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UNEP'S NEW REPORT OF THE GLOBAL STATE OF ENVIRONMENT IS OUT

UNEP's new Global Environment Outlook was officially launched on 27 January 1997. GEO-1 (Oxford University Press, $24.95) is available as a book* and on six web sites. A first analysis of web requests from one site (GRID-Sioux Falls) during its first two weeks of operation shows that there were more than 16,000 requests from 27 countries.

The launch of GEO-1 received extensive media coverage: in broadcasts by BBC World Service, Voice of America and China International Radio and on many national, private and local radio stations and television channels. Press coverage similarly ranged from international to national and local newspapers.

Governing Council response

Governments gave a clear message on GEO-1 at the Governing Council session. Underscoring the vital role of UNEP in environmental monitoring and assessment, they welcomed GEO-1 as the first major output of the regionally-based participatory assessment process setting priorities for regional and global action. They accepted the findings of GEO-1 as an authoritative statement on the state of the world's environment and decided that the Governing Council paper on GEO-1, including a summary of the report, together with the outcome of the Council's consideration of GEO-1, should be forwarded to the 5th session of UNCSD in April and to the special session of the United Nations General Assembly in June 1997. Governments recommended that UNEP enhance the consultative process for GEO-2 and hold consultations with governments on the overall framework for future reports.

GEO-2

Preparations for GEO-2 are in full swing. A strategic meeting with the Directors of the GEO Collaborating Centres and other key organizations took place in early March. This will be followed in May by a meeting to initiate a number of region-specific policy-oriented studies to be carried out by the Collaborating Centres.

A number of new focuses are already envisaged for GEO-2. Whilst there will be continuing emphasis on identifying regional environmental priorities, trends and policy responses, the state of environment analyses in GEO-2 will be indicator-based and special attention will be given to assessing regional environmental impacts of current policy implementation, particularly of major environmental conventions. In addition, cooperation with the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) will facilitate the identification of emerging scientific issues which may become urgent items on future policy agendas.

GEO-1, as all other UNEP publications, is available from UNEP's distributor, SMI, Unit 2, Long Haydons, Rushden Road, Bletsoe, Bedford, MK44 1QW, UK.







THE MERCURE SATELLITE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM IS ON ITS WAY

The Government of Kenya and UNEP signed an historic agreement on 31 January 1997 to begin operations of the Mercure satellite telecommunications system at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.

Mercure will ensure a reliable global connection through the UNEP net system for the transmission of environmental data. The advanced capability made possible through this system will better equip UNEP to fulfil its leadership role in providing up-to-date, easily accessible, well-organized information and scientific data to Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas via the global information highways. Moreover, Mercure and UNEPnet will deliver significant returns in the form of improved communications services at reduced cost.







LINKAGES BETWEEN ENVIRONMENTAL CONVENTIONS

UNEP and the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) have initiated the preparation of a report on the linkages existing between the assessment of various environmental issues.

The outline of the report was developed by scientists and policy makers at a meeting convened at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in December 1996 with funding from NASA and UNEP. This initiative was motivated by the need to provide a scientific basis for integrated policy initiatives towards sustainable development. Specifically, the report seeks to inform policy makers on the merit and cost effectiveness of the integrated approach in implementing the various environmental treaties at the national, regional and international levels. UNEP plans to present the report at the CSD intersessional meetings and the special session of the General Assembly to be held in June 1997. The need to develop linkages between environmental conventions was recognized by the scientific community in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments and in the Global Biodiversity and Ozone assessments.







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THE STRATEGIC ACTION PROGRAMME FOR THE RED SEA AND GULF OF ADEN

The Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden was finalized by the SAP Task Force in Sana, Republic of Yemen, on 12 to 13 January 1997. The Task Force is mainly composed of UNDP, UNEP, the World Bank and the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA). These organizations are now collaborating in the development of projects to implement SAP. It is expected that the projects will be reviewed at a Task Force meeting next May with inputs from various experts before being presented to the GEF Council and potential donors. At its meeting held in Jeddah, on 26 October 1996, the PERSGA Council recognized the supportive role that SAP can play in the efforts to enhance the long-term management of coastal and marine resources of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.







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TURNING POINT IN THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

The first meeting of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development held in Rabat, Morocco, in December 1996, adopted a programme of work that seeks to integrate environment and development issues in the Mediterranean region.

It was agreed that activities should be undertaken immediately to develop policy proposals for the sustainable management of coastal zones and water demand. In addition, the meeting identified areas for action in the medium term including: the elaboration and implementation of sustainable development indicators; tourism; information, public awareness and participation of all concerned sectors of society; free trade and environment; industry and sustainable development; and management of urban and rural development. The Commission designated Task Managers and Thematic Working Groups to address these issues efficiently. It also elected a Bureau which is headed by H.E. Mr. Nourdine Benomar Alami, Minister of the Environment of Morocco. The Bureau first met in Athens, Greece in February 1997, to review the progress achieved in the sustainable management of coastal zones and water demand as well as to provide guidance to the Task Managers and Thematic Working Groups.

The Commission was established in 1995 as an advisory body under the auspices of the Mediterranean Action Plan, one of UNEP's Regional Seas Programmes. Its role consists of guiding the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention and facilitating the exchange of information among institutions involved in the sustainable development of the Mediterranean basin. The Commission was also set up to enhance regional cooperation and rationalize the intergovernmental decision-making capacity for the integration of environment


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