on the concerns about social equity and consumption patterns, he said. In that context, if the problem of poverty was not tackled, it could have negative consequences for the environment, especially in the developing countries. Moreover, the concept of "the polluter pays" should be respected. It was vital that developed countries respected the financial commitment of Rio. Private capital should play a

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leading role in sustainable development; however, that should not detract from ODA.

BILL MANKIN, of the Sierra Club, said the Commission should strongly endorse the establishment of a formal, open-ended intergovernmental forum on forests, under the aegis of the Commission. It should focus on implementation and follow-up of the Panel's proposals with full and substantive participation of major groups, as well as complete transparency of information and operation. He stressed that the question of a forest convention should not be reviewed by a new forest forum until the year 2000. That was because the proposed forum would barely have had a chance to set its own terms of reference and begin its work by then, and countries would have had little opportunity to adequately report on their successes and the challenges they had encountered.

SHANTHI SACHITHANANDAM, of the World Council of Churches, said her organization often questioned the concept of sustainable development. All economic systems must be tested on the basis of their impact on the poor and the marginalized. It was important to develop economies that put people first. Many in the human family lacked health and hope. In that connection, she cited situations in Sri Lanka, the specific problems of indigenous people, and the vulnerability of the Pacific islands to climate change. She was concerned about the emerging power of the World Trade Organization and questioned the ideology of free trade.

The World Trade Organization negotiating proceedings should be transparent and the organization should be accountable in the United Nations system, she said. Also, the Beijing Platform for Action should be implemented, and the Commission should support the adoption of the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. In addition, the governments of industrialized countries should stabilize carbon dioxide emissions.

DAVID PELEG (Israel) said his country was a dry-land region. The decline in forests over a long period of time had been the result of over- exploitation of trees. The consequences of exploitation of the Middle East forests had been loss of biodiversity, soil erosion and desertification. However, currently 20 per cent of Israel was protected as nature reserves and national parks, including nearly all forest areas. Israel did not use its forests for timber production.

Israel's investment in afforestation and forest conservation were in line with its policy of securing sustainable development, he continued. Its experience showed that forest policies and desertification were closely linked and that it was possible to regenerate and recover forests areas. He fully supported the work of the Panel on Forests in that area. The Panel had focused on coordination issues. Israel had strongly supported a vigorous set

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of follow-up activities to the Panel's recommendations to achieve better coordination of the efforts of all actors. The Government of Israel highly recommended that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with other partners, should be mandated to continue a specific process for identifying ways in which national and international institutions could produce synergy to further the successful implementation of the Rio agreements on sustainable development.

ERNESTO GUHL-NANNETI, Vice-Minister of the Environment of Colombia, said the underlying causes of forest degradation should be examined. In that regard, further review and adjustment was required. So far as the possibility of establishing a legally binding convention on forest had been suggested, Colombia had certain questions on that. What would be achieved by such a convention? How effective were existing conventions? What could effectively be achieved by another convention when the non-implementation of existing conventions was often discussed? How would the new convention relate to existing ones? The decision to have a convention would depend on the answer to those questions.

There was no substitute for ODA, he said. Also, freshwater, energy and transport should be addressed as a matter of priority, and the area of renewable energy should be explored. Moreover, attention should focus on existing programmes, such as the Washington Plan of Action, adopted by the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. Turning to the issue of transport, he said financial resources should be provided for mass transit. Further, there should be specific cooperation projects in the areas he had mentioned. That could be done through bilateral measures. Most of all, a change in attitudes and values was vital for sustainable development.

NIRMAL ANDREW (India) said the issue of forests had acquired centre stage in the 1980s as biodiversity and degradation had become issues of public deliberation. United Nations agencies had looked into those issues, and the private sector had become involved in sustainable development of forests. In that context, it was important to recall that the sovereignty of countries over their resources had been recognized. However, the required consensus on many of the important issues before the Forest Panel was yet to emerge.

India had adopted a national forest policy in 1988, he said. However, it did not support a convention on forest. In fact, it did not support any new instruments unless the basis for those was established. He also stressed the importance of poverty eradication, the levelling of consumptions patterns, technological cooperation, capacity-building and transfer of technology.

MYUNG-CHUL HAHM (Republic of Korea) said his country supported the establishment of a high-level policy forum under the auspices of the

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Commission to review, monitor and report on progress in the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. It would also promote and monitor the implementation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. In addition, one of the functions of the policy forum would be to conduct analytical studies on the legal ramifications of the elements that could be part of a legal arrangement on forestries. Such a forum should be operated without any specific time-bound arrangement.

A holistic approach was necessary on the issue of trade and the environment, he continued. The principles of non-discrimination, open access and transparency -- all embodied in the rules of the World Trade Organization -- should be firmly entrenched in the trade of forest products and services, including any new schemes for certification and labelling. Regarding the issue of forest plantations, his Government believed it might be the most viable alternative to high-cost continuous maintenance of natural forests. His country also supported the proposal to protect traditional forest-related knowledge.

