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Post-Rio Sustainable Development and the Summit

Maurice F. Strong

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The Global Environment Facility and a New Role for the Trusteeship Council

Following the Earth Summit, agreement was reached, after protracted and difficult negotiations, to replenish the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with unique modalities for governance to give developing countries a larger role than that which they have in the Bretton Woods Institutions. The GEF is a far cry from the much more ambitious vision of the late Rajiv Gandhi when he proposed the creation of a "Planet Protection Fund," but it provides a foundation on which the international community can continue to build. The imperatives of the future will inevitably demand more enlightened, innovative, and substantial responses to the resource needs of developing countries than have yet been forthcoming on the part of the major industrial nations.

On another front, Our Global Neighbourhood, the recently released Report of the Commission on Global Governance[1], recommends that the global commons should be subject to trusteeship exercised on behalf of the world community by the nations of the world collectively. It is not possible to exercise national sovereignty over the global commons on a unilateral basis. The nature of the responsibilities involved makes it appropriate for the global commons to be administered by a principal organ of the United Nations. The Commission therefore proposed that the Trusteeship Council, now free of its original responsibilities, be given the mandate of exercising trusteeship over the global commons and over the integrity of the major ecosystems on which common survival and wellbeing depend. This would seem to be the ideal function for the Trusteeship Council, which is already a principal organ of the UN. In practical terms, the Council would exercise trusteeship over outer space, the oceans, and the various environmental treaties and agreements related to the care and preservation of the integrity of major global ecosystems.

As a result of Rio, the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change and Biodiversity have come into force. However, these treaties were negotiated only as frameworks and were considered, at the time, to be only a start. They are a very good start, but both treaties require the further negotiation of protocols. The first meeting of the Biodiversity Convention has taken place, and some very modest progress has been made. In March, the first meeting of the Parties of the Climate Change Convention will occur in Berlin. Unfortunately, prospects for Berlin are not promising. At a minimum, the meeting should continue the process and the parties should be given the mandate to negotiate protocols. The process may go more slowly than it should, however, to move the process along would in itself be an important, though modest, accomplishment.

There should also be some private sector initiatives announced in Berlin. For example, perhaps an initiative for the creation on a private basis of a global emissions trading organization might be put forward. Ontario Hydro has recently joined with other electrical utilities to create a global energy efficiency collaborative which might receive some major impetus in Berlin. Thus, Berlin can also be used as an occasion for giving visibility to private initiatives that would lend some impetus to, and support for, the official process.

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