to the 158th session of the Inter-Parliamentary Council
(Istanbul, April 1996)

1. The Committee for Sustainable Development held its annual meeting on 25 March 1996 at the Union's Headquarters in Geneva. The meeting was attended Mr. N. Chitty La Roche (Venezuela), Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, Mr. T.A. Ismail (Egypt) and Mr. N.A. Sorkhoh (Kuwait). Mrs. I. Aykut (Turkey), Mr. B.A. Godana (Kenya) and Mrs. E. Møller (Denmark) were all unable to participate in the meeting due to important commitments elsewhere.

2. The Committee noted that its previous Chairperson had left the Committee upon the expiry of her term in October 1995. In view of the very high number of absentees, the participants decided to postpone the election of a new Chairperson to its next session and asked its Vice-Chairperson, Mr. N. Chitty La Roche (Venezuela) to preside over the meeting.

3. The Committee also heard a statement by Mr. M. Monaghan, Senior Sustainable Development Officer in representation of the UN Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, who spoke on the work carried out by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and on its plans for the five-yearly evaluation which would take place in 1997.

A. Draft declaration on "The follow-up to Rio: financing and technology transfer"

4. During its last several sessions, the Committee reviewed the implementation of the commitments entered into by States at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The Committee had then noted that very little progress had been achieved in relation to two of the most fundamental aspects of Agenda 21: financial resources and mechanisms, particularly commitments undertaken by industrialized countries in this respect, and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies. At its session in 1995, the Committee expressed the view that this lack of progress reflected a basic problem of insufficient political will. The Committee felt that a political problem of this nature required a political response and decided to prepare at its next session a draft political declaration on this matter for consideration and adoption by the Inter-Parliamentary Council.

5. At its present meeting, the Committee followed up on this decision and prepared a draft declaration on problems of financial resources and mechanisms and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies. The Declaration takes into account the most recent developments on these matters and in particular the result of the most recent multilateral discussions, while at the same time building on the positions already taken by the IPU in the past notably at the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Environment and Development (Brasilia, November 1992), the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on "North-South Dialogue for Global Prosperity" (Ottawa, October 1993) and the Asia and Pacific Inter-Parliamentary Conference on "Science and Technology for Regional Sustainable Development" (Tokyo, June 1994). The resulting draft is submitted for consideration by the Inter-Parliamentary Council under the title "The follow-up to Rio: financing and technology transfer" and is contained in document CL/158/13(c)-DR.1.

B. IPU contribution to the overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21

6. In 1993, the Union's governing bodies adopted a four-year programme of work for its Committee for Sustainable Development (then the IPU Committee on Environment) to accompany that which had been established by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to follow up on UNCED. The programme foresaw a series of studies on parliamentary action to implement the results of UNCED, based on information received from parliaments on the basis of a questionnaire, each of which would address those issues which were under review that year by the CSD. The programme would culminate with an overall assessment in 1997.

7. When considering the form and content of this assessment, the members of the Committee were informed of the plans which are being developed by the United Nations for a Special Session of the UN General Assembly for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21. This special session will take place in June 1997 at the highest possible level of participation and will last one week. It will provide an opportunity for reaffirming global commitments to sustainable development and reinforcing the political momentum reached at the Conference in Rio. It does not aim at revising Agenda 21 and the other commitments obtained in Rio, which continues to provide a viable policy framework for achieving sustainable development world-wide, but should instead be geared towards building upon what has been achieved by identifying gaps and impediments in their implementation, as well as key priorities to be addressed in the future.

8. The Committee took particular note of the recommendations for the special session which had been developed by the UN Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development. At a meeting in February 1996, that Committee had underscored the political importance of the special session. In its view, the outcomes of this event should be a better definition of sustainable development as a concept pooling together factors of economic growth, social equity, environmental quality and rational use of natural resources. Sustainable development should also be given a more operational meaning, not as a "sector" for policy making, but rather as a guiding and organizing policy principle.

