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In March 1990, the secretariat of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) placed before the Governments of its member States a proposal for the development of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in the 199Os and beyond (1). That proposal contains a set of guidelines which can be adapted to the particular situation of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It seeks to promote changes in the production patterns of the region within a context of growing social equity, and it also expressly incorporates the environmental and geographic-spatial dimension into the development process when it states: "what is needed is ... to reverse the negative tendencies towards the deterioration of natural resources and the increasing deterioration through contamination and global imbalances, and ... to take advantage of the opportunities for making use of natural resources on the basis of research and conservation" (2).

 The present document has a dual purpose. On the one hand, it seeks to delve more deeply into ways of incorporating the environmental variable into the development process: that is to say, into the process of changing production patterns with equity. In this respect, taking as a basis a number of previous studies by the secretariat which deal with different aspects of this topic, (3) this issue is examined here from the point of view of development, with emphasis on some of the central concerns of the above mentioned study on Changing Production Patterns with Social Equity (4). At the same time, this document forms part of the preparatory activities for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development to be held in mid-1992, the specific aim being to provide sound bases and guidance for the discussions at the Regional Preparatory Meeting for that Conference to be held by ECLAC in Mexico City in March 1991.

The United Nations Conference gives the community of nations a chance to reappraise the way in which governments and societies are tackling two of the most pressing tasks of mankind as we stand on the threshold of the coming millennium. The first of these is to offer a decent standard of living to all the inhabitants of our planet, which will call for a very considerable and sustained effort, especially in the developing nations, where in most cases around two thirds of the population cannot even satisfy their basic needs. The second task is to ensure that further economic growth takes place within an environmentally sustainable context, for there is a growing awareness of the magnitude of the frequently irreparable damage caused to the physical and natural environment of mankind both by the excesses associated with prosperity and the shortcomings linked with poverty. Both the excesses and the shortcomings are related to the development style which has taken for granted that natural capital is infinite. Until quite recently, there has been little effort to avoid squandering, polluting or degrading it.

The Regional Preparatory Meeting organized by ECLAC is being held at a relatively early stage in what should be seen as an ongoing process. This document therefore concentrates on some salient aspects which the secretariat considers to be essential for the environmentally sustainable development of Latin America and the Caribbean, leaving their more detailed elaboration for later stages, as progress is made towards the harmonization of criteria within each country, between the countries of the region, and between those countries and the rest of the nations participating in the United Nations Conference. In other words, this document represents a first approach to the task of linking Latin American and Caribbean development with the environment: a task which will assuredly be the subject of many subsequent efforts. lt also seeks to provide background information to help adopt the position of the countries of the region with regard to the agenda of the United Nations Conference.

This document is based on six central ideas which form the unifying threads of its different chapters. The first idea is that we have now left behind us the controversies of bygone years in which it was claimed that there is some kind of conflict between concern for the environment and the objective of development. Although such a conflict often does arise, especially at the microeconomic level, there can be no doubt that concern for the environment is now perfectly legitimate and amply justified in both developed and developing societies. This is particularly true in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, whose economies are based fundamentally on the exploitation of natural resources, many of them vulnerable to irreversible degradation. Thus, those responsible for formulating the economic policy of the region must incorporate among their key variables that of environmental sustainability, not only in order to meet the needs of coming generations, but also as a vital element for ensuring sustained growth for the benefit of the present generation.

Secondly, and in view of the foregoing, it is obvious that both the origins and the consequences of environmental problems are different in the developing countries (where they are frequently associated with situations deriving from a lack of resources) from those encountered in developed societies, where they are associated with high levels of consumption and even with the outright squandering of resources because of their abundance. Thus, ecological and environmental problems take different forms in these two different types of societies.

Thirdly, it is considered that man's relation with nature begins at the level of the individual, subsequently passing through the levels of the community, the district, the region, the country, the ecological systems of common interest to more than one country, the continent and the world. There can be no clear-cut distinction between local, national and global phenomena, as they all influence each other. Consequently, this document deals with both the domestic effort to incorporate the environmental variable in the development process and the international effort to solve common problems through co-operation.

