Fragile, Uneven Global Recovery Threatens Progress, Under-Secretary-General Tells Commission on Sustainable Development

28 February 2011

Fragile, Uneven Global Recovery Threatens Progress, Under-Secretary-General Tells Commission on Sustainable Development

28 February 2011
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Sustainable Development

Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting

1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Fragile, Uneven Global Recovery Threatens Progress, Under-Secretary-General


Tells Commission on Sustainable Development


Panel Discussion Focuses on Policy Options,

Implementation Challenges Facing Small Island Developing States

The challenges presented by a fragile and uneven global economic recovery continued to threaten progress towards sustainable development, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told the Commission on Sustainable Development today.

At the opening of the week-long Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the Commission’s nineteenth session, he said the effects of the global energy crisis, the ongoing food crisis, freshwater scarcity and the “overwhelming impact” of climate change continued to be challenges.  The persistence of those crises was an indication of increasing stress on the resources and ecosystem services provided by the natural environment, he noted.  It was therefore necessary to find a sustainable equilibrium between meeting the needs of humans and improving their quality of life, and promoting growth and development while protecting and preserving the environment.

Calling for an integrated policy approach to challenges that would promote greater investment in resource efficiency and productivity, he said that would mean introducing and strengthening policies to promote a more balanced energy mix, creating more efficient transportation infrastructure and designing policies that would stimulate the development of cleaner technologies and manufacturing processes.  The Commission should broadly consider the concept of a “green economy” in the context of sustainable development, he added.

In his opening remarks, Commission Chairperson László Borbély (Romania) noted that, beset by such challenges as global climate change and food insecurity, the world economy remained dependent on the high consumption of resources and high emissions, which had resulted in the degradation of the environment and persisting poverty.  Today’s crises and challenges illustrated the importance of cooperation and consensus-building, in which the involvement of all stakeholders was key.

He then listed the policy options and possible actions to expedite implementation of the nineteenth session’s five themes: transport; chemicals; waste management; mining; and a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.  He said that the session should be forward-looking and action-oriented, encouraging the development of practical policy actions and the elimination of constraints and obstacles hampering sustainable development.

The Commission also heard oral reports on several intersessional meetings organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs as contributions to the nineteenth session, including on the Fifth Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia; sustainable development of lithium resources in Latin America; solid waste management in Africa; building partnerships to move towards zero waste; and a high-level meeting on a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production.

Following the opening statements, the Commission heard statements by representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), the Delegation of the European Union, Marshall Islands (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Nepal (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Nauru (on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States) and Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Also taking the floor was an official representing the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), who made a statement on behalf of the five United Nations regional commissions.

Other speakers were the representatives of the United States, Switzerland, Venezuela and Bolivia, who all spoke in their national capacities.

Representatives of the following major groups also addressed the Commission: Women, Children and Youth, Indigenous Peoples, Non-Governmental Organizations, Workers and Trade Unions, Business and Industry, Scientific and Technological Community, and Farmers.

The afternoon meeting was taken up by panel presentations on policy options facing small island developing States in addressing barriers and constraints in implementation, taking into account lessons learned and best practices in the thematic issues.  That was followed by an interactive discussion.

In other matters, the Commission elected, by acclamation, Abdelghani Merabet (Algeria) and Eduardo Menez (Philippines) as Vice-Chairs, and decided that Silvano Vergara (Panama) would take the place left vacant by the resignation of his compatriot, Vice-Chair Javier Arias Iriarte, until formal elections would be held on 1 May.

Following the adoption of its provisional agenda and programme of work (document E/CN.17/IPM/2011/1), the Commission further decided to approve a request for accreditation by the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe.

The Commission will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. 1 March, to continue preparations for its nineteenth session.


The Commission on Sustainable Development is meeting from 28 February through 4 March in an intergovernmental preparatory meeting for its nineteenth session focused on policy options and possible actions to expedite implementation regarding transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.  Reports on those subjects are contained in documents E/CN.17/2011/3-8.

Also before the Commission is a note by the Secretariat on priorities for action of major groups concerning transport, chemicals, waste management, mining, and the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns (document E/CN.17/2011/12); a report on the intersessional consultative meeting on “solid waste management in Africa”, held in Rabat, Morocco, on 25 and 26 November 2010 (document E/CN.17/2011/15); and a report on the intersessional senior expert group meeting on sustainable development of lithium resources in Latin America: emerging issues and opportunities, held in Santiago, Chile, on 10 and 11 November 2010 (document C/CN17/2011/16).

Opening Statements

LÁSZLÓ BORBÉLY, Minister for Environment and Forests of Romania and Chair of the Commission on Sustainable Development, said the Commission was meeting at a time when, despite the turmoil in the Middle East, the world was in recovery from the recent economic and financial crises.  However, the recovery was fragile and uneven, beset by such challenges as global climate change and food insecurity.  The world economy remained dependent on the high consumption of resources and high emissions, which resulted in degradation of the environment and persisting poverty, he said, adding that the high-level events of 2010 had sent a strong message that economic uncertainty could not be an excuse for slowing down development efforts.  There had never been a more urgent time to implement sustainable development policies, he stressed.  Today’s crises and challenges highlighted the importance of cooperation and consensus building, in which the involvement of all stakeholders was key.

