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Recent Meetings

Water, Oceans and Wetlands


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November 2005

TRILATERAL AGREEMENT ON WADDEN SEA SIGNED

A declaration has been signed on the protection and sustainable use of the Wadden Sea area. The tenth Trilateral Governmental Conference on the Protection of the Wadden Sea took place in Schiermonnikoog, the Netherlands, on 3 November 2005. At the conclusion of the one-day meeting, the three signatory governments – the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – signed the Schiermonnikoog Declaration. The declaration reinforced the cooperation on the protection and sustainable use of the Wadden Sea area, which includes, inter alia: improving shipping safety on the sea; coordinating implementation of relevant European legislation; contributing to the process of the EU's Water Framework Directive (WFD) across the relevant WFD borders in the coastal waters; and developing a joint proposal for the nomination of the Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site. The declaration.
FOURTH WORLD WATER FORUM “ENCOUNTER” EVENT HELD

Preparations for the Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City in March 2006 have continued with the holding of a water “encounter” event in Monterrey, Mexico. The “Third Water Encounter – Toward the Fourth World Water Forum” event, held from 31 October to 2 November, was aimed at facilitating the preparatory process leading to the Fourth World Water Forum. Regional committees, theme leaders and stakeholders met with the Fourth World Water Forum Secretariat in order to create a concrete proposal for the 150 topic sessions to be presented in March 2006. Contributions were received from both local authorities and other diverse groups with experience in water management, including children, young adults, women, indigenous peoples and communities. Non-governmental organizations will have the opportunity to share their experiences and issues relating to water. NGOs will be asked to participate as topic sessions conveners and panelists, and to participate in the ministerial roundtables and Water Fair. More information.

October 2005

MARINE PROTECTED AREAS CONGRESS CALLS FOR COOPERATION BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND FISHERIES SECTORS

Environment and fisheries communities must work together to save the world's oceans. This was the main conclusion of the first International Marine Protected Areas Congress, held from 23-28 October 2005, in Geelong, Australia. Bringing together more than 750 experts from approximately 70 countries, the Congress discussed various issues, including the target adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to establish a global network of marine protected areas by 2012. Participants emphasized that marine protected areas can play a significant role in preventing the collapse of the world's fisheries. Other strategies identified included responsible fishing practices, improved ocean governance and greater investment in scientific research. Links to further information Congress website IUCN statement, 28 October 2005
AVIAN INFLUENZA DOMINATES WATERBIRDS MEETING

Avian 'flu was a major focus of the third meeting of the Parties to the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds Agreement (AEWA). Held from 23-27 October 2005, in Dakar, Senegal, the meeting concluded with an urgent call for improved national contingency planning, and for better information on risk assessment and necessary responses. The meeting also adopted resolutions on a range of other topics, including: amendments to the annexes; an international partnership for support of waterbird population assessments; a strategic plan and a communication strategy; single species action plans; institutional issues and the budget; climate change in relation to migratory waterbirds; and implementation of the Addis Ababa principles on sustainable use of the Convention on Biological Diversity. With 51 Contracting Parties as of October 2005, the Agreement, developed under the Convention on Migratory Species, covers 235 species of birds ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle. Link to further information Meeting coverage
REGIONAL DIALOGUE ON WATER MANAGEMENT HELD

A regional event has been held for the Americas as part of the preparatory process for the Fourth World Water Forum. Under the theme, “strengthening local capabilities for facing global challenges,” participants to the Fifth Inter-American Dialogue on Water Management met in Montego Bay, Jamaica, from 9-14 October 2005. The objectives of the event were to: strengthen regional water management communication in the hemisphere; promote more investment in related risk-management efforts; develop a framework for water management in the Americas; and identify the most important regional initiatives to be presented during the Fourth World Water Summit. More information.
SUMMIT FOCUSES ON INTEGRATED OCEAN POLICY

Experiences, lessons learned and emerging best practice in integrated ocean policy were the topics considered during a recent conference in Lisbon, Portugal. The Ocean Policy Summit (TOPS), held from 11-13 October 2005, took as its theme, “Integrated Ocean Policy: National and Regional Experiences, Prospects and Emerging Practices.” Delegates discussed various aspects of integrated ocean policy, including: the growing interest in integrated national and regional ocean policies; learning lessons from countries that have made the most progress to date; achieving cross-sectoral harmonization of ocean use and agencies; identifying principles for governance; and implementing an integrated policy and factoring in operational and financial considerations. The discussions and ideas generated at the summit are expected to provide further momentum for integrated oceans management at the international, regional and national levels. IISDRS Coverage.

