Declaration adopted by the 158th session of the Inter-Parliamentary Council
(Istanbul, 20 April 1996)

One of the essential achievements of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was that it demonstrated that the interdependence of nations was stronger than North/South confrontation. Indeed, this Conference helped us understand that economic growth, social development and the elimination of poverty in developing countries were essential goals not only for these countries themselves but for the achievement of sustainable development worldwide.

In Rio, it was agreed that "the provision to developing countries of effective means, inter alia, financial resources and technology, without which it will be difficult to implement their commitments, will serve the common interests of developed and developing countries and of humankind in general, including future generations".

The Inter-Parliamentary Union has actively associated itself with the UNCED process. It considers that the provision of adequate financing and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies are essential components for the achievement of sustainable development. Accordingly, it has on many occasions encouraged its member parliaments to press their governments to respect their commitments and to support their action to this end. In addition, in the course of the UNCED follow-up evaluations carried out by the Committee for Sustainable Development, the Inter-Parliamentary Council has been led to note that difficulties in solving questions relating to financing and transfer of technology have gravely hindered efforts to implement the programme mapped out in Rio.

Thus, the deterioration of the international economic environment and the worsening of the economic situation in the developed countries (rising unemployment, trade deficit and growing government debt) have to a large extent eroded the promises made in Rio. As for the developing countries, since they lack the necessary human, technological, scientific and financial resources, their ability to meet the needs of sustainable development is considerably restricted. In these countries, political instability (lack of democracy) and armed conflicts often create additional obstacles.

The decline in official development assistance (ODA), both in absolute terms and as a percentage of gross national product (GNP), is a cause for profound concern. ODA is an important source of outside funding for many developing countries. In addition, it can play a significant role in promoting sustainable development in regions and sectors which are not very likely to attract private capital, including direct foreign investment.

Even though there has been a considerable increase in flows of private capital, the fact that they are concentrated in a limited number of developing countries and sectors is worrying. In addition, they are unstable and are rarely geared to conservation of the environment and transfer of technology. Sudden withdrawals of such funds have an extremely destabilizing impact on the economies of developing countries.

External indebtedness continues to hamper the growth of the developing countries and prevents them from honouring their commitments to sustainable development.

The governments of the developed countries have moved away from their original commitment to the transfer of environmentally sound technologies at favourable (concessional and preferential) terms and are now tending to rely on the private sector. This means that primary consideration is given to the needs of the market, while insufficient account is taken of the social, economic, ecological and cultural situation of the recipient countries and of their priorities.

Moreover, countries which lack the necessary resources to draw up and apply national policies conducive to transfer of technology do not benefit from such transfer, which further limits their ability to apply the recommendations set out in Agenda 21.

The Inter-Parliamentary Council deplores this state of affairs, which could well call into question the world partnership for sustainable development and threaten the survival of humankind over the long run.

It recognizes that in the light of the worsening world economic situation, it is becoming more and more difficult for the governments of the North and the South alike to keep their commitments, which impose heavy sacrifices on them in the immediate future and whose benefits will only be felt over the long term, on a planetary scale. However, mindful that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of applying the carefully thought-out decisions taken at UNCED:

  • It calls once again on the governments of the developed countries to respect the commitments which they undertook by adopting the Agenda 21 Programme, including those relating to granting the developing countries new and additional foreseeable financial resources, increasing ODA to 0.7 per cent of GNP and transferring ecotechnologies at favourable terms;
  • In this connection, it welcomes the pragmatic approach adopted recently by the Commission on Sustainable Development, which consists of putting figures to needs on a sector-by-sector basis, and strongly urges the Commission to continue its work along these lines;
  • It stresses the need to supplement and reinforce international financial flows by improving the efficiency of aid and by mobilizing national resources in both developed and developing countries, particularly through economic instruments and policy reforms as well as by the creation of national environmental funds;
  • It deems it necessary to cut subsidies which reduce economic efficiency and cause environmental degradation, while offsetting such cuts by direct income support to the most vulnerable groups;
  • It stresses the fact that the governments of developed and developing countries themselves have a joint responsibility to take measures to encourage foreign private investment in developing countries which is capable of contributing to sustainable development and guaranteeing the stability of private capital flows;
  • It reaffirms that further progress is essential if an effective, sustainable and development-centered solution is to be found to the problem of the indebtedness of the developing countries, in particular the poorest and the most indebted ones. In this connection, it encourages the introduction of innovative mechanisms such as debt-for-nature swaps or debt-for-social-development swaps;
  • It urges international financial institutions and development agencies to redouble their efforts to integrate the economic, social and environmental goals of sustainable development in their institutional strategies and priorities;
  • As far as transfer of technologies is concerned, it stresses that these technologies should be demand-centered, environmentally sound and tailored to meet the needs of their potential users, in the light of the social, economic and cultural situation and priorities of the country concerned;
  • It calls on governments to set minimum environmental standards for technology transfer and co-operation in this field, to integrate ecotechnologies in technical assistance programmes and to take concrete steps to encourage partnership agreements between suppliers of technologies and potential users. They should in particular strengthen co-operation between government bodies, the private sector and scientific and technical institutions at the national level;
  • It recalls that the private sector plays an essential role in technology transfer and that it is up to governments to create conditions conducive to such transfer. To this end, it urges the governments of the developed countries to use in particular financial and tax incentives to encourage private enterprises to promote and accelerate the transfer of ecotechnologies in the developing countries; it further calls on the developing countries to establish a transparent and reliable legal framework and to make the necessary efforts to acquire, assess, adapt and utilize ecotechnologies. Furthermore, these countries should strive to make more use of local technologies which are likely to foster sustainable development;
  • Finally, it urges the parliaments and parliamentarians of the world, as guardians of the public interest, to take full advantage of the mechanisms and means of action at their disposal to maintain, in their countries, the essential political will to apply these decisions.

By adopting this Declaration, the Inter-Parliamentary Council calls on decision-makers throughout the world to seize the occasion of the general assessment which is to be made in 1997 to launch the spirit of Rio anew and to guarantee that the vast hopes created by the World Earth Summit are not disappointed.

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