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CALL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL REFORM

A statement calling for a strengthened UNEP in the United Nations system was signed by major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participating in the Rio+5 Forum convened by the Earth Council in Rio de Janeiro, in March.

The Earth Council, IUCN-the World Conservation Union, the World Resources Institute, the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, the International Institute for Environment and Development, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the Third World Academy of Science and the International Institute for Sustainable Development called for a strong and authoritative environmental organization within the United Nations system which would be a true counterpart and equal partner to the world's economic and trade agencies.

In their statement, the NGOs underscored that this organization should be built on the foundations of UNEP and be equipped with specific characteristics including the following: the power to promote effective international collaboration on environmental issues; the mandate to develop, monitor and assure compliance with a comprehensive system of international environmental law; analysis and assessment of the state of the global environment; and a working partnership with civil society.







STRENGTHENING OF UNEP'S REGIONAL SEAS IN EAST AFRICA

The Parties to the Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region (Nairobi Convention) formally approved the establishment of the Regional Coordinating Unit for the Eastern African Action Plan at their first meeting held in Mahe, Seychelles, in March.

Strong commitment towards regional cooperation and integration in all matters relating to the sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment of East Africa marked the first meeting of the Parties. The 1997-1998 workplan for the Coordinating Unit was approved. The Parties also decided that an ad hoc technical and legal working group be established to consider the feasibility and modalities of updating the Nairobi Convention and its related Protocols. Furthermore, the European Union requested closer collaboration with UNEP on several projects related to the implementation of the Nairobi Convention and Action Plan.







RESEARCH ON CANOPY BIODIVERSITY

Experts and representatives from IUCN-the World Conservation Union, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Convention on Biological Diversity and donor countries participated in the Tropical Forest Canopy Symposium which was convened by UNEP and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, in March.

The Symposium provided the opportunity to consolidate wide-ranging research on tropical forest canopies and to identify new directions in policy research in line with the needs of relevant international agreements. Participants discussed canopy biodiversity issues and reviewed research findings from the world's first canopy cranes. They also considered the role of canopy research in conservation and public policy, and in responding to the research needs related to the conventions on biodiversity, ozone and climate change. The recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests were taken into account.

UNEP is committed to continuing its support to targeted research on forest canopies by providing various fora for exchanging views and information between scientists, policy makers and the relevant conventions.







HOTELS EMBARK ON A SUSTAINABLE PATH IN THAILAND

palm treesThe Board of Environmental Promotion of Tourism Activities of Thailand launched the Green Leaf Programme in March to promote standards for environmental management in hotel operations. The Board is composed of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Thai Hotel Association, UNEP and other relevant organizations.

The Green Leaf Programme was launched following two years of intensive awareness activities undertaken throughout Thailand to educate the hotel management sector on the protection and sustainable use of the environment. Under the Programme, experts from various organizations will judge the environmental practices of the participating hotels. The hotels will be awarded one to five green leaves depending on the level of the hotel's environmental management efficiency. The ratings will be publicized in the Green Hotel Directory produced by the Tourism Authority of Thailand's worldwide network of overseas offices. The directory will benefit environmentally conscious travellers and motivate participating hotels to improve environmental protection. The Green Leaf Programme will be revised every two years to update the Green Leaf ratings.








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FIRST GOVERNING COUNCIL OF THE PIONEERING LUSAKA AGREEMENT

In Nairobi in March, UNEP convened the first Governing Council meeting of the Parties to the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora.

The Council considered the report of the Executive Director on the activities undertaken by the interim secretariat of UNEP with regard to the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement as well as other related activities. The Council also launched the Task Force for Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora which will be located in Kenya. The staff and operational rules of the Task Force, as well as its first budget, were adopted. Furthermore, the level of annual contributions from the Parties to the Task Force was determined. UNEP underscored the need for the Task Force to continue to strengthen its partnership with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Interpol and the national law enforcement agencies in Africa in its operational activities.

UNEP was asked to continue supporting the Lusaka Agreement and its main bodies. The Council also requested UNEP to support bilateral assistance efforts between Parties, including Kenya, Lesotho, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.







GROUNDBREAKING DATABASE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION-MAKING

Three years of international collaborative effort undertaken by UNEP and leading research and governmental institutions of the United States, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand have led to the development of the first-ever topographic database of the entire planet.

This first globally consistent digital database is now available at no cost on the Internet to interested users around the world. Topographic data in digital form is among the core data sets needed for environmental assessments. For instance, the Digital Elevation Models can be used, combined with data from soil, land cover and climate variables, to predict soil erosion and flood impacts. These models can also be applied in integrated water resources planning and management. Over 8,000 users around the world have already downloaded data from the Internet site www.grid2.cr.usgs.gov. Such critical data are needed to provide a sound scientific basis for sustainable development decision-making.







LATEST PUBLICATIONS

ECODESIGN: a promising approach to sustainable production and consumption, (eds J. C. Brezet and C. Van Hemel) published by UNEP with the Rathenau Instituut and TUDelft, proposes for the first time a methodology for companies that want to make a start in ecodesign. It is available (US$190) through UNEP's distributor: SMI, Unit 2, Long Haydons, Rushden Road, Bletsoe, Bedford, MK44 1QW, United Kingdom.

Also available through SMI:

The Economics of Environmental Degradation (ed Timothy M. Swanson) published for UNEP by Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. (US$70).


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