Assembly Creates Sustainable Development Commission, Endorses 'Agenda 21.' (United Nations General Assembly)

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The creation of a new, high-level Commission on Sustainable Development to oversee the implementation of "Agenda 21"--the wide-ranging plan adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development--was approved by the General Assembly on 22 December.

Following a four-day debate on the official follow-up to the historic "Earth Summit" held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992, the Assembly addressed a number of environment-related recommendations by its Second Committee Economic and Financial). Among them, it established a negotiating body for a new convention to combat desertification, decided to convene a Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, and declared 22 March as World Day for Water.

The Assembly asked "resolution 47/191) that the Commission on Sustainable Development be set up by the Economic and Social Council to ensure effective follow-up to the Rio Conference, enhance international cooperation and rationalize intergovernmental decision-making for the integration of environment and development issues.

"The challenge after Rio is to maintain the momentum of commitment to sustainable development, to transform it into policies and practice, and to give it effective and coordinated organizational support", said Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on 2 November. The UN, he said, "must put its development objectives on a par with its political and security commitments".

When it begins work in New York in May 1993, the 53-member Commission is to consider holding high-level ministerial meetings to provide "political impetus" to the commitments and decisions of the Earth Summit.

"The Commission has the potential to be a very special intergovernmental agency", said Ismail Razali of Malaysia, Chairman of the Working Group on the Conference. It could be "the one forum where we could re-establish a dialogue between the North and the South", he added.

The new body's functions will include: monitoring progress towards the UN target of providing 0.7 per cent of gross national product of industrialized countries for official development assistance; considering, where appropriate, information on the implementation of environmental conventions, including treaties on biodiversity and climate change, opened for signature in Rio; and recommending action to the Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council, and based on the Secretary-General's report, as well as input from competent non-governmental organizations, including the scientific and private sectors.

The Commission is also to actively interact with other UN intergovernmental bodies, regional commissions and development and financial institutions, including the Global Environment Facility--a fund established in 1990 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.

A high-level Advisory Board, consisting of eminent persons from all regions of the world, will provide input to the Commission and the Council through the Secretary-General. …