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Thematic Areas


 
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C - Subject areas

1. General remarks

247. One delegation emphasized that UNEP should mobilize, to the maximum extent possible, the assistance of the rest of the United Nations system in the implementation of activities under the various subject areas, and should be extremely vigilant in ensuring that proposals for programme development wer cost-effective, and so designed as to have a practical impact. Proliferation of meetings and preparation of reports covering well-trodden ground should be scrupulously avoided. In particular, the Governing Council needed to see evidence of how other organizations in the United Nations system were reorienting their programmes to incorporate environmental management considerations. UNEP should avoid involvement in the implementation of those activities (e.g. afforestation and fisheries) which other competent organizations within the system should undertake as a matter of course, even without financial support from UNEP: that conviction was reiterated by a large number of delegations in subsequent reference to specific subject areas. A number of delegations stressed the importance of UNEP reviewin,-, its approach to the existing involvement in the subject areas concerned, and of ensuring that new activities proposed were carried out only within existing funding. The importance of maintaining the global character of th- programme and, at the same time, catalyzing practical action at the rp,7!onal and national levels was stressed. A number of delegations questioned the reasoning behind the proposed revisions to various goals. The secretariat explained that reformulation of goals in several subject arf-a.s had been prompted by consultations with other United, Nations organizations, findings of various expert meetings held in compliance with the Governing Council's directives, and the exo(-rience of programme development.

2. Human settlements and human health

(a) Human settlements

248. Many delegations expressed their satisfaction at the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding between UNEP and UNCHS, which explicitly stated the interaction between human settlements q-.nd the environment, and between the two agencies. The understanding would promote co-operation and the development of specific policies regarding environmental considerations in human settlements, particularly in the fields of planning and technology, but care must be taken in planning joint projects to ensure that UNEP's involvement did not exceed its mandate. Some delegations mentioned in particular the nine topics listed by the Executive Director of UNCHS in his statement in plenary, and proposed that UNEP play a lesser role in the first five, although the remaining four were applicable to U,,TEP's mandate. Other delegations supporting that view, sug-ested that UNEP should confine itself to the effects of settlement development on the natural environment, thus avoiding duplication of effort and possible conflict between the two organizations. However, many delegations proposed that UN-PP undertake additional work in a number of other fields. For example, development of human settlements should bear in mind the essential sanitary and space requirements of any dwelling, and care must be taken to promote a healthy social, cultural and economic environment. More emphasis should be placed on the human factor, bearing in mind traditional cultural values.

249. Some delegations considered UNEP's human settlements activities to be satisfactory and comprehensive, while others called for further work on the integral planning of human settlements, using environmentally sound management techniques, renewable and. Non-polluting energy sources, and eco-sustainable technology. It was pointed out that designs appropriate in temperate zones could not be applied to tropical regions, and reference was made to the need to encourage preservation of agricultural land since alternative soil use was often neglected in favour of settlement. The basic infrastructure for the community must be established, and statutory basic health standards must be maintained. One delegation stressed the need for balance growth between regions, and the recommendations of the regional meetings on human settlements finance and management were endorsed.

250. Some delegations expressed satisfaction with the objectives and work plan for the coming period, including the statement of urgent needs, and approved the proposed revision of goal 12. 8/ However, two questioned whether the establishment of a global network of institutions to test and apply the guidelines being developed on human settlements would be the most cost-effective use of available resources, and suggested that the reference to it be deleted from the goal. Another delegation, supported by two others, said that rather the goal should be revised to read "... guidelines on appropriate and environmentally sound technology applicable to human settlements planning@'. As it stood, the pro-nosed version of goal 12 incorporated a number of goals for specific programme elements which were lost in the generalization. Regarding the proposed work plan, one delegation suggested that regional seminars on environmentally sound human settlements technology would be more useful than an interregional seminar, since problems varied greatly between regions.

251. The representative of UNESCO referred to the success of the study of urban areas as systems which was being conducted under the MAB programme, and called for I continued support for this project and for training of human settlements managers.

