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B - Relationships with non-governmental organizations

471, The Governing Council considered agenda item 17 at its 74th meeting on 24 May 1977. The Council had before it a note by the Executive Director on relationships with non-governmental organizations (UNEP/GC/105).

472. In-an introductory statement, the Executive Director drew attention to the activities carried out by UNEP in conjunction with the Environment Liaison Board. Non-govermental organizations (NGOS) had met immediately before the Council session in the International Assembly of Non-governmental Organizations Concerned with the Environment; it was for them to indicate precisely where they saw themselves in relation to the over-all UNEP programme. The growing emphasis on non-governmental youth organizations was justified by their demonstrated support for the cause of the environment. In consulting NGOs regarding the Level One overviews and the development of the industry programme, and in arranging for their participation in the United Nations Conference on Desertification, UNEP was continuing to enlist the support and collaboration of such organizations.

473. Delegations which took part in the debate generally welcomed the ways in which the Executive Director had intensified working relationships with NGCA, in which the Environment Liaison Centre, and. NGOs in general, had co-operated. Since NGOs had. a considerable amount of expertise and were the main channel of communication between policy makers and the general public, co-operation with them was useful and necessary for Governments and international organizations alike. That was especially true for UNEP, with its important role in coordinating and initiating environmental action and promoting environmental awareness. Non-governmental organizations had awakened and sustained public interest, and spurred or supplemented governmental action, in environmental protection. In many fields, and in connexion with World Environment Day in particular, they had an extremely valuable role to play.

474. Delegations noted with satisfaction the consultation with NGOs regarding the Level One overviews and the development of the industry programme; it was felt that the practice should continue and that links with organizations such as the Environmental Liaison Centre should be strengthened even further. One delegation suggested that the Centre should be supported by UNEP. Delegations expressed the hope that non-governmental organizations would be given opportunities to participate in and receive information and documentation on forthcoming conferences, such as the Desertification Conference and the intergovernmental conference on environmental education.

475. Two delegations stressed that the relationships of UPEP with NGOs should, where possible, be institutionalized, and one of them welcomed the identification of a large number of potential NGO sources for IRS. Another delegation attention to the fact that groups of NGOs often covered important areas to UNEP, such as conservation, science and industry; UNEP would benefit seeking the guidance and drawing on the expertise of such organizations degree than at present. The participation of NGOs in industry seminars by UNEP was a welcome move which would help the organization to keep in developments and thinking in industry.

476. The representative of the Environment Liaison Centre, speaking also on behalf of the NGOs attending the fifth session of the Governing Council, stressed that expressions of support and hopes for strengthened working relationships with NGOs must be translated into action by Governments, the United Nations and NGOs themselves, and made a plan for more understanding and acceptance of the constructive role NGOs could play in environmental matters.

477. The Environment Liaison Centre, like UNEP, constituted a link between north and south. It sought support to set up regional workshops, assist third world environmentalists in attending conferences and develop collaboration between NGOs around the world. That process was facilitated by the computer file developed from the UNEP-assisted survey of 3,500 NGOs concerned with the environment; in carrying out the survey, the Centre had paid particular attention to organizations in developing countries, most of which had not previously been listed or modified.

478. Not enough had been done to establish an information programme designed to create a global awareness of environmental issues. NGOs were anxious to become partners in the development and implementation of such a programme. Greater financial support was required from UTTEP to help ensure wider involvement in World Environment Day in all parts of the world.

479. With respect to environmental education, he was pleased to note that the Executive Director had undertaken to raise the question of access to the intergovernmental conference on environmental education by all NGOs concerned with the environment. It was to be hoped that the Soviet Union, as host country, would offer, through UNEP or the Environment Liaison Centre, to assist NGOs hoping to attend the conference.

480.He urged delegations to seek to ensure that NGOs were given a positive role in the institutional arrangements for human settlements. The low level of pledges and payments by Governments to the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation and the small amount of money and staff devoted to human settlements in UNEP suggested that the area did not receive the priority it deserved.

481. He further urged UNEP to take a lead in helping to establish global controls in respect of new forms of biological, chemical and nuclear dangers and in developing a convention to limit trade in toxic substances still exported by countries which had restricted their use at home.

482. It was to be regretted that UNEP stood aside from the question of the development of nuclear power and the transfer of nuclear material. Document IAEA-CN.36/361 (v), presented on behalf of UNEP to the International Conference on Nuclear Power and its Fuel Cycle in Salzburg in May 1977, minimized the risks and short-comings of nuclear power,

483. UNEP's many achievements in spite of inadequate funds and manpower, such as the Mediterranean programme, had to be applauded. Nevertheless, the time was ripe for critical assessment not only of UNEP, but also of Governments' environmental actions and of NGOs themselves.

484. The Executive Director said that when he had addressed the International Assembly of Hon-governmental Organizations Concerned with the Environment in May 1977, he had undertaken to raise the question of access to the intergovernmental conference on environmental education for NGOs concerned with environmental education, not for all NGOs concerned with the environment. With respect to UNEP's financial support to the Environment Liaison Centre in connexion with World Environment Day, the policy of UNEP remained that World Environment Day should not absorb an excessive amount of money. He did not agree that the UNEP paper presented at the International Conference on Nuclear Power and its Fuel Cycle

minimized the dangers of nuclear power.-, to his mind, the paper was scientifically highly objective.

Action by the Governing Council

485. At its 74th meeting on 24 May 1977, the Governing Council adopted by consensus a draft decision suggested by the President on relationships with non-government organizations (decision 103 (V)). 41/