Our Planet News
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
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.
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,
Bedford, MK44 1QW,
THE MERCURE SATELLITE
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.
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.
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.
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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