D - Working Group on the Declaration on the Human Environment

303. The report of the Working Group on the Declaration of the Human Environment (see annex 11) was considered at the 21st plenary meeting of the Conference, on 16 June 1972. The report was introduced by the Rapporteur of the Working Group, T. C. Bacon (Canada).

304. The next of the draft Declaration which tile Working Group submitted to the plenary Conference included 21 of the 23 recommendations produced by the Preparatory Committee of the Conference. The Group lead added four new principles. It had been unable to reach agreement on the principles 20 and 21, but had agreed on a procedure to be followed in respect of those two principles. As far as principle 20 was concerned, it had been agreed that in view of the importance of the subject it should be referred to the General Assembly at its twenty-seventh session for consideration. With regard to principle 21, the Working Group had agreed to refer the matter to the Conference in plenary for action.

305. As regards the draft preamble, a number of specific proposals and comments had been made by Sweden. On the basis of informal negotiations with other delegations, some modifications had been made in the Swedish text. It had been proposed by the Working Group that the preamble, together with the draft principles, should be forwarded to the Conference in plenary on the understanding that Sweden would consult further with other delegations to achieve consensus on the first sentence of paragraph 5.

306. In the debate on the report in plenary, the representative of India said that the Declaration represented an important milestone in the history of the human race and he expressed the hope that the Governments of countries not represented at the Conference would also subscribe to the principles enshrined in the text. The draft Declaration as not perfect but reflected a number of compromises and points of view. He laid stress on the problems of poverty and development and on the genuine fears of developing countries that environmental issues could divert attention from those major issues. He emphasized that peace was the most urgent and fundamental need of mankind and reaffirmed India's opposition to the testing of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The Declaration was a starting-point in the task of making the planet a fit place for future generations. In a spirit of conciliation, India was prepared to agree to draft Declaration as it stood.

307. The representative of the United Republic and Tanzania explained the position of his delegation on principle 21 and strongly denounced the continued use of chemical and biological weapons in certain parts of the world. The formulation contained in the draft Declaration was not satisfactory.

308. The representative of China stressed that the Chinese Government and people were actively in support of the Conference and that the delegation of China had made unremitting efforts to arrive at positive results. The Declaration was an international document of concern to the people of all countries and it should be discussed fully through careful consultation. He recalled that China had requested the setting up of the Working Group and said that in the course of the Group's work many delegations had made constructive amendments. There were still some questions of principle, which it had not been possible to discuss fully. He emphasized that the draft Declaration had failed to point out the main reason for pollution of the environment: the policy of plunder, aggression and war carried out by imperialist, colonialist and neo-colonialist countries, especially by the super-Powers. Accordingly, China could not agree with a number of views embodied in the declaration. More specifically, he thought it essential that principle 21 should be rewritten as follows:

" In order to protect mankind and the human environment it is imperative to firmly prohibit the use and thoroughly destroy the inhuman biological and chemical weapons which seriously pollute and damage the environment to completely prohibit and thoroughly destroy nuclear weapons and, as the first step, to reach an agreement by the nuclear States on the non-use of nuclear weapons at no time and in no circumstances".

He referred to Japan as a nuclear base of the United States of America and to New Zealand, which had not opposed the mass production of nuclear weapons. Should no consensus be reached on the principles, he thought that the Conference should continue to seek common ground and set aside differences. If the Conference should insist on maintaining in the text principles on which agreement had not been reached, the Chinese delegation would not participate in the voting. Finally, the Chinese delegation was optimistic for the future. Governments working for the welfare of the people would obtain good results. China was willing to participate in the common endeavor.

309.The representative of the Holy See said that one approach would be to view the Declaration as a fundamental document, a kind of Magna Carta, but he did not think it could be so viewed in its existing form. A number of improvements and clarifications had been made in the new version. However, the legitimate concern to have development reconciled with ecology had altered the balance that had existed in the original version. The Holy See regretted that some basic principles such as that of "The polluter must pay", and the concept moral and ecological justice, had not found a place in the Declaration. Nevertheless, in a spirit of cooperation, the Holy See supported the Declaration.

310. The representative of the Philippines said that he had refrained from adding to the amendments. However, the Philippines considered three principles to be basic and thought they should be included in any declaration:

(a) the primacy of human over physical factors;

(b) the needs of developing countries and the necessity for them to have resources to cope with additional environmental concerns: poverty was the worst polluter; and

(c) nuclear weapons and stockpiles should be destroyed and nuclear warfare banned. In the opinion of the Philippines, the draft Declaration did not measure up to those principles. The revised version contained some improvements but was still less than satisfactory. However, the Declaration constituted an adequate basis for mankind's concern not only for a clean earth but for a better life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 was formulated in the shadow of nuclear war; today the Declaration on the Human Environment was being adopted in the shadow of ecological disaster.

