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This page was updated on: 01/12/10


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At its 58th session, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a draft resolution, without a vote (A/RES/58/217), proclaiming 2005 to 2015 as the International Decade for Action – Water for Life. This recommendation, which comes at the close of the International Year of Freshwater 2003, calls for a greater focus on water-related issues and for actions to ensure the participation of women in water-related development efforts. It also recommits countries to achieving the water-related goals of the 2000 Millennium Declaration, the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and of Agenda 21.


This is the second time that water issues have been highlighted as part of UN Decade. The UN declared 1981-1990 as the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade with the aim of providing safe drinking water and adequate sanitation systems for all people by 1991. The official start of the ‘Water for Life’ Decade will be on World Water Day, 22 March 2005, and will coincide with the International Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, which is also set for 2005-2015.


Links to further information

UNGA Plenary press release, 23 December 2003


UNESCO Water Portal




The European Union and its 15 member states have ratified the United Nations treaty on straddling fish stocks. The member states deposited their respective legal instruments with the UN Secretary-General on 19 December 2003, following a meeting of the European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries, which met in Brussels in December.


Adopted in New York in August 1995, the treaty is officially known as the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of December 10, 1982, Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. The treaty spells out the rights and obligations of coastal states and of states whose vessels fish on the high seas to ensure the conservation and management of fish stocks through international cooperation. It also encourages cooperation among regional fisheries organizations and underlines the fundamental role that they have to play in this area in terms of observation, control and inspection of fisheries activities. In addition, the agreement also contributes to the fight against illegal fishing and flags of convenience vessels by introducing in the international legal framework procedures for the control of fishing activities on the high seas.


In addition to agreeing to ratify the UN treaty, EU member states also decided at the Council meeting on the establishment of recovery plans for cod and Northern hake stocks, and on 2004 quotas for all fish species. The decision to freeze the quotas for cod and hake at the previous year's levels while almost doubling the amount of haddock that fishermen are allowed to catch has brought about mixed feelings. European fishing industry officials say 200,000 people could be deeply affected by the new regulations, while World Wide Fund for Nature Fisheries officer voiced concern that “Europe’s common long-term interest in saving fish stocks and fishing communities has been sacrificed for short-term gain.”


Links to further information

EU press release, 19 December 2003


UN Wire press release, 19 December 2003


UN Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea news


Full Text of the UN Treaty




The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) signed an agreement with China’s Yangtze Aquatic Wildlife Conservation group and Yangtze Fishery Administrative Committee in an attempt to conserve the more than 370 fish species found in the Yangtze River Basin.


“Strong partnership is vital to conservation,” said Wang Limin, Senior Officer of WWF’s Yangtze Programme. “As an NGO, WWF needs the support of all stakeholders, such as governmental agencies, local communities, and research institutes. That is the purpose of this agreement.”


One of the largest river ecosystems in the world, the Yangtze basin provides important freshwater goods and services for wildlife and 400 million people. It is also home to many species of migratory birds, as well as the endangered Yangtze river dolphin and Chinese sturgeon. Conversion of wetlands for agriculture and unsuitable construction and infrastructure projects in the flood plain, excessive tapping of groundwater, overfishing, mismanagement of coastal wetlands, and pollution from both industry and agriculture all contribute to threatening the future of the Yangtze River. WWF has been working in China for several years on projects aimed at restoring the balance between people and nature in the Yangtze basin.


Links to further information

WWF press release 9 December 2003



Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major impediment to the achievement of long-term sustainable fisheries, according to the findings of a report delivered at the recent 32nd session of the UN Food and Agriculture (FAO) Governing conference in Rome. Noting that some 75% of world fisheries are already being fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted, delegates to the FAO meeting reaffirmed their commitment to give full effect to the implementation of FAO’s International Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IPOA-IUU). In June 2001, 110 countries endorsed the IPOA-IUU, which calls on nations to develop and implement their own plans to fight the problem as quickly as possible.


In related news, the creation of a five-nation Ministerial Task Force to combat the poaching of fish stocks by pirate fishers was announced at a Deep Sea conference in New Zealand. The Task Force, under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), will be led by British Environment Minister Elliot Morley and include fisheries ministers from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Namibia.


