Resources for:
  Civil Society
  Business Persons
  Children and Youth

Thematic Areas

 Printable Version


18. In discussing agenda item 4 at the 2nd to 7th plenary meetings of the session, the Council had before it the following documents: the introductory report of the Executive Director (UNEP/GC.8/2), with addenda on arrangements for the tenth session of the Governing Council (Add.1), resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council of relevance to UNEP (Add.2), work on the interrelationships between resources, environment, population and development (Add.3) and the introductory statement of the Executive Director (Add.4) and the report on the state of the environment: selected topics - 1979 (UNEP/GC.8/3 and Corr.1).

19. In his introductory statement, at the opening meeting of the session, the Executive Director focused on major developments within the United Nations system since the Councills seventh session, major issues before the Council, the difficulties LTITEP had faced and its achievements before and during his current term as Executive Director, and the major issues likely to arise in the coming decade. The Council's present session was a particularly important one, preceding as it did the special session of the General Assembly which would adopt the international development strategy for the 1980s.

20. Since the Councills seventh session, the fifth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the third General Conference of UNIDO and the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology had taken place. UNEP was participating actively in the preparations for the United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Energy Sources. He had conveyed the views of the Governing Council to the Preparatory Committee for the New International Development Strategy in June 1979 and negotiations on the preamble, goals and objectives of the new strategy were well advanced.

21. Within UNEP's own programme, two joint statements had been issued in June 1979, one,by the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and himself on environment and development, and the other with the President of the Scientific Committee for the Protection of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) on global life support systems. The World Conservation Strategy, launched in over 30 capitals on 5 March 1980, was the outcome of five years of international work coordinated by UNEP, together with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as of the international scientific community.

22. Following the regional seminars on alternative patterns of development and lifestyles, the interregional seminar, convened in Nairobi in March 1980, had approved by consensus and agreed input to the new international development strategy, which had been communicated to the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee and the Director-General for Development and International Economic Co-operation.

23. The UIIE-P reports on the environmental impacts of nuclear energy and fossil i'uc-@l-s had now been published: the third report on renewable energy sources would appear shortly, and preparations for the comparative study were progressing well.

24. During the past two months, meetings had been convened on tropical forests, ,:7.,.i,bon dioxide, climate impact studies and soils policy. The second meeting of the ('jnsultative Group for Desertification Control and the fifth session of the I-lorking of Experts on Environmental Law had also been held during that period. He looked forward to receiving the guidance of the Council on a number of those topics.

25. UNEP had co-operated with the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) in the preparations for the November 1979 High-level Meeting on the Protection of the Environment, which had adopted a Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution and a Declaration on Low and Non-liaste Technology. He would appreciate the Councills views on the wish expressed by the participants at the High-level Meeting for co-operation between ECE and UNEP in implementing the decisions taken there.

26. He had made official visits to, or held official consultations while attending specific functions in, 16 countries. Discussions with those concerned with environmental problems had repeatedly and clearly indicated that there was deep disquiet over the environment and that activities were being undertaken, but that, more often than not, much still remained to be done.

27. Among the over-all policy items before the Council, work on the topic of interrelationships between resources, environment, population and development was accelerating in the United Nations system. He looked forward to receiving the Councills advice on the proposals presented in his introductory report (UNEP/GC.8/2) concerning the role to be played by UNEP.

28. The Council also had before it samples of the programme perspective document and the System-wide 14edium-term Environment Programme (SWMTEP), as well as the traditional programme document reporting mainly on performance in implementing the programme since the Council's last session. He hoped that the Council would give careful consideration to the subject of programme documentation and advise him on the future presentation of documents. In order to reflect the concepts of mediumterm planning and programming approved by the General Assembly and those of SI-IMTEP, he was proposing revisions to the procedures for the Fund of UNEP which would in no way alter the balance of authority between the Council and the Executive Director, but would simplify work within UNEP and reduce the effort required in co-operative activities by UNFP's partners.

29. A further issue on which the Councills guidance was expected was the commemoration of the Stockholm Conference. His own position was quite clear. The tenth regular session of the Governing Council must have sole responsibility for taking decisions on UNEP's activities and allocation of resources, while the special session, held in the middle of the regular session, should address major trends in environmental issues in the course of the subsequent decade.