September 2005

MEETING CONSIDERS MARINE METEOROLOGY, CLIMATE CHANGE

Oceanography, marine meteorology, climate change and maritime safety were the topics discussed during a recent technical meeting. Some 150 representatives from international organizations, institutions and governments gathered in Halifax, Canada from 19-27 September 2005, for the Second Session of the Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM). Participants discussed the effect of the oceans on climate and weather variability as well as international cooperation with regard to maritime safety and meteorological services. Hosted by Canada, the meeting considered the latest findings in oceanography, marine meteorology and the study of sea-ice, state-of-the-art forecast and research facilities as well as recommendations to serve all maritime regions. Many delegates urged greater participation by developing countries in addressing the effect of the oceans on climate and weather variability and with regard to maritime safety and meteorological services. Some new ideas were highlighted, including improved operational ocean products and services, marine environmental protection and management, especially in coastal areas, and marine risk management. More information (see “press releases” section).
RIVER SYMPOSIUM HIGHLIGHTS WATER ISSUES, FOOD SECURITY

A meeting on river issues has examined pressing issues in water and food security. The International River Symposium, held from 2-11 September 2005, in Brisbane, Australia, covered topics such as transboundary catchment conflicts and resolutions, water scarcity and urban and rural tensions over sharing water resources. Although the United Nations estimates that nearly two billion people lack access to clean drinking water, there was general optimism among delegates that better management was beginning to ease the problem. According to some participants, the world is gradually winning its battle to overcome drinking water shortages through better resource management. However, while countries like Australia and China are beginning to tackle problems caused by over-damming, diverting and polluting rivers, impending risks were identified elsewhere, including in India. Links to further information International River Symposium homepage World seen winning battle of water scarcity, Reuters, 9 September 2005
EUROPEAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE 2005: SHARING A COMMON VISSION FOR OUR WATER RESOURCES

The Sixth International Conference of the European Water Resources Association (EWRA) aims to identify and promote best practices in good water status and demand management, realistic scenarios building, reliable economic analysis of water uses and efficient stakeholders and/or public involvement in decision making.
SECOND SOUTHEAST ASIA WATER FORUM

Organized by the Global Water Partnership, this Forum will seek to build a regional commitment toward integrated water resource management (IWRM) and effective water governance among key stakeholders. The Forum will: showcase various experiences and success stories on water management at the basin, country, and regional levels; define, validate and formulate actions plans to implement IWRM in Southeast Asia; formulate regional strategies and plans for improving urban and rural water supplies; and promote collaboration and partnership among key water stakeholders.

August 2005

WORLD WATER WEEK SEMINAR HIGHLIGHTS FINANCING ISSUES

Financing development in the water and sanitation sector to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was the focus of a one-day seminar during World Water Week. The Finance for Water Solutions seminar, held in Stockholm on 25 August 2005, was organized by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and other institutions. With its focus on innovative mechanisms to finance development, participants made a number of points, including that financing for water solutions requires an integrated effort among all stakeholders to achieve the water-related MDGs, and water strategies can only be implemented successfully if sustainable financial mechanisms exist and are created in accordance to regional needs. Participants also highlighted the potential role of official development assistance (ODA) to help scale up effective initiatives and stimulate innovative approaches that can deliver water sustainability. The role of the private sector and the expansion of public-private partnerships were also highlighted. The seminar was part of the 15th Stockholm Water Symposium, held from 21-27 August More information Finance for Water Solutions: How Capital Markets, Banks, Insurers and Asset Managers Can Work for Water
SEABED AUTHORITY DEFERS TALKS ON DEEP OCEAN MINERAL DEPOSITS