The benefits of sustainable transport were undeniable, he said.  Efficient transportation with low environmental impact would require a set of targeted actions; infrastructure planning and management must be strengthened and the use of transport should be optimized.  Noting that the global production, trade and use of chemicals had escalated, he said that trend offered development opportunities, but also posed additional difficulties.  Improper management of chemicals could put health and the environment at risk, he warned, emphasizing the importance of ensuring the sound management of chemicals over their whole lifecycle.  Regulations should be strengthened, better safety training provided and full implementation of existing arrangements promoted.  He went on to underscore the need for environmentally sound waste management, which required fostering the development of policy instruments as the accelerating speed of waste production was unsustainable.

He said financial and technological resources could help in identifying low-cost options for the separation of waste and recycling.  Noting that mining provided a livelihood for millions of people in developing countries, he pointed out that it had also been associated with serious environmental and social impacts on local communities near extraction sites, for which the mining industry generated few benefits.  Sustainable mining solutions should be developed with due concern for the protection of the environment, he stressed, adding that sharing the benefits with local communities should be one a priority.

Recalling that he had attended the intersessional meeting on sustainable production and production patterns, he said he had sensed a convergence on the need to mobilize the necessary political will to launch a 10-year framework that went beyond the status quo.  He had also sensed an eagerness to establish a coordinating institutional structure for developing effective programmes and secure their implementation.  In conclusion, he said the nineteenth session should be forward-looking and action-oriented, encouraging the development of practical policy actions and the elimination of constraints and obstacles hampering sustainable development.

SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the challenges presented by a fragile and uneven global economic recovery continued to threaten progress towards sustainable development.  At the same time, the effects of the global energy crisis, the ongoing food crisis, freshwater scarcity and the “overwhelming impact” of climate change continued to be challenges.  The persistence of those crises was an indication of increasing stress on the resources and ecosystem services provided by the natural environment, he noted.  It was therefore necessary to find a sustainable equilibrium between meeting needs and improving human quality of life, and promoting growth and development while protecting and preserving the environment.

Many challenges of the “materials cycle” under consideration by the Commission related to unsustainable urbanization, he said.  Meanwhile, the lack of access to basic services such as safe drinking water and better sanitation remained a critical challenge in rural areas.  The Commission must therefore find ways to do more, and “do better with less”, he emphasized, calling for an integrated policy approach to addressing challenges that would promote greater investment in resource efficiency and productivity.

He said that would mean introducing and strengthening policies to promote a more balanced energy mix, including renewable energy; designing more energy-efficient buildings; creating more efficient transportation infrastructure; designing policies that would stimulate the development of cleaner technologies and manufacturing processes; or introducing market initiatives in those areas.  The Commission should broadly consider the concept of a “green economy” in the context of sustainable development, which would be a main theme at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, during its current session, including through the participation of the nine major groups, he stressed.

Reports on Intersessional Meetings

The representative of Thailand reported on the outcome of the Fifth Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia, held in Bangkok from 23 to 25 August 2010.

A representative of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) then reported on the Senior Expert Group Meeting on Sustainable Development of Lithium Resources in Latin America, held in Santiago, Chile, on 10 and 11 November 2010.

The representative of Panama then reported on the outcome of the High-Level Meeting on a 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, held in Panama City on 13 and 14 January.

A representative of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs reported on the outcome of the consultative meeting on solid waste management in Africa, held in Rabat, Morocco, on 25 and 26 November 2010.

Finally, the representative of Japan reported on the outcome of the “Meeting on building partnerships to move towards zero waste”, held from 16 to 18 February in Tokyo.


MARCELO SUÁREZ SALVIA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, emphasized the need to expand transport infrastructure and services in developing countries, as new challenges like the global financial crisis had led to a reduction in funding for infrastructure development.  In addressing constraints, policies should respond to national priorities and continue to aim towards providing affordable transportation, expanding all-weather road networks in rural areas, finding multimodal approaches to transit in urban regions and reducing pollution while finding environmentally sound technologies, including cleaner fossil fuels, in the area of transportation.

He said it was also in the interest of the Group of 77 and China to encourage continued investment in the chemical sector, which made a significant socio-economic contribution to the economies of developing countries.  However, because chemicals were the main contributors of toxic compounds and their unregulated wide-scale use could promote adverse environmental and health impacts worldwide, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management constituted an important global framework for strengthening capacity for sound chemicals management, narrowing the capacity gap between developing and developed countries, setting out rules, managing toxic chemicals, developing legislation on compensation for environmental damage and preventing illegal trans-boundary shipments of hazardous chemical and radioactive wastes.

Despite the progress made towards realizing the targets of the Johannesburg Programme of Implementation, ineffective waste management had become another major and growing public health and environmental issue, he said.  Access to financial and technological resources and know-how was essential for advancing sustainable waste management in developing countries, including investment in low-cost options for waste management, recycling, disposal and energy recovery from waste.  It was vital to engage multilateral institutions and donor communities in financing waste-related technical cooperation to address emerging chemical issues and electronic waste, he said, adding that there was also a need to increase efforts to collect and treat e-waste, increase the safe recycling of e-products and put an end to growing e-waste dumps.

