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UNEP update vol 3 april version - Editorial

29 May 1997  - In the last year and a half, UNEP has enhanced its capacity to function as an Implementing Agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). During this period, the GEF Coordination Office was fully staffed and operational procedures were implemented to ensure the mainstreaming of GEF activities in the work of UNEP.

The fruits of our efforts are being recognized. At the nineteenth session of the Governing Council, Governments praised the work accomplished by the UNEP/GEF Coordination Office. Furthermore, they stressed the importance of strengthening the role of UNEP as an Implementing Agency of GEF in the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP. In particular, they reaffirmed their commitment to enhance the involvement of our organisation in the design and implementation of GEF programmes and projects.

The ninth meeting of the GEF Council held in Washington, D.C., in April 1997 recognized the revitalized role of UNEP as an Implementing Agency of GEF. The Council adopted an innovative and crucial UNEP project worth US $6.3 million entitled "People, Land, Management and Environmental Change". This project addresses the sustainable use of biodiversity agricultural systems through a participatory approach and will be implemented in East and West Africa, South-East Asia, Papua New Guinea and Amazonia. Furthermore, the Council adopted six UNEP concepts on land degradation. The implementation of these concepts into projects will amount to approximately US $20-25 million for the next three years.

Taking into account that the expected UNEP outputs for the fiscal year 1997 valued at US $20 million will be reached by the end of June, the Council increased the administrative GEF budget of UNEP by 5% for 1998. This constitutes a tremendous success given that just over a year ago, UNEP's output in the restructured GEF was below its capacity considering its expertise and comparative advantage. Among other achievements, the 1998 administrative budget of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) for which UNEP provides the Secretariat was increased. In addition, the strategy for GEF financing of targeted research prepared by STAP based on a UNEP draft was adopted. Moreover, UNEP successfully formulated a framework for the analysis of diverse global international waters assessment issues.

These results are consistent with the four UNEP/GEF priority areas that I presented to the Heads of the other Implementing Agencies in Washington, D.C., last June: assessment along the line of the Global Biodiversity Assessment; enabling activities to assist countries in preparing their action plans and strategies for implementing the global environmental conventions; regional efforts in collaboration with other Implementing Agencies on transboundary issues such as in the International Waters and Biodiversity focal areas; and backstopping STAP.

As GEF enters a new and challenging operational phase, UNEP is determined to enhance its participation at all levels of the GEF process. It also intends to take full advantage of the newly established GEF window on targeted research and of the recent possibility to present medium size projects. In this context, UNEP plans to strengthen its strategic partnership with key actors of civil society including NGOs, communities, scientists and the private sector.

A Revitalized UNEP on its Way to UNGASS


The fifth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) held in New York from 8 to 25 April 1997, served as a preparatory meeting to the forthcoming Special Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGASS).

Governments started their negotiation on the document on the proposed outcome of UNGASS which was prepared by the ad hoc intersessional working group of the CSD at its meeting from 24 February to 7 March. Discussions focused on the political declaration of UNGASS, sectoral and cross-sectoral issues, and institutional arrangements. In particular, Governments agreed on the crucial chapter on international institutional arrangements from which UNEP emerged with a clear and important role. In this chapter, they stressed that the role of UNEP, as the principal UN body in the field of environment, should be further enhanced. Building on Agenda 21 and reconfirming the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP, Governments stated that UNEP must be the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda; promotes the coherence implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system; and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. The agreed text on institutional arrangements will provide an important clarification of UNEP's mandate in the next five years, particularly vis-a-vis the work of the CSD.