The International Seabed Authority has ended its latest session by deferring consideration of new regulations to govern exploration for rich, recently-discovered mineral deposits in the deep ocean beyond national jurisdictions. A United Nations-affiliate, the 148-member Authority met for its eleventh session from 15-25 August 2005, in Kingston, Jamaica. Delegates also deferred discussing a draft text from its Legal and Technical Commission on the deposits because the elected, policy-making, 36-member Council had not finished reviewing it. The Commission's nine-part draft covers prospecting in the deep non-national ocean for polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts – mineral resources that are rich in copper, iron, zinc, silver, gold and cobalt. Polymetallic nodules are potato-shaped and are often found partially buried in areas of the deep seabed, while polymetallic sulphides are found around volcanic hot springs and ferromanganese cobalt crusts occur on oceanic ridges. The next meeting of the Authority will take place from 7-18 August 2006. More information International Seabed Authority web site
AFRICAN LEADERS DISCUSS FISHERIES, AQUACULTURE

A Summit has brought together Africa leaders to consider the situation and priorities for the region's fisheries and aquaculture. Organized by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Fish for All Summit took place from 22-25 August 2005 in Abuja, Nigera. The meeting concluded with unanimous endorsement of an action plan stating that African nations will aim to boost fish supplies by making capture fisheries more sustainable and by promoting small-scale fish farming. The action plan highlights the role of science in boosting Africa's fish supplies, and stresses the need for new research and development, as well as capacity building and technology transfer. Particular sectors the plan identifies for research include water management and technologies for handling fish after they have been harvested. Leaders also adopted the Abuja Declaration on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa to enshrine many of the summit's deliberations. More information NEPAD - Fish for all

June 2005

COMMISSION REJECTS PRO-WHALING RESOLUTIONS

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has rejected attempts by pro-whaling nations to remove the existing Southern Ocean Sanctuary and ease restrictions on certain types of whaling. While some of the votes were close, anti-whaling nations managed to defeat a number of changes proposed by pro-whaling states such as Japan. The latest meeting took place in Ulsan, Republic of Korea, from 20-24 June 2005. More information: IWC's reports on the meeting
INTERAGENCY GROUP FOCUSES ON WATER STATISTICS

An interagency group has met to work on environment and water-related statistics. The working session of the interagency working group on environment statistics (IWG-Env) was held from 20-22 June 2005, Vienna, Austria. The group's aim is to improve the quality and quantity of environment and water-related data provided to international experts for analysis. Participants evaluated international needs for water statistics and indicators and how these needs are met, identified problems encountered by countries during the data collection process, and exchanged experiences on national practices. The group concluded that an effort to coordinate international data collection mechanisms in water is necessary and decided to explore the possibilities of organizing joint data collection activities. More information umweltbundesamt web site
MIDDLE EAST PREPARES FOR WORLD WATER FORUM

A workshop has been held as part of the Middle East region's preparations for the fourth World Water Forum in early 2006. The first regional consultation workshop for the preparation of the Middle East region for the fourth World Water Forum was held in Cairo, Egypt, from 19-20 June 2005. Organized by the World Bank and the Arab Water Council, the workshop informed participants on the roles of principal players and the preparatory process for the fourth World Water Forum, which will be held in Mexico in March 2006. The workshop identified the following key water issues in the region: water use efficiency in a basin context; groundwater depletion; climatic variability; inadequate access to clean drinking water supplies in rural areas; transboundary waters; water demand management, salinization; and development of the use of non-conventional water resources. The workshop concluded with the following recommendations: the Arab Water Council will ensure full notification of the results of the workshop to all countries, and seek endorsement and full participation of government and non-governmental organizations in future steps of the preparatory process and effective participation in the fourth World Water Forum; a second workshop will be held no later than 10 November 2005 will follow as a part of the preparatory process with the support of the World Bank. More information 4th World Water Forum Newsletter
GMA WORKSHOP MAKES PROGRESS

Following the sixth meeting of the Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and The Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS-6, see article below), many delegates stayed on to attend the second International Workshop on the regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socioeconomic aspects (GMA). The workshop took place from 13-15 June 2005, in New York. Bringing together over 100 representatives from governments and intergovernmental organizations, the workshop set in place the first building blocks of the “Assessment of Assessments,” the startup phase of the GMA process, a stocktaking and gap analysis of existing assessments of the state of the marine environment. The conclusions of the workshop will be presented to the UN General Assembly for consideration at its 60th session. IISDRS coverage.
PROGRESS REPORTED AT UNICPOLOS-6, BUT MARINE DEBRIS, COORDINATION ISSUES UNRESOLVED

