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444. The Governing Council considered agenda item 14 at the 9th plenary meeting of the sessions, on 15 May 1978. The council had before it a report by the Executive Director on relationships with non-governmental organizations (UNEP/GC.6/6).445. In an introductory statement, the Executive Director said that the criteria for the selection of individuals who could constitute an internationals network of friends of the environment had bot yet been developed. At the January 1978 informal consultations, Governments had called for a slow and cautious approach to the constitution of the network, and no network had yet been firmly established. The matter would be further discussed at the next informal consultations and a report submitted to the Council at its seventh session.

446. Several delegations welcomed the efforts made to identify individuals who could constitute an international network of friends of the environment, and one requested assistance from UNEP in the development of such a network circulating to Governments precise information on selection guidelines and on the network’s purposes and role, and one asked whether the Executive Director intended to use the NGO communications channel as the preferred way of developing the network..

447. Delegations which took part in the debate generally welcomed the ways in which the Executive Director had pursued the development of working relationships with non-governmental organizations (NGO), including the efforts to promote NGO participation in IRS, the continuing co-operation of UNEP with the Environment Liaison Centre, the production of the NGO in world Environment Day. Since NGOs had considerable expertise and were one of the main channels of communication between policy-makers and the general public, co-operation with them was useful and necessary for International organizations as well as for Governments. Indeed, they had a crucial role to play in disseminating environmental information. In many parts of the world, the assistance of NGOs had been enlisted in the planning process, where they had made positive contributions in adding new dimensions to the consideration of many problems. With government support, they were often involved in numerous projects whose major objectives was to improve the standard of living of the people. They were playing important roles in wildlife conservation, soul conservation, afforestation , and water and housing programmes.

448. One speaker suggested that Report to Government should be distributed upon request to NGOs and added that one way to draw more fully on NGO expertise would be for UNEP to enlist non-governmental experts to serve on expert panels. Another speaker felt that a day might be set aside during sessions of the Council to allow NGOs an opportunity to voice criticism and comments, and suggested that the University of Nairobi should, with NGO support, establish a school of environment studies, a suggestion which was backed by another representative.

449. One delegation recommended that in establishing relationships with non-governmental organization, UNEP should first ascertain how representative they were and how authentic was their interest in the environment; it should concentrate primarily on NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, should avoid establishing contact with NGOs which were not acceptable to national Governments.

450. One representative said that it would have been helpful if the foot-nots in the report of the Executive Director had indicated fund-supported activities, so thatGovernments could refer to the Fund project in question to see more clearly the nature of the collaborative effort involved. Another wondered whether it might not be too restrictive for the Governing Council to call on the Executive Director and Member States to encourage the creation and growth of NGOs and their activities in the field of the environment, especially in developing countries, as suggested in paragraph 40 (b) of the report.

451. The representative of the Environment Liaison Centre noted that the world Environment Day project allowed NGOs to focus their activities in an Internationally co-ordinated open policy towards NGOs themes and concerns. He urged UNEP to maintain its open policy towards NGOs and continue with its projects for public Information and education. The Centre’s close involvement in those two activities was essential to create improvements would be difficult to achieve. He emphasized the important impact which UNEP assistance had on NGO activities and urged Governments and UNEP to do everything possible to expand assistance, thus enabling the Centre and other NGOs to play their full part.

452. The representative of the Council on Human Ecology, speaking also on behalf of non-governmental organizations concerned with the human environment, said it was in the endeavour to improve the quality of life that NGOs could and did make a most valuable contribution to their respective governments’ work. NGOs could often reach people who were inaccessible to their governments, while also reaching heads of States, International figures and International organizations. While the amount provided to assist NGOs in their work. In enabling NGOs to make use of the service of institutions and individuals in countries and world, and had helped NGOs promote awareness and public action on environment and development issues everywhere. NGOs were, however, alarmed at the possibility of smaller projects, which provided the foundation for a broad world-wide attack on ecological problems, being rejected or neglected by UNEP in favour of larger projects. The support of Governments for efforts to promote a closer practical working relationships between UNEP and NGOs, and for the work of NGOs themselves, would be welcome.

453. The secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce said that world business strongly supported environmental improvement measures which took into account the regeneration capacity of the environment, relevant social-economic factors and local requirements, and were based on a sound assessment of technology possibilities. However, business opposed both the setting of environmental standards without adequate scientific basis and environmental policies or regulations which were arbitrary or unduly costly. It believed that any regulatory approach should be based upon environmentally standards which permitted technological flexibility, was opposed to an approach based upon the specification of technologies and the composition of materials to be used. International business stood ready to establish, through UNEP, more effective lines of communication with Governments. The common concern must be to develop approaches and solutions which permit the achievement of both general and more specific environmental goals. In that connection, UNEP was to be commended on the establishment of its industry programme, which undoubtedly supplied a foundation of consultations and mutually reinforcing action by thepublic and private sectors. However, there was ample scope for further co-operation.

454. Responding to the comments made, the Executive Director pointed out that the phase “especially in developing countries” in paragraph 2 of decision 103 (V). He assured delegations that UNEP would press ahead with the selection criteria for friends of the environment and with the definition of the role and purpose of the network. Many of the NGOs with which UNEP was in contact already had consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, but there were other NGOs active in the field of the environment with which UNEP could usefully co-operate. While he did not know whether all Governments would welcome the distribution of Report to Government to NGOs which so requested, he had no objection to that procedure. As to the inclusion of non-governmental experts in export panels, he noted that experts were selected in their personal capacity without the UNEP necessarily consulting Governments. In conclusion, he assured the representative of the Council on Human Ecology that there had never been a directive from the Governing Council that small projects should be neglected in favour of larger projects.

Action by the Governing Council

455. At the 9th plenary meeting of the session, the 15 May 1978, the Governing Council adopted by consensus a draft decision suggested by the President on relations with non-governmental organizations (decision 6/16). 80/


79/ or the text of the decision, see annex 1 below.