30. The operations and state of the Environment Fund were a major issue. In 1979, for the first time, -total expenditures had exceeded total new resources.

Furthermore, another serious problem had arisen in 1979: although the financial rules allowed financial. commitments to be entered into, within the appropriations approved by the Governing Council, on the basis of estimated resources, he had undertaken to maintain the liquidity of the Fund at all times. That could be achieved only if pledged contributions were paid early in the year to which they related. The response to the Councills call for early payment of pledges had been poor: contributions for 1979, although pledged at a higher rate than ever before, had been paid later than in 1978. At the end of June 1979, with only 43 per cent of convertible currency contributions paid for the year, compared with 75 per cent by the same time in 1978, he had no alternative but to hold back new project commitments until near the end of the year, which left it too late to start certain activities in 1979. Incidentally, to date $1.1 million of contributions pledged for 1979 were still unpaid. The position on payment of 1980 contributions appeared to have deteriorated still further, with contributions amounting to only $3.9 million received up to the end of March.

31.At its seventh session, the Council had assigned responsibility to UNEP for the administration of three trust funds. Contributions to the Kuwait Trust Fund had exceeded the minimum requirements for project commitments, although a number of Governments had not paid their contributions, or paid only part - a situation he trusted would soon be rectified. Contributions to the Mediterranean Trust Fund, on the other hand, had been received too slowly to permit effective implementation of the Action Plan. He hoped that the current difficulties would soon be resolved to enable the Plan to move ahead. Contributions to the rus Fund for the Endangered Species Convention had also been received much more slowly than had been anticipated. The financial support committed by the Environment Fund, at a higher level than previously agreed, would have to be adjusted to the agreed level as soon as adequate contributions flowed into the Trust Fund. He regretted to have to report that thus far no contributions had been received to the Special Account established more than a year before for the purpose of implementing the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification.

32.In addition to its responsibility for the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification, UNEP now bore responsibility for the World Conservation Strategy and the Action Plan for the Ozone Layer. It was moving quickly in the direction of regional and global plans of action on a number of environmental issues: at the regional level for the Caribbean, the Gulf of Guinea and the three Asian seas, and at the global level for climate impact studies, tropical forests, carbon dioxide and a global soils policy. The implementation of those plans called for more resources - human as well as financial. The Governing Council should face that issue squarely and advise him as to how UNEP should proceed. There was no point in developing further plans for action unless there were viable mechanisms for mobilizing resources sufficient to implement them.

33. He had been privileged to serve UNEP as Executive Director for almost five years in addition to his two and a half years as Deputy. As he approached the end of his present term of office, he would like to share with the Council some of his thoughts on the difficulties and accomplishments of that formative period in UNEP's development.

34. One of UNEPIS most pressing problems has been the establishment of a balanced programme reflecting the needs of both developed and developing countries. Despite a global convergence of long-term interests and objectives, the short- and mediumterm preoccupations of the two groups and their perception of immediate needs and constraints did not often coincide. Accordingly, the Stockholm Plan of Action and Governing Council decision 1 (1) 3/ had given an orientation which sought to make UNEP's programme of activities equally relevant to both. From the outset, perceptions regarding the question of concentration of UNEP activities had varied widely. !4hile trying to work on a wide array of issues of legitimate concern to the international community, it was necessary to concentrate, and the formula of "concentration areas" had been adopted. He had proposed the 21 goals for 1982 with the sole objective of efficiency in those areas of key importance which required priority attention, and time after time he had had to try to reconcile the need for concentration with insistent demands for diverse activities from Governments. Besides those specific requests, other factors had made it difficult to concentrate time, effort and money on areas where visible and impressive results could be accomplished. In recent years the proliferation of concerns on many environmentally related subjects had created considerable disquiet concerning the future of the planet. Because of its mandate, TJNEP was continuously on the lookout for such concerns, and followed all developments closely to ensure that they were given sufficient attention by Governments specialized agencies or the international scientific community. Against that background, he had tried to maintain a balanced global programme from which the whole of mankind could benefit.

