Economic and Social Council
24 February 1997
COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
7-25 April 1997
Item 4 of the provisional agenda *
* To be issued as E/CN.17/1997/1.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
FOR THE PURPOSE OF AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE
IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21
Letter dated 18 February 1997 from the Permanent Representatives
of Brazil and Norway to the United Nations addressed to the
We hereby have the honour to submit a letter from Mr. Gustavo
Krause Goncalves Sobrinho, Minister of Environment, Water Resource and
the Amazon, Brazil, and Mr. Thorbjūrn Berntsen, Minister of
Environment, Norway, concerning a symposium on sustainable production
and consumption patterns held in Brasilia from 25 to 28 November 1996
In the letter the two ministers request the attached document **
from the symposium to be distributed to the upcoming session of the Ad
Hoc Inter-sessional Working Group of the Commission on Sustainable
Development and to the Commission at its fifth session.
(Signed) Celso Luiz Nunes AMORIM (Signed) Hans Jacob BIūRN LIAN
Permanent Representative of Brazil Permanent Representative of Norway
to the United Nations to the United Nations
(** The conclusions of the Chairperson of the symposium (see appendix)
are circulated in the language of submission only.)
Letter dated 20 December 1996 from the Minister of Environment,
Water Resources and the Amazon of Brazil and the Minister of
Environment of Norway to the Secretary-General
As the world prepares for the upcoming session of the Commission
on Sustainable Development and the special session of the General
Assembly, the Governments of Brazil and Norway took the initiative to
host and organize a dialogue to identify the key elements for a shared
North-South vision on the issue of changing consumption and production
patterns. The workshop was held in Brasilia from
15 to 18 November 1996. Participants included representatives from
several Latin American countries, Europe, and North America,
representing Governments, international organizations,
non-governmental organizations, business and industry, the academic
community and local authorities.
We are pleased to, hereby, submit to you the results of this
meeting as a contribution for the international debate on this issue.
The meeting concluded among other things that:
It is now clear that the Agenda 21, chapter 4, Changing
consumption and production patterns, is an issue that has the common
interest of and deserves additional international cooperation between
industrialized and developing countries.
Exchanging experiences on national policy development and
implementation is a determining factor in achieving progress in making
patterns of consumption and production more sustainable. The
bilateral cooperation between countries such as Norway and Brazil has
proven to be instrumental in bringing the debate a step further. It
was also recognized and reaffirmed that industrialized countries have
a special responsibility in taking the lead. But both developed and
developing countries can learn from each other based on respect for
each other's cultural diversity.
In the spirit of achieving sustainable development, discussions in
Brasilia illustrate that the current debate should have broader scope,
going beyond technological and policy change to incorporate the human
dimension both in terms of better understanding needs and the values
that underpin sustainable livelihoods.
In addition, it is more clear than ever that in view of continuing
global environmental degradation and the development needs of
developing countries, the United Nations system, in particular the
bodies dealing with sustainable development, need strengthening.
We can assure you that the Governments of Norway and Brazil will
continue to support and contribute to the work of the United Nations
in this regard.
Some of the conclusions of the meeting suggest options for the
process and contents for future work and for discussions at the
General Assembly special session. Hereby, we would like to request
you to distribute the attached document to the participants of the
Inter-sessional Working Group meeting and the fifth session of the
Commission on Sustainable Development.
Meanwhile, we look forward to the upcoming deliberations of the
Commission on Sustainable Development and the special session in
June 1997, and hope that the results of the Brasilia meeting provide a
useful input to that process.
(Signed) Gustavo Krause GONCALVES SOBRINHO (Signed) Thorbjūrn BERNTSEN
Minister of Environment, Minister of Environment,
Water Resources Norway
and the Amazon, Brazil
A shared vision - conclusions from the Chairperson of
the Brasilia Workshop on Sustainable Production and
Consumption Patterns and Policies, held from 25 to
28 November 1996
1. The Brasilia Workshop was organized by the Ministry of
Environment, Water Resources and the Amazon-Brazil in collaboration
with the Ministry of Environment-Norway. It was chaired by Ms.
Aspasia Camargo, Deputy Minister at the Brazilian Environment
Ministry, and co-chaired by Mr. Oddmund Graham, Ambassador for the
Environment at the Norwegian Environment Ministry. As well as
participants from Brazil and Norway, the meeting brought together
representatives of Governments from other Latin American countries,
including Chile, Cuba, and Paraguay, as well as international
institutions such as the Commission on Sustainable Development and the
OECD, and representatives of major groups, including the World
Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Earth Council.
The Brasilia Workshop built on the Agenda 21, chapter 4 - Changing
Consumption and Production Patterns and a series of meetings since
UNCED. We reached a number of conclusions which could provide input
for the review of Agenda 21 in 1997.
2. For the last two centuries, we have been living with the trinity
of liberty, equality and fraternity. As we move into the twenty-first
century, we need to take as our inspiration the four values of
liberty, equality, fraternity and sustainability.
3. We recognize that current production and consumption patterns are
causing serious environmental degradation and social marginalization.
Most of the world's people are unable to meet their needs and improve
their quality of life. If we integrate them into the market economy
only using existing mechanisms then we would suffer unbearable
environmental stress. Providing the goods and services required to
reduce poverty will require lifestyle change among the affluent in
North and South.
