V - Coordination QUESTIONS
1. In considering agenda item 7, the Council had before it the following
documents: a summary of the documentation submitted under the item (UNEPIGC.1518); chapter II of the 1987 Annual Report of the Executive Director (UNEPIGC.1513); chapter II of the 1988 Annual Report of the Executive Director (UNEPIGC.1514); three memoranda of understanding co-operation between UNEP and other agencies of the United Nations system (UNEPIGC.15/Inf.4, annex); the joint progress report of the Executive Directors of UNEP and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) (UNEPIGC.1518/Add.1); the 1987 and 1988 reports of the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination (UNEPIGC.1518/Add.2 and 3); and a note by the Executive Director on guidelines for the revision of the system-wide medium-term environment programme for the period 1990-1995 (UNEPIGC.1518/Add.4).
Item 7 (a): Co-operation between UNEP and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)
2. At its lst meeting, the Council heard a statement by the Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), who began by referring to the impressive success which UNEP and the world environmental movement as a whole had enjoyed during the past years. Those very advances in global environmental action threw into stark relief the issue of sustainable development, a goal which apparently posed a fundamental dilemma: the higher economic growth to which countries aspired depleted natural resources faster; that led to larger environmental changes and worse deterioration. That negative impact was clearly visible in settlements, where much of the economic growth was centred. He suggested that the key to solving the dilemma lay in searching for other tools to bridge the gap between development and long-term environmental sustainability, focusing in the first instance on technological and policy innovation, together with better planning and management.
3. He said that slowing growth, even if politically tenable, would lead to rural poverty and environmental despoliation: in other words, it would exacerbate other problems such as desertification and soil exhaustion. Somehow, means had to be found of minimizing the environmental problems which accompanied urban growth, which undoubtedly posed a major challenge to both innovation and management. Nor was the impact confined to the urban settlements: the intensification of city-based activities had repercussions on the urban-rural region and its natural resource base. Rivers, estuaries and coastal zones were polluted by sewage, for example, and groundwater quality was similarly affected by infiltration from uncontrolled dump sites. Such negative impacts were not always easy to identify and were difficult to price because the damages often appeared after a time lag. Under pressure to cope with the urgent need for infrastructure expansion, urban authorities had tended to undervalue the long-run benefits of sound environmental management.
4. He reminded representatives that the urban poor, who made up 30-60 per cent of urban population in developing countries, were the people most affected. Health problems were foremost among the environmental concerns of those inhabitants and nobody could adequately measure the costs in terms of human suffering and the deteriorating quality of life. There was no doubt that coping with the environmental consequences would strain the financial and managerial resources of local governments. A substantial investment in institution-building and improved operations and maintenance would be involved. Beyond a certain point, responsibility belonged to state or national governments which, however, also had financial and technical limitations in the developing countries. An effort of broader scope was required, which must undoubtedly include concerted action on the international level and the active engagement of the global environmental movement. While donor Governments and multilateral financial institutions had assisted in several sectors, including urban development and industry. there was sometimes uncertainty about the best means of making policy and institutional changes and of developing local capacity so that the environmental objectives of urban development could be met. Policies would have to be developed and action taken at both national and international levels to address priority issues. Maximum use must be made of innovations and new technologies that were environment-friendly.
5. More attention would have to be paid to training those responsible for planning, design and appraisal of urban development programme projects. In that connection, Habitat had published in 1988 three volumes of environmental guidelines for the planning and management of human settlements. At its recent session, the Commission on Human Settlements had decided that the co-operation between Habitat and UNEP should embrace the application of those guidelines to a few major metropolitan areas in developing countries.
6. At the same session, the Commission had recommended to the General Assembly that "the critical role and contribution of human settlements and urbanization to environmentally sound and sustainable development and the impact of human settlements and urbanization upon the environment be among the issues to be considered and addressed within the context of a United Nations Conference on environment and development".
7. Concluding his statement, the Executive Director of Habitat stressed the urgency of action to implement the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000, which both the Commission and subsequently the General Assembly had adopted in 1986.
8. In accordance with the decision taken by Council in organizing the work of the session, item 7 (a) was discussed in the Committee of the Whole, which considered it in conjunction with its discussion of programme 6 (Human settlements and the environment) under agenda item 8 (see chapter VI, paragraphs 129-137 below). The Committee also approved a draft decision on the subject, which was subsequently adopted by the Council as decision 15/18.