He said the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production should be based on Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the Rio Principles, particularly that of common but differentiated responsibilities, with developed countries taking the lead and respecting their international obligations and all countries benefiting in the process.  The 10‑year Framework should not impose new constraints on the developmental needs of developing countries, be used to implement protectionist trade measures, or result in additional conditionality for international development financing.  It should address challenges faced by developing countries, including financing through a voluntary trust fund.

While mining was an important source of revenue for developing countries, the main challenge they faced lay in ensuring the equitable distribution of benefits resulting from the extraction of mineral resources, since those countries lacked the financial and technological capacity.  They conceded to skewed mineral development contracts that left them with unfair returns and social as well as environmental burdens.  Business and industry must adopt worldwide measures consistent with the principles of sustainable development, and further explore the development of global ethics for the good conduct of mining.  He concluded by stressing that that the progress of small island developing States remained inadequate due to their small size and vulnerability to shocks, adding that developing countries would, more than ever, need a strong United Nations capable of delivering short-term assistance and long-term support.

PETER SCHWAIGER, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said much had changed since the Johannesburg Summit in 2002.  There had been remarkable improvements, both in the well-being of many societies and in the state and availability of science and technology.  Much remained to be done, however, in addressing the global challenges of tackling poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and the misuse of resources.  The adoption of a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns would be a crucial response to the challenges of “greening” economies worldwide while addressing social concerns and ensuring competitiveness, prosperity and a high quality of life.

Addressing the specific difficulties of small island developing States was a standing challenge, he continued, calling for urgent implementation of the Barbados Plan of Action and the Mauritius Strategy.  Regional efforts must be encouraged and complemented by the international community’s response to the need for capacity-building, technology transfer and financial resource mobilization.  Transport was an essential part of a sustainable world, especially for a high standard of living, international trade and tourism, he noted.  Sustainable mobility could improve the quality of life and human health while helping to protect the environment as well, he said, emphasizing that sustainable transport solutions were directly linked to the objective of promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Waste was linked to many of the issues of Agenda 21, he said, pointing out that there were “clear connections” between waste management issues and the need to change unsustainable consumption and production patterns while protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development.  As for mining, he said minerals and metals were essential for modern living, and if properly managed, mine operations had an “enormous potential” to create, contribute to and support the sustainable development of communities.  However, it would become ever more necessary to minimize generated waste, increase recycling and reuse of water and other resources, and minimize the amount of energy used to produce raw materials, he said, warning that access to raw materials could be increasingly limited in the future.

He went on to underline that while chemicals provided great benefits, they also raised important challenges.  The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management constituted an important global framework for strengthening capacities for the sound management of chemicals and narrowing the capacity gap between the developing and developed worlds.  All countries should actively use the Strategic Approach process in order to achieve the 2020 goal of ensuring that chemicals were produced and used in ways that minimized adverse effects on the environment and human health, he emphasized.

PHILLIP MULLER (Marshall Islands), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said they served as a “flagship” example of where global patterns of sustainable consumption and production must be considered within the broad context of sustainable development.  For instance, global fisheries, the economic bedrock of the sustainable development of small island developing States, were seriously threatened by overfishing, he pointed out, calling for urgent global attention to oceans and fisheries.  The small size and geographic character of “sea-locked” nations made them particularly dependent on maritime and air transport, he said, adding that their high dependence on environmental health also demanded an intense focus on issues of waste management and chemicals.

He went on to warn that until the international community made good on its commitments to turn sustainable development into local reality, all the international commitments to the sustainable development of small island developing States — protecting coastal and environment resources and fisheries, among other things — would be only “a tragic paper tiger”.  Where success had taken root, lessons learned must be internalized, he stressed.  Where gaps remained, understanding must be gained and efforts redoubled.  Too often, the international community had taken a “one-size-fits-all” approach to small islands and development.  For far too many sessions, the Commission’s interactive dialogue had been neither interactive nor a dialogue.  Rather than members talking past each other, the Commission should do what had been intended under the Rio process: ask the hard questions as to why the mark had sometimes been missed on sustainable development goals.  That question could be asked and answered through frank, honest and informal exchange, he said.

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said transport and mobility were the essential factors of sustainable development, but least developed countries were lagging behind due to the unavailability of proper transport infrastructures, failure to expand road networks and the lack of adequate technology and skilled manpower in the sector.  “One billion people in developing countries do not have access to an all-weather road and around 1.2 million people die each year in road accidents; 90 per cent of these deaths occur in the developing world,” he said, citing a report of the Secretary-General.  There was therefore, an urgent need to provide least developed countries with support in capacity-building, technology transfer and financial assistance, he stressed.

Sound chemical management was also critical for sustainable development, he continued, noting that chemicals still had severe negative impacts on both human health and the environment.  It was therefore important to maintain chemical safety to prevent and reduce risks, particularly from toxic chemicals, pesticides and radioactive waste.  The lack of financial resources and capacity to handle such materials, as well as the lack of adequate information on potential health and environmental risks, had resulted in the improper management of chemicals in developing countries, particularly least developed countries, he said, emphasizing that it was imperative to have regular exchanges of information on chemical safety, in addition to providing those countries with adequate financial support, transferring affordable technology and ensuring technical cooperation.

