Energy and Natural Resources: Towards an Integrated United Nations Response

Article excerpt

In the wake of the Rio Summit, major United Nations conferences were held, whose unifying theme was a global vision of sustainable development that would ensure the compatibility of human activities and the healthy state of natural resources, some of which were the main sources of energy. It was also in the context of this vision of sustainable development that the World Solar Summit was convened in Harare, Zimbabwe, in September 1996, paving the way for the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in October 1998 of the World Solar Programme 1996-2005.

Discussions on energy are ongoing in various inter-governmental and other stakeholder bodies. Policy discussions on energy and sustainable development, including the development of energy resources in developing countries, the development and use of renewable sources of energy, energy efficiency improvement, environmentally sound development and use of fossil fuels, the development and implementation of rural energy policies, energy and transportation, provision of safe water and sanitation, and integrated planning and management of land resources and agriculture, among other topics, take place in the United Nations Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for Development (CENRD).

Discussions on energy also take place among other inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme, the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme, the Statistical Commission and the World Bank.

In spite of all these activities, efforts appear to be dispersed and somewhat ad hoc. A focused approach on energy, with emphasis on energy in overall socioeconomic development, has not emerged. A common strategy for energy-related activities in the United Nations system, aimed at fostering partnerships for sustainable energy development with relevant actors outside the system, is regrettably lacking. But the role of coordination of energy activities within the United Nations system by the CENRD is provided for and already making significant progress.

The CENRD, at its first session in New York from 5 to 16 April 1999, took the initiative to constructively contribute to the preparatory process for the CSD's ninth session at the very initial stage. It identified what it considered to be the most critical issues requiring urgent attention in the preparatory process and adopted decisions on integrated planning and management of land resources and agriculture as a contribution to the preparation for the CSD's eighth session in 2000, which will be focusing on this theme, as well as on the overriding themes of poverty, consumption and production patterns. …