HIGHLIGHTS FROM INTER-LINKAGES -- INTERNATIONAL
CONFERENCE ON SYNERGIES AND COORDINATION BETWEEN MEAs
THURSDAY, 15 JULY 1999
Participants at the International Conference on
Synergies and Coordination between MEAs met in five working groups
throughout the day on Thursday.
SCIENTIFIC MECHANISMS: This working group,
co-chaired by Robert Watson, IPCC, and Akiko Domoto, GLOBE, focused its
discussions on identifying key issues and linkages as well as gaps in
knowledge, building and strengthening scientific capacity, undertaking
assessment processes, and improving communication.
Participants proposed the establishment of an ad hoc,
independent and geographically and gender-balanced panel to identify key
issues and linkages as well as gaps in scientific knowledge. Regarding the
appropriate framework by which to identify such linkages, the group
emphasized the need to use a broader development approach rather than a
purely environmental approach. Participants raised the issue of addressing
areas not covered by existing conventions and asked how assessment of an
issue can trigger international dialogue.
Regarding scientific capacity, participants suggested
better utilization of existing capacity, networking of experts and
building of negotiators’ scientific capacity, particularly in developing
countries. The group recommended mechanisms to build capacity as well as
improving mechanisms to identify national expertise. It was noted that
although much effort has been made build capacity in the natural sciences,
inadequate attention has been given to impacts, adaptation measures and
the social sciences.
When undertaking a scientific assessment, the group
recommended applying an issue-based model that highlights relevant
linkages rather than basing the assessment on the linkages themselves.
Participants stressed the importance of clearly identifying the linkages
within an issue-specific assessment. Participants warned against a process
dominated by technical experts and stressed the need for policy makers to
identify key policy issues before an assessment is undertaken. Noting that
gaps in the policy process would hinder action once an assessment is made,
participants stressed the need for recognition of inter-linkages by
governments and secretariats.
The group underscored the importance of an
appropriate method for communication of inter-linkages to policy makers.
Participants emphasized conveying information on the issues as well as the
links and their importance, and highlighting the links between the
environment and other sectors such as agriculture and transportation. The
group also stressed communication with the public and simplification of
academic assessments to ensure a broader audience.
Three papers were presented, on synergies and
coordination of international instruments on oceans and seas, linkages
between the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols and recent initiatives to address
the problem of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and options and needs for
inter-linkages between the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, CBD and FCCC.
FINANCE: This working group, chaired by Remy
Paris, OECD, initially focused on synergies
and harmonization and later addressed the national context and programming
issues for international donors. To enhance synergies, participants
stressed that environmental objectives should be placed in the context of
national development priorities. Several speakers emphasized the
importance of fulfilling the principle of common but differentiated
responsibilities in financing implementation of the relevant Rio
agreements. Significant discussion focused on the need for harmonization
of financing at various levels, with specific attention to differing
priorities of donors and recipients. Side effects of and conflicts between
MEA objectives were also highlighted, such as the socio-economic impacts
of ozone reduction projects on developing country enterprises and
ozone-friendly substitutes contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Regarding the national context, participants
emphasized the need for demand-driven efforts to identify and promote
synergies. Several stressed the need to avoid dependencies on external
financing and emphasized that, to be sustainable, MEA implementation in
developing countries must address development objectives. Participants
recommended that convention focal points work with relevant planning
agencies to identify how convention commitments fit into national
development frameworks, with finances allocated explicitly for this
purpose. The group identified capacity building priorities, including:
development of local potential to understand and identify synergies for
relevant MEAs; increased awareness of existing funding resources; and
improvement of skills for financial management, project monitoring and
reporting. Case studies on activities supporting both sustainable
development and MEA objectives as well as environmental valuation
exercises were also recommended. It was noted that synergistic projects
require greater coordination, may not fit topic-specific funding criteria
and should be pursued only where significant benefit is identified.
On international financial institutions and bilateral
donors, participants recommended identifying gaps in financial resources
provided by the GEF and the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund for
convention implementation. In prioritizing donor funding, participants
emphasized programme activities over projects, decentralized management
that incorporates democratic governance, resource flows that leverage
local resources, local capacity building, longer time-frames and
qualitative project evaluations. Participants called for statistical
information on donor funding and grant financing for pilot projects. Some
addressed the relationship between regional development banks and the GEF
and expressed concern with low disbursement levels and increasingly
complicated application and reporting procedures. Several noted
difficulties in operationalizing the incremental costs principle and its
possible conflicts with project ownership and sustainability.
Participants also stressed the potential role of
national environmental funds and the need to understand market responses
in the context of meeting MEA objectives. The group briefly considered the
possible long-term need for additional financial mechanisms, noting that
the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism could offer possible
lessons and opportunities.
HARMONIZATION OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS AND
INFORMATION EXCHANGES: This working group, chaired by Mark Collins,
WCMC, addressed the following items: sharing data internationally;
harmonizing reporting; improving data collection; improving public
information; and building capacity.
Participants focused on recommending how MEA
secretariats could share information more effectively. Several issues were
identified, including: coordination between information officers in MEA
secretariats; the role of knowledge brokers; feasibility studies to
identify next steps; and a top-down approach to promote information
sharing. One participant noted constraints to information sharing, such as
government bureaucracy and lack of transparency and access to information.
Another expressed concern over the absence of a mechanism to ensure
appropriate information dissemination.