311. The representative of the Sudan said that the African group had stressed that five concepts should be reflected in the Declaration: rejection of segregation, racism, apartheid and expansionism; rejection of colonialism and foreign domination as having a strong' adverse effect on the environment of the oppressed; emphasis on the fact that the terms of trade in primary produce had a direct connexion with the management of water, soils and other natural resources; emphasis on the sovereign right of every country to exploit its own natural resources; and strong condemnation of the development, testing and use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons as the most destructive of all environmental threats. He expressed the gratification of many African States that those ideas had been incorporated into the draft Declaration to a satisfactory degree. He was disappointed that some ideas had not been adequately reflected but believed that the present Declaration was the best that could be achieved at the current stage.

312. The representative of Canada regretted that it had not been possible to reach agreement on all issues. However, the draft before the plenary was a first step towards the development of international environmental law. He referred to a number of important new concepts reflected in the draft and stated that in the view of the Canadian Government principle 21 in fact accorded with existing international law as did the principle of the duty of States to inform one another of the environmental effects of their activities. He stressed Canada's strong support for the stopping of all nuclear weapons testing and joined with other nations in regretting the continuing differences of view that aspect of the draft.

313. The representative of Uruguay said man's question whether he could survive on this planet was beginning to receive a positive reply through the Declaration. He wished to enter a reservation on principle 2, however; in his view, much more than "representative samples" of ecosystems must be safeguarded-it was essential to preserve, maintain the balance and ensure the rational exploitation of ecosystems as a whole.

314. The representative of Yugoslavia said that the Conference and, more specifically, the Declaration was the first step in many international and bilateral consultations to define the responsibilities of the international community. The absence of principle 21, however, made it fall short of the expectations of humanity.

315. The representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland welcomed the Declaration, but considered that certain references to highly political matters contained in it were out of place. The United Kingdom had come to Stockholm not to discuss strategic issues but to look for a consensus on priorities for action. The real task would begin after the Conference when the hopes would have to be turned into actions not only of a defensive type but of an offensive type in order to provide a good environment for all. There was a general will to move in that direction and the Conference must be regarded as a success. Together the Countries had accepted the notion that nature was man's most precious possession, that no nation was an environment island, and that the common estates (air, water) must be tackled on an international level. Although grave issues still divided the countries, the message must be conveyed, especially to the young, that a new beginning had been made together.

316. The representative of Zambia stated that the draft Declaration surpassed all earlier expectations although some took issue with the text and others preferred the earlier draft. It should be clear that overpopulation was not the only cause of poverty. More often it was the lack of resources and poor soil. New ideas could still be discussed, but discussion should not be reopened on the existing principles. The fact that it had been decided that principle 20 should be referred to the General Assembly showed the inability of the Conference to achieve miracles, but a consensus should emerge by the time the General Assembly discussed that principle. Zambia attached great importance to peace and deplored the absence of a reference to the use of biochemical and other weapons and to the war in South-East Asia.

317. The representative of Kenya praised the large measure of success achieved by the Working Group and stated that he would support the Declaration because it represented the best that could be achieved at that stage. He expressed concern, however, at the emphasis, which the Conference had given to the physical as opposed to the social environment of man. He regretted that this latter aspect of the environment was not adequately reflected in the Declaration. He also regretted that the preamble to the Declaration made no explicit reference to the pollution of the minds of men, which resulted in policies such as that of apartheid.

318. The representative of Egypt expressed his satisfaction that the Declaration included all the ideas and principles identifying, the major problems affecting man and his environment, with special emphasis on the situation of the developing, countries. He stressed what he felt was the unanimity of views on arresting the production of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, the use of which, in his view, stood at the top of the list of activities that carried the greatest threat to the human environment. He felt that principle 26 (ex 21) should make reference to the fact that man must be spared the effects of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons including, inter alia, the effect of the use of such weapons. He hoped that the Conference would unanimously adopt the Declaration, including, principle 26.

319. The representative of Pakistan expressed the gratitude of his delegation for the contribution which the delegation of China had made in elaborating, the new text of the Declaration as well as for the attitude of the developed countries which had accepted the changes that had been introduced into the earlier draft. He appealed to the Conference to adopt the Declaration by acclamation while noting such reservations and clarifitions as laid been made by various participants.

320. The representative of Chile felt that the Declaration constituted a point of departure for a process, which would continue well into the future. He emphasized the great importance, which he attached to the work that would have to follow in the wake of the Declaration. He thought, however, that while the Declaration was satisfactory as a first step, the document ill Itself fell short of what might have been hoped for, in as much as a number of important ideas had not been included in it. He was, nevertheless, prepared to approve the Declaration so long, as it was considered to be a provisional document that might be improved in the future.

321 . The representative of Japan stated that the Japanese people, as the only ones to have suffered from atomic bombs, wanted to prevent an atomic war. Japan was therefore particularly interested in principle 26 (ex 21) and had supported a joint statement referring, to proposed nuclear tests. Japan accepted the wording of principle 26, having stated for the record its interpretation that principle 26 as approved definitely implied prohibition of testing of nuclear weapons since dangers to the human environment arose particularly from atmospheric testing. Without such a principle, the Declaration would be meaningless. Japan was in favour of having principle 26 adopted note being taken of tile statements made. It also felt that since China was not prepared to participate in a vote, the text could be adopted without a vote, by acclamation. With reference to the remarks made by the representative of China, the representative of Japan stated that it was the firm policy of Japan not to allow deployment of nuclear weapons on its territory.

