QUEBEC SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS: US GOVERNMENT INFORMAL CONSULTATION WITH CIVIL SOCIETY ON POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES

On February 14th USAID, EPA, and the State Department co-hosted an informal consultation in Washington, D.C. with civil society representatives to obtain their ideas on environmental initiatives to be considered at the Quebec Summit of the Americas. Participants were provided with an update of the status, timeline, and major upcoming events related to the Summit by the State Department and Canadian representatives. Prior to the meeting participants had received a list of environmental topic areas/initiatives proposed by a various governments and NGOs for possible consideration at the Quebec Summit. This list included:

  • Multilateral Environmental Agreements;
  • climate change;
  • water and sanitation;
  • integrated water resources management;
  • trade and environment;
  • air pollution;
  • industrial clean production/pollution prevention;
  • biodiversity conservation;
  • transboundary ecosystem conservation;
  • forest management;
  • sustainable energy;
  • environmentally sound mining;
  • environmental security;
  • disaster mitigation;
  • corporate responsibility

Civil society participants at the February 14th informal consultation preferred to organize their input around four topics within which they identified specific initiatives. These topics were:

  1. Strengthen the Institutional Basis for Sustainable Development
  2. Trade and Environment
  3. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation
  4. Environmental Security

Views provided below are those of civil society participants.

Strengthen the Institutional Basis for Sustainable Development

1.  Strengthen laws, regulations and compliance assurance
  1. training to support environmental compliance officials
  2. through relevant cooperative mechanisms such as the Inter-American Forum on Environmental Law (FIDA) share information on what has and has not worked (successes and failures, and innovations)
2.  Improve and create transparency and monitoring mechanisms to support sustainable     development
  1. strengthen right-to-know laws
  2. build in civil society monitoring mechanisms into national laws and existing regional and international commitments (Inter-American Strategy for Public Participation in Sustainable Development Decision Making - ISP, Summit Action Plans, etc.)
  3. strengthen/create government monitoring and information disclosure. For example, pollution release and transfer registries (PRTRs)
3.  Strengthen corporate responsibility mechanisms
  1. Regional review of progress in the implementation of corporate reporting and corporate responsibility initiatives
    • Global Reporting Initiative
    • OECD's Multinational corporation environmental guidelines
    • Eco-labeling standards (organic agriculture, sustainable forestry)
   b.  Joint/collaborative work between the private sector and civil society in the design of third      
        party and independent monitoring of corporate performance

Trade and Environment

* Strong labor and environment component in trade agreements

1. Transparency

  1. making negotiation texts publicly available
  2. public participation and feedback
  1. Establish methodology for environmental review of trade agreements and follow-up
  2. Incorporation of precautionary approach or principle
  3. Priority to Multilateral Environmental Agreements
  4. Countries are free to distinguish products based on production methods
  5. No investor-state disputes
  6. Equivalent enforcement mechanisms for environmental provisions

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Conservation

Bearing in mind the immense importance of natural biological resources to prosperity in the hemisphere for their ability to maintain and recharge natural systems, for clean water, for carbon sequestration, for sustainable harvest of food, forest and marine products, for tourism, for pharmaceutical research, and for the enjoyment of the people (the assembled governments) resolve to work individually and with partners, from within and from outside the hemisphere, to give renewed attention and effort to the sustainable management of such natural biological resources, beginning with effective protection of key representative habitats in the ecoregions of the Americas, especially parks and nature preserves. Given also that nature does not follow political boundaries, (the assembled governments) pledge to work cooperatively with neighboring countries on transboundary issues where these are relevant to the sustainable management of ecosystems and the maintenance of ecological processes.

    1. Endorse further action under the Treaty to Combat Desertification*
    2. Pledge to create an inter-institutional and inter-sectoral dialogue informed by expert scientific advice, to better define hemispheric conservation goals and identify opportunities for action, especially in a transboundary context.
    3. Pledge to encourage access to biodiversity information, building on the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) initiative at the Bolivia Summit and other major international initiatives.

Environmental Security**

Address Environmental Security challenges including growing concern over resource claims, depletion and degradation that can imperil the health and well being of citizens, impede or disrupt economic prosperity, and threaten national and regional security -- as a regional and national priority by:

1) Convening relevant governmental and non-governmental experts to:

    1. identify national environmental security priorities;
    2. establish national environmental security plans by 2003;
    3. strengthening national frameworks and institutions consistent with those national environmental security action plans.
    4. Monitoring and reporting Action Plan implementation to OAS CIDI/CIDS
    5. Devoting necessary human and financial resources to action plan implementation

2) Establish a high-level policy dialogue among the environment, defense and finance communities to explore the linkage between environment and development concerns and the security of citizens and states in the Americas, with a view to supporting the development and implementation of national environmental security action plans, including through relevant regional institutions such as: OAS Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment, Inter-American Development Bank, Inter-American Water Resources Network, Pan-American Health Organization, Inter-American Forum on Environmental Law, World Bank.

* The Convention to Combat Desertification (http://www.unccd.int/main.php) offers new hope in the struggle against the degradation of the land of semi arid lands. OAS member States and their Civil Society lead the way in this. As of today, 172 countries have ratified the Convention, including all the OAS members. Though better known for rain forests, Latin America and the Caribbean are actually about one-quarter desert and dry lands. The deserts of Latin America's Pacific coast stretch from southern Ecuador along the entire Peruvian shoreline and well into northern Chile. Further inland the high, dry plains of the Andean Mountains cover large areas of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. A large part of Northeast Brazil is arid with recurrent severe droughts and so are regions of Mexico, the first country to ratify the Convention. The Caribbean states of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, among others, also contain arid zones; erosion is noticeably intensifying in many East Caribbean islands.

** This initiative is integrally linked with the initiative for Disaster Mitigation and Preparedness