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UNEP UPDATE vol. 3, no. 5 (May issue) Editorial


12 June 1997 - UNEP's World Environment Day, marked annually on 5 June, was particularly significant this year. In 1997, UNEP is celebrating a number of significant milestones since its creation 25 years ago following the Stockholm Conference. This year the world marks: the 10th anniversary of the historic negotiation of the Montreal Protocol to preserve the ozone layer; 10 years since the ground-breaking Brundtland report on sustainable development; and five years since world leaders gathered in Rio for the Earth Summit. World Environment Day celebrates indeed past environmental achievements but more importantly, it constituted a unique occasion to invite the world to take urgent action for the preservation of life on Earth.

The sanctity of all life on Earth was the universal message conveyed by World Environment Day 1997 hosted this year by the Republic of Korea. It is a message that should find expression in all our actions: in understanding that human wealth and economic development ultimately derive from and depend upon the resources of the Earth; in seeing economic development and care for the environment as compatible, interdependent and necessary; in knowing that economic development can help solve environmental problems only if it is accompanied by an attitude of responsibility and stewardship for the Earth; and in knowing that the key to socially sustainable development is the participation, organisation, education and empowerment of people.

The involvement of all sectors of civil society in sustainable development is a goal which was at the heart of all major events taking place on the occasion of World Environment Day 1997. Parliamentarians from Asia and Pacific came together in Seoul to affirm the essential message of the sanctity of life at their Conference on Environment and Development focusing on the implementation of the concept of sustainable development in the region and on the role of environmentally sound technology transfer. The Conference was organised to demonstrate to the international community that parliamentarians from Asia-Pacific are determined to work together to address environmental problems in their region. Furthermore, the people of the Republic of Korea produced in close collaboration with UNEP the "Seoul Declaration on Environmental Ethics" to heighten environmental awareness and the need for global cooperation and shared responsibility. Presented at the Environment and Ethics Roundtable in Seoul, the Declaration will be forwarded to the forthcoming UN General Assembly Special Session in June.

More than 300 youth from 45 countries also came together on the occasion of World Environment Day to participate in the 1997 UNEP Global Youth Forum. Youth representatives were gathered in Seoul to develop Regional Youth Plans of Action and a UNEP Youth Environmental Agenda to the year 2000 based on the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) findings. Another key event was the launch of UNEP's latest ENVOC version of the INFOTERRA Thesaurus of Environmental Terms which has evolved into an important reference tool for both users and providers of environmental information. The launch took place during the International Media Conference.

The centerpiece of World Environment Day 1997 was the presentation of the UNEP Global 500 Award to organisations and individuals whose outstanding environmental achievements have made a remarkable difference in the lives of families, communities, and to life on earth. UNEP is proud to recognize the achievements of these environmentalists who deserve a special thanks for being on the front lines of global environmental action. In honouring them, we hope that their tireless dedication will inspire and guide many other men, women and young people to join the global coalition dedicated to protecting the environment.


Towards Enhanced Ocean Security into the Third Millennium

Governments, United Nations bodies, intergovernmental agencies, NGOs, scientists and private sector representatives from all over the world underscored the vital importance of oceans for the survival of humankind at the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS) Global Conference on Oceans and Security held in Washington, D.C., from 19 to 21 May 1997.

The ACOPS Conference adopted the Potomac Declaration which recognises the urgency of taking immediate action to strengthen environmental security if global human security is to be sustained. Continuing intensification of human activity in coastal and marine areas will adversely affect marine and coastal ecosystems worldwide and threatens the well-being of the human population. The natural resource base of world fisheries is imperiled by over-exploitation, habitat degradation, introduction of alien species and loss of biological diversity.

The Potomac Declaration stresses that sustainable development, including conservation of the marine environment, can actually increase environmental, food and economic security and therefore provide a foundation for political security. The Declaration recommends, among other things, that the management of marine and coastal ecosystems carried out within the framework of integrated coastal and watershed areas management should be based on the full application of the precautionary principle and an ecosystem approach, thereby enhancing the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in marine and coastal ecosystems. The Declaration also strongly supports initiatives such as the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), the International Coral Reef Initiative and the proposed UNEP/GEF Global International Water Assessment. Additionally, it was recommended that the GPA be supported by governments as a means to achieve the implementation, harmonisation and strengthening of international legislation, and global and regional action plans for ocean pollution control.

In her remarks to the Conference, the Executive Director of UNEP underscored the linkages between land, freshwater, coastal areas and oceans. She emphasized that the world community must acknowledge the close connection between measures to control pollution in the marine environment and their concomitant effects on the environmental integrity of the freshwater drainage basins that flow into oceans. Participants urged national governments to support UNEP in its efforts to conclude an international instrument on the integrated management of hazardous substances including PIC and POPs. Furthermore it was suggested that UNEP prepares an inventory and analysis of the leading international studies on the oceans in cooperation with national governments and other relevant intergovernmental institutions. Another crucial recommendation was that ACOPS organise a conference dealing with integrated watershed management.