Because ever-increasing amounts of waste and the lack of proper management had resulted in pollution that undermined progress towards realization of the Millennium Development Goals, consumption habits must be changed at the global level, he said, emphasizing also the importance of implementing the Rio Principles of “common but differentiated responsibility” and “the polluter pays”.  Particular attention must be accorded to the management of hazardous wastes and e-wastes, he said, stressing that, since such costly management was beyond the reach of poor countries, especially least developed countries, they needed investment in capacity development and other financial and technical support.

He went on to note that mining had also caused critical social and environmental impacts on communities living next to extraction sites, so international cooperation was a must to deal with such problems.  Additionally, the Group of Least Developed Countries attached high significance to the issues assessing the options for a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.  It should foster programs in accordance with the developmental aspirations of developing countries and without imposing any kind of conditionality or extra burdens on them.  The international community must be mindful of the interlinkages among the issues to be considered, while paying special attention to countries facing numerous challenges and struggling to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

MARLENE MOSES (Nauru), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said the 2010 Review of the Mauritius Strategy had highlighted serious shortcomings in the institutional support structure to help small islands progress towards sustainable development.  She reiterated the call for the establishment of a formal United Nations category dealing with small island developing States in order to enable targeted and operationally effective support programmes.

In the case of Pacific small islands, the sustainable management of marine resources was essential for food security and economic growth, she said, emphasizing that unsustainable consumption and production prevailed in relation to fisheries.  In addition, the negative effects of climate change and ocean acidification were seriously undermining their sustainable development.  Pacific small islands sought real commitments from the international community for transformative action in the management of fish stocks in order to ensure sustainability and greater economic self-sufficiency, she said.

The very real possibility that some of the islands might no longer be inhabitable in the future, and that some might be totally submerged as a result of climate change must be addressed, she emphasized.  For Pacific small island States, climate change cut across all thematic areas, she said, noting that most transport infrastructure, including ports, airports and coastal roads, were vulnerable to rising sea levels.  The international community must urgently increase its ambitions in responding to the climate crisis and make substantive progress throughout the year on the related negotiations, she stressed.

JOHN M. MATUSZAK ( United States) said the challenge in the Commission’s policy goals for its nineteenth session was to change the way in which natural resources were used and viewed.  Economic growth should not be “development at all costs”, he said, noting that it should be balanced in such a way as to take into account the environment, natural resources, poverty eradication and improving the status of women.  While not believing in a “one-size-fits-all”, the United States believed that collective action could be taken and that successful programmes should be adapted more broadly.

He said his country’s policy began with a commitment to science and innovation.  Sustainable development depended on improving governance at all levels while understanding that primary responsibility for sustainable development, including environmental protection, lay with national Governments.  For development to be sustainable, it must also be transparent and inclusive, he emphasized.  In many cases, the role of Government was to empower civil society, business and other non-State actors to do their part in bringing about sustainable development, he said.  “The measure of our success will be to improve human well-being, utilizing the environment in a way that does not diminish it for future generations.”

JEANNINE VOLKEN (Switzerland) said her country’s Government looked forward to the debate and actions on sustainable development.  All the topics were of great importance, but it seemed clear that this year’s session would make the most significant contribution.  Switzerland attached importance to sustainable production and consumption since natural resources were limited, she said, adding that her country also supported the 10-year Framework.  Switzerland would have preferred to have one single background document, instead of two, but hoped that concrete elements of the Framework would be provided to allow substantive negotiation.  The adoption of a 10-year Framework would be a success in itself, she said, adding that it would provide the basis for an important discussion in Rio, as well as a building block entailing a vision, a toolbox and a road map.

ILEANA VILLALOBOS (Venezuela) said that while developing countries had advanced on the environmental and sustainable development agenda, they had not been able to close the gap between the developing and developed worlds.  The North-South relationship was one of exploitation, she said, adding that the countries of the North held on to unsustainable consumption and production.  They threatened world peace as a result of their degrading impact on ecosystems and the increase of poverty.

Developed countries justified their actions by claiming that the economic and financial crisis had limited their possibilities, she said, pointing out, however, that the main financial centres had increased their profits.  Progress on the three pillars of sustainable development had been prevented by the countries of the North, which had neglected social development and environmental preservation.  That could not be resolved by proposals on green economies, she said, highlighting the measures undertaken by her own country to comply with the outcome of the Johannesburg World Summit and proposing a number of measures that should be taken regarding the five issues on which the session was focusing.

PABLO SOLÓN (Bolivia) said his Government would be specific on two subjects: the ties linking the different topics before the session, and the Commission’s opinion that with sustainable transportation, there must be lithium mining.  Adequate public transportation was needed because continued use of private and family automobiles would result in a severe problem, even if all cars were lithium-powered.  But that was tied to production patterns, he said, asking where those lithium-related means of transportation were to be produced.  They could continue, with developed countries providing the raw materials, or they could take up the challenge of introducing lithium-related transportation where that mineral was mined.  That was the challenge of Bolivia, which did not wish to supply just elsewhere but to provide lithium power within its own borders.