DAVID BARTLE, Deputy Director of the Environment Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand, made a number of proposals on the issue of sustainable forest management. They included that the inter-agency task force on forests should be continued; regional initiatives should be highlighted; and an open-ended forum on forests should be created to monitor the Panel's recommendations. The international forest debate had not yielded a convincing case for a global convention. However, consensus should be found on that and related issues. He would not prejudge the outcome of such a forum.

KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said the issue of environmental protection and sustainable development was an urgent common task for the prevention of pervasive poverty, ecological degradation and the promotion of genuine well-being and stability in a peaceful world. However, the world still faced a number of challenges in implementing Agenda 21. It was time the international community took action-oriented measures for fulfilling their commitments under Agenda 21.

He said that, initially, he had not had the intention of touching on an issue that was not substantive to the present session. However, two days ago a "south Korean gentleman" had slandered his country. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea had never engaged in any deal contrary to international law. The sinister political intention behind that delegate's statement was to control the "chaotic internal political situation of south Korea" and impair the image of the Democratic People's Republic internationally, by further aggravating the political and military tension between north and south. Its high level of environmental pollution, large storage of nuclear weapons and the nuclear wastes that it had dumped at random into the sea and territorial

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waters proved that "south Korea was simply not interested in the disposal of nuclear wastes", he said.

TOSHIAKI TANABE (Japan) said the loss and degradation of forests had, if anything, grown since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Therefore, there was a need to implement faithfully the action plan in the Panel's report globally and in a coordinated manner. Japan would make every effort to cooperate with other countries in that process. In spite of the efforts made, there had been a failure to arrive at a common view at the Panel's discussion on how to follow up its achievements. It was important to agree on a framework so that the opportunity provided by the special session could be used.

Steps to deal with forest problems were now being taken by the nations of the world and within the existing conventions, he said. Japan believed that a comprehensive coordinating mechanism was essential for more effective implementation of the outcome of the Panel. As for the content of an international legal framework, it would not be accurate to say that the subject, including financial mechanisms to deal with forest problems and coordination among concerned international organizations, had yet been fully discussed by the Panel. Accordingly, Japan supported the arrangement of a forum to discuss various issues, including financial mechanisms, and an appropriate way of effecting coordination to have discussions and then to enter into negotiations on a convention.

SALAH HAFEZ (Egypt) said forest management did not directly affect Egypt given its arid conditions. Because of those facts, it lived on 4 per cent of its area. Its aim was to make 25 per cent of its territory habitable by the next century. In that regard, efficient water management was crucial, particularly for countries wishing to regain territory for agriculture.

He stressed the relationship between forest management and the fight against desertification. In that context, the establishment of clear objectives was important. Further, Egypt approved the views expressed by the European Union on the Convention on Climate Change. It also emphasized the importance of fighting pollution.

KHALID AL-HITTI (Iraq) said his country had been unable to implement Agenda 21 because of the imposition of economic sanctions, despite the fact that there were no longer any valid reasons for them. Those sanctions had had a devastating impact on the country, including on the environment which had changed drastically. Areas which had been negatively affected included the energy and health sectors, soil and water and other factors of production, water resources and waste disposal, as well as irrigation projects. The resulting lack of insecticides had adversely affected agricultural production. In addition, desertification had increased. In that connection, the

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coordination of action at the international level on freshwater resources was important in order to rationalize the use of those resources.

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report on the Iraqi health sector had shown a deterioration in that sector, he continued. There was a shortage of medicines because of the economic blockade. In addition to deaths, including of many children under the age of fifteen, the majority of Iraqis faced poverty and suffered from malnutrition which were unparalleled anywhere in the world. He called for the sanctions to be lifted. Its victims exceeded those of the Hiroshima bomb.

JACQUES ANDREANI (France) said the special session should adopt decisions to halt the degradation of forests. Governments had become increasingly concerned about the issue since Rio. Nationally, France had taken action in that area. The degradation of forests worldwide had continued. Widespread disappearance of the world forests had been predicted if the situation deteriorated. Urgent action was needed. In that connection, the last session of the Panel on Forests had made important proposals. It was time to adopt tangible measures that had already been agreed on.

The special session should take up the issue of a convention and it should call for a conference to debate the need for a binding international agreement, as well as take account of the full range of uses of forests, he said. Action in the context of an instrument would justify close attention by the major donors. However, there should be a determination to act even before the results of such a process. The rules of international trade should not hamper the development of an international instrument. Eco-certification should be given due attention and should be based on consensus. The international community had benefited from the wealth of the global forest heritage and it now should act to protect it. Those countries that had means should help those that did not. Forest ecosystems should be preserved. Decisions to move ahead on a binding legal instrument would be a major signal and a gesture to the world community.

CARLOS SERRENTINO (Uruguay) said his country agreed with the basic conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. It believed that a sectoral outlook and approach should be adopted towards that issue. A holistic and integrated approach was required to protect forests.

A convention on forests was premature at the present stage, he said. In that context, it was crucial that the international community first strengthen the Conventions on biodiversity, climate change and to combat desertification. At the present stage, Uruguay supported the creation of an open-ended forum on forest to accelerate the implementation of the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forest.