35. He was sure that the Council appreciated the complexity of the problems UNEP was tackling, as well as of its operational mechanisms. The difficult task of attempting to develop a programme for implementation not by UNEP alone, but also by others, required time, careful negotiations and the willing co-operation of partners. Equally necessary was the avoidance of duplication and the creation of an atmosphere of harmony and dynamic conditions for working together.

36. The first pre-condition for such an exercise was the development of an intellectual input authoritative enough and persuasive enough to act upon. With its small staff, UNEP did not have a wide range of specialists at its disposal. Nevertheless, for the period ahead it must concentrate on strengthening its intellectual leverage in a number of ways. The second requirement was to have enough voluntary contributions for the effective implementation of priority activities approved by the Council.

37. One difficulty was the rapid turnover of staff, particularly in administration. It had proved extremely difficult to attract experienced administrative personnel to work with UNEP, which had little in the way of incentives to offer in its small secretariat. Moreover, the responsibilities of UNEP covered a wide spectrum of specialization; there was no clearly defined and well established professional community from which it could recruit its substantive staff. Member Governments had been active, sometimes over-active, in assisting UNEP in its recruitment efforts, but had not always offered the highest calibre of manpower as staff or consultants. In several instances, indeed, the staff seconded by Governments had been disappointing. He recognized that the type of talent sought by UNEP was not abundant, particularly in the developing countries. Nevertheless, the response of Governments to its staff requirements needed to be better oriented.

38. The shortfall in resources compared to the target approved by the Governing Council had become a major problem in the last two years. Some countries had come forward with substantially increased contributions for the planning period 1978-1981, but unfortunately, their example had:' iri,6ely followed, and a large number of Governments had yet to make contributions. Even on the basis of pledged contributions, UNEP was still more than $24 million short of the target for the four-year period. Painful prudence in committing funds for new and important activities approved by the Council, but for which sufficient resources had not been made available, had thus been necessary. If approved programmes had not been implemented as effectively as they should have been, that was largely because of the uncertainty regarding the volume and timing of expected contributions and the shortage of resources available to implement them.

39. A further problem during the past three years was that of efficient communication and data processing. One way of dealing with that issue had been the establishment by UNEP of a sending/receiving station through the Symphonie satellite. Negotiations were very far advanced withthe United Nations in New York and Geneva, as well as with the Governments concerned: France, the Federal Republic of Germany and Switzerland. France and the Federal Republic of Germany had made a very generous offer in that respect. The matter was now in the hands of UNEP's host Government, and he hoped that Kenya would respond without further delay to UNEP's request to start the operation soon in compliance with the Headquarters Agreement for ensuring the efficient functioning of UNEP.

40. By f'ocusing attention on UNEP's difficulties during his period of office, he did not intend to inject a sense of pessimism into the Councills deliberations. UNEP had unquestionably had major achievements to its credit, including the relationship established with its partners in the United Nations system in pursuing activities to help the world community to meet environmental concerns. Furthermore, UNEP's methods of programme development, first the three-level programmatic process, then the move to joint programming, and now thematic joint programming and the methodology of SWMTEP were major accomplishments.

41. Specific areas where U@TEP's efforts had borne fruit included: the successful regional seas programme; the reflection in drafts of the new international development strategy of UNEP's v2ews and approaches on the reconciliation of economic and environmental concerns; the programme on cost/benefit analysis of environmental protection measures; the declaration of principles by multilateral development financing agencies on the incorporation of environmental considerations into their development policies, programmes and projects; the results of the seminars on alternative patterns of development and lifestyles held in co-operation with the regional economic commissions; UNEP's positive role in work on interrelationships between resources, environment, population and development; the industry seminars and the forthcoming guidelines resulting from them; the development of environmental impact assessment guidelines; the effective International Referral System (INFOTERRA) network of focal points and a number of sectoral information systems such as the industry and environmental information and data system; the important work of the Co-ordinating Committee on the Ozone Layer; assistance to Governments in establishing priorities among their environmental programmes and developing national environmental legislation and environmental machinery; the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification; the development of a global plan for the wise utilization of tropical forests; the assumption of responsibility for the Climate Impact Studies Programme; the state of the environment reports, which were receiving wide publicity and generating serious consideration of such emerging issues as carbon dioxide, firewood, toxic chemicals, environmental diseases, resistance to pesticides, and so on; the Tbilisi Plan of Action and UNEP's work on environmental education; and the reports on the environmental impacts of production and use of various sources of energy. Those achievements had called for a tremendous effort on the part of UNEP's very small staff, both present and past, and a host of senior advisers. He wished to pay tribute to them all and to the Governments, which had always encouraged and guided UNEP.

