Global Policy Forum

United Nations to Stage New Earth Summit in 2002

Environment News Service
May 9, 2000

Another Earth Summit is in the works for 2002, ten years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where environmental leaders mapped out Agenda 21, a global plan of environmental restoration and sustainable development.

Agreement to stage another summit resulted from the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which concluded its eighth session in the early hours of Saturday morning at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Commission is charged with monitoring the implementation of Agenda 21.

Juan Mayr Maldonado, CSD chairman and Colombian environment minister, told journalists that "planting the seed for Rio Plus Ten" was the most positive result of the Commission's session. The final decision to hold the summit must be taken by the General Assembly.

"It will be the most important world summit at the start of our millennium," said Mayr. "This is the only way we can achieve the difficult goals necessary to survive on this planet."

The CSD is unique in that it includes a multi-stakeholder dialogue in which NGOs, industry and trade unions hold talks on an equal footing with government delegates. This year a two-day dialogue on sustainable agriculture included farmers and agribusiness.

Professor M.D. Nanjundaswamy of India's Karnataka Farmers' Movement said until academics and scientists come to agreement, there should be a moratorium on the use of genetically modified seeds.

Paul Hohnen of Greenpeace International also welcomed the participatory process and told journalists that what was now needed was new international architecture which could take action on all the issues which touch on sustainable development, but on which the CSD had "no actual competence."

Hohnen said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Millennium Report gave "an excellent overview," and he hoped that this year's Millennium Summit would find a way forward for a fully integrated approach to sustainable development in time for the Rio Plus Ten summit in 2002.

Ambassador Mark Hambley of the United States, said his delegation understands that Rio Plus Ten should be a global conference held outside New York. The U.S. supports the 10 year review that takes into consideration major changes, but in light of general U.S. policy, the U.S. will not contribute funding for any new global conferences, Hambley said.

During the session, high level segments attended by some 50 ministers of environment and agriculture were held on three topics: trade and investment, sustainable agriculture and land management, and forests.

Debra Harry, Indigenous Peoples' Council on Biocolonialism (United States) said the centers of biodiversity are concentrated in indigenous peoples' lands, with flow of resources to the North, including in the form of seeds, medicines, knowledge, and human DNA. She said the benefits of bioprospecting are not focused to indigenous people.

The high level discussions on trade and investment ranged from debt relief and lifting of trade barriers, to directing increased foreign investment towards sustainable development.

Delegates had difficulty reaching consensus on text regarding environmental impact and sustainability assessments of trade agreements. The United States supported a proposal by New Zealand calling for elimination of trade distorting and environmentally harmful subsidies, instead of a phasing out of such subsidies.

Trade liberalization, and the removal of export subsidies also figured in discussions on land and agriculture. Representatives of developing countries expressed concern that the concept of "multifunctionality," agriculture as not just food production, but also maintaining the countryside, was being used to justify protectionism.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told the Commission that trade liberalization and environmental protection must be made mutually supportive. She said that the participation of the various stakeholders in the discussions accurately reflected the character of sustainable development, to which the roadmap already existed in Agenda 21.

The discussions on forests centered on the speedy creation of a permanent UN Forum on Forests. The Secretary of the CSD assured recommendation for the establishment of the UN Forum on Forests as an intergovernmental forum to the General Assembly.

Emerging from the deliberations of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, the proposed permanent forum would be open to all nations, meet annually with a high level ministerial segment, should set up a compact secretariat, and take on a program of activities according to Agenda 21.

The Nigerian representative speaking for the Group of 77 developing countries said that the international community would be paying only lip service to all the recommendations on forests unless it sets up a mechanism to finance them.

Hambley of the U.S. underscored his country's support for the creation of the UN Forum on Forests, and noted its financial contributions amounting to $700,000.

The Commission concluded at 4:45 am on Saturday with the adoption of several documents urging governments to take a series of measures to promote sustainable development.



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