EUROPEAN ECO-FORUM NEWSLETTER
No 3
DECEMBER 2005

 

TOWARDS BELGRADE-2007

 

In this issue:

1. UN-ECE REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION MEETING IN PREPARATION TO THE 14TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (CSD- 14)

2. THE FIRST MEETING OF THE UNECE STEERING COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

3. MEETING OF THE EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH COMMITTEE (EEHC) 12 -13 DECEMBER 2005, HELSINKI

4. FIFTH MEETING OF THE WORKING GROUP ON WATER AND HEALTH

 

 

1. UN-ECE REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION MEETING IN PREPARATION TO THE 14TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (CSD-14)

The UN-ECE Regional Implementation Meeting (RIM) in preparation to the 14th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) took place in Geneva, 15-16 December 2005.

Representatives of member states, international organisations, business, NGOs, trade unions took part in the RIM. European ECO- Forum was represented at the meeting by Gunnar Boye Olesen, INFORSE, Denmark, ECO-Forum Energy and Climate Issue Group Coordinator. Other NGOs participated were: ANPED, German Forum for Environment and Development, Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development, WWF, Helio International, the UK development organisation Practical Action (ITDG).

RIM is part of a new CSD structure, where each two-year thematic cycle is prepared with regional meetings in all regions. In the UNECE region (Europe + North America) NGO-participation was welcomed; but it seems that NGOs were not invited for the meetings in the other regions, at least their participation was very poor. The general effects of the RIMs are not clear yet as there are no negotiated conclusions from them.

The UNECE RIM was focussed mainly on energy issues and related themes (those on the agenda of CSD-14) and consisted of an introduction, three thematic sessions on energy, industry with link to energy, and air pollution with link to energy, and finally a general discussion. All speeches and discussions were very positive.

On 15 December the main focus of presentations was made on energy production and sustainable consumption of energy resources. Many countries noted the need to use renewables, but had different positions on the issue of the oil and coal share in the resources usage. Some social issues were also raised, including energy demands, population access to energy, transportation, etc.

The second day discussions were focussed on industrial development, air pollution and climate change. Some painful issues were raised by participants, especially on air pollution. Unfortunately the situation is not improving and, as WHO mentioned, the mortality from the air pollution will even grow in coming years. Education was also mentioned as one of the very important areas to develop further.

Different opinions were expressed during the discussion. Gunnar Boye Olesen spoke on behalf of NGOs (see: http://www.inforse.org/europe/conf05_UNPrepCSD.htm). The speech was prepared in consultation with other participating NGOs. In addition ANPED participants and WWF made several shorter interventions. ANPED did not participate in as a network in the political discussions, but two ANPED working groups were active, on nuclear and on sustainable consumption and production patterns respectively. WWF was active on climate and on a proposal of using outcome of the UN Summit 2005 as an input for CSD. The industry kept back from specific reference to nuclear but called to "keep all options open".

The outcome of the meeting is a Chairman's Summary, which will be available on the UNECE website along with other details and
documents of RIM http://www.unece.org/env/SustainableDevelopment/2Session/welcome.htm

NGO Preparatory Meetings

NGO preparatory meeting to RIM, which took place on 14-15 December in Geneva, was organised by .ANPED - The Northern Alliance for Sustainability -one of three NGOs that are facilitators for NGOs for CSD (the others are ELCI in Nairobi and Third World Network). Participants included a representatives of several international and national NGOs - WWF, German Forum for Environment and Development, INFORSE, a number of ANPED member organisations as well as representatives of trade unions and business.

The status of preparations for CSD and the new internal UN energy cooperation"UN Energy" (see http://esa.un.org/un-energy/) was presented at the meeting. Participants were informed that the call from UN-DESA for inputs to CSD from countries and Major Groups in 2005 (major groups deadline 1/9-05) had only given almost 20 inputs from countries and 4 from major groups.

On the 15th ANPED had organised a meeting with the EU countries that are coordinating their efforts towards CSD. EU has distributed the tasks. Denmark became lead country on energy towards CSD14, and then they will re-distribute the roles. There is a common EU-paper for CSD as well as background papers. NGOs received a copy of the EU paper and did not get background ones yet. During CSD14 Austria will have the presidency of EU, and probably may take a leading role.