42. Despite every effort to protect and improve the environment, the new decade of the 1980s was fraught with dangerous situations. They included the destruction of the world's rain forests, encroaching desertification, the degradation or destruction of coastal lands and breeding grounds for the world's fisheries, the threatened extinction of over 1,000 animal and some 25,000 plant species and the pollution of large segments of the atmosphere, soil, rivers and seas.

43. New sets of environmental problems were emerging. One set was produced by the new developments taking place in coal liquefaction and the use of crops for alcohol production to replace oil. A second set was induced by the transfer of hazardous goods and technologies, as well as toxic wastes, from developed to developing countries. A third set of problems stemmed from the potential hazards of overfishing and of oil exploration in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. @,ihile those were serious problems, they should also be looked at as opportunities for genuine international co-operation. While the resource base for development was eroding, environmental hazards were increasing and taking more complex and wide-ranging forms. The-symptoms of environmental degradation must therefore be fought, knowledge concerning the basic causal processes expanded and mutually reinforcing solutions sought and implemented. Those solutions must have a positive impact on the entire interrelated sytem of resources, people, environment and development.

44. Such an approach required new concepts and techniques of management, in which the costs of required activities might need to be borne by groups other than those which reaped the benefits. The true justification of such endeavours where costs accrued in a different pattern from benefits was the over-all pattern of benefit for the present generation and generations yet to be born.

45. There were various ways of developing multifaceted solutions which took account of the complex system of interrelationships. One possible point of entry was spatial planning, which could increase the carrying capacity of the planet, while a second related to energy, where the pace of change was so dynamic that it afforded the leverage needed to affect positively a whole host of problems ranging from the use of materials to human settlements and patterns of society.

46.Problems and opportunities were different aspects of the same reality. The inability to look to man's long-term welfare and to accept and use change in beneficial ways was apparent in industrialized countries, where economic problems had in certain instances led not to forward-looking solutions, but to attempts to seek palliatives and to a movement away from concern for the environment. In developing countries, problems such as the advance of deserts and the disappearance of forests were not accorded the same significance as problems perceived as more immediate. The resources expended on the arms race were a further symptom of the inability to take hard decisions today to safeguard tomorrow. The real issue was the lack of commitment to the long term. The leaders of the world's nations and the institutions serving them must show the moral courage badly needed to effect the basic changes required to meet the critical problems of the years ahead.

47. The Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements

(UNCHS - Habitat) said that, since the Governing Councilis seventh session, considerable progress had been made in strengthening co-operation between UNEP and UNCHS. A number of delegations at the second regular session of the Economic and Social Council in 1979 had welcomed the agreement on complementarity between the UNCHS and UNEP programmes and looked forward to substantial results from their co-operation.

48. The Joint meeting of the two organizations' executive heads and the bureaux of their governing bodies held in December 1979 had welcomed the identification of areas in the work programmes of the two organizations - settlement planning in relation to population and environmental policies, support for research and training in settlement planning, promotion of a systems approach to rural settlement planning, global review of human settlements, energy requirements of rural settlements and the urban poor and energy conservation in building, assessment of environmental conditions in human settlements and environmental aspects of their planning and development, environmentally sound and appropriate human settlements technologies and research, and training and dissemination of information on these issues - in which they would develop future activities in close collaboration with each other and with other relevant United Nations organizations. Particular emphasis had also been placed on co-operation regarding environment and development, and the meeting had further agreed that future collaboration should include work on outer limits and the assessment of basic human needs, environmental management, industry and the environment and environmental education and training.