The Health of Children: an Environmental Priority

The meeting of the Environment Leaders of the Eight held in Miami on 5-6 May 1997, provided the opportunity to forge an important new understanding at the global level on the importance of protecting children's health from threats in the environment. The Executive Director of UNEP participated in the event.

The Environment Leaders of the Eight adopted the 1997 Declaration on Children's Environmental Health in which they acknowledge that children's health is threatened by an array of environmental hazards, including microbiological and chemical contaminants in drinking water and air pollution. Most of these threats are aggravated for children living in poverty. The Environment Leaders affirm that prevention of exposure is the single most effective means of protection children against environmental threats. They urge governments to make the protection of children's environmental health a high priority and call for international financial institutions, UNEP, WMO and other organisations to continue ongoing activities and give further attention to children's environmental health.

Furthermore, the Environment Leaders pledged to assure that environmental protection programmes, including risk assessment, testing protocols, standards as well as future international agreements, take into account the unique exposures and special sensitivities of infants and children. Specific actions were also recommended related to children's exposure to lead, microbiologically safe drinking water, air quality, environmental tobacco smoke, and emerging threats to children's health from endocrine disrupting chemicals and global climate change. In their Declaration, the Environment Leaders urge national governments to commit to specific result-oriented actions that will accelerate a global transition to sustainable development at the forthcoming UN General Assembly Special Session and other international fora.

Additionally, the Environment Leaders called upon UNEP to work with other international organisations on an international assessment of the state of the science related to endocrine disrupting chemicals. They also endorsed the decisions to restructure and reform UNEP, recognising it as the leading global environmental authority as confirmed in the Nairobi Declaration.


Bankers to Link Environment and Financial Performance

The third UNEP Roundtable Meeting on Finance and the Environment held in New York, on 22-23 May 1997, demonstrated the strong commitment of the financial community to play a vital role towards the achievement of sustainable development.

Some 350 leading bankers and financial experts participated in the Roundtable as part of the continuing endeavour of UNEP to involve the financial sector in environmental initiatives worldwide. The meeting addressed issues such as environmental opportunities in private finance; environmental disclosures and reporting; opportunities for green investment; innovative policy initiatives for various industries; the World Bank Guidelines; and challenges in linking environmental and financial performance.

Discussions reflected a new sense of urgency in grasping the competitive advantages that are available to frontrunners in environmental performance. The financial services industry has come a long way since UNEP launched this initiative five years ago. The private sector is now ready to pursue and grasp environmental opportunities in investment and lending practices. The incorporation of environmental facts and figures into investment is vital to sustainable development. Since its launch in 1992, UNEP's Statement by Banks on the Environment and Sustainable Development has been signed by more than 95 banks from 33 countries.


Increased Capacity for Assessing and Monitoring Coral Reefs

The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) recently finalized its strategic plan of action.

Developed in partnership by UNEP, IUCN and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the network is part of the International Coral Reef Initiative which provides research and monitoring information on coral reefs and related ecosystems. The network was set up in response to the urgent need for information to support the conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs. It will bring together resources managers, stakeholders and scientists for the collection, dissemination and use of assessment and monitoring information on coral reefs. The network will contribute to the implementation of Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 and other international conventions and programmes, particularly the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities and the Global Ocean Observing System coordinated by IOC, UNEP, WMO and ICSU.

The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network will operate through independent regional nodes which are to provide training and database support to participating countries. Local users and managers will be involved in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data for reef management at the country level. It is crucial that governments, organisations, resource managers, scientists and community groups take an active role in the development and implementation of the network.


The Development of a Biosafety Protocol in Progress

At its second meeting held in Montreal from 12 to 16 May 1997, the Open-ended Working Group on Biosafety recommended a series of elements to be included in the draft protocol on biosafety.

The participants agreed that the Secretariat of the Biodiversity Convention should draft articles on the financial issues, institutional framework and jurisdictional scope of the biosafety protocol. They also recommended the inclusion of articles on the settlement of disputes and the relationship between the biosafety protocol and other international agreements. An important number of countries requested the Convention Secretariat to explore the possibility of using the UNEP Register on Biosafety as a core information sharing mechanism within the framework of the protocol.

On the margins of the working group meeting, UNEP and the Convention Secretariat discussed areas of future collaboration. Ecotourism, the development of a liability and compensation mechanism, and the use of agrobiodiversity as a tool for promoting benefit sharing were among the main areas of cooperation identified. Furthermore it was recommended that UNEP, in consultation with the Convention Secretariat, organises a meeting on additional financial resources for biodiversity-related conventions prior to the fourth meeting of the Conference of Parties in May 1998 in Bratislava, Slovakia.