(b) Health and of the environment

252. Many delegations expressed approval of the collaborative activities being undertaken by UNEP in co-operation with other specialized agencies, in particularWHO, ILO and FAO, and emphasized the need for continued joint efforts which would enhance the catalytic role of UNEP in a field in which it was difficult to draw demarcations between the activities and responsibilities of various agencies. The UNEP/V7HO programme on the health effects of priority pollutants was commended, and it was recommended that its scope be expanded and additional similar projects encouraged, particularly on vector-borne disease control, tropical diseases, sanitation and disposal of wastes. Appreciation was expressed of the work done so far on the impact of urban development on health, but more concrete action by UNEP wa.s advocated to promote co-operation and exchange of information between developed and developing countries. It was recommended that UNEP undertake more concrete action in those countries where environmental health required particular attention. Several delegations expressed approval of the joint work on exposure ,limits and permissible levels of pollutants in air and water, and stated that UNEP's involvement would enlarge the scope of activities in that field, particularly with regard to the work on adverse effects of heavy metals and toxic concentrations which was of particular importance to developed and developing countries alike. Two delegations considered the International Programme on Chemical Safety being conducted by UNEP, 14110 and ILO as a top priority activity,

JOL: and urged greater FAo involvement.

253. Some delegations emphasized the hazards of chemical, and specifically of toxic wastes, pointing out that although much work had already been done by WHO, by the IRPTC and industry programmes of UNEP and by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), more work was needed, particularly on controlling the export or transfer of hazardous wastes from one country to another. UNEP would have an important role to play in the development of guidelines for the safe and appropriate disposal of such wastes.

254. A number of delegations expressed support for UNEP's involvement in developing environmentally sound control measures for tropical diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis, in view of the toxicity of the chemicals commonly used at present and the observed resistance of some strains to the most common pesticides. EDidemioiogical research should be intensified, and a parasitical and microbiological monitoring system similar to GEMS should be developed. Two delegations Mentioned the importance of a safe and adequate water supply in promoting health and containing the spread of infectious and vector-borne diseases. Another urged more attention to promoting a health environment for children and to the pre-natal impact of pollution.

255. One delegation endorsed the proposed work plan, objectives and revision of goal 6, while another recommended deletion from the revised goal 6 of the phrase as a contribution to action plans".

256. The representative of FAO emphasized the Organization's co-operation with UNEP in its activities in the field of integrated pest management, food contamination and pesticide residues. Negotiations were under way with FAO concerning the UNEP/IMO/ILO International Programme on Chemical Safety. In the meantime, FAO would collaborate with the Programme under the co-ordination mechanisms established within the Codex Alimentarius.

257. The representative of WHO outlined the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), which would carry out and disseminate evaluations of the effects of chemicals on human health and the quality of the environment; develop guidelines on exposure limits; develop appropriate methodology for toxicity testing, epidemiological studies, and risk assessment; co-ordinate laboratory testing when an international approach was appropriate; develop information for coping with accidents; and promote the training of man-power and technical co-operation. The Programme brought together existing activities, and would initiate new ones to the extent to which additional voluntary funds become available. At present, resources were available from WHO and UNEP, as well as ILO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Eight countries had made firm pledges for additional resources in cash and in kind, and it was hoped that pledges would be forthcoming from at least eight more countries. The programme currently commanded resources of $1.5 million, and possibly an additional $1.1 million, including the resources which countries were willing to make available to their own national institutions so far, 21 in 12 countries - which would assume lead functions in the Programme. IRPTC and IARC would also assume lead functions in their respective fields. For co-ordination between UNEP, ILO and WHO, an Intersectoral Working Committee had been established to provide guidance to the Central Management Unit. There was also a Programme Advisory Committee and a Technical Committee. The Programme Advisory Committee, at its first session (9 to 11 April 1980), had assigned highest priority to evaluation, dissemination of risk assessments and the training of man-power, and, so far as specific groups of chemicals were concerned, to household chemicals, food additives, pesticides, and certain industrial chemicals. He appealed to national environment protection agencies to support the Programme by r,qakin- available the services of their national institutions.