9. The Inter-Agency Committee had also recommended that attention should be given to the impact of major trends, such as globalization, privatisation, investments and international financial flows, macroeconomic developments, and, at the national level, urbanization and decentralization. More focus should be given to the major driving forces of development. In this context, the role of industry needed to be more explicitly addressed. The importance of macroeconomic stability for encouraging and promoting sustainable development was also highlighted. Sectoral issues should be dealt with in a development context, not merely from an environmental perspective. Among the issues which the Inter-Agency Committee identified as deserving priority attention were energy and development, water and development, chemical safety and wastes; the health impacts should be more explicitly taken into account in particular in the incidence of emerging and re-emerging diseases. Changing consumption and production patterns was seen as one of the key areas for further work as were the issues of financial flows and transfer of technology.

10. Against this background, the Committee for Sustainable Development examined how best the IPU could contribute and bring a parliamentary dimension to the Special Session of the UN General Assembly. Following discussion, the Committee made the following recommendations for the consideration of the Inter-Parliamentary Council:

(i) Parliaments and their members should be considered a "major group". Agenda 21 recognizes that broad public participation constitutes a fundamental prerequisite for the achievement of sustainable development and identifies a number of "major groups" which it considers critical to the effective implementation of Agenda 21, such as women, children and youth, indigenous communities, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and their trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technological community, and farmers. The Committee recalled the important work carried out in national parliaments to follow up and implement Agenda 21 as evidenced by its own reports to the UNCSD. It therefore recommends that IPU put forward a formal proposal to the United Nations that national parliaments and their members be added to the category of "major group" in the sense this term is used throughout Agenda 21, and will be pleased to formulate such a proposal at its next meeting;

(ii) IPU should submit an overall review of parliamentary action to implement Agenda 21. This study would build upon the two enquiries already carried out by the Committee for Sustainable Development in 1994 and 1995. A brief questionnaire would be sent out to all national Parliaments and, in particular, parliamentary committees dealing with environment and sustainable development issues. At its next session, the Committee would review the material received and prepare a full report for consideration and adoption by the 160th session of the Inter-Parliamentary Council (Seoul, April 1997);

(iii) IPU should also prepare a statement on "Changing consumption and production patterns". There is a growing international consensus of the need to focus on unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and to develop national policies and strategies to encourage changes in unsustainable consumption patterns. Since this is an item which has not been treated at previous IPU Conferences, the Committee recommends that it be placed on the agenda (IVth Study Committee) of the 97th Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Seoul with a view to the adoption of a declaration on this subject. To facilitate the work of the Conference, the Committee proposes to prepare a draft of such a Declaration at its next meeting based on the written contributions of National Groups;

(iv) IPU should submit a political statement on financing and technology transfer. The issue of financial resources and mechanisms, particularly commitments undertaken by industrialized countries in this respect, and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies is likely to remain a major concern in regard to the implementation of Agenda 21. The Committee therefore recommends that at its next session it prepare an updated version of this year's proposed Declaration on financing and technology transfer for consideration and adoption by the Inter-Parliamentary Council;

(v) IPU should also publish an updated version of the World Directory on Parliamentary Bodies for Environment. This publication has been greatly appreciated and has proved its worth, both to facilitate contacts and as an educational tool. Since the first edition appeared in early 1994, many changes have however occurred and it is now largely out of date. The Committee therefore proposes that a new edition be published in 1997 in time for the special session of the UN General Assembly.

(vi) National Parliaments could devote one sitting to consider progress in implementing Agenda 21. The Committee proposes that the Inter-Parliamentary Council invite National Parliaments to devote one special sitting to consideration of progress achieved in implementing Agenda 21. This would also provide an opportunity for national Parliaments to contribute to the overall review and assessment which governments will be undertaking in preparation of next year's Special Session of the UN General Assembly.

11. The Committee felt confident that by implementing the full package of proposed measures, the Union would make a meaningful contribution to the overall review and appraisal which the international community will be making next year in its effort to bring forward the process which was initiated with UNCED in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

C. Support to the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT II).

12. The Committee recalled its discussion at its last meeting regarding the HABITAT II Conference which will take place in Istanbul, Turkey from 3-14 June 1996. On that occasion the Committee had expressed the hope that IPU would lend its support to this event, considering that the Union's governing bodies could adopt a resolution to this effect at the 94th Inter-Parliamentary Conference. The Committee prepared a draft of such a resolution entitled "Parliamentary support to the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements" for the consideration of the Inter-Parliamentary Council. The text of the draft resolution is contained in document CL/158/13(c)-DR.2.

