Magazine article UN Chronicle

New Sustainable Development Commission Charts Course for 'Agenda 21.' (Includes Related Article on Rainforest Ecology)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

New Sustainable Development Commission Charts Course for 'Agenda 21.' (Includes Related Article on Rainforest Ecology)

Article excerpt

The Commission on Sustainable Development was formally established on 12 February by the Economic and Social Council. The 53-member body is charged with monitoring progress in implementing "Agenda 21", the comprehensive action programme adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in June 1992 in Rio de janeiro. The Commission, a functional body of the Economic and Social Council, will also oversee activities related to the integration of environmental and developmental goals throughout the UN system.

Commission Chairman Razali Ismail of Malaysia said at the first organizational meeting on 24 February that the body was coming into existence arguably as the major outcome of UNCED. It had been "assiduously crafted and structured by a major exercise of international cooperation, which is the only way to ensure the way out of destitution", as well as guarantee the sustainability of the planet. The transition to sustainable development called for costs and commitments, he added, urging Commission members to work in a true spirit of partnership.

Organizational session

At a three-day organizational meeting (24-26 February, New York), the Commission recommended that the 40 chapters of Agenda 21 be clustered into nine groups to permit an easy review of related subjects. Five cross-sectoral groups would be considered each year and the remaining four on a multi-year basis.

To be considered annually are: critical elements of sustainability; financial resources and mechanisms; education, science and transfer of environmentally sound technologies; decision-making structures, including international legal instruments; and the roles of major groups.

For consideration on a multi-year basis are: health, human settlements and freshwater; land, desertification, forests and biodiversity; atmosphere, seas and oceans: and toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes. With a three-year schedule for those four sectoral clusters, all areas could be covered by 1996.

The Commission is to meet for two to three weeks every year, its first substantive session to be held from 14 to 25 June in New York. Of its 53 members, 13 are from African countries, 11 from Asia, 10 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 6 from Eastern Europe, and 13 from Western European and other States.

On 1 February, the Secretary-General reported E/1993/15) he would soon set up the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development, consisting of 15 to 25 internationally recognized personalities. The Board would meet for two to three days before Commission sessions to provide high-level advice on policy proposals and identify emerging issues for consideration by the Commission, the Economic and Social Council, and other relevant bodies.

Drought and desertification

In other follow-up to the Earth Summit, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification held an organizational session in New York (26-29 January).

The Committee, proposed by UNCED in Agenda 21, aims to fight a scourge affecting about one sixth of the world's population, a quarter of the earth's land area and 70 per cent of all drylands.

Committee Chairman Bo Kjellen of Sweden said that populations struggling daily with drought and desertification must be provided with the best instrument to affect change in their regions.

The Committee will convene its first substantive session in Nairobi, Kenya, from 24 May to 3 June. Five two-week substantive sessions are scheduled, with a view to completing a global instrument to combat desertification by June 1994. …

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