ENR/RRM/MCED/REP10 May 2000 ENGLISH ONLY
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
8-10 May 2000
This report has been prepared and issued for participants at the current meeting only. This may not be reproduced or reprinted without the express permission of the United Nations
I. ORGANIZATION OF THE
The Regional Review Meeting in Preparation for the Ministerial Conference on
Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific, was held at Bangkok from
8-10 May 2000. The Meeting was organized by the Economic and Social Commission
for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The purpose of the meeting was to solicit and
consider substantive input from the region to be appropriately reflected in the
documents to be discussed and considered for adoption at the forthcoming
Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific to
be held in Kitakyushu, Japan from 31 August to 5 September 2000.
2. The Meeting was attended by representatives from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, United States of America, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam. It was also attended by the representatives of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), ASEAN Secretariat, International Labour Organization (ILO), South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Health Organization. The List of Participants is attached as Annex.
3. The Meeting expressed their sincere gratitude to the Government of Japan, not only for providing financial support to enable the Regional Review Meeting to take place, but also for hosting of the Conference in Kitakyushu City, Japan. The valuable contribution of the Asian Development Bank, close cooperation of the United Nations Environment Programme, and the expert support of the Government of the Netherlands in the preparation of Meeting documents, were greatly appreciated.
4. The Meeting was opened by Ms. Kayoko Mizuta, Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the Secretariat. In her opening statement, Ms. Mizuta provided a brief overview of the purpose and importance of the regional ministerial conferences on environment and development, which have been held every five years since 1985. In particular, she highlighted the significance of the Regional Review Meeting as the very first opportunity for the comprehensive review of draft documents, including the new Regional Action Programme for Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development, (RAP) 2001-2005 to be prepared in advance of the Ministerial Conference. The Meeting was requested to conduct a thorough review on the draft documents and to provide valuable guidance on the outcomes.
5. Mr. Nirmal Andrews, Director and Regional Representative, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific provided opening remarks and referred to the close cooperation and partnership between UNEP and ESCAP in the preparatory process of the Ministerial Conference. In particular, Mr. Andrews stated that UNEP attached great importance to the draft RAP 2001-2005, which should provide practical guidance in undertaking sustainable development initiatives over the next five years. It was suggested that in formulation of the time-bound RAP 2001-2005, due consideration must be given to enable the document to also be applicable at national and sub-regional level, in order to ensure maximum effectiveness. It was further suggested that the enhanced implementation of the RAP would be facilitated through the realization of greater synergies between the work programmes and priorities of regional and sub-regional organizations and bodies.
6. An inaugural address was delivered by Mr. Eiichi Kawahara, Counsellor and Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to ESCAP, Embassy of Japan, Bangkok. Mr. Kawahara noted the importance of the preparatory activities and the review process, in advance of the Conference. On behalf of the Government of Japan, he conveyed the message that deliberations by the Meeting should ideally result in documents which embrace a common vision and approach to facilitate concerted and implementable steps towards the pursuit of sustainable development. In order for the documents and suggested interventions to be realistic and relevant to the region and a wider global audience, the Meeting was requested to ensure the clarity and conciseness of the concepts, priority concerns and prescribed actions, as indicated in the draft papers.
7. Mr. Ali Ashraf Mojtahed-Shabestari (Islamic Republic of Iran) was elected Chairperson and Mr. Okan Ucer (Turkey) was elected Vice-Chairperson. Mr. Mohammed Khaleel (Maldives) was elected as Rapporteur.
8. The Meeting adopted the following agenda:
Review of the state of the environment in Asia and the Pacific;
Sustainable development policy review;
Review of the implementation of Agenda 21, international environmental conventions, the Regional Action Programme for Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development, 1996-2000, and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States;
Review of critical environmental and sustainable development issues of the region and measures for promoting sustainable development, including partnership with private sector and civil society groups.
Regional action programme for environmentally sound and sustainable development, 2001-2005;
Declaration on environmentally sound and sustainable development;
Regional message for the "Rio+10"review of Agenda 21;
Kitakyushu initiative for clean environment.