“The rape and pillage of the high seas needs practicable solutions by experts, and that’s what we hope to achieve,” said OECD Chairman Simon Upton. The five-nation Task Force will put up in neon lights what could be done.” The Task Force will draw up its plans for solutions over the next 18 months to two years, and include contributions from scientists, legal experts, environmental groups, and business people.


Australian Fisheries Minister Senator Ian Macdonald said “the task force will produce a crisp analysis of illegal fishing on the high seas, together with recommended actions that can be both implemented by task force members, and advocated as the best course of action for others to follow.”


Links to further information

FAO’s Progress Report on IPOA-IUU Implementation


FAO press release, 3 December 2003


ENN, 3 December 2003


Deep Sea Conference 2003 homepage



The United Nations University (UNU) is offering a new ‘virtual’ water management course over the Internet. The curriculum has been designed as an undergraduate course for adult professionals, but is expected that engineers, district managers, government administrators and others responsible for water management will also take the course.


“I can think of no international issue more fundamentally important than water management to serve as the subject for the first-ever UN University Diploma Programme,” said UNU Rector Hans van Ginkel. Comprised of 10 subjects and 250 hours of instruction, students will access course material by CD-ROM, the Internet or mailed printouts, and will have to complete independent work assignments and examinations. By the end of the course, the students should have completed their own integrated water resource management plan.


Links to further information

UN News Centre, 1 December 2003


UNU news release, 1 December 2003






France and Australia have signed a maritime cooperation agreement to help reduce illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean. The treaty, signed on 24 November in Canberra establishes a formal framework for cooperative surveillance and research activity by France and Australia in their respective territorial seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the Southern Ocean. This will include exchanging information on the location, movements and licensing of fishing vessels and working more closely together to fight illegal fishing.


“The treaty shows the high level of cooperation between countries on illegal fishing issues and sends a strong message to illegal fishing operators who seek to plunder the world’s oceans, completely disregarding the long-term damage they cause for the sake of a short-term profit,” said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in a statement.


In recent years, illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean has increased, particularly the fishing of the valuable Patagonian Toothfish, commonly known as Chilean Seabass, which has been targeted by foreign fishing vessels in Australia’s EEZ around Heard Island and the McDonald Islands, and around France’s Crozet Islands and Kerguelen Islands. The signing of this treaty follows the recent apprehension of the Viarsa 1, a Uruguayan-flagged vessel suspected of illegally fishing Patagonian Toothfish in Australia’s territorial waters.


Links to further information

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 24 November 2003


Environment News Service, 24 November 2003




The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a non-profit scientific research organization, opened a new office in New Delhi to address vital issues of water scarcity in India. Focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in agriculture and on the water needs of developing countries, IWMI’s mission in India is aimed at finding new and innovative ways to address the water needs of poor communities in India. One research project will look at wastewater irrigation, an important resource for farmers especially where freshwater is scarce


“Reducing rural poverty in India requires practical solutions that increase the agricultural productivity of small farmers,” says Christopher Scott, IWMI South Asia Regional Director. “Providing them with access to an affordable and reliable supply of wastewater allows them to grow high value crops.”


IWMI has been carrying out scientific research focused on the sustainable use of water and land resources in agriculture in India for almost 20 years with offices already in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Anand in Gujarat. The establishment of the office in New Delhi brings IWMI researchers closer to policy planners, members of parliament and other key stakeholders in the water management sector.


Links to further information

IWMI homepage


IWMI press release, 18 November 2003




The Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme in South Africa and the Salto Caxias Hydropower Plant in Brazil are the recipients of this year’s Blue Planet Prize. The awards, sponsored by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) with the support of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme, were presented at the recent IHA General Assembly held in Cavtat, Croatia on 4 November 2003.


The Prize, awarded every two years, recognizes good practice and sound management in the development and operation of a hydropower scheme, on the basis of technical, economic, social and environmental criteria.


The 400 MW Palmiet pumped-storage scheme, near Cape Town, South Africa, was found to demonstrate excellence in relation to the technical, environmental and economic aspects, while the 1,240 MW Salto Caxias scheme, on the Iguau Rriver in Southern Brazil was commended for its commitment to socio-economic aspects, including the construction of schools, medical clinics, churches, roads and farm buildings.