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YAVUZ YUKSEL, Deputy Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Forestry of Turkey, said that sustainable forest management involved not only people, but also the availability of appropriate techniques and adequate financing. The international community must find a way to solve or alleviate major impacts on the forest resource.

The convening of the eleventh World Forestry Congress, which his country would host, would provide an opportunity to highlight issues that were important globally, especially to Mediterranean forestry, he said. By virtue of its location, the Antalya Congress could furnish ample opportunities for a fruitful exchange of information and experience. While forests had not generated great concern in the past, it was encouraging to see that the international community was focusing increasingly on global environmental and sustainability issues.

Since UNCED, forests was at the heart of the follow-up process, he said. In that context, the Antalya Congress would be the culminating point of a number of forestry-related international events, such as the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, the meeting of the Commission and the General Assembly special session. It should provide a unique occasion for the formulation of answers to the multifaceted challenges facing the world's forests.

CARLOS WEBER (Chile) said a clear mandate should be given for an intergovernmental forum on forests. However, such a forum should not hamper attempts to arrive at a legally binding convention on forests in the future. He stressed that some elements should be taken into account. Firstly, the conditions of each national society vis-à-vis its forests placed it in a unique situation. In addition, various sectors of society had different understandings about forest-related issues and what should be done in that connection. Therefore, it was imperative that the international community and individual countries move with caution so that there was no backlash. The process of sustainable development would be established gradually. In that context, political will was crucial and such a will had to be generated.

RAPHAEL LOTILLA (Philippines) said the Commission had been called on to act now on the issue of sustainable forest management, including establishing a forum under its aegis. It should go beyond that. Although a legally binding instrument might help to achieve a sharing of burdens for achieving sustainable forest management, and while he recognized the benefits of a binding instrument, the international community should not rush headlong into it. The Philippines needed time to discuss the possible impact of such a convention with non-governmental organizations and other organizations in the country.

Sustainable Development Commission - 15 - Press Release ENV/DEV/414 6th Meeting (PM) 10 April 1997

The work of the proposed forum on sustainable forest management must take account of a number of issues, he continued. Its approach must be comprehensive and include all forests and take into account different national circumstances. Any agreement should start at the point that countries had a sovereign right to manage their forests as a national resource. The forum's work should also include building a consensus on elaborating a legally binding instrument, a process which should involve non-governmental organizations.

FERNANDO NOVILLA SARAVIA (Argentina) said he was pleased with the Panel's report. One of the priorities of the special session should be establishing a mechanism to implement its recommendations. There should be a limited timeframe for implementing programmes on sustainable forest management. All options should be evaluated. He favoured options such as those which would lay the foundation for negotiating and adopting a legally binding instrument on forests.

ANDREI LALETIN, of the Friends of Siberian Forests, said the implementation of the proposals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forest was important. Those proposals for action represented the current state of consensus on forests. At this point, any discussion on convention negotiations would be disingenuous. In fact, governments' implementation of the Panel's proposals would reveal their seriousness about forest-related issues. In June, in the special session of the Assembly, governments should call for adequate implementation. In addition, they should address the issues of financial resources, capacity-building and transfer of technology.

TARA TAUTARI, of the Women's Caucus, said women's views and aspirations had influenced the Rio Declaration. As a result, women's concerns had been included in the principles of the Rio Declaration, and a chapter had been devoted to them in Agenda 21. She stressed that women bore the brunt of bad policies everywhere. As they were the main care givers, issues surrounding land and water were germane to their daily life. Moreover, the invisibility of women's contribution to the economy and the environment kept them poor. She called for equitable gender relations.

Women had documented the negative impacts of IMF-led structural adjustment programmes, she said. Now, they were in the process of getting organized around World Trade Organization trade issues. She emphasized full and equal participation for women in decision-making and said their contribution should be counted. Further, data should be disaggregated by gender, especially on environment indicators. The impacts of genetic research programmes should be studied. Moreover, the Commission should establish a mechanism to guide the actions of the World Trade Organization. Also, time bound targets for integrating women into policies were required. The goal of sustainable development was not profit for few, but the well-being of all.

Sustainable Development Commission - 16 - Press Release ENV/DEV/414 6th Meeting (PM) 10 April 1997

Right of Reply

In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Republic of Korea said his Government did not regard the transfer of radioactive waste by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to Taiwan Province of China as consistent with international norms for a number of reasons. Such waste should be discarded in the State in which it was generated. It was prohibited to export such waste. There had not been enough transparency to suggest that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was capable of handling that waste in a responsible manner. The transfer of the waste ran counter to the general norm that the parties to such arrangements should notify the countries that would be affected. His Government had not been notified. He was concerned that if the agreement were carried through, it would set a dangerous precedent. Further efforts on the issue on the part of the international community were warranted. He urged the parties to revoke immediately the agreement they had reached on transporting and receiving the radioactive waste.

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For information media. Not an official record.