A - Key issues, nature of UNEP’s role and measures to enhance its effectiveness
1. Environment as a world issue and UNEP’s performance of its role
11. A large number of representatives noted that the environment had become a major world issue and that as a result there were a number of significant developments in the field environment, in which UNEP had played an active role. One representative, referring to the conclusion of international agreements, described the preceding two years as very successful.
12. A number of representatives expressed their views on UNEP’s performance of its role as characterised by the four “Cs” of conceptualisation, co-ordination, catalysis and codification. One representative said that UNEP had shown strength in promoting conventions and several others expressed similar views. Another observed, that, although UNEP had achieved much of importance in conceptualisation and in the legal field, there had undoubtedly been difficulties in its co-ordinating and catalytic role, which would overcome if it was provided with facilities to act in those fields. One representative considered that UNEP was good at focusing attention on global concerns but that it did not lay enough stress on country and regional programmes. Several representative described UNEP’s task as identifying gaps and overlaps in the United Nations system as well as co-ordination. Other representative felt that UNEP’s main role lay in assisting the developing countries. One of them stressed UNEP’s function of streamlining co-operation between developed and developing countries, particularly by funding mechanisms and transfer of technology schemes. Other representatives mentioned the importance of monitoring and dissemination of information.
2. Concentration on priority issues
13. Most representatives expressed agreement with the areas of concentration contained in the Executive Director’s report. One representative considered that land degradation and the supply and quality of freshwater should precede the atmospheric issue. Another stated that activities relating to nature and conservation were rather under-represented, adding that the Executive Director should establish a coherent action programme for vulnerable ecosystems, in which tropical forests and wetlands received priority.
14. One representative emphasized that sustainable development needed to be put at the top of the priority list of all countries. Another said that, while his Government agreed that UNEP should allocate it limited resources mainly to priority projects, it should not totally neglect non-priority items such as industrial pollution and degradation of nature in developing countries. Several representatives expressed the opinion that consideration should be given to whether priority issues could be dealt with at the global or regional level. Another representative called for an appropriate division of environment-related tasks among United Nations bodies.
3. Enhancing UNEP’s effectiveness
15. There was general agreement about the desirability of enhancing UNEP's effectiveness. Some representatives mentioned the need for UNEP to acquire a greater status within the United Nations family. one representative stated that, for that reason, his Government supported the Executive Director's proposal to institutionalise an expanded bureau as a kind of standing executive committee. Other representatives also supported the latter proposal, but some were of the opinion that it did not constitute the best solution. One representative considered that the arrangement was too cumbersome to serve the sole function of maintaining contact with the bureaux of other United Nations organs. Two other representatives wondered whether use might be made of the Committee of Permanent Representatives. Still others thought that annual meetings of the Council would be a more effective solution. One representative pointed out that the Council's decision to meet once in every two years had been taken very recently, as a result of the critical financial situation of the United Nations.
16. The same representative said that he was reluctant to adopt the Executive Director's proposal that two days of the session of the Council should be devoted to considering specific sectors, such as energy, in conjunction with the ministers responsible for those fields; such meetings would not lead to any effective decision-making. He also thought that the Council had no role to play in settling environmental disputes. His Government would prefer that function to be undertaken by the International Court of Justice.
17. One representative said that, in order to strengthen UNEP, stronger political guidance was required. He therefore supported the proposals for shortening the sessions of the Council and concentrating on policy issues. Several representatives pointed out that the sessions must be attended by ministers, who were the decision-makers. Two representatives pointed out the importance of staff in connection with enhancing UNEP's effectiveness. one of them, noting that an analysis of that aspect was missing from the Executive Director's introductory report, stated that the professional capacity of the staff must match the importance paid to world environmental issues. He said that his Government was prepared to make available additional staff members. The other representative stressed the need to apply the principle of equitable geographical distribution to staff recruitment, as that would help UNEP in effective policy planning and management.
18. One representative referred to the problem of effective urgent response to environmental emergency situations, which were occurring with greater frequency. His Government had already proposed, for discussion at the current .session the creation of a centre for urgent environmental assistance. It would involve minimum additional demands on the regular budget and would not require any substantive change in the secretariat structure. A number of representatives expressed their interest in the proposal.
19. The same representative also referred to his Government's proposal to set up an international environmental control space laboratory or manned orbital station as part of a global and comprehensive environmental monitoring and control system.
4. Training and technical co-operation
20. on the subject of sound technologies, one representative suggested that the development and adoption of environmentally appropriate and affordable technologies was a bottleneck for developing countries. Another representative said that, as alternative technologies were developed, they must be put at the disposal of developing countries by effective arrangements for their transfer. She further stated that an international institute was being set up in her country to promote the development of environmentally sound technology and she hoped that it would provide a valuable contribution to the efforts being made to disseminate such technologies. A third representative, who observed that his Government had adopted the protection of the environment as one of its three highest priorities, along with housing and nutrition, said that unrestricted exchange of environmentally sound technologies, licences and experience should assist in halting environmental degradation. He praised the initiative of the preceding speaker's Government in establishing the International Institute for Environmentally Sound Technology and expressed his country's interest in participating in its activities.