He called for a 10-year framework to deal with consumption and production patterns, but stressed that it could not be limited to the proposal of targets that would restrict or regulate production or consumption patterns.  The 10-year framework must broach structural causes because the problems were linked to the issue of profits in the capitalist system.  To address the causes of the problems, the Commission must adopt measures that would affect the logic of the profit incentive that moved those societies, he said, adding that it must also address root causes, as proposed by the small island developing States.  For real solutions, the commitments made in Cancún were insufficient and would lead to a collapse of humanity, he said.

MARCIA TAVARES, delivered a statement on behalf of José Luis Samaniego of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the five United Nations Regional Commissions, which are responsible for organizing, in collaboration with relevant partners, the Regional Implementation Meeting for each of the thematic cycles of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  He said regional realities, priorities and policy solutions differed substantially, and that was reflected in the different approaches taken by each Commission in responding to the challenges of sustainability.

Despite those differences, however, the outcomes of the Regional Implementation Meetings and the lessons arising from their work revealed a number of common policy directions, he said.  In the area of transport, for example, there was a need for integrated transportation strategies that would explore inter- and multimodality and that had been conceived as part of broader land-use and infrastructure-investment strategies.  Improvements were also needed in fuel efficiency and in the development of fuel alternatives.  In the area of mining, regulation and enforcement mechanisms were needed to put the “polluter pays” principle and the precautionary approach into practice, while taking into consideration the full life cycle of a mine.  That implied assessments of environmental, social and sustainability impacts, adequate land-use planning and other key aspects.

On chemicals, he emphasized the need to address gaps in financing and incentives, infrastructure, institutions, technical capacity and public awareness in order to ensure adequate implementation of multilateral agreements and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management.  With regard to waste management, the session’s outcome should point towards the adoption of integrated waste-management strategies that took prevention, recycling, energy recovery and disposal into consideration; the development of waste management as a formal income-generating service sector; the strengthening of the administrative and technical capacities of local authorities; investment in adequate infrastructure; better enforcement of laws relating to the Basel Convention; and the adoption of measures to address the particular vulnerability of small island developing States to the trafficking of waste.

In those matters, regional and interregional cooperation should be considered important instruments, he continued.  With regard to the cross-cutting issue of sustainable consumption and production, the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production should consider the lessons of the Marrakech Process concerning the importance of regional approaches, he said.  One of the major challenges for its effectiveness would be integrating it into policy areas that were critical to any transformation of consumption and production, such as fiscal policy, innovation and science policies, among others.

HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said transport was a key sector in achieving connectivity among countries, but basic transport infrastructure and services were still lacking in many developing countries.  The consideration of policy options should therefore take into account the multidimensional development challenges that transportation could help to address.  Policy options should, among other things, address sustainable and low-carbon transport, collaborative actions and partnerships, and increasing fuel efficiency.

He said the chemical sector played a vital role in the economic development of every country.  Sound management of chemicals played a crucial role in ensuring that adverse impacts on both the environment and human health could be avoided.  There was also a need to promote sound management of the transboundary movement of hazardous chemicals and waste, he said, calling on the Commission to focus on strengthening capacity, including research and development.  Coordination and cooperation among interlinked conventions would also make implementation more effective, he added.

The minerals sector was an important and fundamental platform for economic development, he said.  ASEAN supported the promotion of sustainable management and efficient use of mineral resources and environmentally sound mining practices.  Describing sustainable patterns of consumption and production as a crucial building block of the green economy, he said more effort should be invested in bridging the disconnect between policies and effective transformative actions, including through the creation of a voluntary trust fund to support developing countries in their implementation of sustainable consumption and production initiatives.

Emphasizing that no county could achieve any of the thematic objectives on its own, he reiterated calls for efforts to be supported by a suitable international environment.  That should translate into the transfer of sound technology; predictable and sustainable funding; public-private partnerships through private-sector investment; and no conditionality or trade protectionism.  The principles contained in the Rio Declaration should be the guide in reaching consensus, particularly in relation to common but differentiated responsibilities, he said.

A representative of the Women’s major group said she wished to confirm that all the topics before the Commission had an impact on women’s lives, and that women were the key to solving related problems.  They were agents of change and their equal participation in the debate was essential, she said, emphasizing that women were underrepresented and their needs insufficiently recognized.  The lives of women all over the world would be enhanced if the Beijing Declaration and the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women were promoted.  Since sustainability depended on the ability to mobilize “green financing”, the group wished to expand on the need for women-friendly technology that would provide new opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and credit facilities to benefit women, their families and communities, while preserving the ecosystem and diversity.  It also recommended that gender balance be required on all boards and advisory groups, and that gender analysis be conducted to allow equal access.

A representative of Children and Youth called for the eradication of child labour, especially in mining, and the adoption of legal instruments to govern mining resources.  Chemical management and environmental damage should be monitored through existing multilateral agreements, she said, stressing that it was imperative to protect human health and to improve working conditions for young people in the waste sector.  The welfare of children could no longer be denied, she said, emphasizing that a framework was needed more than ever so that consumption patterns would include innovate means of production.  A strong framework would lead to concrete actions and a paradigm shift, she said.

A representative of Indigenous Peoples reiterated that they could contribute significantly to sustainable development because they acted in more sustainable ways and lived in harmony with Mother Earth.  Recommending that the human rights of indigenous peoples be respected, she called on the United Nations system to provide for enhanced participation by all stakeholders, including indigenous peoples, as key players in sustainable development, adding that a holistic framework on sustainable development could only be achieved through greater political will.