“These projects are first-rate ambassadors for hydropower and demonstrate characteristics consistent with the Implementation Plan of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Ministerial Declaration of the recent 3rd World Water Forum,” said IHA Executive Director Richard Taylor.


Links to further information

International Hydropower Association (IHA) website




William O’Neil, the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization - the UN specialized agency responsible for shipping safety and prevention of marine pollution – was awarded the “Commandeur de l’Ordre du Mérite Maritime Ivoirien” from the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. The medal was presented by Côte d'Ivoire Transport Minister Kobena Innocent Anaky on 24 November in London at the 23rd session of the IMO Assembly.


Links to further information

IMO homepage



Greenpeace has been charged for overstepping its role in exposing environmental abuses at sea. In June this year, the IMO claimed that Greenpeace violated regulations aimed at ensuring safety at sea, when activists shadowed or boarded vessels to protest substandard tankers and shipments of nuclear material and GMOs. Greenpeace International’s consultative status at the IMO was under threat as a decision taken in June had expelled the international NGO from the IMO. Apparently press attention questioning the decision caused a strategic retreat, and the decision was forwarded to the upcoming IMO Assembly. In the interim period, Greenpeace reached out to its network of cyberactivists and was able to turn the tide and convince IMO to reject the proposal to evict it.


In a separate case, the US Justice Department is filing charges against Greenpeace USA for allegedly breaking a 1872 law, when in 2002 two activists climbed onto a ship off the Florida coast to alert authorities that illegally exported mahogany from the Amazon rainforest was aboard. The law in question was originally created to prevent bar and brothel owners from enticing sailors to their businesses. If convicted, Greenpeace could face a fine, be put on probation and lose its US tax-exempt status. The trial is scheduled for December.


John Passacantando, Greenpeace USA Director, highlighted that the attack is unprecedented in US history, stating that an organization has never been indicted for the free speech activities of its supporters. Former Vice President Al Gore recently called this charge “a highly disturbing criminal prosecution” that “appears to be aimed at inhibiting Greenpeace’s First Amendment activities.”


Links to further information

Greenpeace news, 21 November 2003


Greenpeace USA Statement, 14 November 2003


Ashcroft vs. Greenpeace Overview by Greenpeace, 14 November 2003




Countries bordering the Caspian Sea have signed on to a treaty to help protect the fragile environment of the world’s largest freshwater lake. On 4 November, four out of the five littoral countries - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia - adopted the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, a treaty negotiated under the auspices of UNEP. Turkmenistan signed the treaty the following week. This is the first treaty on any matter between the five neighbors, and according to Hamid Ghaffarzadeh, Programme Coordinator for the Caspian Environment Programme, unfamiliarity with diplomatic procedures probably had more to do with Turkmenistan’s delayed decision than the content of the treaty.


Decades of industrial pollution, toxic and radioactive wastes, leaks from oil extraction and refining and overfishing have degraded the Caspian Sea environment. The treaty is aimed at coordinating regional efforts to reduce pollution and control the overexploitation of marine life.


“By ensuring the sustainable use of the Caspian Sea’s valuable living resources, the convention will contribute enormously to the well-being of millions of people living in this region,” said UNDP Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel. 


Even now that all five countries have signed the agreement it must be ratified by member governments in order to for it to enter into force, a process that could take several years.


Links to further information

UN Wire, 11 November 2003


UN Wire, 5 November 2003


UN Wire, 3 November 2003


UNEP press release, 3 November 2003






The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Uganda to host the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP-9) in Kampala in late 2005. The MOU was signed by Ramsar Convention Secretary-General Peter Bridgewater and Uganda COP-9 National Coordinator Paul Mafabi in a ceremony hosted by Wetlands International and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC on 30 October 2003. The new MOU formalizes the commitments on both sides and lays out the steps to be taken between now and the next Ramsar COP.