322. South Africa was in full accord with the original draft and the new ideas added to it regarding the need for rapid development, protection of nature, and control of marine pollution. South Africa wished to place on record, however, its reservation that the Conference was not competent to include the new draft of principle I of the Declaration as that principle clearly constituted interference in the internal affairs of a Member State, in direct conflict with the Charter of the United Nations. Subject to that proviso, South Africa would support the Declaration as a whole.

323. Sweden stated that the Workings Group had strengthened the Declaration and broadened its scope. Sweden had hoped to see a stronger condemnation of nuclear testing and of the use of means of mass destruction. It attached decisive importance to the general principle that States should accept responsibility for damage caused beyond their jurisdiction and to the vital relationship between environmental protection and the economic development process. After consultation with several delegations, it proposed that the first sentence of paragraph 5 of the preamble, dealing with population, be amended to read as follows:

"The natural growth of population continuously presents problems on the preservation of the Environment and policies and measures should be adopted, is appropriate, to face the problems

324. The representative of Thailand appreciated the tremendous effort and constructive spirit shown in the drafting of the Declaration and offered his Government's support.

325. The representative of Algeria spoke of the Environmental despoliation of colonialism and of oppression that were still going on in the world. Algeria appreciated however the considerable evaluation of the concept the considerable evaluation of the concept of environment that had occurred during the Conference, especially among the developed countries. He pointed out, however, that certain principles that should have been reflected in the declaration were missing. One was the need to end the misuse of natural resources by certain Powers; another was the need to maintain certain necessary balance. There was also the need to ensure a balance in the use of resources and not to commit vast resources to weapons of destruction. Finally, a balance should be established in the social and ecological well being of different areas of the globe.

326. The representative of Peru emphasized that the Declaration must establish a clear condemnation of all weapons of mass destruction.

327. The representative of the United States of America submitted the following statement of interpretation on principles 2, 12, 21 and 26:

"Principle 2. The United States of America places emphasis on the word

"representative" which, in our view, ensures that the phrase means retention of a complete system with all of the complex interrelationships intact, not a portion thereof. Moreover, the size of the sample must be sufficient to represent the size of the whole.

_ "Principle 12. The United States of America does not regard the text of this principle, or any other language contained in the Declaration, as requiring it to change its aid policies or increase the amounts thereof. The United States of America accepts the idea that added costs in specific national projects or activities for environmental protection reasons should be taken into account.

"Principle 21. The United States of America considers it obvious that nothing contained in this principle, or elsewhere in the Declaration, diminishes in any way the obligation of States to prevent environmental damage or gives rise to any right on the part of States to take actions in derogation of the rights of other States or of the community of nations. The statement on the responsibility of States for damage caused to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction is not in any way a limitation on the above obligation, but an affirmation of existing rules concerning liability in the event of default on the obligation.

"Principle 26. The United States of America fully supports the purpose, aspirations, and ultimate goals contained in this paragraph. We are constantly striving to meet such goals in all relevant for a including for example SALT, which has recently achieved such success. We regard our commitment under this principle as identical to the treaty obligation we have assumed in connexion with the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, specifically article VI, including the requirement of 'strict and effective international control'. We believe it obvious that agreements called for in the principle must be adequately verifiable or they will not be soundly enough bases to achieve the purposes of this principle."

328. The Conference took the following action on the text of the draft Declaration submitted by the Working Group.

329. It adopted by acclamation the preamble, including the reformulation of the first sentence of paragraph 5 proposed by Sweden and adopted in plenary.

330. It adopted by acclamation all of the principles, including the new principle 26 the text of which appeared in paragraph 7 of the Working Group's report, while noting the statements that had been made with regard to that principle.

331. It referred to the General Assembly for consideration the text of principle 20 as contained in document A/CONF.48/4:

"Relevant information must be supplied by States on activities or developments within their jurisdiction or under their control whenever they believe, or have reason to believe, that such information is needed to avoid the risk of significant adverse effects on the environment in areas beyond their national jurisdictions."; together with the following amendments:

(a) An amendment proposed by Brazil, calling for the addition of the following sentence after the existing text:

"No State is obliged to supply information under conditions that, in its fOLinded judgment, may jeopardize its national security, economic development or its national efforts to improve environment";

(b) An amendment proposed by Algeria, Argentina, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Senegal, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruizuay and Zambia calling for the deletion of the words: "they believe, or have reason to believe, that" and of the word "significant".

332. The Conference then adopted by acclamation the Declaration as a whole, subject to the observations and reservations made by the members of the Conference, which the President had assured them would be duly reflected in the report. (For the text of the Declaration as adopted by the Conference see chapter 1.)

333. The representative of China reminded the Conference of the reservations on principle 26 (ex 21) which he had expressed earlier.


 

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