A representative of Non-Governmental Organizations reminded delegates of the ecological and social crises, stressing that “business as usual” was no longer an option and that the world’s resources were limited.  Sustainable consumption and production should therefore be mindful of the limitations of the earth’s life-support systems, he said, adding that international civil society wished to remind delegates of their responsibilities, but also to work with them and share good practices.

A representative of the Workers and Trade Unions said that although trade unions were convinced of the importance of the themes under consideration the international community did not respond to them at the level expected by workers.  Mining accidents were merely one example of the need to take serious measures regarding the way in which minerals were extracted, she said.  There seemed to be a consensus among Governments and civil society on the need to advance sustainable development as well as on the opportunities that development would produce for workers.  However, no consensus had been reached on the means and processes that would lead to the achievement of those goals, she said.

A representative of Business and Industry said the intergovernmental meeting came at a critical juncture, and many subjects had been part of constructive deliberations at various meetings.  The global economy continued to recover and attention was turning to the assessment of progress towards framing a vision at Rio in 2012.  The cluster of issues had broad significance for business, since they were linked across supply chains and commercial activities.  Each was unique and required tailored initiatives, but the issues also operated within global supply chains, she said, adding that as global financing became more constrained, they had to set priorities.  Business and industry urged the fostering of greener technologies, policies on open trade and investment, enforced regulation and good governance, and technological and management systems to improve sustainability.  Noting that the group had been a full participant in the Marrakesh process, she said sustainable consumption and production should focus on making the market work for sustainable development by producing goods more efficiently and consuming them differently.

A representative of the Scientific and Technological Community said progress towards meeting sustainable development goals in all the areas dealt with by the session would require innovative advances in science and technology.  Actions for the advancement, sharing and application of knowledge, should incorporate technology into the policy recommendations to be agreed upon by Commission, she said, urging Governments to increase their support.  Research and development was also needed, particularly in developing countries.  The group supported the 10‑year Framework because “business as usual” production and consumption was putting the earth at risk, she said.

The representative of Farmers emphasized that they wished to be partners for sustainable development.  The neglect of natural resources in rural areas persisted as wasteful lifestyles and production patterns continued to hinder efforts to address such issues as hunger and poverty.  A policy framework was needed for a better approach to the thematic areas, she said, adding that the outcomes of meetings during the current session should include issues important to farmers, among them, their role in achieving sustainable goals; integrated production management, including integrated pest management; harnessing science in addressing such issues as water and waste management; and supporting women farmers, including their right to land.

Panel Discussion

The Commission held a discussion on policy options facing small island developing States in addressing barriers to the implementation of sustainable consumption and production patterns in the thematic issues of transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and the 10-Year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.  Featuring as panellists were Toolseeram Ramjeawon, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Mauritius; Frank Griffin, Executive Dean, School of Natural and Physical Science, University of Papua New Guinea; and Trevor Townsend, Member of the Board of Directors, Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association.

Commission Chair BORBÉLY (Romania) said small island developing States had undertaken a number of policies on sustainable consumption and production, but their progress was limited by their lack of resources.  There had been an increase in the production and use of chemicals, and small islands must therefore be helped to change the way in which they managed chemicals, he said, noting that that they were also vulnerable to transboundary transportation of chemicals.

Current fish-management practices in small island States had resulted in the degradation of coral reefs and coastal zones as well as contaminated food, trends exacerbated by climate change, he said.  Policy measures were needed on waste management as small islands were increasingly vulnerable to the transboundary transportation of waste and plastics.

Describing transport as a lifeline for small island developing States, he noted, however, that providing reliable transport and communications remained a challenge, adding that their isolation had resulted in high costs.  As for mining, especially the traditional form, it presented another challenge, he said, pointing out that small islands were highly vulnerable to the impacts of mining, particularly with respect to environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, and to mercury’s adverse impact on health.

He asked what policy options were most appropriate to promote sustainable consumption and production in small island developing States.  What kind of shared mechanism could be established for sustainable waste management?  What kind of regional transportation strategies could be developed?  How could integrated mining policies be assured in small island developing States?

Mr. RAMJEAWON said the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, were the major cause of the continuing deterioration of the global environment, which aggravated poverty and imbalances.  Sustainable consumption and production was the production and use of goods and services that responded to basic needs and brought a better quality of life, while minimizing the use of natural resources, toxic materials and emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle, so as not to jeopardize the earth’s ability to meet the needs of future generations.  Small islands could take the lead in defining a new development paradigm, he said.

Emphasizing the need to break the link between economic growth and environmental degradation, he said islands were inherently resource-constrained and sustainable consumption and production would help them reduce their high intrinsic vulnerabilities and create the ecological and economic space for the poor to meet their basic needs.  Sustainable consumption and production offered new opportunities for them, such as the creation of new markets as well as green and decent jobs.  It could enable small islands to “leapfrog” towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Activities promoting sustainable consumption and production in the islands were in progress, but remained limited due to a lack of coherence, he said.  The main initiatives were in production, but there were few examples in the area of consumption.  There was a still a need for an attractive vision to mobilize stakeholders, he said, adding that there was also a lack of ownership in the business sector.  Challenges and constraints included poor education and a lack of awareness of the benefits of sustainable consumption and production among all stakeholders, due to Government failures and the lack of human and technical capacity.