The signing marks the first time that the triennial meeting of the Convention’s Parties will be held in Africa. “As the first country in Africa to develop a national wetlands policy, and with over 14 years’ practical experience of learning from community-based wetlands management, Uganda has a leading role in showing how wise use and conservation of wetlands is achievable in the demanding context of Africa,” said a Ramsar statement on Uganda’s candidacy to host the next COP.


The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, with 138 Contracting Parties and 1,317 designated wetland sites on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, was signed in Ramsar, Iran in February 1971.


Links to further information

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands homepage


Wetlands International Press Release, 30 October 2003




The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is to commit US$10 million for improving the water and sanitation sector in African cities.


“Access to water and sanitation will play a key role in enabling Africa to make progress in all the Millennium Development Goals and I can’t think of a more strategic investment in the people and future of Africa,” said Susan Whelan, Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation.


The donation has been earmarked for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme’s (UN-HABITAT) Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, which is designed to help African cities to promote investment in the water and sanitation sector, provide sanitation and hygiene education in schools, and demonstrate innovative approaches to providing affordable services for the urban poor.


“The donation is an important step towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals of halving the number of people without access to clean water and adequate sanitation by 2015,” said UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka at the signing ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya.


The funding will be used for expanding the Managing Water for African Cities (MAWAC) programme, a joint initiative of UN-HABITAT and UNEP.


“For the past three years, the Water for African Cities programme has been helping seven African countries to put in place an integrated urban water resource management strategy that brings three critical but often overlooked sectors - urban, environment and water - to work together,” Tibaijuka added.


Links to further information

UN-Habitat homepage


CIDA Homepage


UN-Habitat press release, 27 October 2003


UN News Service, 27 October 2003




Over 15,300 fish species have been documented in a database, according to a new report issued by the Census of Marine Life. The Unknown Ocean: Baseline Report for the Census of Marine Life, the project’s first report in a ten-year, US$1 billion study, documents the identification of 160 new marine fish species each year since 2000, along with around 1,700 other animals and marine plants. The census is adding about 150 to 200 species of fish and 1,700 species of animals and plants each year. Over the next seven years, the census hopes to bring the total number of marine species on the database to well over 210,000.


More than 300 scientists from 53 countries are at work on the Census, which is designed to assess the diversity, distribution and abundance of ocean life and explain how it changes over time. The scientists, their institutions and government agencies are pooling their findings to create a comprehensive and authoritative portrait of life in the oceans.


“Some 95% of the ocean is still unexplored biologically,” said Jesse Ausubel, Programme Director of the Census of Marine Life. “By the end of the 10-year census initiative, we expect several results…we will have identified many new species and will know with far greater precision how many remain undiscovered.”


The Census of Marine Life, funded by governments with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is affiliated with several international organizations, including the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UNEP.


Links to further information:

Census of Marine Life homepage


Census of Marine Life press release, 23 October 2003


UN Wire press release, 23 October 2003






On 18 September, 220 postgraduates, representing 50 developing countries, graduated with Master’s degrees from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, based in Delft, the Netherlands. The one- year programme consisted of advanced courses on water and environmental science, engineering and management.


Since its establishment in 1957, more than 12,000 professionals from 120 countries worldwide have graduated from the Institute, filling leadership positions in water ministries, authorities, agencies and professional associations in public, private and civic organizations around the world.


In March 2003, the Institute officially became part of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) with the purpose of strengthening a global educational and knowledge base for integrated water resources management, and contributing to meeting the water-related capacity building needs of the developing countries and countries in transition.


Links to further information

UNESCO-IHE press release, 18 September 2003






As part of the activities of the International Year of Freshwater 2003, a Gender and Water Task Force was created to assist in the implementation of gender-sensitive water and sanitation activities within and outside the UN system. The new task force was initiated by the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE).


“This Gender and Water Task Force offers a valuable opportunity for dialogue between gender specialists on the one hand, and water and sanitation experts on the other,” said Angela King, UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women. “Such a dialogue should lead to concrete suggestions on how to strengthen gender mainstreaming in the water and sanitation sector.”


In addition to facilitating a dialogue between gender and water focal points and integrating gender into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to water and sanitation, the Task Force will undertake several other priority activities, including: promoting a gender perspective for the main themes of CSD-12 and -13; providing inputs to the World Water Assessment Programme so that the next edition of the World Water Development Report (2006) incorporates gender into indicators and policy recommendations; and mainstreaming gender into field projects on water management.


