1211 GENEVA 19


Statement adopted unanimously by the 87th Inter-Parliamentary Conference
(Yaoundé, 11 April 1992)


(1) Twenty years after the Stockholm Conference, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), to be held in Rio de Janeiro, has been entrusted with the job of tackling ecological questions in the perspective of sustainable development, defined by the Brundtland Commission as "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

(2) The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) provides an excellent opportunity to address some of the world's most pressing problems. For the first time in history, political leaders from all countries of the world will assemble in an effort to ensure sustainable development, which is defined as "improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems" in "Caring for the Earth, a strategy for sustainable living" (IUCN, UNEP, WWF, 1991).

(3) UNCED will therefore have to place the notion of interdependence at the heart of its discussions: interdependence in time between present and future generations; geographical interdependence between continents, regions and States; interdependence between the major problems of mankind and the environment (population growth, health, poverty, uncontrolled urbanization); and lastly, interdependence between the countries of the North, whose development has been accompanied by wasted resources and an unchecked accumulation of wastes and which are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all pollution worldwide, and the countries of the South, which for lack of means find themselves forced to compromise their assets and their environment and yet are unable to produce the bare essentials of a satisfactory life.

(4) In addition to seeking ways of tackling sectoral environmental problems, UNCED should set overall objectives which make sustainable development possible: integration of environmental and developmental considerations at the earliest stage of economic decision-making, stabilization of population growth and reduction of waste, respect for nature and the geographical and cultural environment as well as the elimination of poverty, equitable distribution of wealth, rejection of the consumerist system and the adoption of new values on which to base development.

(5) These objectives are the business of States but also and above all of individuals. Accordingly, education must play a key role as an essential vehicle for collective awareness-building without which policies will remain a dead letter.

(6) But success will not come easily. Reconciling concerns of development with those of environment and concerns of equity with those of efficiency are both formidable tasks. The continuing economic decline of the majority of developing countries, which is mainly due to the unjust nature of present international economic relations and the resultant problems relating to debt, financing of trade and development, transfer of technology and the activities of transnational corporations, exacerbates the degradation of the environment in these countries. The principle of sufficient economic growth to meet human needs and aspirations without excessive and wasteful consumption should be pursued together with policies to reduce high rates of population growth. Such policies and principles, together with the search for a more equitable international economic system, are essential objectives in any strategy for the rational protection and improvement of the environment.

(7) To be fully successful, efforts for sustainable development must lead to a significant reordering of priorities in the management of the world's finite resources. At the same time, democratization should be encouraged at all levels and the role of women and the need for their full participation should be acknowledged and taken into account in national, regional and international initiatives and in the formulation of future strategies. These must be sustained by environmental education and broad participation in decision-making processes.

(8) The complex nature of the problems at hand calls for policies based on the precautionary principle. Environmental measures must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.

(9) Sustainable development requires an equitable distribution of the world's resources among today's societies, bearing in mind the requirements of future generations. Industrialized and developing countries therefore have a common but differentiated role to play in addressing environmental degradation. Having consumed a vastly disproportionate part of the world's resources, rich countries should take the lead by engaging in vigorous environmental action at home and making the necessary financial and technical resources available for sustainable development worldwide. At the same time, developing countries should critically examine domestic spending priorities to ensure that they are sustainable.

(10) The achievement of sustainable development will require thorough transformation of society. Action towards this end should be guided by the principles of economic efficiency and institutional flexibility. The overall aim must be to maximize developmental benefits at minimum environmental cost, making prices reflect the full environmental costs involved in any economic activity.

(11) The realization of sustainable development worldwide requires an imaginative and compelling vision of global governance. Political will has to be mobilized in order to reform and revitalize the existing system of global institutions. Of particular importance is the establishment of transparent monitoring mechanisms to ensure effective verification of universal compliance with international conventions and protocols.