Fourthly, it is said that within the context of the many links that exist between development and the environment, it is vital to understand the need for the sustainability of development within a broad context which goes beyond mere concern for the world's natural capital. Thus, it is held that the achievement of sustainable development helps to secure a dynamic balance between all the forms of capital or assets that take part in the national and regional effort, be they human, natural, physical, financial, institutional or cultural.

Fifthly, it is argued that the incorporation of concern for the environment within the development process calls for a systemic effort which also involves the type of economic policies followed, the management of natural resources, technological innovation, broad participation by the population, education, institutional consolidation, investment and research.

Finally, it is held that international co-operation must not limit itself to tackling environmental problems in an isolated manner. Thus, as the development effort cannot be separated from protection of the environment and many environmental problems are the result of phenomena linked to conditions of underdevelopment, international co-operation must seek to promote development and protection of the environment in an integrated manner: in other words, it must seek environmentally sustainable development. It can therefore be seen that the 1992 United Nations Conference provides an opportunity to look anew at various items related with international economic co-operation, this time perhaps from a fresh prospective.

The various topics dealt with in the document are presented in line with the thematic layout of the above-mentioned proposal on Changing Production Patterns with Social Equity. Thus, among other aspects, the present document examines the mutual links between environmental sustainability and macroeconomic policy; natural resources; changing production patterns; poverty; development of concerted strategies; financing; and international co-operation. Specifically, the document has the following 10 chapters: chapter I sets forth concern with the environment as a future challenge and describes, by way of background, the work already done at the global level in this respect. Chapter II defines sustainable development and shows that it must be viewed in a manner that goes beyond considerations limited to natural capital. Chapter III describes the nature of the relations between economic policies, natural resources and the environment. Chapter IV presents a diagnosis of the current situation as regards natural resources and the human environment in the region. Chapter V analyses the main relations between poverty and the environment. Chapter VI analyses the role that must be played by technology in the achievement of changing production patterns with social equity and environmental sustainability. Chapter VII sets out the basis for a new institutional structure with regard to the environment, the objectives that should be pursued in the management and organization of sustainable development and their relation with political systems and legislation. Chapter VIll proposes suitable financial policies and financing arrangements for sustainable development. Chapter IX links the international co-operation agenda with the topic of sustainable development, and finally, chapter X contains a summary and a set of proposals.


(1) Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Changing Production Patterns with Social Equity (LC/G. 1601 -P), Santiago, Chile, March 1990. United Nations publication, Sales No. E.90.11.G.6.

(2) Ibid., p. 14. See also pp. 134-137.

(3) See for example: ECLAC El medio ambiente como factor de desarrollo. Prefactibilidad de proyectos (la importancia ambiental y de interés económico (LC/G.1549-P), Estudios e informes de la CEPAL, Series No. 75, Santiago, Chile, February 1989 (United Nations publication, Sales No. S.89.11.G.6); Report of the Seminar on Environmental Impact Assessments as an Instrument of Environmental Management. Situation and Prospects in Latin America and the Caribbean (LC/L.519), Santiago, Chile, Novembcr 1989, and Elements for an Effective Environmental Policy (LC/L.581(Sem.56/.5», Santiago, Chile, August 1990; Indicadores económico ambientales para las cuentas nacionales (LC/R.876(Sem.54/5), Santiago, Chile, March 1990; ECLAC/UNEP, Avances en la interpretación ambiental del desarrollo agrícola de América Latina (LC/G.1347), Santiago, Chile, May 1985 (United Nations publication, Sales No. S.85.11.G.4), and Estilos de desarrollo, energía y medio ambiente. Un estudio de caso exploratorio (E/CEPAL/G.1254), Santiago, Chile, July 1983 (United Nations publication, Sales No. S.83.11.G.24).

(4) For various reasons, the document does not attempt to deal with all the important issues involved. One obvious but deliberate omission is the link between drug eradication and sustainable development, since this topic will be the subject of a special study to be undertaken by thc ECLAC secretariat in the next few months.

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