The Task Force brings together the gender and water focal points from 13 UN agencies and programmes, including the: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and Sustainable Development Division; UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Telecommunications Union (ITU); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); UN-Habitat; United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and the regional Economic and Social Commissions for Africa (ECA), Western Asia (ESCWA) and Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Four non-UN agencies are also participating in the Task Force: the Gender and Water Alliance, Women’s Environment and Development Organization, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC); and the UN Foundation.


Links to further information

UN press release, 15 September 2003


Interagency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE)




Wetlands International signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on conservation and sustainable development of wetlands with China’s State Forestry Administration. The MOU was signed on 8 September by Wetlands International Senior Programme Manager, Marcel Silvius, and by Chinese Vice Minister for State Forestry Administration, Li Yucai. The MOU calls on the two parties to cooperate in: improving China’s wetlands management and conservation; raising public awareness of wetland conservation; and promoting conservation and wise use of wetlands and its biodiversity.


Several days later on 13 September, a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) was signed during the IUCN World Parks Congress between the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. The MOC reinforces cooperation between the two environmental organizations and outlines ways in which they can continue to fulfill the 21 operational objectives of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008.


Links to further information

Ramsar and IUCN Joint Press Release, 13 September 2003


Wetlands International


Wetlands International and China MOU


Ramsar-IUCN MOC Text




There are 102,102 protected areas in the world, covering about 11.5% of the Earth’s land surface, but only 4,116 are designated as marine protected areas and cover less than 1% of the planet’s seas and oceans, according to a new report compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). The report entitled “State of the World’s Protected Areas” was released at the IUCN World Parks Congress, which took place in Durban, South Africa from 8-17 September.


In a message to the IUCN Congress, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that the protection of oceans is a major issue that will bear heavily on all efforts to eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable development. “While more than 11% of the world’s land is protected, less than 1% of the world’s oceans is under protection. Fisheries are collapsing, and coastal areas are reeling from land-based pollution.”


Numerous ocean studies are reporting the depth of overfishing, failures of ocean management, fish-farm contamination, invading species, coastal crowding and pollution, and dying coral reefs.


“We need to continue the good work on the land and tackle the big gaps at sea,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. In a recent op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune, Toepfer added that it is no longer a question of whether we need marine parks, but how many and how big. If not, “our grandchildren will learn about the turtles, the dugongs and the coral reefs at the knees of a history teacher, and we will have a tough job of explaining what a fish is.”


Links to further information

UN News Service, 8 September 2003


UNEP press release, 9 September 2003


International Herald Tribune, 9 September 2003




The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has recently opened a sub-regional office in Manila to be responsible for IMO activities in East Asia. The opening of the office follows the establishment of three other offices in Africa in Kenya for the Eastern and Southern Africa sub-region, and in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire for the West and Central Africa sub-region.


“The implementation of IMO instruments, including those related to maritime security, and the development of regional partnerships are among the principal aims of the IMO regional coordination programme and the Office we inaugurate today here in Manila will play a key role in assisting countries in the region to meet their implementation obligations,” said IMO Assistant Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos.


“IMO’s regional presence in East Asia will provide a key link to a ready source of assistance and information to assist Member governments in the region,” he added.


Established in 1958, the IMO provides assistance to governments in matters related to shipping and international trade, and facilitates the general adoption of practicable standards in matters concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships. The Organization is also empowered to deal with administrative and legal matters related to these purposes.


Links to further information

IMO homepage



“Countries sharing the same river basin should work jointly to protect their common resource to improve the economic and social well-being of all people living in these basins.” This was the conclusion of 50 countries attending a UN-sponsored forum on freshwater, held in Tajikistan from 29 August to 1 September. Delegates also pledged their commitment to preventing water crises such as the disappearance of the Aral Sea.

The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth largest freshwater lake. After decades of diverting the two rivers feeding the Sea – the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya – for irrigation and farming during the Soviet era, half its original surface area and a quarter of its initial volume had been lost. Some 3 million residents who live near the Aral Sea, which borders Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, are threatened by a 400,000-square kilometer toxic wasteland left by the drying of the sea and by depleted water resources. 