Improvement of Information Exchange on Green Technologies

Experts were brought together by UNEP in Paris, from 26 to 28 May, to explore ways of improving delivery and feedback mechanisms in information systems that particularly promote environmentally sound technologies (ESTs).

The meeting made a series of recommendations on how to improve information exchange between suppliers and users as expressed following the presentation of the UNEP Survey of Information Systems Related to ESTs at the fifth session of the CSD. Recommendations were made in areas ranging from the provision of information to industry sector-specific users to the information needs for implementation of international environmental conventions. These recommendations will guide the future work of UNEP in enhancing links between EST information providers and users.


At a Glance

• The first Expert Working Group Meeting on the Concept and Development of Practical Guidelines for Integrated Coastal Areas and River Basin Management was convened by UNEP in Nairobi from 21 to 23 May 1997. Various UN agencies and other international organisations presented their work carried out in this field. Participants also succeeded in formulating an outline of the integrated coastal area and river basin management guidelines. It was decided that two types of documents should be developed: one for decision and policy makers, and a more technical document on the modality of integrating river basin and coastal area management for task managers and technical experts. The final guidelines are expected to be published in November 1998. This project was initiated as a subsequent development to the merger in 1996 of the Oceans and Coastal Area Programme Activity Centre and the Fresh Water Unit of UNEP into the Water Branch. The merger was a critical move in the realization of the need for a holistic and comprehensive approach to achieving sustainable development within watershed areas.

• In Canberra, Australia, from 12 to 16 May 1997, UNEP co-sponsored for the first time a workshop on waste management in small island developing states (SIDS) with the South-Pacific Regional Environment Programme. The workshop provided governments with a forum to discuss common needs and environmental priorities in the SIDS of the South-Pacific region and to enhance the capacities of SIDS in decision-making with regard to waste management issues. The workshop recommended that integrated waste management policies be developed at each relevant governmental level in all SIDS of the South-Pacific. In addition, the conservation and sustainable use of freshwater was identified as a key component of waste management. Follow-up activities to the workshop will be undertaken within the framework of the South-Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

• UNEP led a mission in collaboration with IUCN in Maputo, Mozambique, from 28 April to 13 May 1997, to further develop the Rapid Assessment Methodology for Coral Reef Management in East Africa. The methodology used for the rapid assessment of socio-economic and bio-physical parameters for coral reef management will assist stakeholder populations in developing a management strategy for the conservation and sustainable use of the reef and its resources. The application of the UNEP/IUCN methodology will contribute to other UNEP projects, programmes and initiatives, including the Eastern African Resource Database and Atlas Project, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities and GEO. Further development and application of the methodology should be supported particularly through the GCRMN.

• UNEP and the International Council on Metals and the Environment (ICME) successfully concluded the workshop on "Managing the risks of tailings disposal" which was held in Stockholm on 22 and 22 May 1997. The workshop brought together experts on tailings dams, managers of mines and national regulatory agencies from over 20 countries to prepare recommendations on improved management practices and monitoring procedures at mine sites. Participants focussed their work on quality assurance procedures which is one of the main conditions to tailings management. UNEP and ICME will use the findings of the workshop to prepare a synthesis of best management practices and a case study compilation for wider international use.

• At the GLOBE International 12th General Assembly of Parliamentarians held in Brussels on 7 May, the Executive Director of UNEP presented a keynote address on UNEP's work in the field of chemicals, particularly with regard to the emerging issue of endocrine disrupting chemicals. The Executive Director shared with delegates the recommendations which emanated from the workshop on endocrine disruptors which was co-sponsored by UNEP and the U.S. EPA earlier this year. Parliamentarians were also informed on the decision of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety to establish a framework for investigating in depth the human and environmental aspects of endocrine disrupting substances. The framework will be facilitated by UNEP and other intergovernmental organisations. The Executive Director urged parliamentarians to help ensuring that the chemical agenda be given priority and that citizens be educated about the difficult and complex issue of endocrine disruptors. The causes of endocrine disruption in both humans and wildlife must be established and followed up by a solid policy response by national governments, NGOs, industry and individuals. Earlier in the agenda of the General Assembly, delegates also heard about UNEP's Global Environmental Citizenship Programme. GLOBE is an important partner of UNEP in fostering environmental citizenship.

• UNEP held a training programme under the Lusaka agreement for national law enforcement officers in Mpika, Zambia, from 5 to 16 May 1997. Experts from the Kenya Wildlife Service and the South African Endangered Species Protection Unit trained the enforcement officers to assist in the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement by initiating them to enforcement mechanisms such as the undertaking of undercover and cross border operations. A similar training has already been undertaken in Tanzania and Uganda. The next training session is expected to be held in Ethiopia next July.

