OCTOBER 31, 1994
EARTH COUNCIL IN VITAL POST-RIO ROLE
High hopes for monitoring of implementation of Summit accords
BY ASHALI VARMA
The Earth Council, the private sector brain child of Maurice F. Strong, the Secretary General of the 1992 United Nations Conference an Environment and Development, is facing the formidable task of fulfilling high expectations from that meeting.
Wide-ranging constituencies that supported the Earth Summit increasingly believe that governments are not doing enough to’ keep the promises that world leaders made at the .Summit. These constituencies seem keen to’ see the Council assume a heightened monitoring role regarding implementation of the Rio accords.
The Council formally came into being in November 1993 in Costa Rica (although preparations had been under way since shortly after the Rio Summit itself). With a membership that read like the Who’s Who’ in the field of sustainable development and blessed by the Costa Rican government who not only pledged to give this prestigious NGO a home but also donated $500,000 for an office, the Earth Council was barn literally with a golden spoon. At the inauguration, Council members outlined a plan of action which included creating an Earth Report which would be an annual report providing criteria of performance of governments, multinational companies and other constituencies. In addition the Council pledged to’ support NGO networks and act as a clearing-house far community based organizations. The Council also proposed to present specific inputs to gatherings which included the International Conference an Population and Development, and the Small Island States in 1994.
On November 10 and 11, members of the Earth Council will meet again in San Jose, Costa Rica, to review the activities of the past year and plan the next steps. President Jose Maria Figueres of Costa Rica is scheduled to’ give the welcome address. Julius K. Nyerere, farmer president of Tanzania, and Robert S. McNamara, farmer president of the World Bank are also expected to attend. Apart from disseminating information, in the one year of its existence, the Earth Council has participated in a three-day conference of all Ombudsman of Latin America and in the creation of the Council of Ombudsman of Latin America. The Council also prepared a paper relating population and consumption which was presented at the International Conference an Population and Development,
In order to prepare the Earth Report the Council has made collaborative arrangements UNDP, UNEP, the Stockholm Environment Institute and Ontario Hydro (whose chairman is Maurice Strong). Earlier this year the Council also signed an agreement with Green Cross International to cooperate on an Earth Charter which will promote the value change needed in society to implement sustainable development through personal and social commitment.
Perhaps the most significant achievement of the Earth Council was the signing of two agreements with the Dutch Government totaling $1.2 million to “turn into reality the dreams of Rio” by promoting sustainable development of the planet.
At the signing, which took place on August 18 in San Jose, the Ambassador of the Netherlands, Franz van Haren, said: “We are very interested in the work of the Earth Council . It carries out a very effective monitoring function to see if governments of the world have the political courage to implement what the heads of state agreed to during the Earth Summit.”