“Already, an estimated 1.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.4 billion have no access to adequate sanitation,” said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a message delivered to forum participants. Stressing that the quantity and quality of safe water was decreasing worldwide due to pollution, over-consumption and poor management, Annan said the challenge now is to move from commitments to concrete projects.

Responding to the call, the World Bank, together with Kazakhstan,
is investing in an $86 million project aimed at reviving the Aral Sea. The project, which includes constructing a dyke and channeling water flow to the northern part of the Sea, aims to raise the surface area of the sea’s northern section by as much as 25 percent, increasing biodiversity and improving the living conditions of the local population. This follows a World Bank-approved Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant of $12.2 million in June1998 for the Aral Sea Basin Programme’s water and environmental management project.


Links to further information
World Bank Water Portfolio

UN Wire, 2 September 2003
UN Wire, 21 August 2003
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), 20 August 2003





Rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, oceans and coastlines will be cleaned up throughout Central and South America as part of the 2003 Clean Up the World Campaign.


In Venezuela, some 25,000 volunteers participated in a World Day of Beaches, focusing on cleaning up over 235 marine areas, while in Brazil an environmental television programme was launched that will run for one-year educating people about preventing rubbish problems on beaches. In Costa Rica, the Marino Ballena National Park, a coastal area that attracts whales and dolphins but suffers from the environmental impacts of tourism, was the focus of the clean up campaign. Cuba and Peru also sponsored beach-cleaning initiatives.


“I encourage individuals and communities in Central and South America to join the millions of people that are working together to look after our waterways and beaches,” said Ian Kiernan, chairman and founder of Clean Up the World. “I believe individuals can make a big difference in helping solve the world’s environmental problems.”


Started in 1993, Clean Up the World is a community based environmental programme that encourages individuals and communities throughout the world to ‘clean up, fix up and conserve their environment.’ The campaign, with support from the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), takes place every year on the third weekend of September, this year falling on 19-21 September.


“In 2003 Clean Up the World challenges global citizens to take positive steps in their environment with a focus on creating cleaner waterways and sources in support of the International Year of Freshwater,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer about the event. “By encouraging people to adopt a hands-on approach to environmental management, Clean Up the World allows communities to take ownership over where they live.”


Links to further information

UNEP Press Release, August 2003


Clean Up the World Homepage



Baltic Sea States have declared a need to improve environmental cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. The declaration came at a meeting of Environment Ministers of the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS), held in Luleå, Sweden on 29 August. Citing new opportunities in Northern Europe with EU enlargement, ministers focused on the need to promote sustainable development of the Baltic Sea environment, with a particular focus on water. Pledging to fulfill commitments made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) last September in South Africa, they agreed to take action to reduce the pressure on the marine environment and to combat eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. They also agreed to improve maritime safety in the Baltic Sea, especially reducing the risk of oil spills, and called for establishing marine protected areas to preserve biological diversity.

The Declaration was signed by the 11 CBSS member States – Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and by the European Commission. The CBSS was established in 1992 in order to strengthen cooperation and economic development among the Baltic Sea States. The Council will assess and evaluate progress in the implementation of the environmental declaration, as well as review the need for new initiatives at the next CBSS’s meeting of environment ministers scheduled for 2006.


Links to further information
Council of the Baltic Sea States homepage
Baltic Sea States’ Declaration on Environment and Sustainable Development


JULY 2003


Canada’s National Water Research Institute (NWRI) was awarded the Cannes International Prize for Water and Sciences in recognition of its enormous contributions to water science over the past 30 years. The NWRI is Canada’s largest and pre-eminent freshwater research institute, focusing on scientific knowledge through ecosystem-based research to support the development of sound government policies and programmes, public decision making, and early identification of environmental problems, particularly in relation to threats to the quality and quantity of freshwater. Alex Bielak, NWRI Director of Science Liaison, accepted the award on behalf of the Institute at this year Cannes Water Symposium, which was held in June in Cannes, France. The theme of this year’s Symposium, attended by some 1000 participants, was entitled: “From the 3rd World Water Forum: Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka – to Cannes: Capacity Building.”