4. We found that there is a universal interest in a common agenda
among all countries to pursue sustainability. The industrialized
countries have a special responsibility and are embarking on change
and this can have an important demonstration effect for the developing
world. But new ways of meeting needs while respecting nature have a
special place in developing countries where the urgency to increase
consumption is greatest. Action for sustainable production and
consumption is not a one-way street, and both North and South can
learn from each other.
5. The deep-seated nature of many of the issues requires new forms of
international cooperation between Governments and other stakeholders
on questions of resource pricing, technology, trade, environmental
regulation and management systems. We must make sure that the drive
for environmental sustainability does not become an instrument of
increasing North-South inequalities. Protectionist measures should
not be used in the name of the environment. Rather attention should
be focused on opening up opportunities for developing countries.
Furthermore, policies and regulations to change consumption in the
industrialized world should be accompanied by dialogue with developing
countries and support to ease the transition process.
6. Globalization needs to be underpinned by an ethic of
sustainability, based on human rights and the values of freedom,
democracy and social equity. It is impossible and makes no sense to
change consumption patterns simply through technological change or
policy plans. New cultural reference points for success are needed to
replace the notion that increasing material consumption equates with
progress. Concern for future generations needs to be incorporated
into today's decisions.
7. The role of advertising and the media is critical here, and the
international community should apply the resources of the media to
induce behaviour changes to avoid waste, inefficient resource use and
conspicuous consumption. Positive messages of how individuals can
live in a sustainable manner are required in place of advertising
encouraging ever-rising consumption or stories of environmental
disasters. Development models based on overly individual and material
consumption should give way to a market economy encouraging lifestyles
where spiritual, cultural and community aspirations have a greater
8. The Brasilia Workshop focused on the key resources for consumption
related to basic human needs, and the main resources for production
and the economy in general, namely energy, forests, land and water.
At all levels, action to achieve sustainable management of natural
resources, and thereby sustainable production and consumption, is
needed. We need to respect environmental and resource limits and
recognize that fair use of resources will increase human well-being
and reduce social conflicts. To achieve this, participation and
democratic accountability is crucial.
9. The Workshop discussed a range of positive examples and ideas of
success. A broader strategy is now needed for Governments, business
and civil society, so that they can carry out their critical tasks and
build new partnerships based on trust.
For Governments, the challenge is to change the rules of the game
to stimulate social and technological innovation.
- The greening of Government means integrating sustainable
development into the heart of government decision-making. It
is particularly important to ensure that macroeconomic
policies for liberalization and deregulation promote
- Environmental tax reform can remove distorted prices,
stimulate development, encourage employment and reduce
pollution and resource use. Environmentally damaging
subsidies should be removed in a socially responsible way.
Questions of international competition mean that more should
be done to coordinate efforts to internalize environmental
costs into market prices.
- Governments are also major consumers and can help shape
markets through better understanding of their use of goods
and services and incorporating environmental criteria into
For business, the goal is to find new ways of satisfying customer
requirements with the lowest resource use and environmental costs, and
thereby guarantee competitive advantage which will increase as market
conditions change to better reflect environmental costs.
- Cleaner production and eco-efficiency offer promising
strategies for continued economic development at reduced
environmental costs. But eco-efficiency needs to be
accompanied by targets and cannot be an alternative to
reforming unsustainable lifestyles.
For NGOs, the focus is to:
- develop and present documentation based on the solidarity
values found among NGOs worldwide.
- suggest political action at all levels.
- campaign to raise awareness on sustainable "consumer values"
and provide tools for changing lifestyles.
- educate citizens in their rights to participation in
decision-making on sustainable production and consumption
Finally, citizens need to exercise their consumer rights and
10. Finance, technology and information are powerful levers for
- Time is running out for industrialized countries to meet the
commitments made at Rio to increase development assistance.
But even if these commitments were achieved, additional
action would be required to reorient policy frameworks and
financial markets to drive sustainable production and
consumption. The imagination and skills of the financial
sectors need to be mobilized in the cause of sustainable
- Banking, insurance and other financial institutions have an
essential role in promoting sustainable development since
they influence the entire framework in which investment and
business activity take place.
- Innovative financial mechanisms should also be explored, such
as charges on fuel for international air transport and
charges on speculation in international financial flows, to
reinforce global funds.
- The organizational dimension is critical to the successful
spread of cleaner technologies: "software" is at least as
important as "hardware". Investment should be focused on
building the human skills and knowledge which will provide
the basis for the generation and adaptation of technology.
- Innovation is important to stimulate more sustainable
management and efficient use of natural resources, but needs
to be balanced with measures to overcome the tendency towards
obsolescence in both products and production technology,
which has especially high costs for developing countries.
Policy and research efforts should focus on improving product
durability and the ability to upgrade technologies.
- Information strategies should focus on raising general
"environmental literacy" in government, business and the
public at large, and then targeting information at the point
11. In conclusion, the Brasilia Workshop found that:
- there is a commonality of interests between North and South
for achieving sustainable development. Sustainability has
humanity at its centre, respecting the world's cultural
- the scale of the challenge means that institutional reforms
are required at the United Nations to strengthen the work on
sustainable development and to build UNEP into a robust and
effective global environmental organization.
- bilateral initiatives for sustainable development, such as
the Brasilia Workshop, offer practical ways of bridging
different perspectives of North and South.
12. Political emphasis should be given to this shared vision for
sustainable production and consumption in national Government, in
regional forums and at international meetings such a Rio plus 5, the
fifth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the
special session of the General Assembly.
This document has been posted online by the United Nations
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the
document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement
is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.
Date last posted: 10 December 1999 17:25:35
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD