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III - CO-ORDINATION QUESTIONS

In considering agenda item 6 at the 7th and 8th meetings of the session, on 12 May 1978, the council had before it the reports of the Environment co-ordination Board on the work of its seventh and eighth sessions (UNEP/GC. 6/5 and Add.I) and the memoranda of understanding between UNEP and other organizations of the united Nations system (UNEP.GC/INFORMATION/6 Add.I).

112. Most delegations welcomed the trend in the united Nations system as whole toward co-ordinated planning and budgeting, as it would facilitate implementation of the idea, which they strongly endorsed, of working towards the formulation of joint medium-term plan for the environmental activities of the system as a whole. One delegation pointed out that the recommendations contained in general assembly resolution 32/197 of 20 December 1977 on the restructuring of the economic and social sectors of the united Nations system concerning harmonized budget presentations and a common methodology of programme classification within the united nations system were a very positive development towards the synchronization of budget cycles and the integration of medium –term planning exercises. Support was expressed for the executive director’s intention to take fully into account, when developing the UNEP future programme of work, the trend in the United Nations towards system-wide budget and programme co-ordination.

113. Delegations generally welcomed the increasing number of joint programming exercises, ad a useful tool for the implementation of the provision of resolution 32/197 concerning the review of organizations’ programmes and budgets to ensure their full participation in the environment programme; these exercises, together with the signing of memoranda of understanding between UNEP and other United Nations organizations, and those between FAO and who, constituted positive steps towards the development of a frame-work for concerted action over the medium-term period. It was also generally agreed that the evolution from bilateral to thematic joint programming, based on a multiagency focus within the framework of the environment co-ordination Board, on such key topics as arid lands, water, and environmental education and training, held great promise. A number of speakers commended the intention of the executive Director to synchronize such exercises with the yearly preparation of in-depth reviews for consideration by the Governing council. One delegation said in that connection that the responsibilities and time-tables for each of the indicated the need to implement more rapidly and more effectively decisions resulting from joint programming exercises; both those exercises and the memoranda of understanding were not ends in themselves, but a prelude to action, and the environment co-ordination Board had expressed concern that the follow-up in that respect had been less effective than it might have been. It was stressed that such decision should be reflected in subsequent concrete actions relating to the programmes and budgets prepared for the consideration of the governing bodies concerned. One delegation, while supporting the formulation of a joint medium-term plan for the united nations system as a whole and the incrasin emphasis on thematic join programming, stressed that adequate financial control should exist in regard to both resource utilization and approval of projects. Another delegation recalled that, as a result of the joint programming exercise with ESCAP, the two organizations had agreed to continue to provide technical assistance to governments in the region, important aspects of which would be the organization of the regional seminar on alternative patterns of development and of training courses on environment and development.

114. There was some discussion of the effect on UNEP of general assembly resolution 32/197 and, more particularly, of the steps to be taken in response to it towards merging the environment co-ordination of Board with response to it towards merging the environment co-ordinating Board with the administrative committee on co-ordination (ACC). Delegations were generally agreed that, given the importance of board in the effective discharge by UNEP of its co-ordination responsibilities, and in view of the fact that General Assembly resolution 2997 (XXVII) had made the board an integral part of the institutional arrangements for international environmental co-operation, the functions of the Board should be preserved and even strengthened. It was also pointed out in that connection that the Board was different from the other co-ordinating mechanisms which the General assembly had decided should be merged with ACC, in that it had a unique constitutional link with the governing council, to which it reported directly.

115. It was generally agreed that whatever solution was found to the question should be geared to maintaining and enhancing the essential co-ordinating and catalytic role of UNEP. One delegation pointed out that the solution should not reflect prestige considerations, but the need for practically, while another emphasized that any new mechanism should continue to focus on those environmental issues dealt within th Board, and to report to the governing council.

116. Several delegations stressed the need for the establishment within ACC of a specific environment co-ordination mechanism to enable it to discharge its environmental co-ordination functions. Another delegation suggested that a mechanism should be established to ensure that ACC received relevant background material and supporting analyses for the environmental matters before it.

117. One delegation had reservations regarding the appropriateness of the Governing council expressing an opinion on specific restructuring proposals. Others indicated that they were prepared to support a decision by the governing council recommending either in specific terms the setting up of an environment sub-committee of ACC, or in general terms the establishment of effective means in ACC for continuing and developing environmental co-ordination between united nations agencies, and requesting that the council be kept informed of the views and conclusions of ACC on the question.