Links to further information

NWRI Homepage


NWRI press release, 25 July 2003


Cannes Water Symposium




Up to 80% of the Caribbean’s coral reefs have died and the remaining are under threat, according to a recent study published in the journal Science. “We report a massive region-wide decline of corals across the entire Caribbean basin,” said the scientists of the study. Research was based on data taken from 263 Caribbean sites throughout the region. Much of the destruction has been a result of agricultural and other human pollution and overfishing, as well as natural causes such as disease, storms and higher sea temperatures. “Given current predictions of increased human activity in the Caribbean…the situation for Caribbean coral reefs does not look likely to improve in either the short or the long term,” the article concludes.


Links to further information

Science Express Magazine Homepage


UN Wire, 18 July 2003


Environmental News Network, 18 July 2003




UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura called for a radical review and reform of water education programmes and the need for more water professionals. Speaking at a symposium of “Strategies, actions and coalitions in water education and capacity building” at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands on 17 July 2003, Koïchiro told an international audience of water and education experts that the planet faces looming water shortages that threaten to affect billions of the Earth’s inhabitants by the middle of this century.


According to the United Nations World Water Development Report, launched in March 2003 to mark the International Year of Freshwater, between two and seven billion people will face water scarcity by 2050 as a result of population growth and weak policy decisions. He added that these and many other facts about water shortages are documented, but trained professionals and competent policy makers aware of the linkages between water, poverty, health, development and survival, are lacking.


Adding to Matsuura’s remarks, the recently appointed first Director of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Richard Meganck said that since the water issue has reached the top of the international agenda, “it is our role to empower people, communities and institutions to achieve effective water management through education, training and research with the future water managers of the world.”


UNESCO-IHE Institute is one of the world’s leading training establishments in the water, environment and infrastructure sectors, with more than 12,000 students from 120 countries having graduated from the institution since its foundation in 1957. Saudi Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, president of the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations (AGFUND) participated in the event in his capacity as UNESCO Special Envoy for water. He announced the establishment of a multi-million dollar AGFUND-UNESCO Fund to support projects for the preservation and development of freshwater resources.


Links to further information

UNESCO press release, 16 July 2003


The World Water Development Report - Water for People, Water for Life


Environment News Service, 17 July 2003





Concluding a five-day meeting in London, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – the United Nations agency responsible for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships – revised guidelines on environmental safety and health-related issues, including those related to double-hull oil tankers, shipbreaking, ballast water management, greenhouse gas emissions from ships and ship recycling.


“During the past ten years, MEPC has been especially productive and has raised international standards to prevent marine pollution by ships and these efforts have been well recognized within the United Nations system and by the Industry as a whole,” said IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil.


The committee also considered submissions by all 15 member states of the European Union to accelerate the phase-out timetable for older single hull tankers. This proposal arose after the oil spills that contaminated the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal after the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker last November. The phase-out of single hull tankers would require amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as the MARPOL Convention.


Greenpeace International, an organization that the IMO is in the process of removing from its list of officially recognized observers, criticized some of the new guidelines, saying they are not consistent with international law. However, they said that the guidelines are still a significant step forward for the shipping industry, particularly that ships will now have to carry a Green passport specifying what hazardous substances are on board, that shipbuilders have to start building clean ships and that ship owners have been given the responsibility to work on a programme for ship recycling.


IMO Secretary-General O’Neil expressed his appreciation to participating governments, organizations and to the industry for their encouragement and contributions, as well as to the MEPC for providing the overall support and guidance needed to assure their effective implementation. “Although our efforts to deal with certain specific issues, such as the improvement of port reception facilities and the enforcement of various conventions, as well as the anticipated establishment of controls for ballast water management are ongoing, I am sure that your Committee has responded effectively and efficiently to fulfilling its role as the global legislative body responsible for the establishment of international rules and regulations regarding ship-related environmental measures.”


The draft guidelines from the meeting will be submitted for adoption at the 23rd IMO Assembly to be held in November 2003.


