The key United Nations commission opens its 2003 session at UN Headquarters in New York. The forum brings countries together to consider ways to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development:
The eleventh session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development is scheduled to run from 28 April through to 9 May.
Marking its first formal meeting since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, the Commission aims to focus on its own future work in translating into reality the commitments made at that landmark conference.
The 53-member Commission was established in 1993 by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to monitor progress in the implementation of "Agenda 21" - a blueprint for sustainable development agreed upon at the 1992 UN Conference for Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The WSSD decided that the Commission should continue to be the UN's high-level organ on sustainable development, and the Johannesburg Implementation Plan contains provisions on how that mandate might be carried forward.
During the Commission's session, overall discussions will aim to provide sound political direction for the way forward - mapping out "who does what, when and how" - to realize the targets and goals agreed at Johannesburg. The WSSD outcome covered such issues as poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, protecting and managing natural resources, health, and the special needs of small island developing States and Africa.
The session's first three days will be devoted to a high-level segment, which will feature ministerial statements and include interactive ministerial round tables broadly highlighting priority actions and commitments to implement WSSD outcomes. The session will also include regional implementation forums, a multi-stakeholder dialogue, with presentations by major groups on the future Commission work programme, and an interactive discussion of the major groups' proposals.
The Commission will also address the preparation for the 10-year review of the Programme of Action adopted at the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States held in 1994 in Barbados.
In an address to the opening high-level segment of the eleventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said the way to ensure responsible prosperity for all - and especially for the poorest of the poor - was for governments to make real efforts to eradicate poverty and bridge the sizeable gap in world consumption patterns.
Mr. Töpfer said the WSSD had provided the international community a new chance to push forward environmental agreements. The Summit's Implementation Plan, which contained over 30 concrete tables and targets, had also produced a 10-year programme for sustainable development and consumption, a clean fuel initiative and other clear, concrete partnership activities, he added.
While the outcome of the WSSD had been encouraging, the breadth of the Plan clearly underscored that a huge disparity still existed between commitments made and action taken to implement them, Mr. Töpfer said. "This critical issue should be considered during the Commission's current session, as well as in the future," he said, adding that, "the international community must decide on a reliable framework to bring all available resources together in new efforts at implementation."
The UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, said the challenge was to ensure the Summit implementation was adequately monitored and effectively integrated into sustainable development processes already underway, such as poverty reduction strategies implemented at the national level. "The United Nations must focus its energies on providing strong, visible, coordinated and coherent follow-up within the Organization's system," he said.
Introducing Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report on Summit follow-up and the Commission's future role in implementation, Mr. Desai also stressed that the pursuit of sustainable development must in many ways be a political process, reflecting the interests and concerns of future consumers and the equitable and fair distribution of goods.
Efforts to achieve sustainable development involved policy-making, academic research and practical action carried out by governments, academia, civil society and the business sector, he said, adding that "the Commission must draw on its strengths to bring these diverse actors together to ensure effective and timely implementation."