118. With respect to the question of evaluation, two delegations stressed that the time had come for an impartial evaluation of he activities of UNEP which would enable thegoverning council to take stock of progress achieved so far, assess the strengths and weaknesses of the programme and determine the need for possible reorientation of certain activities. Another delegation stated that evaluation procedures could be described much more simply, not only for individual projects and programmes, but also for the programme as a whole.

119. Several delegation noted that UNEP and Habitat, centre for human settlements should, in accordance with general assembly resolution 32/162 of 19 December 1977, co-operate closely at the level of both the secretariats and the governing bodies. One delegation, however, felt that the respective responsibilities of the two organizations should be more clearly defined; in particular, the responsibility of UNEP for the environmental aspects of human settlements needed to be elaborated.

120. The executive director, in responding to the debate, said that he appreciated the support shown by delegations for joint programming and thematic joint programming, and for there commendation concerning the preparation of a medium-term plan for the entire united Nations system. He intended to consult the executive heads of the co-operating agencies in the respect, and to report on the results to the council at its seventh session.

121. He noted the insistence of delegations on the need to preserve and strengthen the co-ordination functions now exercised by the environment co-ordination Board and the suggestion that an environmental sub-committee of ACC should be established to assume such functions. However, he requested that the Governing council refrain from expressing views to ACC, since the discussions in ACC were the responsibility of the executive heads alone, and informed the council that he would bring to 1st attention before the end of the session the conclusions of ACC on the subject.

122. At the 13th meeting of the session, on 23 May 1978, the executive director, reporting on the special session of the administrative committee on co-ordination held for the purpose of examining all relevant aspects of general Assembly resolution 32/197 and working out practical modalities Economic an social council.

123. With respect to the holding of a single annual united Nations pledging conference for all united nations operational activities for development, the report indicated that it was uncertain whether arrangements for seeking pledges to the united Nations habitat and Human settlements Foundation. As envisaged by the General Assembly in case contributions did not reach the desired level, would become necessary. It was clear, however, that the foundation engaged in operational activities for development and would therefore be covered by the provision of paragraph 31 of the annex to resolution 32/197. ACC assumed that the unified pledging conference for 1979 would include the foundation if contributions did not reach the desired level. According to the report, however, it was also assumed ACC that UNP was not covered by the provisions of paragraph 31.

The report stated that the merger of the environment co-ordination board, the interagency consultative board and the UNIDO advisory committee with ACC, in response to the relevant provisions of paragraph 54 of the annex to resolution 32/197, had been effected. ACC was thus to assume the respective functions of those bodies. The report added that the functions of the board to be assumed by ACC were set out in General Assembly resolutions 2997 (XXVII) and 32/172; accordingly, ACC intended to discharge the responsibility of ensuring co-operation and co-ordinaion among all bodies concerned in the implementation of environmental programmes, and would report annually to the Governing council of UNEP. ACC would also carry out the specific responsibilities in regard to the implementation of the plan of Action to combat Desertificaion referred to in recommendation 27 of the plan, which also called for annual reports to the governing council. An appropriate preparatory process for the discharge by ACC of those functions would be required, for which the executive director of UNEP would assume responsibility, in consultation if necessary with other interested executive heads. The report said that the executive director would also be free to establish appropriate consultative arrangements with the co-operating agencies, particularly for thematic joint programming.

125. As to the ACC subsidiary machinery, the report indicated that in order to co-ordinate the work of ACC better with that of the economic and social council, new arrangements for drawing up the programme of work of the interagency machinery would be established. In particular, ACC, following the proposed new practice of the Economic and social council, would adopt a biennial programme of work. The report added that ACC was in the process of consultative mechanisms dealing with programme, operational and administrative questions. The detailed functions and structure of those mechanisms would be studied by a working group which was to present its recommendations for decision by ACC not later than October 1978. The arrangements that the new consultative mechanism would utilize to take care of the functions being carried out by existing interagency bodies, and the division of functions between the consultative mechanisms, had not yet been fully worked out and would be studied by the working group.

126. The executive director said that the ACC consultations had been very satisfactory in respect of the preservation of the functions and responsibilities of the environment co-ordination Board. ACC had been informed that the Executive director would shortly contact the focal points of the former Board in connection with the preparation of a draft on co-ordination issues pertaining to the environment for approval by ACC at its session in October 1978 and submission to the governing council at its seventh session.

Action by the governing council

127. The action by the covering council concerning co-ordination questions is included in decision 6/1 of 24 May 1978. 7/ for the adoption of the decision see paragraphs 107-110 above.

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7/ Idem.