21. One representative said that UNEP could devote greater efforts to training officials from developing countries. In this connection, another representative said that his country had since 1977 provided a ten-month postgraduate course for approximately 200 experts from developing countries. The course had been constantly adapted to their needs in co-operation with UNEP and UNE . SCO.
22. One representative expressed the view that UNEP activity in the sphere of pollution control was adapted mainly to sophisticated modern industries that produced manufactured goods; however, most countries in the South Asian region had agro-based industrial units. He suggested that UNEP might frame programmes with special reference to agro-based and rural industries. Another representative said that, while he endorsed the proposal by one country to establish an international environmental control space laboratory, he was himself looking for money to buy thermometers, rain gauges and other instruments in order to establish agro-meteorological weather stations. one representative called on UNEP to make greater efforts to provide hardware and software to developing countries.
5. Environmental activities at the national and regional level
23. A number of representatives gave some description of the recent development of environmental measures, both institutional and legislative, in their countries and of the major programmes initiated by their Governments. One representative regretted that most development projects funded by bilateral and multilateral lending agencies - even by the United Nations still did not undergo environmental assessment. However, the accounts given by representatives from countries at various stages of development seemed to indicate that the situation was improving. Several representatives reported that their national environmental units had been upgraded to ministries and that environment assessment procedures had been or were being adopted. Several representatives reported action taken or proposed at the national level for sustainable development. Many representatives gave examples of participation in regional or sub-regional projects. Some representatives called for specific sub-regional activity relating to the Black Sea and to the Yellow Sea. One representative stated that, in 1990, his country would host an international conference on the environmental management of enclosed coastal seas.
24. Representatives from a wide variety of countries described their concern at the common threat that the level of the seas would rise, owing to global warming, with results ranging from very serious to catastrophic.
25. A number of representatives described measures to increase public awareness of environmental problems through education and publicity. one pointed out that the implementation of any scientific measures to halt environmental degradation needed strong political will and social acceptance; unless people were fully motivated to participate actively and were direct beneficiaries of conservation activities, no effort in that field was meaningful. A number of representatives said that in their countries environmental topics were treated in text books at primary, secondary and university level. One representative said that two national universities had introduced degree courses in environmental studies and one of them offered post-graduate and doctorate degrees.
6. International environmental law
26. A considerable amount of attention was paid by representatives to recent developments in international environmental law. Repeated references were made to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol thereto, the Helsinki Declaration, the Declaration of The Hague, and the Basel Convention on Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. Many representatives announced that their Governments had signed the Montreal Protocol and Basel Convention and enumerated the list of other environmental conventions and agreements to which they adhered. A number paid tribute to the crucial assistance of UNEF in the relevant negotiations. Several representatives pointed out that, while it was encouraging that the developing countries had become involved in global environmental issues, the more developed countries had the duty to assist them in the implementation of their obligations under international treaties and conventions. In that connection, one of those representatives quoted principle (d) of the Declaration of The Hague, which read "countries to which decisions taken to protect the atmosphere shall prove to be an abnormal or special burden in view, inter alia, of the level of their development and actual responsibilities to the deterioration of the atmosphere, shall receive fair and equitable assistance to compensate them for bearing such burden".
27. The representative of Norway recalled her Government's offer to contribute 0.1 per cent of its gross national product or about $100 million a year to an international climate fund under the auspices of the United Nations, provided that matching contributions were made by other industrialised countries. She said that such a fund would support the developing countries in fulfilling the requirements of international agreements, for example, by facilitating the transfer of technology, the development of alternative technical solutions and alternative forms of energy, technical assistance and sustainable use of tropical forests. The Declaration of The Hague also recommended the creation within the United Nations of an international environmental authority. Her Government supported judicial settlements of disputes and questions of compensation in connection with trans-boundary pollution and contravention of international environmental agreements.
28. The representatives of the Netherlands announced that his Government was ready to contribute up to a maximum of 250 million guilders (approximately $US125 million) to a world climate fund When such a fund was established. He also said that the body envisaged by the Declaration of The Hague could be an environmental authority or council comparable in political influence and prestige to the Security Council. There would have to be mechanisms for monitoring and control, with access to scientific advice and an inspectorate to verify compliance with standards. In that way, there might be two environmental bodies within United Nations system, each with its own mandate. One representative suggested that it might be desirable to involve one of the main United Nations bodies, such as the Security Council, in environmental conservation machinery. The proposed 1992 United Nations conference on environment and development might study the possibility of establishing a small committee of the Security Council to deal with the environment. An international environment fund to assist the developing countries with environmentally sound and resource-saving technologies might be established by using the savings resulting from arms limitation and disarmament measures. Another representative said that his delegation deplored the proliferation of international organs without careful consideration. His Government welcomed international legal instruments which defined the responsibilities of States parties, but it wished to be assured that instruments were provided with the authority and resources to make them effective.