258. At the conclusion of its debate on human settlements and human health, the Committee recommended for adoption by the Governing Council, as amended by the delegation of France, a draft decision on export and disposal of hazardous chemical wastes sponsored by the delegations of Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, United States of America and Uruguay (see annex I, decision 8/8).

259. The secretariat indicated that financial implications of the decision could be borne by the Fund programme reserve, in so far as the requested report to the Governing Council at its ninth session was concerned.

260. The delegation of Canada stated its understanding that the wastes referred to in the decision did not include radio-active wastes.

261. The delegation of Australia stated that in implementing the decision, UNEP should concentrate on the needs of developing countries, particularly with regard to information. It should avoid duplication of work pursued by ECE and OECD, and the decision should not detract from the resources allocated to IRPTC.

3. Terrestrial ecosystems

(a) General remarks

262. The view that the World Conservation Strategy provided a broad basis for

development of UNEP's further programme in terrestrial ecosystems was widely shared, and it was suggested that it should influence the formulation of the new international development strategy, since conservation of nature and carefully planned evolution of ecosystems were vital to sustainable development, continued productivity of natural resources and minimization of avoidable costs of economic development arising from environmental neglect.

263. Two delegations felt that the proposed modification of goals in respect of several subareas made it difficult to evaluate the fairness of the proposed budgetary allocations, since the reformulated goals sometimes related to more than one subarea, and their specific relation to those subareas needed clarifying. Itwas also observed that examination of urgent needs for action by subarea alone could lead to unsatisfactory results. A better mechanism was needed to determine priorities and resource allocations within a unified framework. Moreover, it was essential to ensure increasing substantive and financial involvement of such organizations as UNESCO and FAO in subareas which were of concern to them.

(b) Arid and semi-arid lands ecosystems and desertification

264.It was observed that effective desertification control activities required theintegration of various sectoral policies and measures, for example in respect of soil, water and forestry management, within a unified framework. Technical assistance to countries needed to be strengthened, and national capabilities for training of the needed personnel enhanced. The regional offices of UNEP in @particular should play an active role in establishing and promoting centres for such @training. It was emphasized that reafforestation was crucial to desertification cont rol and reference was made in that connexion to the promising Green Belt project '@,in North Africa. I-Thile there was general support for the proposed activities, one ,delegation commented that they contained few action-oriented field projects.

(c) Trop ical woodlands and forest ecosystems

265. Most delegations agreed that tropical deforestation had assumed serious proportions and urgent measures were needed to avert the disturbing trends in the affected areas. The Committee noted the versatile,, far-reaching and globally significant role played by tropical forest ecosystems in economic production and the provision of industrial raw materials and food, the control of soil erosion, desertification and salinization, the regulation of water systems, the maintenance of favourable micro-climatic patterns, etc. Some national activities to control deforestation were described and the usefulness of FAO/UNEP world-wide assessment of tropical forest resources was noted.

266. The Committee expressed appreciation of UNEP's successful collaboration with FAO and UNESCO in preparations for the Meeting of Experts on Tropical Forests as well as of its results. Several delegations endorsed the recommendations of the Meeting, and the view wis expressed that they provided a useful framework for the development of comprehensive and integrated international programmes for wise use of tropical forests. The proposed follow-up action, including the proposal to convene a second meeting of experts to finalize a detailed plan for control of tropical deforestation, was supported by several delegations. In so doing ' an integrated approach should be taken, stressing the important socioeconomic as well as physical variables. The Executive Director's proposal to transmit the report of the expert meeting to Governments to obtain their substantive reaction was considered sound. However, the importance of receiving substantial information was emphasized, to enable the second meeting of experts to be held in time for its report and other findings to be transmitted to member States sufficiently in advance of a Governing Council session. Some delegations, moreover, felt that Governments needed more time to study the recommendations; it would thus be premature to recommend action on the report of the Meeting at the present stage. One delegation said that at least those recommendations of the Meeting relating to control of incursion into forest areas, land-use policy and planning to promote optimum use of tropical forest potential, information dissemination and exchange and education and training should be put into effect urgently. It was also important to ensure that global action plans for tropical forests were fully consistent with national and regional plans. Two delegations stated that any international action in the field of tropical forests had to be based on recognition of the full sovereignty of States over their natural resources and the principal role of regional mechanisms. Reference was made to the existing regional co-operation in Latin America under the Treaty for Amazonic Co-operation.

