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Our Planet News





WORLD RESOURCES REPORT

Major collaboration between the World Resources Institute (WRI), UNEP, UNDP and the World Bank has resulted in the publication of World Resources 1996-97. This report constitutes the most up-to-date coverage available of environmental issues requiring urgent attention around the globe, and is as much about preparing for the next century as about evaluating where we currently stand.

The first part of the report, in support of the United Nations HABITAT II Conference, addresses the driving forces of urbanization, its impacts on human health and natural resources, urban transportation and priorities for action. The second part examines basic conditions, trends and key issues in the major resource categories such as water, agriculture, forests and energy.

UNEP's involvement in producing the Report has led to a strong correlation between this edition and the new UNEP State of the Environment Report series - the Global Environment Outlook (GEO). To further consolidate environment and development efforts, and in collaboration with other partners, UNEP and WRI are working towards the establishment of a consortium of global report producers using a common data and knowledge base.







MAJOR INITIATIVE FOR EAST ASIAN SEAS

man in rice fieldThe United Nations University (UNU) and UNEP's Coordinating Unit for East Asian Seas negotiated a joint project, initiated under the umbrella of the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), to support the development of the East Asian Seas Action Plan.

Entitled Environmental Monitoring and Analysis in the East Asian Region: Technology Transfer and Environmental Governance, the project seeks to monitor and analyse hazardous substances in the East Asian region; develop an environmental monitoring database to promote further research and provide information for decision-making; undertake policy research with regard to compliance with international environmental treaties in the region; and improve analytical methodologies of the laboratories participating in the project.

UNU has raised funding from the Shimadzu Corporation of Japan to cover three years of the project. Environmental laboratories from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Viet Nam and Thailand are participating. These countries will be provided with state-of-the-art analytical equipment and specialized training for scientists. One of the first actions to be undertaken under the project in 1996 will be to analyse pesticides and PCBs found in rice and soils.

The project responds to the requirements and decisions of the Member States of the East Asian Seas Action Plan and will also contribute significantly towards the national and regional aims of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities.







ENVIRONMENT CATEGORY FOR HELSINKI POSTER BIENNIAL

When Lauri Tarasti, after 10 years as First Secretary-General for the Ministry of the Environment of Finland, left his position in early 1994, he stated that his objective was, and would continue to be, the promotion of environmental issues. For this reason he founded the Lauri Tarasti Prize, to be awarded for the design of the best poster in the newly created Environment category of the Helsinki Poster Biennial. The Prize aims to use poster art to draw attention to environmental issues at national and international levels and will be awarded to both a Finnish and a foreign designer.

The new category attracted 116 entries from 40 designers for the 1995 Biennial, of which 32 posters have been selected for the main exhibition, before being exhibited separately later in 1996 in Järviluonnonkeskus, Rantasalmi.







UNEP'S PRIORITIES IN FOCUS

The first official visit of the Executive Director to West Asia has sharpened the focus of UNEP's priorities in the region.

In Saudi Arabia, the Executive Director signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between UNEP and the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. With officials from the Meteorology and Environment Protection Administration (MEPA), discussions were held on the need to strengthen UNEP's involvement in the implementation of the Arab Programme for Sustainable Development adopted by the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE).

During the course of meetings with various national environmental authorities, Bahrain reaffirmed its support for the work of UNEP's Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) in Bahrain, and a meeting was suggested to review the implementation of UNEP's work at the regional level and to identify priority areas to be addressed over the next three years.

The Executive Director completed her visit to the region by meeting with the Crown Prince of Kuwait, the Prime Minister, the Executive Secretary of the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) and other high level officials. All these authorities expressed their concern over the environmental threats posed by the sunken ships in the northern part of the Gulf which resulted from the Gulf War. UNEP has invited the International Maritime Organization to collaborate in addressing this problem. In addition, the environmental authorities of Kuwait requested UNEP's assistance in studying the ecological impact of the drainage of the Iraqi marshes in the northern part of the Gulf.







INCREASED LINKS WITH LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

The recent official visit of the Executive Director to Brazil and Peru resulted in stronger links between UNEP and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Discussions with ministers of the region focused on the agenda of the Commission on Sustainable Development; matters of environmental concern; and preparations for UNEP's Governing Council. A significant increase in funding was announced by the Governments of Brazil and Mexico. The Executive Director signed a partnership agreement with CETESB, a scientific and technical institution of the State of São Paulo devoted to water quality management and pollution control, which will assist UNEP in implementing its advisory services on environment to the Governments of Latin America and the Caribbean.

While in Peru, the Executive Director accompanied the President of the country on a tour to review the land degradation control programmes put in place in the high Andes by the Government. The Executive Director met with the authorities of CONAM, an innovative organization which enables the participation of the private sector and the civil society in national environmental initiatives. A collaboration agreement was also signed with the Secretariat of the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty.