UNEP organized a number of side events during the CSD session including the launch of the publication From Vision to Action: UNEP since UNCED. The publication offers a view of how UNEP confronted the challenges of implementing the recommendations of UNCED and how it modified its work to address rapidly evolving environmental issues. At the request of the CSD, UNEP also presented a Survey on Information Systems Related to Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs) which was prepared by UNEP/International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC), INFOTERRA, and UNEP Industry and Environment. Containing 84 information systems possessing data on ESTs, the Survey will assist decision-makers in adopting technological solutions to mitigate environmental problems. It is available on hard copy and will be disseminated via IETC's Searchable EST Directory which was also launched at the fifth session of the CSD. This new software called "maESTro" includes the EST information systems, a compilation of 130 institutions currently dealing with ESTS, and an overview of indigenous eco-friendly technologies in EITC's field of activity. It strives to encourage the establishment of partnerships and networks for worldwide dissemination of comprehensive, reliable and easily accessible information on ESTs.

In the weeks leading up to the Special Session, UNEP will play a significant role in a number of important events which are relevant to UNGASS. These meetings include: the Miami G-8 Environment Leaders meeting, the Denver Summit of G-8, the ACOPS Conference on Oceans & Security, UNEP Banking Roundtable Meeting, World Environment Day, the Global Youth Forum, the 5th General Assembly of the Asia and Pacific Parliamentarians' Conference on Environment and Development, the APEC Environment Ministers Meeting on Sustainable Development and the 10th meeting of the Conference of Parties to CITES. UNEP is also preparing two events which will take place on the margins of the Special Session: an exhibit on desertification with UNDP as well as a meeting with major groups on business and industry together with UNIDO.

Protection of the World's Migratory Species

The Parties of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) have adopted additional control measures to protect endangered migratory species.

At their fifth meeting held in Geneva, from 10 to 16 April, the Conference of Parties decided to include 21 species in the list of endangered migratory species under the Convention (Appendix I of CMS). Various endangered European birds, two types of flamingos, the Andean deer and the Humboldt penguin are among these protected species. In addition, 22 species were included in Appendix II of the Convention, requiring for their protection internationally coordinated and concerted action. Moreover, it was decided that better coordination among Range States should be initiated for the protection of a number of endangered species already listed in Appendix I, including the Mountain gorilla, the Siberian crane and La Plata dolphin.

The Parties strongly encouraged interlinkages between related global environmental conventions. Additionally, they decided to co-locate the secretariats of Europe-based environmental agreements related to CMS by establishing an Agreements Unit within the Convention Secretariat under the auspices of UNEP. Among other tasks, UNEP was requested to finance an Administrative and Fund Programme Management Officer for this Common Administrative Unit. The organisation was also asked to approve the consolidation of Secretariat functions of CMS and the concerned agreements in line with the approved terms of reference. UNEP welcomes the co-location of the secretariats of environmental agreements which will improve collaboration in the implementation of conventions and the cost-effectiveness of administrative services and support.

Towards Increased Collaboration between UNEP and Habitat


At the sixteenth session of the Commission on Human Settlements held in Nairobi from 28 April to 7 May 1997, Governments requested Habitat and UNEP to further develop their cooperation in order to ensure a synergy of efforts in all relevant activities. In addition, they welcomed the progress made by Habitat and UNEP in implementing the Sustainable Cities Programme.

The Sustainable Cities Programme is a joint Habitat/UNEP programme to build capacities in urban environmental planning and management at the local, national and regional levels. The activities of this Programme, together with those of the Urban Environment Forum, were presented in a parallel event during the sixteenth session of the Commission on Human Settlements. The Urban Environment Forum is a global network joining cities and international programmes in their common commitment to implementing Agenda 21 and the Habitat Global Plan of Action at the local level. At this parallel event, UNEP also launched the volume I of the Environmental Planning and Management Source Book, Implementing the Urban Environment Agenda. This publication synthesises and analyses the practical experiences of cities and programmes in urban environmental planning and management. It constitutes an invaluable source of information for decision-makers and urban planners. The Source Book is a direct result of the interest and commitment demonstrated at the City Summit of Istanbul in 1996 (Habitat II) by governments, cities, decision-makers and other sectors of civil society.

Consultations on the Future of the Global Environment Outlook

UNEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted an informal consultation with national Governments on the future framework of the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) series in New York on 14 April 1997.