267. Two other delegations felt that for effective performance of UNEP's unique role, following the detailed and comprehensive report of the meeting, increased budgetary allocation was uncalled for. They also felt that the newly-proposed programme goals in tropical woodlands and forest ecosystems were inappropriate for various reasons, particularly since their formulation would tend to create a major imbalance in comparison with specific 1982 goals established for other parts of the programme: if the contents of the appendix were to be considered as a planning tit-ne-framel there would be less difficulty. It was suggested that a single goal for 1982 should be considered, leaving room for a thorough examination of long-term goals for UNEP's entire programme to be developed for consideration at the Governing Council's tenth session. One delegation suggested that UNEP should focus attention on developing and promoting integrated approaches to tropical forest management which took account of the socioeconomic causes of deforestation. Another asked why reference to the world-wide trees programme Previously -proposed to the Council had become increasingly less specific.

268. One delegation stressed the need to establish representative networks of protected areas of tropical forests, promote rational use of secondary forests so as to minimize pressures on closed forests, and establish institutional mechanisms for ensuring that international timber companies reimbursed to the countries concerned the full costs, including those relating to environmental damage, of their operations. It was proposed that UNEP should develop, in co-operation with FAO, a code of conduct for firms engaged in timber extraction in tropical forests area.s. UNEP should also encourage industrialized countries and aid agencies to support national programmes relating to conservation of tropical forests. ITise use of tropical forest products should be encouraged in importing countries, which should also try to achieve a greater measure of self-sufficiency in timber.

269. Various delegations referred to demonstration projects in environmental management of forest ecosystems, development of forestry systems to restore degraded environment, technical assistance in monitoring of deforestation, taxonomic and ecological research in forestry conservation, research to combine forestry development with economic development planning, establishment of regional training centres in forestry management, and exchange of information on national forest management programmes as areas for priority action under the programme. One delegation suggested that UNEP should assist in the conduct of a case study in assessment of tropical deforestation in South-East Asia. Another requested continued assistance to West and Central African countries for tropical forest monitoring and management and the establishment of a regional information and documentation centre on tropical ecology, in conformity with past decisions. Since tropical deforestation was a serious problem in areas of nutritional deficiency and fuelwood shortage, it was suggested that forestry management programmes should have food production (agro-forestry) components, and should include planting of tree species which would ensure a sustainable provision of fuelwood to local populations. It was observed that conservation of tropical forest ecosystems should form an integral part of rural development programmes. It was felt that UNEP and other international organizations should strengthen and assist national conservation programmes and that, in view of the importance of the problem, the budgetary allocation to the subarea should be increased.

270. One delegation emphasized that, particularly since the primary cause of tropical deforestation appeared to be clearance of land for agriculture, FAO had a direct responsibility for promoting and implementing programmes to reafforest and conserve tropical forest ecosystems. In view of FAO's plans to convene the Committee on Forestry Development during 1980, UNEP's proposal for another meeting on a related subject was not advisable. It was stressed that strong international support needed to be provided to the programmes of FAO, URESCO and other United Nations organizations dealing with tropical forests. International co-operation should be mobilized to design coordinated programmes in respect of soils, climate, tropical forests, genetic resources and other closely related subjects of great environmental significance. A proposal was made that UNEP should consider convening thematic joint programming meetings on various parts of a comprehensive programme on conservation of tropical forests, including agro-forestry and community forestry.