Resources for:
  Governments
  Scientists
  Journalists
  Civil Society
  Business Persons
  Children and Youth

Thematic Areas


 
 Printable Version
 

DRAFT PRINCIPLES OF CONDUCT FOR THE GUIDANCE OF STATES IN THE CONSERVATION AND HARMONIOUS EXPLOIIEATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES SHARED BY TWO OR MORE STATES

403. The Governing Council considered agenda item 12 at its 73rd meeting, on 20 May 1977. The Council had before it a note by the Executive Director thereon (UNEP/GC/101 and Corr.1), to which was annexed the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on Natural Resources Shared by Two or More States on the work of its third session (UNEP/IG-7/3).

404. In an introductory statement, the Executive Director said that, although he favoured one of the three specific courses of action proposed in his note 40 (UNEP/GC/101 and Corr.1, para. 4), the door was left open for other options. He would implement whatever measures the Governing Council considered most appropriate.

405. Several delegations commended the work of the Working Group and considered that the activities of UNEP in that area were essential to the further development of the principles of the Stockholm Declaration, and environmental law in general; the relevance in that connexion of the principles contained in General Assembly resolutions 3129 (XXVIII) and 3281 (XXIX) was also stressed. Those delegations suggested that the Executive Director should reconvene, as soon as possible, the Working Group, which should also be open to experts from other interested member States of the Governing Council. Other delegations also took the view that, despite the complexity of the issues, the difficulties in reaching concrete and defined principles of conduct and insufficient time, the Working Group had made substantial progress in discharging its tasks and could, if reconvened, achieve further progress on the draft principles of conduct and reach the required consensus.

406. Other delegations favoured acceptance of the report on the third session of the Working Group as the final report, and its transmission to the General Assembly at its thirty-second session, since the Assembly was the most appropriate body to handle such a highly legal and political issue. One delegation maintained that the matter required a careful, time-consuming and comprehensive approach which the International Law Commission was ideally equipped to undertake. Another delegation, while supporting the involvement of UNEP, felt that the Committee on Natural Resources also had an important role to play. Yet another delegation, while maintaining that the question of shared natural resources called for bilateral agreements, wherever possible, considered that UNEP had a positive contribution to make in providing advice and making recommendations to interested States on the formulation of guidelines and principles in cases where environmental issues were also involved.

407. One delegation felt that transmitting the report to the General Assembly should be seen as an interim measure aimed primarily at informing the Assembly of the achievements and difficulties. It further suggested that the Working Group should not be immediately dissolved; because of the important environmental component of the problem, UNEP was the most appropriate United Nations body to deal with it. UNEP was not only entitled to take an interest in the equitable sharing of common resources by States, but also had a duty to see that that was done in the interests of good-neighbourliness and sound environmental practice. The Working Group should be enlarged and its terms of reference amended to give it the status of a standing committee of the Governing Council, so that it could keep the whole issue under review until a more satisfactory conclusion was reached. Initially, the work of the committee would be purely exploratory and none of its recommendations would be binding on Governments.

408. Two delegations took the view that a clearer definition of natural resources shared by two or more States was essential to further progress in the work of the Working Group. It was suggested that it might be preferable to formulate itemized definitions based on specific examples, rather than to seek water-tight definitions.

Action by the Governing Council

409. At its 73rd meeting, on 20 May 1977, the Governing Council considered a draft decision on co-operation in the field of the environment concerning natural resources shared by two or more States submitted by Canada, Finland, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines and the United States of America.

410. The Executive Director said that reconvening and expanding the Working Group, as requested in the draft decision, would have certain financial implications, and that the additional expenditures would have to be met from the programme reserve. He recalled the mandate assigned to the Executive Director in Governing Council decision 44 (III), to establish an intergovernmental Working Group of experts drawn from among the member States of the Governing Council and selected on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, and expressed his concern that the equitable geographical balance might be upset if the reconvened Working Group were open to experts from other member States of the Governing Council. He wondered whether the proposed draft decision implied a change in the mandate entrusted to him under decision 44 (III) and whether it would not be appropriate to place a ceiling on the membership of the Working Group. He pointed out that UNEP had borne the travel expenses of certain members of the Working Group and drew attention to the financial implications which an open-ended Working Group would entail.

411. the delegation of Kuwait said it doubted whether further meetings of the Working Group would produce any substantial agreement. Moreover, any increase in the membership of such a Working Group would further harm chances of reaching a consensus. The delegation of Senegal also expressed concern that an increase in membership might create more difficulties.

412. The representative of Brazil said that, although his delegation did not favour the reconvening of the Working Group, it would not stand in the way of a consensus on the draft decision. He reiterated Brazil's misgivings about the wisdom of adopting decisions 44 (III) and 77 (IV).

413. The representatives of Poland and Romania shared the view that the nucleus of the Working Group should be maintained in accordance with existing arrangements and the principle of an equitable geographical distribution. The Group should be open to other member States of the Governing Council, but at their own expense. The Polish delegation added that not more than two sessions of the Working Group should be held before the sixth session of the Governing Council, and at least one session of the Working Group should be held at Geneva. On behalf of the socialist States, he proposed certain amendments to the draft decision.

414. The representative of Canada said that, although the sponsors of the draft decision and delegations which had suggested amendments were aware of the financial implications, they felt that the language of the draft decision would permit the nucleus group to be maintained under existing arrangements. States interested in joining the Working Group would be expected to bear their own expenses, without prejudice, however, to requests from developing countries which might wish to be represented. The Executive Director should meet such requests in the normal fashion and provide appropriate support. There was general agreement among sponsors of the draft decision and other delegations that there should be no more than two sessions of the reconvened Working Group before the sixth session of the Governing Council.

415. The Executive Director urged member States of the Governing Council which were not members of the working Group but which might wish to participate in an expanded Working Group, to inform the secretariat accordingly before the end of the fifth session.

Action by the Governing Council

416. At its 73rd plenary meeting, on 20 May 1977, the Governing Council adopted by consensus, as orally revised by the representative of Canada, a draft decision submitted by the delegations of Canada, Finland, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines and the United States of America on co-operation in the field of the environment concerning natural resources shared by two or more States (decision 99 (V)). 23/