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D - Environmentally sound and sustainable development

56. A number of representantives emphasized that sustainable development could be achieved only if existing economic discrepancies were eliminated and two representatives stressed that the main cause of environmental problems was poverty. Many representatives stressed that the debt crisis in developing countries constituted a major obstacle to protection of the environment and one representantive drew attention to the fact that, overburdened by huge external debts, developing countries were compelled to over-exploit their resources in order to service those debts. He proposed that a proportion of the debt-servicing obligations of developing countries, as well as the debts themselves, be converted into contributions to various environmental funds. One representative expressed the hope that realistic assistance to developing countries would match the expensive solutions to environmental problems being formulated in the developed world. Concern was also expressed by some countries at the imposition of conditionalities by multilateral financing institutions.

57. It was noted that there was growing awareness of the global nature of the environment, and several representatives stressed the need for international environmental co-operation so that each partner could make a contribution to the best of its ability, with the stronger partners helping the weaker to achieve their common objective. Another representative pointed out that, for poorer countries, the environment was a priority that came after the fulfilment of minimum needs. A large number of countries expressed the view that countries where pollution and hazardous wastes originated should assume the major part of the burden in combating pollution and disposing of waste.

58. Several representatives drew attention to the relationship between environmental problems and security, emphasizing the danger to the environment posed by vast arsenals of nuclear weapons.

59. A number of representatives emphasized the need to increase public awareness of environmental problems and described the activities being carried out in their countries to that end.

60. Attention was drawn to the declarations on the environment adopted by Latin American countries, which focused on the rejection of external interference, the reaffirmation of sovereignty, the need to reconcile environmental protection and economic and social development imperatives, expansion of international co-operation and a solution to the external debt problem.

61. One representative emphasized the need to revise without delay the system-wide medium-term environment programme so as to reflect the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Another representative drew attention to the need to prevent environmental damage, which was less costly than repairing it.62. In response to the comments on sustainable development, the Executive Director noted that it was the subject least addressed by delegations. Nevertheless, as he had observed in his opening statement, it was essential for the Governing Council to clear the air by adopting a decision plainly stating that sustainable development did not and should not imply infringement of the sovereign right of any country to direct its own development. In default of such a statement, there would be continued controversy in other United Nations forums over the issue of conditionality. The Council might take as a basis for its draft statement the proposed recommendations and comments to the General Assembly on sustainable development contained in his note on the implementation of General Assembly resolutions 421186 and 421187 (UNEPIGC.1516/Add.2).