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C - A 1992 United Nations conference on environment and development

The majority of representatives expressed support for the convening of a United Nations conference on environment and development in 1992, although one representative cautioned against diverting resources or delaying action that had to be taken before 1992. A number of views were expressed regarding the preparatory committee, some representatives favouring an open-ended Governing Council, while others preferred an independent intergovernmental committee. Several representatives stated that regional meetings and reports should form an important part of the preparatory process. Many representatives emphasized the need to involve other United Nations bodies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and industry both in the preparatory process and in the conference itself. One representative proposed that an ad hoc secretariat should be set up under the leadership of an official directly appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General.

46. A wide variety of topics was proposed for discussion at the conference: A number of representatives mentioned the strengthening of the role of UNEP and other United Nations bodies in promoting environmental co-operation. one representative referred to UNEP's future role. Several proposed the establishment of an ecological security council and an emergency centre for environmental assistance, while one representative mentioned supra-national mechanisms for the protection of the environment and future developments in the international co-operation structure and another representative the monitoring and forecasting of ecological disasters. A number of representatives suggested a code of environmental conduct and others a definition of environmental responsibility. The same representatives modalities of funding and another representative suggested the establishment of an environment fund financed by savings on armaments. One representative mentioned the transfer of technology, increasing public awareness, and the planning, management and evaluation of the environment. Another representative supported the dissemination of safe and resource-saving techniques. The following topics were each mentioned by one representative: promotion of the concept of sustainable development; the additional economic resources required for that concept; the effect of indebtedness on the environment; a new economic order as an indispensable requirement if developing countries were to implement effective, comprehensive policies; and ecological security through peace, disarmament, development and co-operation. On representative said that he saw the conference as an opportunity to redefine each country's responsibilities in the environmental field and to


establish effective mechanisms to help developing countries. Some representatives expressed the hope that the conference would adopt concrete action plans and specific time-bound targets. It was hoped that the conference might prove a breakthrough by the United Nations system towards environmentally sound and sustainable development.

47. Several titles were proposed for the conference, namely: Conference on the Ecological Effect on Mankind; Conference on Society and Nature on the Eve of the 21st Century; Conference on Sustainable Development; United Nations Conference on Ecological Security; and Second United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Two representatives supported the candidature of Brazil as the venue for the conference, while another representative proposed that it should take place in the region of Asia and the Pacific.

48. Responding to comments made on the proposed 1992 conference on environment and development, the Executive Director noted that General resolution 43/196 assigned specific tasks to the Governing Council. it was invited to submit through the Economic and Social Council its views on the objectives, content and scope of the conference. it might also comment on the date, venue, title and financial implications. The preamble to General Assembly resolution 431196 provided ample scope for the conference to deal with specific objectives. In their views, members of the Council had laid more emphasis on the environment and management of natural resources than on development as such. But environmental concerns could not be discussed in a vacuum, only within the wider context of the whole development process, with the constraints currently impeding that process, particularly in the third world. It did not appear that there was any wish to turn the 1992 conference into a conference on trade or debt problems, even though it was clearly understood that the debts of developing countries were crippling their development and bad practices in international trade were destroying their ability to protect the environment or use their natural resources properly. Nevertheless, the purpose of the 1992 conference was to consider the rehabilitation of the planet Earth. It was evident from many statements that there was common concern in such areas as climate change and water resources, the need for institutional changes in the United Nations system and at the national level, as well as the necessity of finding environmentally sound technology.

49. There had been several references to the desirability of an open-ended Governing Council constituting the preparatory body for the 1992 conference, with its own rules of procedure and bureau, so that it bore no resemblance to the Governing Council as such. In that way the Council, as the authoritative body on environmental matters, could give a lead to the preparatory committee. The Council should indicate how many meetings the preparatory committee would require: three or four meetings would appear appropriate. It should also consider the desirability of preparations at the national level and at the regional level through the regional economic commissions. It was probable that not more than five regional meetings would be required in 1990-1991 on the lines of the joint UNEP/ESCAP and UNEP/ECA meetings in connection with the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Stress should be laid on the participation of non-governmental organizations and the scientific community in the preparatory process. Furthermore, Governments and the secretariat strongly supported the involvement of the United Nations system as a whole through an inter-agency mechanism, in view of their long experience of environmental matters.

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50. In addition to the General Assembly's suggested title of Environment and Development, a number of other titles had been proposed for the conference, including Sustainable Development, Society and Nature on the Eve of the 21st Century. Ecological Effects on Mankind, Global Environment and Economic Recovery, Second United Nations Conference on Human Environment, United Nations Planet Earth Assembly, and Healing the Planet Earth United Nations Conference. He left it to the informed negotiating group to find a title which conveyed urgency and a wider spectrum than the environment.

51. As for the date of the conference. since the Governing Council itself was the creation of the Stockholm Conference, perhaps no date could be more appropriate for the end of the conference than 5 June, the twentieth anniversary of Stockholm.

52. Turning to the question of the secretariat of the conference, he said that he could not agree with the Secretary-General's proposal for a divided secretariat. The preparations for a conference of such magnitude required a secretariat established in one place, and the Governing Council had shown support for a strong secretariat with a separate identity. A single person must be appointed, at the Under Secretary-General level as in all previous United Nations conferences, to act as Secretary-General of the conference, with entire responsibility both for financing and substance of the meeting, again in accordance with the United Nations tradition. He or she should be directly accountable to the United Nations Secretary-General.

53. In responding to the Executive Director's remarks and to the proposals with regard to the 1992 conference that he subsequently circulated, a number of representatives endorsed the proposal that an open-ended Governing Council should serve as the intergovernmental preparatory committee for that 1992 Conference and should meet in 1990. Some representatives also emphasized the importance of involving United Nations specialized agencies and regional conferences in the preparatory work. One representative considered that a General Assembly committee of the whole should serve as the preparatory committee and should meet in New York, where all United Nations Member States could take part. Several representatives drew attention to the need for a strong secretariat under an independent Secretary-General directly responsible to the United Nations Secretary-General. One representative stated that the need for a strong and independent secretariat should be emphasized to the General Assembly. Another representative expressed a preference for Geneva as the site of the secretariat.

54. One representative said that sustainable and environmentally sound development should be the main theme of the conference, while others considered that the objectives proposed by the Executive Director were too narrowly defined and one representative proposed that topics such as the role of the International Court of Justice in relation to environmental issues and the establishment of an environment fund financed by savings from disarmament should also be discussed. It was stressed that the conference should involve ministries other than environment ministries and that it should provide an opportunity for co-operation rather than confrontation. Two representatives. referring to the Executive Director's proposal regarding the establishment of an international financing facility, said that they could not commit themselves to any specific formula on debt management at the present stage. With regard to the conference's title, one representative and one observer were in favour of "Second United Rations Conference on the Human Environment" while other representatives referred "United Nations Conference on55. While one representative specifically proposed that the conference should be held in Nairobi, others stated more generally that it should take place in a developing country, preferably in an established United Nations conference centre. There was general agreement with the dates proposed by the Executive Director, namely, 25 May to 5 June 1992.