(12) We call on all participating Governments to commit themselves fully to contributing to a successful outcome to UNCED. In the first place, the Earth Charter should be adopted. It should set out the governing principles of environmental action.

(13) Furthermore, we expect Governments participating in UNCED to sign and implement an effective framework convention on climate change with targets and timetables. A framework convention on biological diversity should also be adopted, together with a statement on the principles for the sustainable use and management of all types of forest. In addition to signing these conventions and agreeing these principles, parties should agree on an ambitious strategy for the further negotiation of substantive protocols covering, for example, the need for further reductions of emissions of greenhouse gases. Domestic action to fulfill national commitments should be combined with international co-operation based on cost-effective and flexible approaches. Conventions and protocols must be universal in scope and take account of the different responsibilities of industrialized and developing countries.

(14) We emphasize the need for an ambitious, effective and adequately funded "Agenda 21" action plan with concrete provisions specifying measurable objectives, priorities, and targets within specified time horizons. It should cover national and regional action, as well as co-ordinated action by international institutions, and should make clear which party has the responsibility to deliver a given commitment. Since environment and development are inter-related, particular importance will have to be attached to environmental problems threatening ecosystems and thereby development priorities: these include land degradation, depletion and pollution of water resources, soil erosion, desertification, acid precipitation, ozone layer depletion, overfishing, overcutting of forests, coastal and marine pollution. Agenda 21 should also provide for a global management framework for land-based sources of marine pollution, lay down strict timetables for phasing out hazardous materials and encourage all industrialized countries to search for benign alternatives.

(15) We call on all Governments, especially those of coastal States, to pursue sustainable development of the resources of the sea by:

  • adopting appropriate measures for the rational management of fish stocks and the protection of the marine environment;
  • ensuring that fishing policies lay down rules for the management of straddling stocks;
  • giving full effect to the rules of international law applying to the high seas, as reflected in the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, of which we urge the early ratification by at least 60 nations;
  • paying particular attention to the requirements of developing nations with respect to their fisheries within and beyond the 200-mile limit.

(16) Severe financial constraints make it difficult to achieve sustainability in developing countries. At UNCED, industrialized countries should commit themselves to significantly increasing the transfer of financial resources to developing countries so as to improve living and working conditions by eradicating poverty and halting environmental degradation. Conventional aid for sustainable development should be made commensurate with the accepted target of 0.7 per cent of GNP as soon as possible. Moreover, for developing countries to be able to play their part in caring for the global environment, additional resources should be provided. Guidelines and targets for increased debt relief and cancellation as well as financial concessions should be agreed on to reflect the need for equitable burden-sharing. The institutions hitherto responsible for debt crisis management should be called on to hammer out the necessary reforms.

(17) We draw the attention of developing countries to the fact that demographic pressure is draining natural resources and obstructing development. Rising and excessive population growth rates are largely responsible for environmental degradation, but urbanization, population density ratios, economic dependency ratios, the proportion of the population that is unemployed, illiteracy and negative social behaviour also affect both the environment and development. Demographic pressures could be reduced by providing better family planning and better mother and child care as foreseen in Agenda 21.

(18) We urge industrialized nations to co-operate with developing countries to develop environmentally sound technologies and to ensure access to them, in order to increase the transfer of such technologies on a fair basis. Commercial transactions will play an important part in technology transfer, and UNCED should encourage the formation of innovative partnerships between industry, Governments and NGOs to carry this process further, nationally as well as internationally. In designing technology transfer strategies, particular attention should be paid to the need for education, training, improved legislation and the development of management capabilities to ensure efficient adaptation and implementation of available technologies and to prevent any abuse of such technologies. Furthermore, the transfer of environmentally sound technologies should impose no unreasonable economic or financial burden on developing countries with regard to trademarks and copyright. Finally, the capacity of developing countries to absorb technologies and develop their own indigenous technologies should be strengthened.