• At its 59th meeting on 28 May 1997, the Committee of Permanent Representatives met to consider its programme of work for the coming year. The first meeting of the High Level Committee of Ministers and Officials has been tentatively scheduled for 28 June on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session.

• UNEP and UNCTAD launched a joint Capacity Building Programme on Trade, Environment and Development in Geneva on 21 May 1997. The main objectives of the programme are the following: promoting integration of environmental considerations in policy making; and proposing policy instruments and mechanisms to promote cost internalization, the use of environmental economic analysis, the effective integration of environmental considerations in projects, and sectoral planning.

• UNEP, the European Commission, UNDP, and the World Bank convened an International Conference on the Caspian Environment Programme in Istanbul, Turkey, from 12 to 14 May 1997. The Conference progressed in further discussing the content of the concept paper on the Caspian Environment Programme. In this draft concept paper, UNEP is requested to continue, in collaboration with other agencies, to assist governments with the preparation of the Framework Convention on the Protection of the Environment and the establishment of a coordinated regional environment monitoring system. The overall initiative on the protection of the Caspian environment was revitalized recently by major financial support from the European Commission in particular.

• The Executive Director of UNEP participated in the closing session of the Society for International Development (SID) 22nd World Conference held in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, from 21 to 23 May 1997. The theme of this year's event was "Which Globalization? Opening Spaces for Civic Engagement". In her remarks, the Executive Director highlighted the measures that UNEP has taken to respond to the realities of globalization, particularly through its trade and environment activities and through the reorientation of UNEP's programme of work. She also focussed on the need to engage civil society more fully in the intergovernmental decision-making process.


Internet News

The UNEP International Register on Biosafety, launched in July 1996, is now available on the Internet at the following address: biodiv/irb/welcome.htm. The list of more than 100 national biosafety focal points was posted on the Register. In addition, the results of a UNEP survey on the implementation of the UNEP International Technical Guidelines for Safety in Biotechnology are conveyed on the Register's website. It contains biosafety information provided by Governments in line with the UNEP Guidelines.


Environmental Citizenship in Action

During the main celebrations of World Environment Day in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on 5 June, UNEP recognised the extraordinary contributions of 21 individuals and organisations to environmental protection by electing them to the prestigious ranks of its Global 500 Roll of Honour. The Global 500 initiative is an important part of UNEP's initiative to promote global environmental citizenship.

Adult laureates: Siti Aminah (Indonesia), the BBC World Service Education Department (U.K.), the Centro Salvadoreno de Technologia Apropriada (El Salvador), Joon-Yuep Cha (Republic of Korea), Ki-Chel Choi (Republic of Korea), Lilian Corra (Argentina), Zsuzsa Foltanyi (Hungary), Jane Goodall (U.K.), Edward Solon Hagedorn (Philippines), Sang-Hyun Kim (Republic of Korea), Theo Manuel (Republic of South Africa), Kook-Hyun Moon (Republic of Korea), The Nation Newspaper (Thailand), The Swire Group (Hong Kong), Ube City (Japan), Jan C. van der Leun (The Netherlands), and Xialu Township (People's Republic of China).

Youth laureates: Health Messengers (Romania), The Oposa Group (Philippines), Carolina Garcia Travesi (Mexico), and Young Leaders (Trinidad and Tobago).



The following enabling activities were approved:

• Presentation of the first national biodiversity reports for China (US $59,400), Russia (US $52,920) and Madagascar (US $25,000);

• First national biodiversity plan and report for Colombia (US $289,000).


Fund News

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

Botswana 7,000
Bhutan 1,000
Canada 662,113
Ghana 10,000 Morocco 10,000
Slovak Republic 10,000
South Africa 40,000
Turkey 15,795

Total of contributions for 1997: US $21,182,881
(as at 31 May 1997)


Environmental Conventions: Who Has Joined?

Latest Ratifications UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
New Parties: Ukraine (total: 166)


Meetings of the Executive Director

4-6 June 1997

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

9-11 June 1997
Meeting of APEC Ministers on Sustainable Development and Annual Meeting of the Air & Waste Management Association, Toronto, Canada.

16 June 1997
10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, Harare, Zimbabwe.

19-20 June 1997
UNCTAD/Earth Council Policy Forum on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading, Chicago, U.S.A.

23-27 June 1997
United Nations General Assembly Special Session for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of Agenda 21, New York.


New Releases

• ENVOC, Multilingual Thesaurus of Environmental Terms, revised version which reflects emerging environmental concerns and new technologies particularly in the field of environmental information, UNEP/INFOTERRA, 1997.

• UNEP's publice service announcement Life on Earth will be premiered worldwide by CNN on the occasion of World Environment Day, 5 June 1997.

• UNEP prepared a Drylands Compilation Video on success stories around the world to combat desertification. It will be featured on World Desertification Day, 17 June 1997.

Thursday 12 Jun 1997
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