Strong support was voiced for initiating an assessment of international environment agreements, addressing emerging issues, promoting harmonised data collection and analysis from a regional basis, and enhancing regional consultative processes on policy and scientific issues. Furthermore, Governments stressed that more emphasis should be placed on global environment issues in the GEO-2 report. After considerable debate, they also agreed that the fourth priority issue of the region-specific studies in GEO-2, Finance, should be approached only from an environment perspective.

Consultations with Governments on the framework of the GEO series are crucial to UEP since future reports are likely to have an important influence on international environmental strategic planning and agenda setting, priority assignments, and resource allocation. Further consultations with Governments are planned in the near future which include meetings with the Committee of Permanent Representatives, regional policy consultations on the draft GEO-2 report early in 1998, and consultations which will be conducted by the GEO Collaborating Centres with relevant policy bodies in their sub-regions.

Enhanced Capacity for Environmental Assessment in Hungary

During her official visit to Hungary from 18 to 21 April, the Executive Director inaugurated the UNEP/Global Resource Information Database (GRID) centre of Budapest with the Hungarian Minister of Environment and Regional Policy.

The twelfth centre of UNEP/GRID is financially supported by the Ministry of Environment and Regional Policy, the Inter-Ministerial Information Committee of the Hungarian Prime Minister's Office, the Governments of Norway and Switzerland, the European Union and GRID-Arendal. GRID-Budapest will focus mainly on international environmental information networking and assessment of the state of the environment. In fact, GRID-Budapest was instrumental in producing an Internet version of the current Hungarian national state-of-the-environment report. Another responsibility of GRID-Budapest is the preparation of reports for international conventions. Furthermore, the facility will foster technical cooperation between the countries in transition in Central and Eastern Europe as part of the ENRIN network capacity-building and will participate in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) process as appropriate. The establishment of GRID-Budapest has catalyzed the strengthening of environmental institutions in Hungary as well as the creation of environmental information centres.

The official visit of the Executive Director also permitted an enhanced understanding of the environmental policies and challenges of Hungary. The Executive Director was briefed on progress achieved in the implementation of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Montreal Protocol. Initiatives for funding the Central Environment Fund of Hungary were also introduced. Among other matters, the Government of Hungary expressed its intention to strengthen links with UNEP Regional Office for Europe. While in Hungary, the Executive Director met with the Minister of Environment and Regional Policy, the Deputy Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other senior officials.

Countries with Economies in Transition on the Sustainable Path

The first-ever International Conference on Sustainable Development of Countries with Economies in Transition (CITs) was held in Minsk, Belarus, from 15 to 18 April 1997. Co-organized by the Government of Belarus, UNEP, UNDP, ECE and others, the Conference aimed at evaluating progress make by CITs in implementing sustainable development principles since Rio.

Participants declared their readiness to implement global and regional environmental conventions. They also requested that international action be undertaken to rehabilitate the Aral/Caspian region and a number of transboundary water courses and big reservoirs. The Conference adopted a Final Document which will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly special session on the review and appraisal of Agenda 21. The Final Document highlights the need for additional financing; the integration of environmental economic and social policies via market mechanisms and state regulations and incentives; and better access to environmentally sound technologies. The Document constitutes a strong commitment from CITs to the goals of Agenda 21 as well as an appeal for a special recognition by the international community of the environmental challenges resulting from the transitions process for CITs.

In the context of the Conference, UNEP chaired roundtables on the implementation of international environmental conventions, and on the role of the private sector in sustainable development.

Integration of Eco-Tourism in Biodiversity

The International Conference of Environment Ministers on Biodiversity and Tourism was convened from 6 to 8 March 1997 in Berlin, Germany, to finalize and secure ministerial endorsement of the Berlin Declaration on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Tourism.