Delegates to the sixth meeting of the Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and The Law of the Sea have drafted a report containing elements agreed by consensus on fisheries and their contribution to sustainable development. However, two sections – on marine debris and on coordination or cooperation – were not finalized due to lack of time. The sixth meeting was held from 6-10 June 2005, in New York. The meeting report, containing both the negotiated and non-negotiated text, will be submitted to the UN General Assembly for consideration at its 60th session under the agenda item “Oceans and the law of the sea.” IISDRS coverage.
RAMSAR STANDING COMMITTEE PREPARES FOR COP9

Some 70 delegates, representing contracting parties, and intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations, attended the 31st Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to discuss issues leading up to the Ninth Conference of Parties in late 2005. Delegates also approved a new budget line to support several regional Ramsar initiatives, including “MedWet again”, 'WacoWet' for West African Coastal Zones Network, the new Ramsar regional training centre in Ramsar Iran, the High Andean Strategy, and CREHO, the Ramsar regional training centre in Panama. In addition, finalists for the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards were announced. They include: Shuming Cai of the Chinese Academy of Science (science category); SH. A. Nezami Baloochi of the Department of Environment in the Province of Gilan, Iran (management category); and a shared award between the Wetlands Centre Australia in Shortland, Australia and Reiko Nakamura of the Ramsar Center Japan (education category). The winners of the 2005 Ramsar Award will receive their prizes, including US$10,000, at the Ninth Ramsar COP to be held in Kampala, Uganda from 8-15h November 2005. More information.

May 2005

UNECE GROUP CONSIDERS TRANSBOUNDARY WATER ISSUES

The sixth meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's Working Group on Monitoring and Assessment of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International lakes has met at the invitation of Finland and Slovakia. The meeting took place from 18-20 May 2005, in Bratislava, Slovakia. The Working Group agreed that the main target group of the strategic guidance for monitoring and assessment of transboundary waters were policy-makers and planners at the national and local levels, although other groups, such as public health experts who make use of monitoring results, could also benefit from them. Delegates also discussed pilot projects on transboundary rivers and lakes throughout the region, as well as transboundary water management agreements. The seventh meeting of the Working Group is tentatively scheduled for 3-5 May 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland. More information.
EXPERTS DISCUSS GEMS WATER PROGRAMME

A meeting of technical and scientific experts from UN bodies and other partners has been held to discuss work on environmental water quality and sustainability. The Second UNEP Technical Advisory Group Meeting for the GEMS/Water Programme took place from 2-4 May 2005, in Vienna, Austria. Based in Ontario, Canada, the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS)/Water Programme is part of UNEP. Discussions at the most recent meeting led to the accomplishment of three central objectives: agreement and support for the direction and core activities articulated in the programme of work; ideas and new projects to develop alone or in partnership with other organizations, especially new technologies and database sources; and commitment to promote GEMS/Water through networks and partners. The third advisory meeting is scheduled for the second half of 2006. More information.

April 2005

RAMSAR MEETING CONSIDERS AFRICA'S WETLANDS

African wetlands were the subject of a regional meeting held recently in Arusha, Tanzania. More than 150 delegates from the African region met to analyze the problems and challenges they face when implementing the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and discuss regional positions in the lead-up to the Ramsar Convention's ninth Conference of the Parties (COP-9), which will be held in Uganda in November 2005. The meeting in Arusha, which was held from 4-8 April 2005, ended with agreement on a final statement, “The Arusha Call for African Wetlands.” The statement identifies the challenges faced in achieving the wise use of wetlands in the region and reaffirms African countries' commitment to the Ramsar Convention and the wetlands component of the action plan for the environment initiative of New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). It also calls for greater collaboration between the Ramsar Secretariat, NEPAD, the International Organization Partners, and development agencies. More information.