29. There were a number of suggestions for new conventions. The instrument which most representatives regarded as a priority matter was a framework convention on climate change, modelled perhaps on the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.
30. Another proposal which had support was that of a legally binding code of conduct in environmental matters. One of its supporters said that a prerequisite for international economic order and sustainable development was an international moral order. Other suggestions were an umbrella convention on biological diversity, a convention on deforestation and an international convention on energy. One representative proposed the formulation of an agreement on woodlands by a working group to be established by the Governing Council at its current session. The group would be asked to submit proposals to the Council at its next session. It had been observed earlier by one representative that two crucial sectors in which profound changes were necessary were energy and transportation, but concerted action on both was
hampered by the fact that there was no strong United Nations body with wide coverage in those fields. Another representative stressed the need to review existing international agreements and, where necessary, complete or strengthen or replace them. There was some feeling that the Montreal Protocol required amendment. Another representative suggested that UNEP should consider framing workable environmental law and guidelines for regional co-operation in the management of shared riparian resources.
31. Responding to some of the comments made during the debate, the Executive Director said that there had been no dissent from the view that UNEP's role should be strengthened, even with the prospect of possible institutional changes after 1992 within the United Nations system in respect of global environment problems. There had been general support for the six areas of concentration he had set out in his introductory report, subject to the introduction, under conservation of biological diversity, of the issue of biotechnology and its environmental impacts. A number of developing countries, particularly in the Latin American and Caribbean region, had stressed UNEP's role in developing mechanisms for transferring resources and technology to developing countries. He recommended that those two elements should be included in the draft decision on technical co-operation which was being discussed in the informal negotiating group.
32. A number of representatives had supported the idea of an expanded bureau or standing committee to act for the Governing Council between sessions. However, one representative had wondered whether the Committee of Permanent Representatives might function as an intersessional body and another representative had put forward the idea of an extra session of the Council in 1990. He could state categorically that an extra session would be considerably more expensive than the use of an expanded bureau, particularly if at the outset the latter's role was confined to contacts with the bureaux of other United Nations bodies. Furthermore, it was only two years since the Council itself had recommended biennial sessions and a special session once every six years to adopt the system-wide medium-term environment programme. A request for a special session would have to be submitted through the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) for approval by the General Assembly of a supplementary appropriation. Given the current financial situation of the United Nations, he feared that such approval would be difficult to obtain. As far as the Committee of Permanent Representatives was concerned, he did not feel that it was its role to go as representatives of the Council for discussions with the bureaux of other United Nations organs at the ministerial level. There had been strong support for postponing to the second week of the session the meetings of the Governing Council at the ministerial level, when the bureau for the biennium would be elected, the first week being devoted to committee work on programme and financial matters.
33. Re was gratified to learn that several Governments intended to establish national committees. The Governing Council might issue a further appeal to States on the matter.
34. The Executive Director then referred to several other issues which had been raised in the discussion. The first was the proposed global convention on climate, about Which he hoped agreement was close. However, he reminded the Council that General Assembly resolution 43153 on the protection of the global climate for present and future generations of mankind required that the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological organization and the Executive Director of UNEP, utilizing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), prepare a comprehensive review covering, inter alia, elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate. As a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, the Council must bear in mind during negotiations that it must function within that directive. He hoped that further consideration would be given to the world climate fund which had been proposed by Norway, either forthwith or at any rate in 1992. Mention had been made of a convention on genetic resources and the Federal Republic of Germany had suggested the establishment of a working group to formulate an international agreement on forests and woodlands. An international environment and development fund had also been suggested. Some of those matters might be included on the agenda for the 1992 United Nations conference on environment and development, but others, such as a climate convention and a convention on genetic resources, might be further discussed at the current session of the Governing Council.
35. Apart from suggestions for preparing a convention on climate or a code of environmentally appropriate conduct for adoption at the 1992 United Nations conference on environment and development, there had been emphasis on a stronger environmental authority to deal with major global environmental problems. It was for consideration Whether that body should be an existing organ transformed or a new institution. Other suggestions had been the creation of an environment emergency centre and an outer space laboratory for environmental monitoring. one of the recommendations in his introductory report (UNEP/GC/1515, paragraph 14 (e)) had been that the Governing Council might use its good offices to avoid international disputes on environmental issues. However, the resolution of conflict situations was another matter and it had been suggested that the appropriate body was either the Security Council or the International Court of Justice, subject to some appropriate formula.
36. One representative, responding to the Executive Director's comments, asked him to continue to explore the idea of an environmental authority. He also considered that UNEP should begin preparations for the formulation of a climate convention immediately. Another representative said that negotiations should only begin once the IPCC scientists had published their findings, however, the Executive Director pointed out that unless the Governing Council gave him precise instructions on the matter at the current session, no other opportunity would arise until the next session of the Council in 1991.