Item 7 (b): Reports of the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination
9. Item 7 (b) was considered by the Council at the llth meeting of the session, on 23 May while those parts of the ACC reports dealing with the co-ordination and follow-up of the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification were, in accordance with the decision of the Council on the organization of the work of the session, considered by the Committee of the Whole in conjunction with its consideration of programme 3.2 (Arid lands and desertification) under agenda item 8 (see chapter VI, paragraphs 37-48 below).10. The Executive Director introduce the 1987 and 1988 reports of the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination. He recalled that it had been decided that reports on environmental issues submitted to the General Assembly by other United Nations bodies should also be made available to the Governing Council for comments to the Assembly. The first part of the 1988 ACC report covered the issue of environmentally sound and sustainable development. Another element of the 1988 report was the revision of the system-wide medium-term environment programme for the period 1990-1995. The Council had decided by its decision SS.I/3 that it would provide policy guidance for that revision at its sixteenth regular session. Accordingly, the Executive Director had addressed letters to States seeking their views on possible changes to be made in the system-wide programme. In view of the fact that few Member States had provided specific guidance, the Council might wish to decide after the substantive discussion of item 7 (c) by the Committee of the Whole, that the programme should be revised on the basis of its mid-term review.
11. The 1988 ACC report had also indicated the main activities of the United Nations system on some emerging environmental issues, namely, climate change, hazardous wastes and biological diversity. Because of the importance of the issues involved, ACC had decided to take up the subject in more detail at its session in April 1989.
12. The observer for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) referred to the active participation of the Agency in the implementation of the system-wide medium-term environment programme. Very recently, in connection with the increased concern about the dumping of hazardous wastes, work had begun within IAEA for an internationally agreed code of practice on international transactions involving nuclear wastes. However, it seemed that there had been a misunderstanding as to the views of the IAEA on energy issues as they had appeared in the Agency's report on its contribution to sustainable development, which included issues ranging from nuclear accident response to assessment of marine pollution. IAEA had not expressed any doubt about the necessity of a low-energy scenario, but had questioned the realism of the specific scenario presented by the World Commission on Environment and Development, which was at variance with authoritative forecasts. Global primary energy consumption was currently increasing by about 2 per cent per annum and significant increases were projected for developing countries. For example, China had plans to double and India to triple its coal consumption between the 1980s and the year 2000. By the end of the century, those two countries would use more coal than was consumed currently by all the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). That trend was typical for developing countries, which in most cases had no option but to rely on fossil fuels. IAEA's analysis of the World Commission scenario had not indicated possible changes in energy policies, but the Director-General of the Agency had in several recent statements stressed the need for conservation, for increases of nuclear and hydro-power and for research and development on renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy. He had further emphasized that no single one of those options would suffice to counter the threat of climatic changes, but that all would be needed. His conclusions were broadly in line with the views expressed at the current session of the Governing Council.
13. In conclusion, the observer stated that IAEA would co-operate with other organizations of the United Nations family, as well as scientific expert bodies dealing with energy, to ensure that comprehensive data and sound analysis were available to policy-makers, in particular in the context of IPCC and the preparatory work for the proposed 1992 United Nations conference on environment and development.
14. The Council subsequently considered and adopted a decision on the reports of the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination, the text of which is contained in annex I to the present proceedings. Comments made at the time of adoption may be found in chapter II above.
Item 7 (c): Guidelines for the revision of the system-wide
medium-term environment Programme for the period 1990-1995
15. At the lst meeting of the session, the Council decided to allocate item 7 (c) (Guidelines for the revision of the system-wide medium-term environment programme for the period 1990-1995) to the Committee of the Whole, which discussed it at its 9th meeting, on 19 May.
16. Introducing the item, the Assistant Executive Director, office of the Environment Programme, noted that following Governing Council decision SS.113, the Executive Director had sent a letter to the 159 Member States of the United Nations seeking the views of Governments on possible revisions to the programme. He had received 27 responses, of which only 14 had contained substantive suggestions: seven more responses had been received after the deadline. The suggestions received had included general recommendations on the contents of the programme; amendments to specific paragraphs or sections; and the inclusion of new subjects or the rearrangement of subjects within the document.
17. Several representatives expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of action on the part of the secretariat in this matter. Those representatives said that the system-wide medium-term environment programme, as the guiding document for the environment programme of the United Nations system, should be consistent with General Assembly resolutions 42/186 and 421187.
18. Some representatives suggested the preparation by the Executive Director of policy guidelines for the revision of the programme to be presented to the Governing Council at its sixteenth session so that the revision of the Programme could be considered at its seventeenth session. Other representatives objected, noting that this would make it impossible to implement the revision and would further exacerbate the conflicting demands on resources at a time when the 1992 United Nations conference on environment and development would also require attention.
19. The Assistant Executive Director repeated that the Executive Director had been unable to prepare guidelines because he had not received sufficient guidance from Governments.
20. The Committee proceeded to approve a draft decision on the subject, which
was subsequently adopted by the Council as decision 15121.