March 2005

2nd International Forum on Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Advancing Implementation on Water and Energy

Advancing sustainable development implementation through strengthening and fostering water- and energy-related partnerships was the focus of discussions at the Second International Forum on Partnerships for Sustainable Development convened at the Palais des Congrès in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 21-23 March 2005. Over 400 participants from 60 countries participated, including 13 ministers and other high-level representatives. The meeting was organized by Morocco's Ministry of Territory Planning, Water and Environment in cooperation with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), assisted by a “Friends of the Forum” group of representatives from the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, the US, Italy, France and UNDESA. Representatives of ten international organizations and numerous major groups took part in 26 scheduled working sessions and four “on demand” workshops, which consisted of panels, presentations, “breakout” meetings, and a number of innovative opportunities for networking and one-to-one consultations with experts. The purpose of the Forum was to advance sustainable development implementation through strengthening and fostering water- and energy-related partnerships and to build on the outcomes of the First International Forum on Partnerships, which took place in Rome, Italy, in March 2004. A report by the Government of Morocco on the outcomes of the Second Forum will be presented to the thirteenth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-13), which is to consider water, sanitation and human settlement issues. The Forum provided an opportunity for those who have engaged in partnerships in pursuit of sustainable development to take a detailed look at the partnering process, including the organizational and resource demands associated with the different stages in the lifecycle of a partnership. Innovative methods, such as the organization of facilitated workshops “on demand,” provided some participants with an opportunity to take discussions on the side of the conference into structured workshops and develop proposals with the help of expert facilitators. One of these “on demand” workshops examined a proposal for an institute for sustainable development for Africa. An expanded “Friends of the Forum” advisory group met after the closing plenary to consider next steps. Options for a follow-up to the Second Forum were considered, including the possibility of a two-year meeting cycle and/or convening partnership fora alongside other international events and convening partnership events at the regional level. IISDRS coverage of this meeting.
26th session of FAO COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES

The FAO Fisheries Committee recently considered issues ranging from marine protected areas to fishing subsidies, while a Ministerial Meeting held immediately after the committee meeting adopted two fisheries-related declarations. Some 600 participants attended the 26th session of the FAO's Committee on Fisheries, held from 7-11 March 2005, in Rome, Italy. The Committee discussed a variety of issues, including progress in implementing the code of conduct for responsible fisheries and related international plans of action. Deep sea fisheries, marine protected areas, fisheries subsidies, and a strategic framework for human capacity development in fisheries were also considered. Following the Committee meeting, a group of 121 fishing ministers and high-level fisheries officials met on 12 March to discuss tsunami-relief, as well as how to deepen international cooperation on combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Ministers issued a joint declaration stressing the need to rebuild fisheries and aquaculture in tsunami-affected countries in a responsible and people-centered manner, and noting that rehabilitation should focus on restoring the livelihoods of fishers and fish farmers and on providing them with protection from future natural disasters and other environmental threats. The statement also emphasized the need to protect the rights of fishers and fish workers and ensure their access to fishing grounds and resources, particularly for those involved in subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishing. The Ministerial Meeting also adopted a second declaration calling for intensified action to combat IUU fishing. As a new step in anti-IUU efforts, the group called for the creation within FAO of a comprehensive global record of fishing vessels, including supply and refrigerated transport ships, to facilitate prevention of illegal fishing. Additionally, delegates said they would renew their efforts to ensure that all large-scale industrial fishing vessels operating on the high seas be fitted with vessel monitoring systems (VMS) by December 2008. Links to further information Governments call for responsible post-tsunami reconstructio..., FAO press release, 14 March 2005 FAO Committee on Fisheries debates management challenges, o..., FAO press release, 8 March 2005 FAO Fisheries website
HIGH SEAS TASK FORCE HOLDS FIRST SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