The key lesson learned was that political will was essential, he emphasized.  A basic condition for sustainable consumption and production was achieving a general awareness and understanding of the concept among all people.  They must understand what sustainable consumption and production meant.  Capacity-building and skills development were important, especially in the public sector, he said, adding that there was also a need for a best practices database.  Institutional and policy mechanisms were also needed, as were supporting tools and instruments such as financial resources, technology transfer, capacity-building, information and partnerships.

He stressed that a 10-year framework programme should support national initiatives with a bottom-up approach, adding that the international community should provide services on demand.  Each island State should define its own priorities, he said, underscoring that concrete programmes were essential in mobilizing the required political and financial support.  Highlighting a five-year programme in Mauritius, he said it included some 50 projects on, among other subjects, resource-use efficiency, solid waste management, sustainable public service practices and increased market supply, and demand for sustainable products.  He emphasized the importance of political will for the creation of synergies with other national programmes in order to prevent the duplication of climate change policies, for instance.

Mr. BORBÉLY (Romania) underlined the importance of fostering action for the development of a vision for small island developing States and in order to make an economic case for action versus inaction and for “leapfrogging”.  There was a shared sense of urgency, but the means were not clear.  Sustainable consumption and production provided an ideal framework for achieving development goals in small island developing States, he said, adding that their vulnerabilities added a new dimension to the challenges of sustainable consumption and production, which must be mainstreamed into Government planning through the promotion of energy efficiency and organic agriculture, as well as through certification schemes, among other things.

Mr. GRIFFIN, giving a presentation on “Pollution Prevention and Waste Management Issues and Activities in the Pacific Island Region”, said pollution, prevention and waste management disposal continued to be a worldwide problem which the Pacific islands continuously shared.  Discussing waste management, he showed numerous pictures of islands and territories in the region, including Tokelau, Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, featuring piles of uncontrolled waste.

Waste management did not involve gas management and the land close to the sea was used for dumping, which affected marine life, he said.  In places like the Cook Islands, chemicals were said to be managed, but they were merely left out in the open, where the elements degraded the contents.  Waste management and pollution prevention had therefore long been recognized as major issues concerning sustainable development, with a direct influence on the region’s quality of life and direct links to economic prosperity and social life.  The region must put measures in place to manage pollution, or tourism and investments could be undermined, he warned.

He said the work currently carried out in the Pollution Prevention and Waste Management programme at regional level was concentrated on three main focal areas: shipping-related marine pollution; hazardous materials management; and — the most acute — solid waste management.  Regarding the first, the focus was on helping countries come up with management procedures and to improve regulatory frameworks, management systems at ports and the preparation of operational procedures and strategies.  As for the management of hazardous materials, the focus was on helping countries effectively to manage them, to examine how to ensure compliance with regional and global agreements, and eliminating hazards posed by waste stockpiles.

Regional activities included the Persistent Organic Pollutants in Pacific Island Countries project, developing national implementation plans and training countries to comply with regional and global agreements, he said.  In particular, the Persistent Organic Pollutants programme involved two phases: surveying 13 countries to identify stockpiles of organic pollutants on the ground and pesticides, and then physically removing the chemicals to Australia through funding by that country’s Government.  That was a $6 million project involving 13 countries, he noted.  Additional activities were conducted relating to the development of waste-management legislation and policies, guidelines to minimize waste, appropriate technologies and national capacity for solid waste management, financial and technical resources, information campaigns aimed at changing behaviour and training programmes to improve the skills of Government personnel.

He also discussed the completion in 2005 of the Japanese Government’s programme to upgrade the Samoan open dump by using the Fukuoka method to convert it into a sanitary landfill.  That method had been used as model for land-based waste management in the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Vanuatu, he said, adding that it represented a much better control system whereby waste was properly arranged in cells and not as toxic as when obtained.  Work was progressing on similar systems in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Other current priorities in the Pacific included waste management in atoll countries, which had no land.  Their approach was not so much how to deal with waste placed in landfills, but the minimization of waste instead.  Other priorities to be addressed included the lack of practical national waste plans and strategies, the lack of control on chemicals and other substances imported into the region, the increasing quantities and diversity of solid waste, the growing populations of most Pacific island countries and rising population density in urban areas.  Constraints on addressing waste management included limited funding and resources, limited land on islands, limited infrastructure and technical backstopping, limited capacity to manage pollutants and the lack of political will and support.

Mr. TOWNSEND addressed sustainable transportation development, particularly from the perspective of Trinidad and Tobago.  He said his country was a twin-island State with a population of 1.3 million people.  Its economy was based on oil and natural gas, which provided 40 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) but only 5 per cent of employment.  Its per capita income was $22,100, but it had an unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent.

