Our Planet News
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 1997
The main celebrations for World Environment Day 1997, observed all around the world on 5 June, were hosted by the Republic of Korea and revolved around five major activities:
- An International Media Conference on Environment and Development, attended
by some 30 journalists from around the world who pledged to promote environmental issues.
- The Environment and Ethics Roundtable, chaired by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP, which resulted in the Seoul Declaration.
- Presentation of UNEP's Global 500 Award.
- The UNEP Global Youth Forum, attended by some 200 young people from
- The Asia/Pacific Parliamentarians Conference on Environment and Development, which focused on sustainable development and technology transfer.
The Seoul Declaration on Environmental Ethics
The Seoul Declaration encompasses a new vision of humanity, a vision that will nourish life in all its myriad forms, a vision that allows a deeper understanding of the quality of life and a sense of stewardship for the planet, a vision that allows for equitable access for all to the fruits of development.
The Seoul Declaration encourages us to think holistically. When we do this, we become aware of the essential unity of life on this planet, that the nature of the whole determines the characteristics of the parts and that there are interconnections between the two. It is a vision broad enough to include the needs of the future generations and to include a view of the Earth as a life-supporting system.
The Seoul Declaration is built upon the notion of responsibility towards the environment. If we are aware of the interconnectedness of things, we cannot deny our responsibility for other life forms on Earth. We are accountable to future generations for the use we make now of our biosphere. Classic economic notions of efficiency can no longer be the guiding factor of our decisions.
The Seoul Declaration recognizes that we live in a world of finite resources. Resources should not be consumed in a way that impoverishes people in other parts of the planet. Responsibility means being accountable to other societies as well.
And finally, the Seoul Declaration acknowledges universal justice as applied to the environment. Injustice to one is injustice to all. Universal freedom will be an empty slogan until all living beings are freed from unprincipled exploitation. Every species on this Earth has a right to survival, for its existence is linked to that of the entire community of life on Earth.
From an address made by Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP, at the Environment and Ethics Roundtable, Seoul, June 1997.
As a technological breakthrough in media and communications, the Internet serves as the means of distribution of the Seoul Declaration to the peoples of the world so that all may be able to understand the need to accept and apply the concepts of sustainability and pledge support by registering at the end of the document.
The Seoul Declaration can be found on the Internet at: http://www.unep.org
1997 Global 500 Laureates
As part of World Environment Day ceremonies in Seoul, and marking the tenth anniversary of UNEP's Global 500 Roll of Honour,
21 individuals and organizations were officially recognized for their outstanding contributions
to environmental protection.
The 1997 Global 500 Laureates, ranging
from scientists to politicians and from international organizations to grassroots children's groups, represent a growing
worldwide awareness of the urgency of environmental issues and of humankind's individual and collective capacity to act.
'In honouring these environmentalists,'
said Elizabeth Dowdeswell, 'UNEP hopes that their examples will inspire and guide many
other men, women and young people to join
the global coalition dedicated to protecting
Siti Aminah, Indonesia
BBC World Service Education Department, United Kingdom
Centro Salvadoreño de Tecnología Apropiada (CESTA), El Salvador
Joon-Yuep Cha, Republic of Korea
Ki-Chel Choi, Republic of Korea
Lilian Corra, Argentina
Zsuzsa Foltanyi, Hungary
Jane Goodall, United Kingdom
Edward Solon Hagedorn,
Sang-Hyun Kim, Republic of Korea
Theo Manuel, Republic of South Africa
Kook-Hyun Moon, Republic of Korea
The Nation Newspaper (Thailand), Thailand
The Swire Group, Hong Kong
Ube City, Japan
Jan C. van der Leun, The Netherlands
Xialu Township, People's Republic
Health Messengers, Romania
The Oposa Group, Philippines
Carolina García Travesí, Mexico
Young Leaders, Trinidad and Tobago
1997 Ozone Award Winners
Celebrations surrounding the International Day on the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in Montreal on 16 September 1997, as well as marking the tenth anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, are honouring 23 individuals and organizations for their major role in the battle to protect the ozone layer.
Amongst the 1997 Ozone Award Winners are scientists and diplomats, international environmental NGOs and industrial NGOs, all of whom have played an inspirational and remarkable part in what has been, and continues to be, the most remarkable global environmental effort the world has ever known.