The first substantive meeting of the High Seas Task Force has taken place, with members discussing how to make progress in six priority areas. The meeting, which was held in Paris, France on 9 March 2005, was attended by Task Force members and invited experts from a number of working groups. The Task Force is comprised of ministers and representatives from Australia, Canada, Chile, Namibia, New Zealand and the UK, as well as the Directors-General of WWF and IUCN and the Earth Institute. Participants considered how to advance the following six priority areas: sharing intelligence and better coordination of monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS); developing a global register of high seas fishing vessels; preparing guidelines on the performance of flag States regarding their high seas fishing vessels; strengthening in-port measures and control over nationals; analyzing trade-related measures; and regional fisheries management organization (RFMO)-based initiatives and governance issues. On High Sea MCS, Task Force members agreed that the existing network should be transformed into an international unit with dedicated resources, its own analytical capacity and the ability to provide training and technical support to fisheries enforcement agencies in developing countries. They also concluded that the best way to advance the network would be to build a coalition of like-minded countries and organizations that could potentially share the costs of and benefits from an enhanced MCS network. In addition, members agreed to establish a global information system on high seas fishing vessels in the form of a publicly-available international database of information relating to the global high seas fishing fleet. It was noted that this might form one of the core activities of the proposed MCS network. On port state controls, it was agreed to promote the notion of a responsible port State as “a State that is committed to making the fullest possible use of its jurisdiction under international law in furtherance of its own rights and interests as well as the international community's interest in conservation and management of high seas marine living resources.” Task Force members made a commitment to act as responsible port States, advocated the strengthening of port State control within RFMOs of which they are members, and agreed to commission an inventory and analysis of the current practice of States and RFMOs with respect to port State controls, which could then form a good basis for the development of the proposed FAO database on port State measures. With regards to control over nationals, Task Force members endorsed the recommendations of the IPOA-IUU Fishing and committed to implement these recommendations to the extent permitted by national law. Meanwhile, on the issue of high seas governance, members agreed to support efforts to develop greater harmonization of measures between tuna RFMOs and initiatives to bring currently unregulated high seas fish stocks under international management. More information.
CSD-13 Preparatory Meeting Discusses Policy Options and Possible Actions for Implementation

March 2005: The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (IPM) for the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-13) took place from 28 February to 4 March 2005, at UN headquarters in New York. The IPM sought to discuss policy options and possible actions to enable the implementation of measures and policies concerning water, sanitation and human settlements – the thematic cluster of issues for the CSD-12/CSD-13 Implementation Cycle. Throughout the week, delegates met in plenary and in parallel sessions to consider policy options for the three themes and to discuss interlinkages and cross-cutting aspects. These deliberations were reflected in a draft Chair's text, which is expected to form the basis of further discussions during CSD-13, scheduled to meet from 11-22 April 2005, in New York. Following the conclusion of the IPM, many delegates had varying views on the value of the preparatory meeting, but agreed that one of the most important elements of the IPM was the incubation space it provided for the generation of ideas and proposals. During the week, numerous delegations took the opportunity to circulate non-papers and express their visions for the Policy Year's outcomes. Many of the issues proposed were met with a wide range of responses, some of which received varying degrees of support and some which were met with deep skepticism. While the IPM provided delegates the space to digest new ideas to move implementation forward, the divergent views on many of the issues discussed will require CSD-13 Chair John Ashe to delicately navigate the CSD's uncharted waters and balance delegations' views concerning the Commission's role in providing prescriptive global, national and regional level policy options and actions. [The Earth Negotiations Bulletin's coverage of this meeting]

