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Thematic Areas

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A. Governance of the United Nations Environment Programme

1. There was general agreement that it was essential to modify the current governing structures of UNEP to enhance the organization's effectiveness. Many representatives felt that, in addition to agreeing on a reform of the role, functions and composition of the Governing Council and an appropriate inter-sessional governing structure subsidiary to the Council, it was necessary to see how the secretariat itself could improve its own working so as to be more transparent and effective, particularly in regard to its interactions with the Governing Council and the Committee of Permanent Representatives, which currently played a valuable role in providing a consultative and advisory mechanism for the Executive Director on various matters relating to policy, programme and financing. Some representatives observed that an appropriate reform of the UNEP governing structures was interrelated, with UNEP receiving adequate and predictable financing, and the secretariat performing its appointed functions effectively. Some representatives emphasized the need for UNEP to focus its work in the light of the changed circumstances and institutional landscape since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Several representatives did not, however, consider it necessary to recast the role and functions of UNEP radically. Many felt that, in particular, UNEP should not seek to become a specialized agency of the United Nations.

2. Some representatives felt that the Executive Director's report on review of the UNEP governing structures (UNEP/GC.19/10) did not adequately, or in a balanced manner, reflect the views of Governments and that it was biased in one direction. Some relevant considerations in deciding upon an appropriate structure of governance for UNEP included those of representativeness and cost-effectiveness. Several representatives observed that the Committee of Permanent Representatives, when given an appropriate mandate, and following appropriate procedures, could perform effectively the functions envisaged for the inter-sessional body to ensure continuity in policy advice and consultation.

3. Some representatives observed that the membership of the Governing Council must be increased significantly to enhance the influence of UNEP in matters relating to setting the global environmental agenda and policy direction. They pointed out that universal membership in the Council could, in principle, be appropriate for UNEP, considering the pervasive significance of global environmental issues. Some felt that the Council should meet annually instead of biennially. Some others felt that it would not be desirable to have a larger membership in the Governing Council, or to organize the Council's meetings more frequently than biennially, as it might increase the costs of administering the UNEP governing structures. In view of the current financial situation of UNEP, it was important to explore all avenues of minimizing costs.

4. Some representatives observed that UNEP should place an increasing emphasis on actions at the country level and should consult with Governments more effectively, and on a regular basis, in the design and implementation of the programme. From that standpoint, it was necessary that the regional intergovernmental consultative structures on environmental matters that already existed in several regions should be integrated into the UNEP governing structures so that they could effectively serve as "regional governing councils" and make systematic inputs into matters of policy direction and programme priorities from regional standpoints, while allowing the Governing Council to concentrate on global environmental issues. Other representatives felt that there was no need radically to transform the governing structures of UNEP and that the focus of reform should be on making existing structures more effective. It was important, for example, that an intergovernmental, intersessional machinery for consultation, provision of advice, and policy direction was required for continuity and to ensure greater transparency, efficiency and accountability of the secretariat in implementing the decisions of the Governing Council.

5. One representative suggested that the Council should be replaced by an assembly with universal membership, including non-governmental participation, which should meet every two years, and that it should be supplemented by a governing council composed of thirty-six countries based on regional representation, meeting every six months, to guide the implementation of the assembly's decisions, make adjustments to the programme, in line with any changes in the financial situation of UNEP, and prepare for the meetings of the assembly. Delegations generally agreed that the Council and its intersessional body or bodies should benefit from the environmental expertise available from countries' capitals.

6. Several representatives observed that the issue of credible and sustainable financing for UNEP was closely related to the issue of making the UNEP governing structures more effective. They felt that the message going from the Council to the General Assembly at its 1997 special session with regard to the governance, role, functions and financing of UNEP should be consistent with the Council's position that UNEP should be strengthened, as the lead organization in the United Nations system in environmental affairs.

7. Several representatives supported the idea of an intersessional body, called the Executive Committee, based on representative membership and regional balance, meeting once every six months to serve as the intersessional body subsidiary to the Governing Council. They felt that the main functions of the Executive Committee would be to provide political and policy guidance and advice to the Executive Director; to assist in preparing the biennial programme of work and budget to be considered by the Council; and to provide advice to the Executive Director on adjustments as necessary, depending on exigencies, to the programme of work. In addition, the Executive Committee could develop proposals for the reform of the role and mandate of UNEP which might be submitted to a special session of the Governing Council envisaged for early 1998. In addition, the Committee of Permanent Representatives should continue its work, as a subsidiary organ of the Governing Council, focusing on monitoring and reviewing the implementation of Council's decisions; exchanging and coordinating views among Governments represented in Nairobi on matters concerning UNEP; and contributing to effective communication between UNEP and their capitals.

8. Several other representatives felt that there was no need to have a separate Executive Committee and that the Committee of Permanent Representatives, when suitably mandated and empowered, would be able to serve effectively as the subsidiary organ of the Council, providing a forum for consultation, advice, and policy direction, on a regular basis. They felt that the Council's mandate needed to be strengthened as well, and that secretariat's procedures and mode of operation needed to be reformed as part of the total effort to improve the governance of UNEP.

9. One representative pointed out that it was important that the interests of the small island developing States should be appropriately represented in the UNEP governing structures. Another observed that the reform of working methods was as important as reform of the institutional structures of governance. A third observed that it was important to determine the links between UNEP and other organizations within and outside the United Nations system, including CSD, in order to ensure that UNEP and its governance structures would be able to fulfil effectively their respective mandates.

B. Implementation by UNEP of Agenda 21

10. Representatives noted with appreciation the review and appraisal of the implementation by UNEP of its responsibilities under Agenda 21, as reflected in documents UNEP/GC.19/INF.17, UNEP/GC.19/30 (sections A and B), UNEP/GC.19/26, UNEP/GC.19/INF.13 and UNEP/GC.19/32, annex. They recognized that the functions which UNEP needed to perform by way of follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development related to practically all parts of Agenda 21. They also acknowledged that funding constraints, among other things, had restricted the ability of UNEP to assist countries in implementing Agenda 21. It was agreed that, in view of the developments since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the functions of UNEP had to be better focused, its role strengthened, through, inter alia, greater involvement of the regional structures in the UNEP process, and its governing structures improved, and that it had to receive assured and adequate financing in order more effectively to dischard its responsibilities under Agenda 21. Many observed that UNEP administration and management also had to improve to ensure a more effective programme delivery. The Committee adopted a decision requesting the Executive Director to transmit to CSD, its Ad Hoc Open-ended Intersessional Working Group and the nineteenth special session of the General Assembly relevant documents concerning the review and appraisal of the implementation by UNEP of Agenda 21. It also decided that the President of the Council should present to the high-level segment of the fifth session of CSD the Council's declaration on preparations for the 1997 review and appraisal of Agenda 21.