The Environment Minister of Germany, Angela Merkel, stressed the need to involve UNEP, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the GEF in the implementation of the adopted Berlin Declaration. The Declaration states that the development and management of tourism activities should be guided by the objectives, principles and commitments laid down in the Convention on Biological Diversity. It recommends that the Conference of the Parties to the Convention elaborate with stakeholders guidelines for the development of sustainable tourism at the global level. Furthermore, the Declaration calls upon the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly to include sustainable tourism in the future work programme of the Commission on Sustainable Development. Among other points, it includes an amendment introduced by UNEP on the need to develop environmental economics instruments with regard to biodiversity and tourism.

The Berlin Declaration was previously discussed in a preparatory meeting of experts from 12 to 15 January 1997 in Oberursel, Germany.

At a Glance

• Students preparing for a career in business, finance and government are invited to take the "Sustainable Business Exam" on the Internet on 5 June, World Environment Day. Developed by the Foundation for Business and Sustainable Development (a new body of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development), the examination will be launched in cooperation with the Association internationale des etudiants en science economique et commerciale (AIESEC). Successful students will be awarded a certificate by the World Business Council with a letter of introduction form its Chairman to the Council's 120 constituent members. It is also planned that the best students will be invited to discuss the future of sustainable development with business leaders in a roundtable conference. Recognizing the need for environmentally literate decision-makers who could integrate the environmental dimension into their everyday operations, UNEP has joined the World Business Council in the production of a "green book" targeting graduates from business schools.

• IUCN, WRI, UNEP and the CSD organized the sixth Global Biodiversity Forum which was held in New York, on 3-4 April. The meeting emphasized the use of targets and indicators as tools to support the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBC). Participants concentrated on the national reports required under the CBD and CSD, and on the possibility to develop a core set of biodiversity indicators that could be used in these reports. A series of action for consideration at the fifth session of the CSD were recommended: development of natural capital indicators and a core set of biodiversity indicators; national-level targets; capacity development; harmonizing information; mobilizing biodiversity science; and ensuring a continuing dialogue on biodiversity indicators and targets.

• With the financial support of The Netherlands, an expert meeting was held in Geneva, from 20 to 24 April 1997, on the implementation of the UNEP International Technical Guidelines for Safety in Biotechnology in Central and Eastern Europe. Representatives from UNEP, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, the Russian Federation, The Netherlands and the U.K. exchanged views on the biosafety needs of the region. They also explored the possible means and mechanisms for responding to those needs. As a follow-up, UNEP prepared a report on the views expressed to be further discussed informally with selected experts in the margin of the second meeting of the Ad hoc Working Group on a Biosafety Protocol in Montreal, from 12 to 16 May. The draft UNEP report will be revised and used as a basis for discussions by Central and Eastern European experts in a biodiversity workshop planned in Budapest next August.

• From 21 to 23 April 1997, the Executive Director visited Bahrain where she participated in the Silver Jubilee Conference of the Gulf Area Oil Companies Mutual Aid Organization. During her visit, she signed with the Director-General of the Environmental Affairs, an agreement formalizing Bahrain as a host to one of the Mercure earth stations. While in Bahrain, the Executive Director exchanged views on a number of environmental issues such as marine pollution with H.H. The Amir of Bahrain and H.H. The Prime Minister of Bahrain.

• The smaller earth station of Mercure in Kathmandu has been successfully tested and is now on-line, bringing to 8 the number of total Mercure stations in operation (Bahrain, Bolivia, China, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Norway and Switzerland). The Mercure stations installed in Austria, Costa Rica, Cuba, Khazakstan, Thailand, Vietnam are scheduled to commence mid-June 1997. Furthermore, UNEP participated early May in the Sub-Group meetings of the Working Group on Information Systems and Services of the Committee on Earth Observing System. Informal operational agreements were reached with NASA, the European Space Agency and the German Space Agency which will offer to UNEP at no cost support resources and software such as networking performance monitoring.

• Held in Paris on 28-29 April 1997, the OECD joint session on Trade and Environment experts agreed on the future plan of work on trade and environment. Priority areas identified include the impact of trade liberalization on energy and technology transfer, greening of government procurement procedures and lifecycle management. In addition, the meeting adopted two reports related to the use of trade measures in the Basel Convention and CITES. OECD reports on the impact of trade liberalization on the transport sector and ecolabelling were also considered. At the meeting, UNEP's Economics, Trade and Environment Unit explored venues of collaboration with the Directorates of Environment and Trade of the OECD. It was agreed to further enhance collaboration between UNEP and OECD in the area of trade and environment.

