Resources for:
  Governments
  Scientists
  Journalists
  Civil Society
  Business Persons
  Children and Youth

Thematic Areas


 
 Printable Version
 

QUESTION OF CONVENING A SECOND UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT

403. The Governing Council considered agenda item 12 at its 38th meeting. The Council had before it the Executive Director's note on the question of convening a second United Nations conference on the human environment (UNEP/Gc/43). It was generally agreed that a second conference could be profitably held only if sufficient time were allowed to elapse after the Stockholm Conference for Governments to develop a perspective on environmental issues and on the results of the work of UNEP; therefore, the conference would probably be most profitable if held in 1980 or after. Many representatives pointed out that important United Rations conferences and meetings held or to be held in 1975, 1976 and 1977 should provide useful inputs for a second conference on the environment, and it would therefore be sensible to wait at least until their results could be properly assessed. One representative said that because of the close relationship between environment and development, the conference should be held towards the end of the Second United Nations Development Decade and requested the Executive Director to prepare a report on that possibility for submission to the Governing Council at its fourth session.

404. One speaker said that the decision to hold a second conference should be taken with due regard to what it might usefully achieve and to-the resources which could be mobilized for it, and stated that the conference should be held on a regional basis to promote the development of practical regional strategies.

Two representatives suggested that the conference be held in conjunction with an International Environment Year.

Action by the Governing Council

405. At its 38th meeting, the Governing Council adopted a draft decision submitted by the Bureau, as revised in the light of the debate (decision 43 (III)). 33/

-73-

CHAPTER IX

CO-OPERATION IN THE FIELD OF THE ENVIRONMENT CONCERNING

NATURAL RESOURCES SHARED BY TWO OR MORE STATES

406. The Governing Council considered agenda item 13, "Implementation of the request addressed to the Governing Council by the General Assembly in its resolution 3129 (XXVIII)", at its 38th meeting. The Council had before it the Executive Director's report (UNEP/GC/44 and Corr.1 and 2 and Add.1) cooperation in the field of the environment concerning natural resources shared by two or more States, prepared in conformity with decision 18 (II) of 22 March 1974, adopted by the Governing Council pursuant to General Assembly resolution 3129 (XXVIII). A draft decision had previously been submitted jointly by Argentina, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Sudan, Sweden and Yugoslavia. At the 38th meeting, a revised draft decision was submitted by the same countries with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Switzerland as additional sponsors.

407. Introducing the draft decision, the representative of Argentina commended the Executive Director for his report, which the representative considered clear, objective and informative. It had been prepared as a result of Governments' growing awareness that the progress of science and technology, the rapid development of environmental issues and the need for rational management of natural resources called for the elaboration of principles of international co-operation and the development of mechanisms for their effective implementation. He then presented a brief history of the principle contained in paragraph 2 of General Assembly resolution 3129 (XXVIII), which stated that "co-operation between countries sharing ... natural resources and interested in their exploitation must be developed on the basis of a system of information and prior consultation That principle had been endorsed at the Fourth Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, held at Algiers from 5 to 9 September 1973, and had been confirmed by article 3 of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States (General Assembly resolution 3281 (XXIX)). It had been previously applied in a number of international instruments in Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America, of which the speaker gave several examples,

408. Most delegations participating in the debate stated their conviction that UNEP should concern itself with the subject, and expressed support for the draft decision which had been introduced.

409. A number of delegations indicated in their statements that they were explaining their vote before the decision to be taken. One representative said that his country recognized the permanent sovereignty of States over their natural resources, but felt strongly that the management of shared resources required appropriate rules and mechanisms to accommodate legitimate concerns and interests. The Executive Director's report showed that certain basic problems appeared to receive remarkably similar solutions, despite geographical differences and disparities in levels of development. The principles and guidelines deriving from the practice of States and organizations might profitably be formulated into information and prior consultations, any other form of co-operation it deemed appropriate.

414. Some delegations expressed the hope that bilateral differences between neighbours might be settled through friendly consultations. Another reprssentative drew attention to the importance of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States for the development of international co-operation in the environmental field. Still another representative expressed the hope that unanimity of views on the subject of shared natural resources would be achieved in the future through consultations between Governments.

Action by the Governing Council

415. The President announced that the sponsors of the draft decision had accepted amendments suggested by the Bureau to paragraph 3, involving the insertion, in the second line, of the word "relevant" between the words "other" and "organs" and, in the third line, the insertion of the words "including the International Law Commission" after "system".

416. At its 38th meeting, the Governing Council voted on the revised text of the joint draft decision.

417. A roll-call vote was requested on the draft decision by the delegation of Brazil. The voting was as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Burundi, Canada, Central African Republic, Egypt, Finland, Gabon, Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zaire.

Against: Brazil.

Abstaining: Australia, Chile, China, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, France, German Democratic Republic, Germany (Federal Republic of), India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Poland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

418. The draft decision was adopted by 28 votes to 1, with 20 abstentions.

419. The representatives of Brazil, Chile, France, Gabon, Senegal and the USSR made statements in explanation of their votes.

420. The representative of Brazil said that the environmental aspects of the question of shared natural resources could not be dissociated from its political and economic ones. He felt, therefore, that UNEP should not be solely responsible for drafting principles on the subject, since its work might otherwise reflect only the environmental dimension of the problem. He suggested that the International Law Commission should be assigned the task of studying the question as a whole, taking into account sectoral contributions by the agencies of the United Nations system. That could provide the basis for comprehensive treatment of the subject. In his view, the mandate of the group was too vague and abstract, and there was a need for a clearer definition of "natural resources shared by two or more States". Only when such a definition had been agreed upon would it be possible to draft principles to guide the conduct of States. The Government e of Brazil considered that the question of each country's sovereign control over the utilization of its natural resources, subject only to the general principle of significant damage caused to others, had become a most important one.

Therefore developing countries, in particular, should be cautious about adopting premature decisions. Due consideration should be given to all natural resources, including sea and ocean resources and oil, all of which required a most cautious approach.

421. The representative of Chile said that his delegation had abstained for the same reasons which had led it to abstain from the vote on the adoption of General Assembly resolution 3129 (XXVIII). Chile had, on that occasion, questioned the competence of the Governing Council to play a role in establishing the principles of prior consultations and information concerning the exploitation of natural resources shared by two or more States. Chile was applying those principles in its bilateral relations; it considered that they should result from the free will and consent of the States concerned, and could not be imposed on them, as appeared to follow from the Executive Director's recommendations.

422. The representative of the USSR, speaking on behalf of the delegations of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and Poland, as well as his own delegation, said that they had not been able to vote against the decision and had abstained for the reasons set forth in paragraph 188 of the Governing Council's report on the work of its second session, 34/ and also because the basic provisions of the decision related not only To- the competence of UNEP, but must be considered jointly with other organs of the United Nations system dealing with the problems involved. The delegations on whose behalf he spoke could not support the establishment of the group mentioned in the decision, since the reason for its establishment was not explained.

423. The representative of Senegal said that UNEP should be involved in the preparation of guidelines on resources, since it realised environmental problems, such as those of river basins. However, the International Law Commission was the body which should be responsible for drafting legal principles or articles dealing with the subject as a whole.