James G. Anderson, USA
Ralph J. Cicerone, USA
Edward C. DeFabo, Ph.D., USA
Susan Solomon, USA
Richard S. Stolarski, USA
Robert C. Worrest, USA
Christos S. Zerefos, Greece
Jonathan Banks, Australia
Suely Machado Carvalho, Brazil
Barbara Kucneroswicz-Polack, Poland
Lambert Kuijpers, The Netherlands
Melanie Miller, New Zealand
IMPLEMENTATION AND POLICY
Richard Benedick, USA
John Carstensen, Denmark
Department of Environment, Malaysia
(Tan Meng Leng will receive the Award)
Paul S. Horwitz, USA
Willem J. Kakebeeke, The Netherlands
Ilkka Ristimaki, Finland
Sateeaved Seebaluck, Mauritius
Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy
Elizabeth Cook, USA
Northern Telecom/NORTEL, Canada
(Margaret Kerr will receive the Award)
Special Session Revitalizes UNEP
Participants at the special session of the United Nations General Assembly, held in New York in June, acknowledged that despite the commitments expressed five years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, the health of the planet is still on a downward trend.
Some of the most convincing proof of this is in UNEP's Global Environment Outlook. Levels of greenhouse gases, toxic pollution and solid waste are rising, and renewable resources, notably freshwater, forests, topsoil and marine fish stocks, continue to be exploited at unsustainable levels.
There is a positive side - growth in world population is slowing, food production is
still rising, local air and water quality have been improving in many developed countries, and the majority of people are living longer and healthier lives - but the number of people living below the poverty line has increased, the gaps between rich and poor are growing, and the progress made since the heady days of Rio is so slight that there is little to celebrate. Humanity is still polluting and using up vital resources faster than they can regenerate.
The Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21 adopted at the special session acknowledges that efforts in such areas as energy, fresh water and technology transfer must be intensified, and it was recognized that UNEP has an important part to play in all priority areas.
Governments agreed that 'the role of UNEP, as the principle United Nations body in the field of environment should be further enhanced ... to be the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.'
The process of revitalizing UNEP has already begun. The inaugural meeting of the High-Level Committee of Ministers and Officials, whose purpose is to generate the revitalization that UNEP needs, was held in New York immediately after the special session came to a close. More than 70 governments were represented at the meeting and there was an excellent and enthusiastic exchange of views regarding the priorities
of the Committee.
While the meeting was primarily organizational in nature, several governments responded to the call for revitalization by re-instating their pledges of financial assistance, an essential step in a process that holds great promise for the global environment.
With its strengthened political ownership, UNEP aims to bring coherence to a fragmented system of environmental laws and secretariats of environmental conventions. Drawing on its existing capacity in areas of environmental reporting, environmental law, sustainable production and consumption, trade and the environment and environmental technology, it will work with countries to develop and put in place meaningful environmental agreements.
CITES - Dialogue and Consensus
At their tenth meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, in June, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreed to permit some highly controlled export of elephant ivory. The elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were transferred from Appendix I, which completely bans commercial trade, to Appendix II, which allows for international trade that is strictly managed. This will involve international verification and control procedures.
This decision acknowledges the progress that the three countries have made in elephant conservation, as well as recognizing that the sustainable use of wildlife can build support for conservation among local communities.
Although enforcement will remain central to the success of CITES, there is growing recognition of the need for enhanced capacity-building. The capacity of range states to determine trade limits, monitor exports, ensure non-detrimental impacts on species and ecosystems, and themselves enforce control measures, must be developed.
Clean up the world
Clean Up the World, an Australian initiative held in conjunction with UNEP, now involves more than 110 countries, and is in top gear for its fifth global campaign in September.
The campaign is supported worldwide by national and local governments, community groups, schools and environmental agencies, who undertake a range of environmental activities including tree-planting, establishing recycling centres and compost systems, as well as pollution clean-ups and educational activities.
Sponsorship of the 1997 campaign by Discovery Channel, a global communications company, is taking this message of global environmental responsibility to viewers across the world and promises to inspire more countries to join, helping to meet Clean Up the World's target of having 265 nations actively involved by the year 2000.
Clean Up the World is also sponsored by KPMG, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, QUANTAS and Compaq.
International convention on chemicals
Significant progress was made in preparing the draft text of an internationally binding instrument on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade at the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) held in Geneva in May.
Funded by the Government of Switzerland, the third session of the INC focused on: elaboration of the obligations of importing and exporting countries, identification of the types of chemicals to include in the agreement, rules for notifying exporters of banned or severely restricted chemicals and pesticides, use of risk assessment, designation of competent national authorities, classification, packaging and labelling requirements, and technical assistance.
A global PIC convention will enhance chemical safety in all countries by controlling international trade in hazardous substances and enhancing the ability of countries to make decisions regarding chemical imports.