• The Executive Director attended the first regular session of the ACC for 1997 held in Geneva on 10-11 April, under the chairmanship of the new Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan. The main substantive item of the ACC agenda was the UN reform. A wide ranging and rich discussion took place among Executive Heads of the UN system on issues such as the reform proposals tabled by the Secretary-General. There was an agreement that a retreat should be organised in the near future to enable the ACC members to continue this discussion. In addition, the ACC reviewed and welcomed the progress made in the Special Initiative on Africa in which UNEP plays a major role as Chair of the Working Group on Water. The ACC also assessed progress in the newly launched initiative on universal access to basic communication and information services.

• On 28 April in The Hague, UNEP and Government officials of The Netherlands discussed several issues related to the establishment of the Coordination Office for the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities which will operate from The Netherlands. The host agreement, the creation of a Trust Fund for the functioning of the Coordination Office, staffing issues and the date of opening were among the main points discussed. It is expected that the host agreement will be signed within two months and that the Coordination Office will be operational in August 1997.

• UNEP and the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) convened a regional workshop in Male, Maldives, from 1 to 6 April 1997, on strengthening legal and institutional arrangements for implementing major environmental conventions. Through training of government officials, the workshop served to assist South Asian countries in reinforcing existing national legal and institutional measures for the effective implementation of relevant environmental conventions. Held under UNEP/SACEP/NORAD Joint Environmental Law Project for South Asia, the workshop was attended by government representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

• From 13 to 26 April 1997 in Maputo, Mozambique, UNEP and UNDP conducted a training seminar on environmental law for lusophone countries in Africa. Held under the UNEP/UNDP Joint Project on Environmental Law and Institutions in Africa, the seminar focused on national and international legal issues related to the management of the environment and natural resources. Representatives from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome Principe participated in the seminar which provided a sub-regional approach to training in environmental law. The seminar also allowed participants to discuss the environmental situation and experience of their respective country.

• A GRID/ENRIN/EIN working group met in Norway, on 26 April, to evaluate the cooperative workplan between GRID-Arendal and GRID-Bangkok, and to initiate the process of developing an integrated 1998-1999 programme for Europe. The working group discussed environmental information networking strategies for Europe in the next biennium. It was agreed that a business plan for implementing UNEP's Environment and Information Assessment Programme in Europe should be prepared. The plan would address assessment and reporting, capacity-building and network servicing. The working group also stressed that an urgent need for 1997 was the development of a strategy to ensure the sustainability of GRID-Geneva.

• An updated software reference tool know as the OzonAction Information Clearinghouse Diskette Version 5.0 is now available from UNEP IE under the Multilateral Fund. This version presents new features such as contact information for the key members of the international ozone protection community, etc. This information service assists in the transfer of environmentally sound "ozone-friendly" technologies and expertise from the companies, organizations and individuals that have experience with successfully phasing out ODS, to their counterparts in developing countries who seek the technology and expertise required for their transition to non-ODS alternatives.

• Recent reports show that the circulation of the monthly media supplement TIERRAMERICA, issued by UNEP ROLAC, grew in the last year and a half from 115,000 to 1,061,000 copies. TIERRAMERICA is distributed in 11 countries of the Latin America and the Caribbean region in Spanish and Portuguese. In the future, TIERRAMERICA is expected to become a bi-monthly publication.

• On World Health Day, 7 April, the Executive Director stressed that the health of humans and the environment is intimately interlinked. Evidence is accumulating that many emerging and resurgent infectious disease outbreaks observed in recent years may have indeed been attributable to extreme weather conditions that occurred in combination with other environmental changes. Effective management of the environment and concerted action, underlined the Executive Director, will help to halt and eventually stop these diseases. The them of this year's World Health Day was "Working together to halt emerging infectious diseases".