The group recommended harmonizing information to
minimize national governments’ burden of multiple reporting requirements
and using existing reporting mechanisms to reduce duplication.
Methodologies identified for harmonization included: outlining reporting
requirements of MEAs; implementing pilot projects in selected countries;
and identifying information that can be gathered and analyzed at the
national level. Participants discussed experiences with reporting
requirements and noted insufficient human resources, absence of a
standardized format and poor coordination between government departments.
Participants highlighted the need for financial
assistance at the country level to improve data collection, but recognized
the need to better utilize existing sources. Special attention was paid to
the complexity of data collection at the national level, remote sensing
and regional cooperation. Participants also noted the urgent need to
mobilize data from various relevant institutions, such as UNEP, IUCN, CSD,
the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
The working group identified the targets for and
goals of improving public information. One participant noted the language
barrier in disseminating available information. The potential role of
NGOs, the private sector and environmental journalists was highlighted.
Participants agreed on the importance of making MEAs understandable to the
public and relevant to their day-to-day lives.
The group discussed the need for capacity building
and explored options to achieve it, including a needs assessment, capacity
building for promoting inter-linkages between MEAs and national planning,
educational programmes and capacity building for core teams. The special
needs of small countries, particularly small island developing States,
were emphasized. Participants supported capacity building for developing
country delegates for participating in MEA negotiations.
ISSUE MANAGEMENT: The working group on issue
management was co-chaired by Salvano Briceño, former Deputy Executive
Secretary, CCD, and Principal Officer, FCCC, and Brett Orlando, Climate
Change Programme Officer, IUCN. Participants agreed that the issue
management approach could work as a practical tool for coordinating
activities requiring an integrated approach among MEAs. Participants
focused on how the issue management approach might function, emphasizing
the need to develop concrete recommendations to operationalize it.
To assist in developing specific and practical ideas
that would go beyond the theory of issue management, participants
discussed how issue management might apply to one cross-cutting issue.
Employing land use as an example, participants identified relevant actors,
including conventions, UN agencies, financing bodies and other groups;
common priorities among conventions; functional areas in which cooperation
and coordination could occur, including research, policy and planning,
implementation, evaluation and capacity building; and the decision making
bodies that could facilitate implementation of the process.
Participants recommended that UNU develop case
studies for applying issue management to cross-cutting issues,
identifying: potentially conflicting policies and measures for each
convention as well as for future protocols and decisions by the relevant
COPs; the relevant provisions, policies and practices of each convention;
and the impacts of other international processes such as the WTO.
Participants said these case studies could be used to develop a set of
guiding principles that could be applied to any cross-cutting issue.
Other cross-cutting issues that participants
identified as potentially benefiting from an issue management approach
included, inter alia: energy, coastal management, watershed management,
education, capacity building, national reporting and trade and investment.
Participants also discussed a proposal for further development of the
concept of issue management as a tool for enhancing synergies in the
implementation of MEAs, which could include a set of goals or benchmarks
as well as accountability mechanisms.
SYNERGIES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: This
working group was co-chaired by J.A. van Ginkel, UNU Rector, and Gary
Sampson, former Director, WTO Committee on Trade and Environment. The
group started by reviewing the existing system of MEAs. It was noted that
different environmental treaties emerged in an ad hoc manner as knowledge
developed about the dangers of specific environmental problems. Separate
international institutions were created to service these different
agreements, resulting in a fragmented system of MEAs with numerous gaps
and overlaps. One participant suggested that fragmentation is not
necessarily detrimental and may be necessary given the need for
specialization and development of expertise to address specific
environmental problems. The working group discussed ways to redress this
fragmentation. Some participants suggested a moratorium on new MEAs to
prevent further fragmentation, recommending that existing MEAs address new
Several participants highlighted the important role
of UNEP in facilitating coordination between MEAs. It was suggested that
UNEP identify areas of overlap and create necessary institutional
arrangements and partnerships to address them. The usefulness of
recommendations in the Report of the UN Task Force on Environment and
Human Settlements was noted, particularly those calling for regular
meetings between MEA secretariat heads, UNEP consultation with COP
Presidents, and clustering of the conventions. Participants emphasized the
need to also consult with the chairs of MEA bureaus, government
representatives, scientists and legal experts to best determine where
synergies can be built. The increase in Memoranda of Cooperation between
MEAs was highlighted as an indicator of progress in forging synergies,
although some participants felt these were not ambitious enough.
The group highlighted the need for better
implementation and enforcement of MEAs at the national level. They
underscored the importance of capacity building to enable governments to
holistically implement the various MEAs. They identified the lack of
coordination among government ministries in implementing the different
conventions as particularly problematic. One participant stressed that
capacity should be built according to clusters of treaties rather than to
It was proposed that a tool kit be developed to help
governments achieve more integrated and efficient implementation of MEAs.
It was also suggested that a road map for future direction be formulated,
identifying linkages and complementarities among MEAs as well as
instruments to achieve coordinated implementation most effectively. One
participant stressed that such a road map should have a regional emphasis.
Participants noted the insufficiency of scientific
research needed to fully implement the numerous MEAs, partly due to
inadequate funding. They discussed the need for scientific assessments
that address the synergistic effects of the various environmental problems
covered by MEAs. One participant proposed that an independent body assess
scientific research on the risks to human health of these synergistic
effects. The need for mechanisms to define priorities for policy-relevant
research for each convention and to identify in particular those that cut
across multiple MEAs was emphasized.
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