GRID Polar Division News

UNEP’s statement to the discussion on The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy

Mr. Chairman, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The United Nations Environment Programme was established in 1972 to serve as a focal point for environmental action and co-ordination within the United Nations system. Through its various programmes, UNEP addresses assessment, management and policy aspects of global and regional environmental issues. UNEP maintains a keen interest in the Arctic environment and recognises its importance in a global context.

UNEP administers the secretariats of various global conventions which deal with subjects relevant to the Arctic and in particular the programmes of the AEPS. These include the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, together with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone layer, and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Other global initiatives which have regional significance for the Arctic include the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, and the work to establish a Negotiating Committee to initiate work on a global instrument whose aim is to reduce and eliminate the release of Persistent Organics.

The assessment programme of UNEP has particular responsibility for carrying out State of the Environment (SOE) reporting. UNEP's latest global SOE report, published earlier this year, is the first volume in the new Global Environment Outlook series and includes coverage of the Arctic region.

Much of UNEP’s support to the AEPS process has been achieved through the activities of our GRID office in Arendal, Norway which has contributed to the work of AMAP, CAFF and PAME. This work has involved the collection, analysis and presentation of data and information. Many of the products produced from these programmes can be downloaded and used from GRID-Arendal’s Internet site. GRID-Arendal continues to host CAFF and AMAP’s homepages.

UNEP would like to recognise and thank the Norwegian government for its support to the activities of GRID-Arendal. A continuation of this arrangement will ensure GRID-Arendal’s on-going support to the various working groups within the Arctic Council and will help to maintain a link between Arctic and global environmental issues.

The working groups of the AEPS have produced a vast quantity of information, some of which has been presented to Ministers at this meeting. This work has consumed a considerable amount of time and effort and UNEP would like to encourage Ministers to maximise this work by allocating suitable resources to ensure this information is communicated effectively to all necessary groups. To this end, UNEP has contributed to the production of AMAP’s State of the Arctic Environment Report, and will finance the production of an Internet version of the report. It is anticipated that this product will be released this Autumn. UNEP believes in the importance of disseminating this and other information produced through the AEPS process to a wider audience within and outside the Arctic region. A range of groups will benefit from the message of AMAP including decision-makers, scientists, school children and students and especially those inhabitants of the Arctic whose very livelihoods are affected by the levels of pollution identified in this new report. Traditional ways of communication should be used while new methods will need to be found. We should all beware of complacency when it comes to raising awareness at all levels.

Finally, UNEP would like to draw attention to the work of the International Arctic Environment Data Directory (ADD), a working group operating under the International Arctic Science Committee, IASC. This is a network co-operation among major holders of Arctic environmental data which makes Arctic data available to Internet users. More information on this initiative can be found on the poster to my right.

UNEP would like to thank the delegates, permanent participants, observers and especially all those working within the individual programmes of the AEPS for their valuable outputs. We wish these activities a smooth transition into a new, and continued successful era under the auspices of the Arctic Council.

David Henry
Polar and Nordic Programme Manager
UNEP/GRID Arendal
Alta, 12 June 1997

Monday 16 Jun 1997