February 2005

23rd Session of the UNEP Governing Council/GMEF

February 2005: The 23rd session of the UNEP Governing Council/ Global Environment Ministerial Forum concluded with key decisions on chemicals management, UNEP's water policy and strategy, and international environmental governance (IEG). During the week, delegates convened in plenary sessions, a Committee of the Whole, a drafting group and two open-ended contact groups to consider draft decisions. A three-day ministerial consultation considered the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, including those in the Millennium Declaration, with a focus on environment and poverty, environmental sustainability, and gender and the environment. The Governing Council/GMEF concluded its work by adopting decisions on issues relating to small island developing States, chemicals management, UNEP's water policy and strategy, international environmental governance, gender equality and the environment, keeping the world environment situation under review, Programme of Work and Budget, administrative and other budgetary matters, poverty and the environment, environmental and equity considerations in the procurement practices of UNEP, and strengthening environmental emergency response and developing disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation and early warning systems in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. International environmental governance: The GC's decision on IEG focused on six topics: the Bali Strategic Plan, strengthening the scientific base of UNEP, universal membership of the GC, strengthening UNEP's financial base, MEAs, and enhancing coordination across the UN system and the Environmental Management Group (EMG). Chemicals management: Governments supported the development and implementation of partnerships to reduce risks to human health and the environment from mercury. They also asked UNEP to prepare a report summarizing supply, trade and demand information on mercury. While some countries, including those belonging to the European Union, advocated a legally-binding instrument to address the mercury problem, others, such as the United States, Australia and Japan, expressed reservations on the subject. However, delegates agreed to assess the possibility of a legally-binding instrument and other actions at the 24th session of the UNEP Governing Council. On other chemicals management issues, the Governing Council discussed cooperation between UNEP, relevant multilateral environmental agreements and other organizations; the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM); lead and cadmium; and the mercury programme. On SAICM, the Council requested that funding be provided to support SAICM development. On lead and cadmium, the Council asked UNEP to conduct an assessment of scientific information available on long-range environmental transport in order to inform future discussions on the need for global action. UNEP's water policy and strategy: The GC/GMEF decided to adopt UNEP's updated policy and strategy as a general framework/guidance for its activities in the field of water and sanitation, and noted governments' reservations on substantive and procedural issues in developing the strategy. The GC/GMEF recommended that the Executive Director, in his review of the water policy, take into account several concepts (including ecosystem approaches to IWRM, and others) and ensure that it contributes to the achievement of internationally agreed goals contained in the Millennium Declaration and the JPOI. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin report of the meeting, 28 February 2005] [Action on Heavy Metals among Key GC Decisions, UNEP press release, 25 February 2005]
ASIAN WETLAND SYMPOSIUM 2005

A symposium in India has ended with recommendations to protect Asian wetlands and local communities at risk from tsunamis. The Asian Wetlands Symposium, organized by Wetlands International, was held from 6-9 February 2005 in Bhubaneswar and Chilika, India. The meeting included technical sessions covering a wide range of relevant issues, including the wise use of wetlands, capacity building and education, partnerships and networking, the cultural values of wetlands and community-based management of the wetland ecosystem. The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Chilika Statement, a declaration from participants calling for action to promote wetlands conservation and sustainable management. The Chilika Statement includes specific recommendations to support local livelihoods through the traditional knowledge base and eco-enterprises and to mainstream wetlands into sectoral development planning at all levels. It also recommends urgent action to rehabilitate coastal wetlands affected by the recent tsunami in order to restore the sustainable livelihoods of affected communities and to conserve biodiversity. A special session held on the tsunami and coastal wetlands also resulted in recommendations for action, including the urgent need for coordinated and harmonized assessment of affected areas to identify where ecological restoration would be most effective. Links to further information The conference website Chilika Statement Recommendations from the special session on the tsunami
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON WATER FOR FOOD AND ECOSYSTEMS

The importance of balancing water for food and ecosystem needs was underscored at a recent conference, held from 31 January to 4 February in the Hague. Organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands, the Water for Food and Ecosystems Conference was convened to identify successful processes that lead to best practices for achieving land and water development through integrated water resources management (IWRM) with an ecosystem approach. It also sought to make recommendations to governments and organizations in implementing actions on water for food and ecosystems. The Conference adopted its report, which contains recommendations for implementing IWRM. IISD Reporting Services' coverage of this meeting.

January 2005

INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON AFRICA WATER LAWS - Plural Legislative Frameworks for Rural Water Management in Africa

Options to improve water policies and legislation for rural Africa were the focus of a recent workshop held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The workshop on “African Water Laws: Plural Legislative Frameworks for Rural Water Development in Africa” took place from 26-28 January 2005. The aim of the meeting was to discuss research findings on customary water management arrangements for small-scale productive uses and domestic uses in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Participants sought to identify the range of options for African governments, international financial institutions (IFIs) and donors to better recognize existing customary water management arrangements in ongoing water reforms and to build on these in further developing water for multiple uses to alleviate poverty and enhance gender equity. Participants recommended a number of actions with regard to policy and implementation, including the need for governments to formally recognize the validity and legitimacy of customary systems as well as statutory rights, and to remove current formal obstacles for such recognition. The workshop also proposed that governments, IFIs and donors recognize customary water management within a human rights framework, and suggested that water management authority be devolved to the local level. On research and capacity building, participants acknowledged that African customary water arrangements and their interface with other legal frameworks are inadequately documented and recommended identifying locally appropriate and enforceable procedures, tools, and modalities for building upon customary water management arrangements in water development and regulation. The workshop website.