The question on international structures for sustainable/renewable energy was raised, and the NGOs were prompted to present a proposal to the Austrian EU presidency.

NGOs will continue preparation and participate in CSD-14 (May 1-12, 2006, New York). It is planned that NGOs preparatory meeting will take place on April 30 (organised by ANPED and other coordinators). NGOs plan to keep networking and cooperate on main priorities for CSD. CURES has also announced a CSD group. Several big national and international NGO will attend the CSD sessions. Participation of NGOs from developing countries and those with economies in transition will depend on funding available.

For more information contact:

Gunnar Boye Olesen, INFORSE-Europe/ European ECO-Forum Energy
and Climate Issue Group Coordinator at ove@inforse.org

 

2. THE FIRST MEETING OF THE UNECE STEERING COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Representatives of 39 countries, the European Union and observing organizations (including the European Eco-Forum) took part in the First Meeting of the UNECE Steering Committee on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) on 13 to14 December 2005 in Geneva. European ECO-Forum was represented by Vadim Kalinin, ASEKO (Russia).

All documents for the meeting, including information on coordinating body for implementation of the Strategy, are available  through the web-site on ESD in the UNECE Region www.unece.org/env/esd/SC.Meet.htm (in English, French and Russian).

Mr. Kaj BARLUND, Director of the Environment and Human Settlements Division of UNECE, delivered an introductory speech. He emphasized particularly that social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainable development should not confront, but strengthen each other. This mutual strengthening forms the culture of sustainable development.

The Steering Committee elected Mr. Andreas KARAMANOS (Greece) as the Chair and Ms Violeta IVANOV (Republic of Moldova) as a Vice- chair. The Bureau of the Steering Committee was elected. European ECO-Forum will take an observer position in the Bureau. The Draft Work Plan for the implementation of the UNECE Strategy for ESD, 2005-2007, was adopted.

The majority of member States reported on the progress made in their countries after the High-level Meeting of Environment and Education Ministries (Vilnius, March 2005) with regard to the following issues:

 - translating the Strategy into official and other relevant languages;
 - establishing a coordinating body for implementation of the Strategy;
 - designating national focal points;
 - developing national action plans;
 - preparing national policy documents specifically dedicated to ESD.

Prior to the meeting, the Secretariat disseminated the Questionnaire regarding the above issues and prepared an information note on the basis of the responses received. The Answers to the Questionnaire (English only) are available on the above-mentioned web-site on ESD in the UNECE Region.

Among activities aimed at strengthening capacity and sharing experiences in the UNECE Region thematic meetings in Vienna, Austria, (March 2006); Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (2006) and Canada (2007) were mentioned. Suggestions on agendas are welcomed. Copernicus-Campus will arrange the Conference on sustainable development in European education in Germany (October 2006).

Mr. Roel VAN RAAIJ (The Netherlands) on behalf of the Expert Group made a brief presentation on the progress in developing indicators to measure the effectiveness of the implementation of the ESD Strategy. The Steering Committee provided comments on the Progress Report on the work of the Expert Group.

Particularly, representatives of Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom mentioned that indicators are excessively complicated and their application especially in federal states and countries with decentralized educational system is difficult. The representative of Iceland noted that it is easer to answer on quantitative questions, so, probably, it is reasonable to diminish the number of descriptive indicators. The representative of Israel suggested dividing indicators on obligatory and optional. The representative of Armenia proposed to work out the glossary. Norway, Slovenia and Israel favoured indicators and suggested their countries to be experimenters/pilot projects for application of indicators and invited other states to participate in testing. Mr. Roel VAN RAAIJ in his response message noted that the number of indicators will be reduced to 20-25. Main indicators will be marked.

The Chair suggested testing indicators in each country from May 2006 and submitting national experience (as well as sets of good practices) for presentation on the sixth "Environment for Europe" Conference (Belgrade, October 2007). The Secretariat will prepare guidelines for presentations. Ms Ella BEHLYAROVA, Secretary to the UNECE Steering Committee on ESD, asked to send suggestions on indicators by 20 January 2006. Indicators will be approved In December 2006. Sweden and Italy mentioned that there is a necessity in measuring effectiveness of ESD as well. The meeting of donors (including those who can provide support for the Conference in Belgrade) will be arranged on December 2006, the day before next meeting of the Steering Committee in order to ensure financial support to the Strategy implementation.

