Our Planet News
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
The 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.
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.
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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