13. During their consideration of this item, the Committee noted the information the Secretariat had received from the United Nations to the effect that a forum of parliamentarians will take place on the eve of HABITAT II and "will be convened by, among others, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Global Parliamentarians on Habitat". The Committee was confident that this information must be the result of some form of misunderstanding since the Union's governing bodies had taken no decision to this effect. Moreover, they were not likely to take such a decision since it was a long-standing policy of the IPU only to co-operate with formal and official inter-parliamentary organizations.

D. Future IPU activities and work programme of the Committee for Sustainable Development

14. When considering the activities of the IPU in relation to sustainable development issues, the Committee was informed of plans which were being developed to follow up on the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD). Right from the outset of the preparations for the World Summit, the IPU had provided endorsement and energetic support for this event, the latest manifestation of which had taken place at the 94th Inter-Parliamentary Conference (Bucharest, October 1995) when the IPU unanimously adopted a resolution providing additional general political support for effective follow-up and implementation of the results of the World Summit.

15. Since then, discussions had taken place in New York with some of the government representatives most closely involved in the World Summit and concerned UN agencies with a view to bringing this process further by giving it an appropriate framework which allows for sustained and concrete follow-up action. This could be done through a tri-partite meeting bringing together representatives of Parliaments, Governments and concerned United Nations Departments and Agencies. The parliamentary angle would be represented by five to six members of parliaments from all regions of the world delegated by the IPU, whereas an equal number of Ambassadors Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York would represent the governmental side. The inter-governmental organizations would be represented by senior officials from the UN proper (through its Department for Policy Co-ordination and Sustainable Development), UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, The World Bank, and possibly others.

16. The ultimate objective of the one-and-a-half-day meeting, which would take place at United Nations Headquarters immediately following the Labour Day weekend in early September 1996, would be to draw up a catalogue of concrete steps and action, possibly classified by priority, to be taken directly and indirectly by national parliaments and their members to follow up and implement the result of the Social Development Summit. This catalogue would then be submitted to the IPU Council for endorsement and thereafter transmitted to all members of the IPU for consideration and implementation. The Secretary General of the IPU would also be given a mandate to seek and obtain regular progress reports on steps taken by parliaments and their members to implement the follow-up measures with a view to reporting to the UN Commission for Social Development.

17. The Committee held a broad exchange of views in relation to this proposal for which it expressed its full support. It noted that the tri-partite meeting would follow the precedent which IPU and the Committee itself had set in relation to following up on the results of UNCED. Moreover, the proposal constituted a first concrete expression of the new and closer co-operation between the UN and the IPU which the UN General Assembly called for in its resolution 50/15 of last year. It would provide an opportunity for representatives of parliaments, governments and inter-governmental organizations to consider and act in a concerted fashion with regard to major issues confronting States today. As to the parliamentary component of the meeting, the Committee felt it should reflect individual competence as well as criteria of equitable geo-political representation. Moreover, it felt that the Committee for Sustainable Development should also be represented in some form or another.

E. Miscellaneous

18. At the end of their deliberations, the members of the Committee held an exchange of views on the composition of the Committee for Sustainable Development during which they expressed concern for the lack of equilibrium in the current membership. The Committee noted that its current composition was a result of a merger between the former Committee on Environment and the Support Committee to the North-South Dialogue which had led to a certain imbalance. While the Committee fully understood the financial reasons which had led the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its last session to reduce further the Committee's membership to five persons, it pointed out that should this be achieved by not appointing a substitute to the first retiring member (Mrs. E. Møller from Denmark) it would result in a Committee in which neither the traditional North, nor Asia nor Eastern and Central Europe were represented any longer.

19. Bearing in mind the broad mandate of the Committee, which includes inter alia to promote dialogue and co-operation between North and South, the Committee's members felt it necessary to share their concerns with the Union's governing bodies and to request them to look into ways of resolving this situation.

20. Finally, and in conformity with its work programme for the period 1993-1997, the Committee decided to re-distribute on the occasion of the 95th Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Istanbul an update of information on the state of ratification of international conventions in the field of environment. This update is contained in document CL/158/13(c)-Inf.1.

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