Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
Elisabeth Mann Borgese
The lapse of time since the staging of Pacem in Maribus XIX provides an opportunity for assessing the results of the conference in a somewhat more historic perspective.
These have been turbulent years of dramatic change in the international system, wrought by apparently conflicting, but in reality probably complementary trends of intranational disintegration and international integration, causing displacements, and untold human sufferings and deaths.
Environmental concerns reached an apex in the Rio Conference on Environment and Development of 1992, but have been on the decline since, under the impact of economic recession and turmoil and crisis management in too many places.
The real integration of environment and development concerns has not yet been achieved in people's minds or reflected in institutions, whether national or international. The task is still ahead of us. Pacem in Maribus XIX was intended to, and we feel, succeeded in, laying the foundations for our subsequent efforts, articulated in Pacem in Maribus XX and XXI.
Looking at the institutional evolution analysed by Pacem in Maribus XIX, PIM XX began to look at the wider applicability of the basic principles of the Law of the Sea Convention to sustainable development in general. Are there lessons to be learned from the ocean experience for the governance of other global, regional, and national issues? That the oceans are our great laboratory for the making of a new international order, has been a motto of the IOI since its very beginning over two decades ago.
Pacem in Maribus XXI is devoted to the implementation of sustainable development at the regional level which, it would appear, is the most important one in the whole global system of governance. A great deal of new thinking is needed to bring the Regional Seas Programme up from a still sectoral approach limited to the protection of the environment to an integrated approach covering ocean development together with the protection of the environment (horizontal integration) and to articulate the proper linkages between coastal management and national regimes on the one hand, and the emerging new structures at the level of the United Nations, on the other.
An informal meeting on "Agenda 21 for the Mediterranean" was held in Malta on 11-13 February 1993. Among the many facets of the new tasks this Agenda imposes, the meeting dealt explicitly with the institutional implications of moving the Mediterranean Action Plan and its institutional framework in the Barcelona Convention from "Stockholm" to "post-Rio."
Serious thought should be given to creating a regional Mediterranean United Nations entity that could be inspired and regulated, perhaps in its initial phases, from and through an expanded Barcelona Convention with terms of reference encompassing not only environment but social and economic interactions that will promote a process of sustainable development in the Mediterranean Region.1
With the Barcelona Convention of 1976 and its Plan of Action and Protocols, the Mediterranean nations have been leaders in regional cooperation in the protection of the environment. They could now take the lead in shaping the new and coming phase of evolution of the regional seas programme. The Malta-based International Ocean Institute hopes to play its role in this process, and, it would seem, has laid a sound basis for this new work in Pacem in Maribus XIX.
"Governance in the twenty-first century" has become a widely and intensely discussed subject. The Club of Rome is studying it. The United Nations University is fostering projects on the subject. There is a spate of new publications on the concept of the Common Heritage of Mankind, from Ph.D dissertations2 to lecture series3 to new books4.
New thinking on sustainable development, and new thinking on the Common Heritage concept are drawing closer together. Since the publication of Our Common Future,5 it is becoming clearer to more people that sustainable development is simply not attainable without some reconceptualization of traditional concepts of ownership and sovereignty. To put it more bluntly: sustainable development must be based on the concept of the common heritage of mankind, which integrates development and environment, together with disarmament (reservation for peaceful purposes).
Since ideas and ideals do not work in a vacuum, but only if and when they coincide with economic interests, it is well to remember that in any case, sovereignty is not what it used to be, in our age of globalized production, banking systems, and the information and communication revolution, and that "ownership" is no longer a key factor in these systems, ever since the days of James Burnham's Managerial Revolution.6
In the meantime, the Rio Conference on Environment and Development has begun to make its impact on the restructuring of the United Nations system. A whole new division has been added to take care of sustainable development: a Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) within the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations; a Secretariat headed by a new Under-Secretary-General, and mechanisms for integrating the policies of all the specialized agencies involved have been strengthened in the Administrative Committee for Coordination (ACC) and its Inter-Agency Committee.
Whether the CSD will have the clout to cope effectively with the enormous issues of sustainable development and the implementation of Agenda 21 will depend, on the one hand, on the success or failure of restructuring and revitalizing the ECOSOC as a whole, and, on the other, on the strength of the leadership of CSD's own "High-Level Segment," that is, a meeting of Ministers, associated annually with the Commission and aspiring to a "High Political Profile" and a decision-making function. This might be seminal. This might be the beginning of something new.
Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, dealing with sustainable ocean development probably the strongest of all the chapters - is the link between the UNCED and the UNCLOS processes. Sustainable ocean development is a crucial part of the whole agenda. It cannot be implemented without the implementation of the Law of the Sea Convention which provides the necessary jurisdictional framework, the enforcement power and the dispute settlement system. The Law of the Sea Convention comes into force in November 1994, but the linkage between the CSD and the institutions emerging from the UNCLOS process, at global, regional, and national levels, is not yet clearly defined. There is a lot of work to be done.
It would appear that Pacem in Maribus XIX "holds water." It certainly has made its contribution to the preparation of UNCED and Chapter 17 of Agenda 21. As part of the more free-wheeling and unconstrained NGO sector, it could raise its sights over a somewhat longer term and wider horizon than governments can. But the developments of the last two years would seem to indicate that we are on the right track. From now on, the UNCLOS and the UNCED processes will evolve together, and they will largely determine the restructuring of the United Nations system and the emergence of a new world order. The NGO community will play an increasingly important role in this process and must throw all its weight into the effort to keep supranational integration ahead of, or in balance with intranational disintegration and to enhance sustainable development and comprehensive security intranationally and internationally, regionally, and globally. Pacem in Maribus hopes to remain in the avant-garde of this effort.
1. Minister Guido de Marco of Malta, as quoted in MEDWAVES, News bulletin of the MAP Coordinating Unit. Athens: Spring, 1993.
2. For example, Payoyo, Peter, Dalhousie Law School.
3. For example, MccGwire, Michael, Cambridge University; St John Macdonald, Ronald, University of Toronto.
4. For example, Pardo, Arvid, The Common Heritage (Genoa, Ocean Change Publications, 1993).
5. The World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (Oxford/ New York, Oxford University Press, 1987).
6. Burnham, James, The Managerial Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1952). Burnham stressed, that it is not ownership, but management privileges and profit sharing, that determine power in business.
Contents - Previous - Next