III. discussion of documents for the conference
(Item 4 of the agenda)
9. The secretariat, under agenda item 4(a) introduced the document ENR/RRM/MCED/1, entitled Review of the state of the environment in Asia and the Pacific. Overall, the analysis revealed a disturbing trend of progressively deteriorating environmental conditions throughout the region. However, this was tempered by accounts of modest developments in the state of policy response, including improved environmental management, wider application of economic instruments, strengthened role of NGOs and major groups, and increased environmental awareness and communication, to name a few.
10. The Meeting commended the secretariat’s efforts in producing this document which candidly portrays the region’s current state of the environment. In acknowledging the difficulty in obtaining the most recent and reliable data at national level, the Meeting stated that it is the responsibility of both ESCAP and member states to communicate and exchange such information on a regular basis. The Meeting welcomed the opportunity to provide inputs and updates, and stated that further details and technical information shall be provided shortly.
11. The Meeting pointed out corrections and suggested modifications, which have been noted for incorporation, as appropriate.
12. Under agenda item 4(b), the Meeting considered the document on Sustainable development policy review, contained in the document ENR/RRM/MCED/2. The document was presented by the representative of the ADB, who outlined the purpose and objectives of the paper and directed the attention of the Meeting to the need for greater integration of environment and development to counter the adverse impacts of environmental degradation and poverty in the region.
13. The Meeting appreciated the holistic and cross-sectoral analysis presented by the document, and emphasized the importance of internalizing externalities, which take into account the actual environmental and social costs of policies and actions. The Meeting stressed the desirability of the decoupling of economic growth from increased use of resources, and the promotion of eco-efficiency, as essential elements of sustainable development policy. Since it was generally agreed that informed decision-making on sustainable development policy matters requires access to reliable and updated information, the Meeting highlighted the importance of information dissemination and exchange to facilitate progress in this regard.
14. The Meeting made a number of suggested corrections and amendments to the document, including the consideration of replacing the term ‘good governance’ with ‘environmental management’, which was generally found to be more acceptable. The secretariat noted other comments and suggested changes which will be suitably incorporated into the revised document.
15. Under agenda item 4(c) on Review of implementation of Agenda 21, international environmental conventions, the Regional Action Programme for Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development, 1996-2000, and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, two documents were presented for consideration. The secretariat introduced the document ENR/RRM/MCED/3 which attempts to capture the most salient developments and progress achieved by the region in implementing RAP 1996-2000 and Agenda 21. The secretariat also introduced the document ENR/RRM/MCED/4, followed by further elaboration of its contents by the resource person. This document was developed following the deliberations at the Pacific Sub-regional Consultation Meeting in Preparation for the Ministerial Conference, and therefore highlights the distinctive environment and development concerns of Small Island Developing States in the region.
16. The Meeting expressed its appreciation to the secretariat for preparing these documents and acknowledged that the task of enumerating the region’s achievements in the broad area of sustainable development over the past five years in a succinct and balanced manner is not an easy one.
17. The Meeting voiced concern over the some of the problems and constraints encountered during the implementation the RAP 1996-2000 and Agenda 21. These included the lack of adequate financial, technical, and human resource capacities. For example, it was pointed out that the important skills of formulating funding proposals to bilateral and multilateral donors such as the GEF, need to be enhanced and appropriate capacity building activities should be carried out to assist in this regard. The Meeting concurred with the view that sustainable development policy and its formulation should not and must not be conceived in isolation. In recognition of the inter-linkages between and among the various environment and development sectors and the importance of adopting a longer-term vision, the Meeting expressed the need to complement the well-established, project-based Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approach with the more encompassing principle of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
18. The Meeting noted the distinctive concerns and sustainable development priorities of the Small Island Developing States of the region, notably the urgent need to shift towards renewable energy technologies and to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. It was pointed out that while these issues were of particular relevance to the Small Island Developing States, they are also applicable to other members of the Asia-Pacific region who may derive considerable and mutual benefits from undertaking appropriate initiatives in the area of renewable energy technologies and climate change.
