E/CN.17/1997/19 Report of Brasilia Workshop on Sustainable Production and Consumption Patterns

United Nations


Economic and Social Council

24 February 1997


Fifth session

7-25 April 1997

Item 4 of the provisional agenda *

     * To be issued as E/CN.17/1997/1.



                          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

(see annex).

     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      

                Ambassador                              Ambassador            

     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 improvement.

     -   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

         procurement policies.

     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

achieving change.

     -   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

         of decision.

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.



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Date last posted: 10 December 1999 17:25:35
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