49. Noting the catalytic role of UNEP and the function of LJNCHS as an executing agency, the meeting had particularly emphasized the continuing priority which should be assigned to assisting Governments in identifying and formulating projects on the environmental aspects of human settlements. Finally, it had recommended that the Governing Council and the Commission on Human Settlements request the General Assembly to agree to the joint bureaux meetings being held annually, rather than biannually.

50. Following the joint meeting, UNEP and UNCHS had on 22 January 1980 concluded a memorandum of understanding concerning co-operation in the preparation of guidelines for incorporating environmental considerations in human settlements planning. The project in question would produce manuals containing general and specific guidelines on topics including, but not limited to: human settlements in fragile ecosystems; agricultural regions and rural settlements; environmentally sound and appropriate human settlements technologies and energy conservation and utilization, transportation systems and other infrastructure, especially water and waste management systems, in settlements; environmental considerations in the planning and development of large metropolitan areas and unique settlements; and environmentally sound planning of human settlements in disaster-prone areas. It would also develop practical methods for human settlements development encompassing environmental factors. UNEP would contribute 75 per cent, and UNCHS 25 per cent, of the cost of that and other joint activities, which, on the basis of a study of UNEP's programme, UNCHS felt might include: pilot projects for the demonstration of environmentally-sound human settlements technologies; a joint UNCHS/UNEP World Health Organization (WHO) project on drinking water supply and waste disposal in the cities of developing countries (including the establishment of guidelines for environmental health standards in different socioeconomic settings, and perhaps specialized hydrological and planning studies for cities faced with serious flooding problems); and promotion of alternative patterns of settlement development and lifestyles.

51. The last of those three areas of activity represented a mammoth undertaking, but one which was essential in view of the main new forces likely to shape human settlements development in developing countries over the next ten years, namely the need to conserve fuel and energy supplies, the demand for equity in the distribution of development benefits, and the renewed emphasis on indigenous cultural traditions and settlement-building practices.

52. The first of those forces would lead, because of the likelihood of continued rising oil prices, to increased emphasis on manufacturing techniques which were less dependent on imported fuels and high energy consumption, enabling countries with abundant moderate-cost labour to obtain an economic advantage, and additional access to international markets for their industrial products. It might also lead to national patterns of concentrated urban settlements effectively linked to raw materials sources, internal markets and export facilities. Few countries had to date made efforts in that direction, which would be a priority issue for the coming development decade. Economics would also have to be sought in transportation, taking account of the fact that simple replacement of private by public transport was not necessarily more energy-effective unless it served an urban pattern whose design criteria included the optimization of public-transport use. Still more fundamental was the development of settlement and land-use patterns that minimized the amount of total movement. Fortunately, cities in developing countries had tended -to expand as sets of modules containing mixtures of residence, workplaces and community facilities, and their basic structure was thus readily adaptable to the necessary changes in life-style to meet energy and fuel constraints.

53. In the past, the economic and social benefits of development in the developing countries had accrued almost entirely to a wealthy elite. Increasing literacy and improved communications, however, meant that all strata of society were aware of the disparities in their living conditions, and the masses were no longer prepared to accept their deprivations uncomplainingly. If Governments hope to maintain political stability over the next decade, they must therefore seek to meet the aspirations of a majority which, particularly as it became urbanized, was becoming fully aware of its political power. Programmes to improve the environmental and functional quality of human settlements offered the simplest and most direct method of distributing benefits to disadvantaged groups through upgrading of living conditions and the provision of such community services as water supply, sanitation, waste disposal, power, health facilities and education, all of which affected life styles as well as providing tangible economic and social benefits. Changing lifestyles would particularly affect women, freeing them from a life of drudgery and enabling them to realize their full potential as human beings.

54. As each country assimilated its traditional patterns of production and distribution into the new social order which must emerge as a result of continuing functional and economic changes, human settlements patterns would become more varied from country to country. Many of the standardized building materials, developed as a result of the assumption that development must follow the course taken in developed countries, were either oil-based or produced by energ -intensive processes, and would increase rapidly in cost in the next few years. Developing countries, faced with the increased burden placed on their foreign exchange by the import of such materials would have to meet increased construction needs by adapting traditional materials and techniques and using indigenous raw materials to develop new building components compatible with historical practices. The industrial base for such production required little importation of foreign capital,