19. On both documents under agenda item 4(c), the Meeting made a number of corrections and suggestions, many of which were additions to the text to include recent activities at national, sub-regional and regional levels in support of the RAP 1996-2000 and Agenda 21. The secretariat took note of the suggested changes and resolved to incorporate these as appropriate, but drew the Meeting’s attention to the fact that all documents to be considered by the Conference are bound by a limitation of roughly 16-pages or 5,280 words, following the decision of the United Nations General Assembly.
20. The secretariat, under agenda item 4(d), introduced the Review of critical environmental and sustainable development issues of the region and measures for promoting sustainable development, including partnership with private sector and civil society groups, as contained in documents ENR/RRM/MCED/5 and ENR/RRM/MCED/6. Further elaboration was provided by the representative of IGES.
21. The Meeting noted the information papers prepared by the secretariat and IGES on the ECO-ASIA Congress, an informal forum to facilitate discussions at the Ministerial level, which will take place in conjunction with the upcoming Ministerial Conference.
22. While the Meeting took note of the critical environmental and sustainable concerns highlighted in the documents, it remarked that many of the issues and problems were well established and the real challenge ahead is how to devise means and ways to effectively tackle the persistent environmental problems and adequately address the development concerns.
23. The Meeting stressed the importance of strengthening sub-regional, regional and global cooperation in sustainable development. Reference was made to the commitment made by developed nations at the Earth Summit to mobilize adequate resources and lend support to the developing countries towards achieving sustainable development aims. The various constraints and limitations of donor countries to provide increased financial assistance were pointed out, however, the Meeting urged that this important issue should continue to figure prominently in the document.
24. The need for developing quantifiable performance indicators to measure progress in achieving sustainable development objectives was expressed by the Meeting on a number of occasions. While it was recognized that the development of such indicators and targets is a complex exercise and that such indicators may need to be tailored to suit national conditions, the development and effective application of such a methodology is nonetheless necessary if meaningful progress is to be ascertained.
25. The Meeting pointed out rural environmental health issues and concerns constituted a notable omission in the document, particularly in light of the fact that the majority of the region’s population resides in rural areas. It was suggested that this issue be suitably incorporated to complement the focus on urban environmental quality and health issues.
26. The secretariat took note of the suggestions and other corrections pointed out by the participants and informed the Meeting that these shall be given due consideration and reflected in the revised documents.
IV. DISCUSSION OF DRAFT DOCUMENTS TO BE CONSIDERED FOR ADOPTION AT THE CONFERENCE
(Item 5 of the agenda)
27. The secretariat, under agenda item 5(a) presented the Regional Action Programme for Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development 2001-2005 contained in the document ENR/RRM/MCED/7. It was supplemented by a presentation by the representative of UNEP and the resource persons.
28. The meeting commended the secretariat for preparing this document, which covered thematically all the relevant programme areas, made a balanced presentation of the issues and made appropriate elaboration on tools for implementation, institutional arrangements and reporting and review mechanisms.
29. The Meeting generally agreed with the structure and framework of the document. It recommended that the title of the Programme Area "Environment and Economics" be changed to "Globalization and Sustainable Development". Since integration of environment with economy particularly through optimal mix of use of economic instruments and command and control mechanisms was one of the major tools for implementation, it should be appropriately incorporated in Section III Tools for Implementation. The Programme Area dealing with Globalization and Sustainable Development should accordingly be revised by placing greater focus on globalization and trade and environment issues.
30. The Meeting recognized that strategic environmental management and project based approach would be effective in the implementation of RAP 2001-2005. It stressed the need for decentralized decision making and devolution of power at the local levels for pursuing sustainable development initiatives. In this connection, it emphasized the importance of involvement and empowerment of local communities and interest groups in the decision making process and sharing of information with the affected people.