(19) Energy is an invaluable dynamo of economic development, but at the same time its production, distribution and use create some of the world's most pressing ecological and political problems. In addition, today's pattern of energy use is not sustainable, particularly in industrialized countries. We call on UNCED to develop a set of guidelines and priorities for the sustainable production and consumption of energy. The promotion of institutional reform, energy efficiency and a shift towards non-nuclear renewable sources of energy should make up the core of such a strategy.

(20) Existing international trade practices create an imbalance, since the needs of developing countries are not taken into full account and the ecological costs involved in production, transport and consumption of goods and services are not reflected. UNCED should accordingly encourage international economic co-operation with a view to modifying current global economic structures so as to establish an ecologically and socially acceptable form of market economy. The constructive shaping of international trade relations in which developing countries would be involved on an equal footing would provide an important basis for the future development of all countries and for the fight against poverty.


(21) We emphasize the need for visible, accountable mechanisms with effective authority to ensure continuity of the process initiated at UNCED. Governments should use UNCED as an opportunity to revitalize existing institutions dealing with environment and development. Consideration should also be given to the need for new institutions, but none should be established unless they respond to specific needs not covered by existing organizations. Due account should be taken of the fact that responsibility for every activity should be vested in the level closest to the people affected at which it can be managed most effectively. The UN Secretary-General should establish a mechanism accountable to the highest levels of the United Nations to assess needs, formulate policy, initiate and co-ordinate action for sustainable development and monitor and report on progress.

(22) Action at the national level will be crucial in the follow-up of UNCED decisions and priorities. We urge Governments to re-examine critically existing national policies, strategies and institutions for sustainable development and propose new ones as appropriate. The prompt adoption of national strategies for sustainable development as well as other national and regional measures is important to ensure the dynamism and flexibility of global conventions and protocols. National accounting systems should be adapted to reflect the values of natural resources in real terms. UNCED should receive from Governments firm commitments to submit annual performance reports to be reviewed by independent international panels under UNEP guidance and forwarded to the United Nations General Assembly.

(23) At the international level, environmental reform can succeed only if Governments display sufficient political will. In particular, we urge UNCED participants to improve environmental performance by undertaking to establish mechanisms for effective monitoring of environmental quality and assessment of the costs and benefits of development. The results of such monitoring and assessment should be open to independent review.

(24) We attach high priority to making UNEP more meaningful and effective within the family of United Nations agencies. In addition, all UN institutions and multilateral development banks should have to publish regularly environmental targets and strategies compatible with sustainable development.

(25) As regards financial mechanisms, the first step should be to search for additional resources without adding to the number of funds.

(26) Local environmental questions fall within the scope of national development policies and, hence, bilateral and multilateral aid mechanisms. Dealing with worldwide environmental questions requires specific financing, particularly through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The operation of the GEF should be modified so as to involve the developing countries in the definition of its objectives, and its scope should be enlarged to cover desertification and water resources.

(27) At all levels, better co-ordination between donor countries, agencies and beneficiaries is essential to make assistance to sustainable development more effective.

(28) Commitments and obligations in respect of action at the national level should be the cornerstone of all treaties relating to sustainable development. But mechanisms should also be developed to facilitate co-operation across borders and regions to optimize cost-effectiveness, for example, clearing-house mechanisms to enable industrialized countries to invest in projects in developing countries which will lead to better environmental solutions at lower cost.

(29) Global governance reforms will need to go beyond changing institutional machinery. We urge Governments through UNCED to open up the structure of international co-operation to more public participation than is now allowed. Input from the scientific community and non-governmental organizations to treaties on environment and development should be encouraged and expanded, and be structured in such a way as to reconcile practical concerns with those of scientific legitimacy and popular participation.

(30) We reaffirm our commitment to a meaningful UNCED. We will note its achievements with interest and review fully its outcome and follow-up at the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Environment and Development, to be held in Brasilia from 23 to 28 November 1992.

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