UNEP'S WORK SUPPORTED BY ARCTIC COUNTRIES

Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States recently signed the Inuvik Declaration on Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development in the Arctic, supporting, among other things, the work currently undertaken under the auspices of UNEP towards the negotiation of a global legally binding instrument for controlling emissions and discharges of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The Third Ministerial Conference on the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) held in Inuvik, Canada, in March, noted the key role played by the Arctic countries in the Washington Declaration of the Intergovernmental Conference on Global Action on Marine Pollution Arising from Land-based Activities, in which countries agreed to develop a convention on POPs. Ministers decided to seek full support for the active participation of their countries in the preparation of the convention. In addition, the UNEP Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Levels (APELL) Programme will be examined further as an instrument for the involvement of indigenous groups of the Arctic region, and a new international body, the Arctic Council, will be formed to strengthen efforts to protect the fragile Arctic environment.

UNEP is supporting activities of the AEPS in the field of environmental assessment, particularly the development of an Arctic State-of-the-Environment Report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), and is exploring ways to assist the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Working Group in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the Arctic.







ECOLABELING MOVES ON

The Expert Group Meeting on Ecolabeling, held by UNEP in Helsinki in April, agreed on a framework for further research on the selection of environmental criteria to harmonize ecolabeling schemes.

The experts present, representing both governments and the private sector, provided technical and policy information concerning the selection and definition of environmental criteria used in granting ecolabels, including input to relevant fora, amongst them the CSD, UNCTAD, OECD and the International Standards Organization (ISO).







COMMUNITY-DRIVEN PROJECT EVALUATION

UNEP's Dryland Ecosystem and Desertification Control Programme Activity Centre (DEDC/PAC) and the Environmental Liaison Centre International (ELCI) are currently devising a method to approach effectively a community-based evaluation of projects. The new method - Articulating Indigenous Indicators and Criteria for Community Participation among Dryland Dwellers: A Method for Community-Driven Project Evaluation - has been tested in Northern Kenya where several projects are operating in the same locality. The final document will be a manual for development workers with practical guidelines on how to apply the method in the field.

The first results have proved particularly useful concerning the community-based approach to the environment itself, as well as to ongoing projects. Not only do communities see projects in a completely different way from project organizers; there are also differing perceptions among the various stakeholders within the same community. Indigenous appraisal of projects serves as a mediator between a 'top-down' linear way of thinking and the perceptions of the community, thus facilitating the improved understanding that is so important for project success.

For more information contact: Ute Reckers, UNEP DEDC/PAC, PO Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya; tel: (254 2) 623265; fax: 623284; e-mail: ute.reckers@unep.no







coral reef

CORAL REEF WORKSHOPS

The fifth of six regional workshops taking place around the world under the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) was held in Mahe, Seychelles, in April, resulting in the development of an Action Plan for coral reef management in the region of the Western Indian Ocean and East Africa.

Participants addressed community participation, sustainable financial mechanisms, regional priorities and strategies, as well as the institutional aspects of coral reef and related ecosystem management. The last workshop to be convened later this year will focus on the Red Sea.

UNEP is facilitating the convening of the workshops through its Regional Seas Programme, is providing technical assistance to regions, and is seeking donor support for implementation of the priority actions identified through the workshops.







RECOMMENDATIONS ON OZONE

Research programme managers of the Parties to the Vienna Convention met in Geneva in March to review current information on the state of the ozone layer. Recommendations at the meeting included high priority for research on the interactions between the ozone layer, the climate and the impact of aircraft emissions; and for strengthening research and monitoring of the effects of UVB radiation. It was recommended that UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), find ways to further these activities in developing countries through international funding mechanisms such as the Global Environment Facility. The meeting was convened by UNEP and WMO.







UNEP ACTIVE IN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

At the International Conference Towards Strengthening the Application of International Environmental Law convened in Paris, in March, UNEP presented its work achieved in the field of environmental law and contributed substantially to the preparation of Recommendations by NGOs, the main document which resulted from the Conference. In addition, UNEP established inter-agency cooperation in Geneva, in March, with regard to the legal aspects of sustainable consumption. Its meetings with UNCTAD, UNECE, WTO, UNESCO, OECD, the Council of Europe and the European Commission also resulted in the preparation of assessment questionnaires on sustainable consumption for governments, international organizations, Convention Secretariats, the private sector and consumer associations.







Taking Action

UNEP's latest handbook, Taking Action: An Environmental Guide For You and Your Community, designed to enable ordinary people and communities to work towards a healthier environment, is available (US$12) from SMI (Distribution Services) Ltd., Stevenage Business Park, Wedgwood Way Green, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England SG1 4QT; tel: 011-441-438-748111; fax: 011-441-438-748844; e-mail: anthony@smibooks.com




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