Environmental Conventions: Who Has Joined?

Latest Ratifications

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
New Parties: Swaziland (total: 136)

Latest UNEP/GEF Projects Approved

• UNEP Biodiversity Enabling Activities for Morocco (US $191,200),
Mauritius (US $235,000) and Cote d'Ivoire (US $256,000);

• The Climate Change Enabling Activities for Zambia (US $256,000).

Fund News

Latest Contributions to the Environment Fund for 1997 (US$)

Australia 792,744
Finland 1,628,665 (partial payment)
Malta 4,000 Swaziland 6,000 Contributions to the Environment Fund for previous years (US$) Argentina 17,000 (96) Brazil 20,000 (96) (additional payment) Jamaica 3,028 (94)
Slovak Republic 10,000 (96)

• The Executive Director has written to all the Member States following the nineteenth session of the Governing Council inviting them to make early contributions to the Environment Fund.

Internet News

UNEP Chemicals on Line-Current information on fast evolving issues such as the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), as well as major information sources on toxic chemicals are now available worldwide via the following UNEP Chemicals Internet websites:

• International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC):

• PIC and the London Guidelines:
• Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR):
• POPs:

New Releases

Implementing the Urban Environment Agenda, Environmental Planning and Management Source Book vol. 1., Habitat/UNEP, 1997.

Economic Values and the Environment in the Developing World, produced by the UNEP Economics, Trade and Environment Unit, and published by Edward Elgar, 1997.

Saving the Ozone Layer: Guidelines for United Nations Offices, published by UNEP in response to Governing Council decision 18/10 requesting UNEP to promote good environmental housekeeping within the United Nation system. These guidelines describe practical steps for UN managers responsible for planning, purchasing and maintenance of equipment that contains ozone-depleting substances (ODS), to phase out the use of ODS on UN premises, 1997.

Success Stories-Saving the Drylands-1995 Award Winners, UNEP, 1996. A compilation of UNEP's Success Story mission report, the publication seeks to raise awareness at grassroot levels on successful approaches in desertification control. The ultimate aim of the publication is to enhance replication of these approaches in similar biophysical and socio-economic environments.

The Social Dimensions of Desertification Annotated Bibliography and Literature Review, published jointly by UNEP, the UN Research Institute on Social Development, and the International Institute for Environment and Development UNRISD, November 1996.

Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles, work initiated by a joint effort of UNEP and the World Bank, published by the World Bank, 1996. This handbook presents a state-of-the-art review of vehicle emission standards and testing procedures. It attempts to synthesize worldwide experience with vehicle emission control technologies and their applications in both industrialized and developing countries.

UNEP Chemicals Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 1, January 1997.

Desertification Control Bulletin, no 29, UNEP DC/PAC, 1997.

Farmers of Gaho, film co-produced by UNEP and TVE on community drylands participation. It is a success story set in the highlands of Southern Ethiopia.

Japan: Tee's Off, a film on rural japanese communities who are fighting against golf course construction and subsequent environmental destruction, UNEP/TVE, broadcast to 110 countries on BBC's Earth Report.

UNEP Public Service Announcements, six award winning environmental video messages with the Earth Communications Office, produced in all UN languages.

Meetings of the Executive Director

19 May 1997
ACOPS Conference on Oceans & Security, Washington, D.C.

22-23 May 1997
UNEP Banking Roundtable Meeting, New York.

23 May 1997
Twenty-second World Conference of the Society for International Development, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

26 May 1997
Third Negotiating Session for the Development of an International Legally Binding Instrument for PIC, Geneva.

29 May 1997
59th meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, Nairobi.

4-6 June 1997

World Environment Day celebrations, including the Global Youth Forum, Global 500 celebrations, media conference, the 5th General Assembly of the Asia and Pacific Parliamentarians's Conference on Environment and Development, Conference on Ethics and Environment, etc., Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Thursday 29 May 1997
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