Trinidad and Tobago was blessed with a well-developed highway system and had a very high per capita auto ownership of 2.5 cars per family, he said, adding that 90 per cent of all public transportation consisted of services provided by privately owned operations.  Major highway reconstruction projects were being undertaken, and the State-owned transport system operated some 300 buses a day.  Both bus and taxi services operated without published schedules, and there were limited priority bus routes.  A heavily subsidized low-volume luxury water taxi system had been introduced and ferry services operated between the two islands, he said, adding that Trinidad and Tobago had two major cargo ports and two international airports.

Transportation and land-use requirements were key to sustainable development, he said, adding that an integrated land-use and transportation planning was “a must”.  However, the country had had no national physical development plan since 1984.  Another key need was the development of clean, safe, efficient, affordable and public transportation options, but some small island States lacked sufficient resources to implement them.  Trinidad and Tobago had spent $100 million for the design of a 120 kilometre passenger rail system which would eventually cost some $3 billion.

Since that project was not sustainable for 1.3 million people, it had been scuttled, he said, adding that a rapid bus transportation system was more appropriate.  The public bus company had increased its fleet but lacked sufficient maintenance capabilities.  Access to affordable rural transport services was also necessary, and the bus company had increased its rural routs.  However, it required a national authority to set minimal standards of accessibility, possibly through a public-private partnership.  The needs of special groups such as the elderly and the disabled also required a national policy, he said.

Given the fuel-intensive nature of transportation, walking and non-motorized transportation should be facilitated in urban centres, he continued.  Planning in that regard was absent, however, and the streets of major urban centres were not pedestrian-friendly.  There had been some progress in reducing air pollution and carbon emissions because Trinidad and Tobago was moving towards using natural gas, which was abundant.  A 40 per cent reduction in liquid fuel volumes would lead to a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in the transportation sector’s carbon footprint, he noted.  He said Trinidad and Tobago would have done better had the Commission’s eighteenth session produced a specific plan on transportation.  However, the elements for sustainable transportation were present, though progress was hindered by a lack of desire and an absence of will to implement sustainable transportation.  The Government had placed a higher priority on affordability rather than sustainability, and preferred short-term rather than long-term priorities, he said.

During the ensuing interactive discussion, delegates continued to discuss the five thematic points, noting how the capacity of small island developing States effectively to advance their development objectives must be viewed against the backdrop of the ongoing effects of the recent economic crisis, and how climate change was one of the gravest threats to their territorial existence.  Regarding transportation and waste management, the proximity to coastal areas of roadways, airports and waste disposal sites made them susceptible to flooding.  Speakers reiterated that national efforts must be complemented by a renewed international effort to make good on promises of support.  They also emphasized the need to share information and build early-warning and weather-monitoring systems.  One delegate asked the panellists to share their views about the means available to small islands if predictions came true and temperatures rose by 4° Celsius.

Speakers also emphasized their Governments’ commitment to helping neighbours in the Pacific with such issues as waste management and pursuing collaborative efforts.  They noted that more work was needed on data collection in small island States, as was the transfer of related technology.  They also emphasized the value of sharing experiences, since countries belonging to the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme benefited from coordination, including with panellists such as Mr. Griffin, by learning innovative approaches to waste management and exploring cross-Pacific strategies for preventing pollution.

One representative noted that the panellists’ presentations demonstrated interlinkages between areas, such as how sustainable consumption and production patterns influenced what ended up as waste management, which in turn influenced transport capacities in and out of countries.  One theme during the presentations had been that of “traditional knowledge”, such as how, two generations ago, bags made from biodegradable fibres would be used for shopping in place of plastic bags, and how traditional transport included outrigger boats that were more fuel-efficient than those running on engines.  What were the potential advantages of such traditional knowledge to small island developing States? he asked.

Another speaker, discussing the Mauritius Strategy, asked whether it would be useful to have broad goals to work for rather than general policies.

Additionally, a delegate discussed the role of women in creating change in economies focused on consumerism.  Women were agents of change – as educators of children and principal players in agriculture — and should be involved in policy discussions.  For example, women should be involved in transportation planning so as not to be left out and disadvantaged.  Women also considered water a high priority.

Mr. GRIFFIN, responding to questions and comments, said the issue of traditional knowledge was acknowledged in his region.  People should be encouraged to use their own non-plastic bags while shopping, whether they were made from cloth or coconut leaves.  Legislation, however, should become necessary only in regulating the importation of plastic bags, or when producers did not follow regulations.  National strategies were always linked to regional and global strategies with respect to solid waste management, which was addressed in an integrated manner.

Mr. RAMJEAWON said traditional knowledge had great potential and there were already many examples of its use.  It must be enhanced and preserved, he said, adding that it could be linked with “new knowledge” in a hybrid manner.  Governments could give incentives for preserving traditional knowledge.

He agreed with another speaker that indicators were needed as management could not be executed without measurement.  Formulating goals and milestones was also helpful in mobilizing the population.

Mr. TOWNSEND agreed, saying that the more one could quantify, the better a goal could be achieved.  Benchmarks and measurements also forced authorities to measure what had been at the start of a programme and to do what was required to proceed from there to a stated goal.

Addressing a question about the role of women, he said their role in planning was fundamental.  Trinidad and Tobago was an example of what could happen if affected people were not participating in transportation planning.  Key in that planning was the active involvement of people who used transportation or were affected by it, he said, noting that Trinidad and Tobago’s farming community were significantly affected by transportation planning, but not consulted.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.