The upcoming meetings of the Bureau of the Steering Committee will possible take place at the following dates:

   - End of February -- beginning of March 2006;
   - 7-8 June 2006 (in conjunction with the WGSO session, the agenda includes preparation for the Conference in Belgrade);
   - October 2006 (in conjunction with the CEP).

For additional information on the meeting and its outcomes visit http://www.unece.org/env/esd/SC.Meet.htm

or contact Vadim Kalinin, ASEKO Director, at web@online.ru

 

3. MEETING OF THE EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH COMMITTEE (EEHC)

The European Environment and Health Committee (EEHC) held its meeting in Helsinki, Finland 12 -13 December 2005.

The EEHC mandate is to follow-up on the agreements of the Budapest Environment and Health Ministerial Conference "Future for our Children", June 2004. European ECO-Forum is a member of EEHC; it is represented by Sascha Gabizon, Director WECF, European ECO-Forum Environment and Health Issue Group Coordinator, who attended Helsinki meeting.

The 1st day of the meeting was devoted to special presentations on the latest scientific evidence on Regional Priority Goal 4 "Chemicals and Radiation". The 2nd day was used for n planning and reporting on the implementation of the Budapest commitments.

At the first day Prof. Grandjean (Harvard) presented pre-results of largest study on neuro-toxins ever done in the US, which showed that 1 out of 6 children have defects. EU presented its draft regulation on Chemicals, REACH, and how it would finally put the burden of proof on industry "no data - no market". Trade Unions spoke on the study of Sheffield University on the economic benefits of REACH, up to 30 billion Euros saving just on reduction of respiratory and skin diseases among workers. Prof. Izmerov of Russia informed EEHC about increases of birth defects and infertility probably related to pollution. WECF/ Eco- Forum presented toxic products from the next door supermarket, and asked for a strategy on improving chemical management and legislation in EECCA countries. WHO-Geneva, presented its controversial study of health effects from Chernobyl.

Day 2 of the meeting focused on planning and reporting

EEHC members discussed progress on Children's Environmental Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE) and planning of the inter- Ministerial 2007.

The CEHAPE Task Force (TF) started it work with great enthusiasm. Focal points from 50 countries came to the CEHAPE meeting in Edinburgh, and worked in working groups and with English-Russian translation. The recommendations and requests to the EEHC from the TF are:

- strengthening twinning activities between countries - transferring knowledge of the burden of disease methodology to EECCA countries
- intensifying work on case studies on environmental health impacts
- involving more youth in doing case studies

The EHIS project has received funding for its second phase and will further develop the 30 selected indicators on health and environment for policy processes and technical processes. The Dutch delegation mentioned that even if the Ministry of Health develops a good science-based policy, it is still not easy to get it implemented if the implementation depends on another ministry. This is the case of a new regulation for the city of Rotterdam. Health studies had shown that children at schools were exposed to the equivalent of up to 70 cigarettes a day from car exhausts. The new regulation stipulates speed limits near schools of max. 80 km/hr. But the ministry of transportation shows no sign of implementing this regulation.

The WHO press officer, Ms. Viv Taylor Gee, presented the new web-map, a reporting and monitoring tool for the Budapest Conference decisions implementation. The web-map can be found at http://www.euro.who.int/eehc/ctryinfo/ctryinfo It shows data on children's environmental health, and the EEHC work in all EU and EECCA countries. Apart from contact persons at ministries and NGOs, it contains also information about legislation, case studies and publications for each country.

In turn EEN developed its own web-map presenting activities of NGOs. This can be found at www.env-health.org

The next EEHC meeting will discuss the format of reporting for the mid-term Ministerial meeting in June 2007.

The calendar of upcoming events in this area is as follows:

30-31 March 2006, Dublin, CEHAPE meeting. Theme: Regional Priority Goal (RPG) 2 "Accidents, Transport, Urban Environment".

15 - 16 May 2006, Oslo, EEHC meeting. Theme RPG 2.

October 2006, CEHAPE meeting RPG 1 "Water and Sanitation".