31. The Meeting stressed that press and media were important stakeholders in the
implementation of RAP. It, therefore, recommended that the section dealing with environmental education, public awareness and training should be appropriately modified by including references for active involvement and participation of media and the press through the use of traditional as well as modern technologies.
32. The Meeting highlighted the important role of communication in promoting sustainable development, particularly the use of information technology and GIS etc. It also encouraged the use of internet and virtual conferencing which promoted sharing and exchange of information in a cost effective manner. The Meeting suggested that the Governments and the international organizations working on environment and sustainable development issues should be encouraged to post all relevant documents pertaining to sustainable development on the internet, if not already doing so.
33. The Meeting considered that RAP 2001-2005 can not be effectively implemented until appropriate technology transfer and financing mechanisms are promoted in line with the recommendations of Agenda 21 adopted at UNCED. It noted with concern that Official Development Assistance (ODA) has registered a decline over the years and urged that developed countries that have not done so, to act immediately to honour their commitment of directing 0.7 percent of their GNP to ODA.
34. The Meeting reviewed the principles underlying the development of RAP presented in the document and indicated that principle of informed decision making and choices should be appropriately highlighted in place of the principle of careful decision making. Similarly, the Meeting also recommended an additional principle on international cooperation, based on equality, mutual benefit and spirit of partnership in the implementation of RAP.
35. The Meeting stressed the role of performance indicators for assessing the progress toward attainment of the objectives of sustainable development and implementation of RAP. It recommended that efforts should be made for the development of such indicators and future reviews and evaluation of RAP, to the extent possible, should be based on the set of indicators as agreed to by the countries.
36. The Meeting emphasized that the monitoring and reporting mechanisms needed to be strengthened. In this context, it recommended that the proposed mechanisms through the ESCAP Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Development could be supplemented through ad-hoc High Level Meetings to review the implementation of RAP, subject to availability of funds.
37. The Meeting further emphasized that use of economic instruments should be promoted to improve efficiency and effectiveness of environment and sustainable development policies. It, however, indicated that mechanisms for evaluation of environmental and social costs associated with the use of economic instruments and promotion of polluter pays principle should be developed, tested and widely disseminated.
38. The Secretariat noted the amendments and corrections in the document suggested by the participants and assured that these will be appropriately considered and reflected during the revision of the draft document.
39. Under Agenda item 5(b), the secretariat introduced Document ENR/RRM/MCED/8 entitled Draft Declaration on Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific. The meeting reviewed the document and provided amendments and corrections which will be appropriately considered.
40. The meeting noted the importance of the Declaration a key outcome of the Ministerial Conference as it will reflect the political commitment necessary for the pursuit of sustainable development in the region. The meeting suggested that the Declaration should be brief and concise so as to attract appropriate media attention. Other suggestions and comments were also made and these will be appropriately considered and reflected in the draft document.
41. Under Agenda item 5(c), the secretariat introduced document ENR/RRM/MCED/9 titled Draft Regional Message for the 10 Year Review of the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The document outlined the proposed inputs to the review session to be held in 2002.
42. The meeting recognized the importance of a regional message in expressing the priorities and common vision of the Asia – Pacific region in the pursuit of sustainable development. In particular, the meeting noted that the issues of poverty reduction, financial constraints, and technology transfer should be key components of the regional message.
43. Under Agenda Item 5(d) the secretariat introduced Document ENR/RRM/MCED/10 titled Kitakyushu Initiative for Clean Environment. This document presents a framework for urban environmental management based on the successes of the city of Kitakyushu in its environmental rehabilitation. This agenda item was further supplemented by the presentation of a background paper.
44. The meeting welcomed the inputs on this Agenda item, and noted that the experiences of the City of Kitakyushu may be useful to other cities in the region, where applicable. In this context, the meeting further noted the importance of an integrated approach to environmental management which encompasses both social and economic considerations.
V. OTHER MATTERS
(Item 6 of the agenda)
45. There were no other matters to be discussed.
VI. ADOPTION OF THE REPORT
(Item 7 of the agenda)
46. The Meeting adopted its report on 10 May 2000.