November 2006, EEHC meeting , RPG 1 "Water and Sanitation" and preparation of the Ministerial 2007

June 2007, Inter-ministerial Conference, mid-term reporting. WECF / Eco-Forum would like to organise a back-to-back NGO
meeting.

For more information contact Sascha Gabizon, Director WECF , European ECO-Forum Environment and Health Issue Group Coordinator at sascha.gabizon@wecf.org

 

4. FIFTH MEETING OF THE WORKING GROUP ON WATER AND HEALTH

The Fifth Meeting of the Working Group (WG) on Water and Health took place on 5-7 December 2005 in Geneva. Following main issues were discussed:

1. Progress in ratification process
2. Legal and administrative aspects of the Protocol implementation
3. Indicators and timelines
4. Review of the progress
5. Preparation to the First Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol.


European ECO-Forum was represented at the Meeting by Serhiy Vykhrist (Ukraine).

16 countries are currently the Parties to the Protocol. Croatia, Germany the Netherlands, Serbia and Montenegro, Switzerland and UK plan to join the Protocol by the end of 2006. In order to facilitate the development of the ratification Strategy Parties were invited to submit by 31 January 2006 national  information, including national preparatory documents for ratification, comparative analysis of Protocol advantages for each Party, description of main barriers in ratification process.

WG also discussed a possibility to open the Protocol for accession to the non-UNECE countries. Secretariat was asked to prepare a document containing positive and negative consequences of such decision.

On the issue of legal and administrative aspects of Protocol implementation the most contradictory questions were discussed. In particular :

+   Compliance Procedure
+   Rules of procedure for the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol
+   Focal Points
+   Coordination of work on the Protocol with WHO.

The importance of the first two procedures for the European ECO- Forum  is  first  of  all  related to the  public  participation component, in particular, participation in establishment of  the Compliance  Committee  and citizens'  right  to  appeal  to  the Committee,  as well as public participation in Meetings  of  the Parties (NGOs with observer position), NGO representation in the Bureau,  etc. Negotiations will continue at the 6th  Meeting  of the WG at the end of May 2006.

In  course  of further discussion ECO-Forum called  for  a  more active  work  of Focal Points with public. This was included  in the  Draft  Decision  of the Meeting. WG  asked  Secretariat  to update  the  Decision of Focal Points and submit it to  the  6th Meeting of the WG. Secretariat also asked ECO-Forum to assist in compiling  a list of NGOs interested in receiving the electronic information from the Secretariat.

European WHO Secretariat presented the main results of its work in UNECE region, including implementation of bi-annual projects and initiatives in EECCA countries. In course of discussion WHO agreed with ECO-Forum intervention on the need to strengthen a public participation component, including participation in development of programs and plans and their realization. WHO stressed significant influence of NGOs on the organisation and results of the Yerevan Ministerial Conference on Water and Sanitation Sector reforms.

The  majority of interventions on indicators and timelines noted that while being moved forward the preparation of realization of Protocol  goals  faces a number of problems  to  be  solved.  In particular, Belgium stressed difficulties to define the  sources of  pollution  and  infection, Hungary spoke  on  problems  with ensuring access to drinking water, Norway and Ukraine noted  too short deadlines.

On  the progress review the WG decided to nominate by 31 January 2006  experts that will finalise the reporting framework on  the Protocol  including state of the environment and water resources management.  The framework will be discussed at the 6th  Meeting
of the WG.

The  WG  established also a special temporary Working Group  for the  preparation to the 1st Meeting of the Parties (MoP) to  the Protocol. The first meeting of the Working Group will be held in the  beginning of 2006, most likely in Bonn. Further to that the preparation to MoP will be discussed at the 6th Meeting  of  the WG  31  May  -  02  June  2006 in Geneva.  Delegates  asked  the Secretariat to prepare the Draft Declaration of the MoP-1, Draft Agenda  and  a  consolidated Draft Plan  of  activities  on  the Protocol (the latter will be made on the basis of the results of temporary Working Group work). The First Meeting of the  Parties will take place at the end of 2006.

For further information contact Serhiy Vykhrist, European ECO- Forum expert of the Protocol on Water and Health, at
serhiyv@bk.ru