Links to further information

IMO Homepage


UN News Service, 15 July 2003


UN Wire, 15 July 2003


Greenpeace press release, 18 July 2003


Environment News Service, 14 July 2003



Water and sanitation for cities will be one of the main themes of this year’s World Habitat Day, which is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October. According to the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat), there is an urban water and sanitation crisis; a situation far worse than official statistics suggest. In Africa alone, as many as 150 million urban residents representing up to 50 percent of the urban population do not have adequate water supplies, while 180 million, or roughly 60 percent of people in urban areas lack adequate sanitation.


“Half the world’s population - 3 billion people - live in urban areas,” says Anna Tibaijuka, UN-HABITAT Executive Director. “Among them, almost 1 billion are desperately poor and live in slums without even the most basic services like sustainable sanitation.”


World Habitat Day was introduced in 1985 by UN General Assembly resolution, with the idea of highlighting the urgency of improving human settlements, especially for the urban poor who live without clean water, proper sanitation and basic services. The official observance of this year’s World Habitat Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro on 6 October 2003. Events will include an international water conference, the launch of a “Water for Latin American and Caribbean Cities” programme, and other innovative projects aimed at improving slums and helping the poorest of the poor tackle issues such as the right to secure tenure.


Links to further information

UN-HABITAT press release, 7 July 2003






A panel of water experts speaking at the UN Association of the United States of America’s (UN-USA) National Forum on the United Nations stressed the importance of tackling the global water crisis.


“Water is the most urgent development priority and the crisis is one not of money, but of political will, both in the developing and the developed world,” said John Oldfield, President of the Waterlife Foundation. Citing that over 1 billion people in the world currently do not have access to clean water, and 2.4 billion do not have adequate sanitation, former UN Assistant Secretary-General Peter Bourne added that global warming, population growth and increased mobility have combined to make water plans more difficult.  “…The United Nations helped provide water to 500 million people worldwide, but the global population increased by the same number,” said Bourne. In order to improve the situation, he stressed the need to combine water access with education to ensure conservation and better distribution. 


Panel members encouraged developed countries to work with the private sector and the UN to support water initiatives in developing countries, and called on governments in developing nations to assume a greater role in regulation and oversight, and to include water in their development agendas.


However, a recent report by the Pacific Institute – The New Economy of Water: The Risks and Benefits of Globalization and Privatization of Fresh Water – highlights some of the risks for developing countries in their attempts to privatize water utilities. The report says privatization may bypass under-represented communities and worsen inequities in the distribution of water, especially in the poorest nations, and that privatization agreements may discourage efficiency and conservation efforts and may fail to protect important natural resources.


“Governments must establish clear guidelines that ensure fair access to water regardless of income, protect the environment, ensure transparency and include affected parties in decision-making efforts,” said Peter Gleick, a lead author of the report and a director of the Pacific Institute. “Water is far too important to human health and the health of our natural world to be placed entirely in the private sector.”


Links to further information

UN Wire press release, 6 July 2003


The US United Nations Association homepage


East Africa newspaper, 30 June 2003


Pacific Institute homepage



JUNE 2003


Nominations for the 2004 Stockholm Water Prize, sponsored by the Stockholm International Water Institute and under the patronage of Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav, are currently being sought and will be accepted until 30 September 2003. The Prize is presented annually to an individual, institution, organization or a company in recognition of outstanding research, action or education that increases knowledge of water as a resource and protects its usability for all life. The Stockholm Water Prize includes a US $150,000 award and a crystal sculpture. It has been awarded to Laureates from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, India, Israel, Japan, South Africa, Switzerland, the United States and Venezuela for outstanding accomplishments in a variety of water-related activities and scientific disciplines.


Links to further information

Stockholm International Water Institute homepage



The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Greek Environment Ministry signed a Memorandum of Collaboration (MOC) in June, which provides for continuing Greece’s
hosting of the Convention’s MedWet Coordination Unit in Athens until the end
of 2005 and its support of the Unit’s operations with annual funding of €160,000. Following the signing of the MOC between Greek Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou and Ramsar Secretary-General Delmar Blasco, Blasco met with MedWet Coordination Unit staff for discussions of Mediterranean wetland issues.


Links to further information

MedWet news announcement, 4 June 2003


Ramsar Convention homepage


Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative



Following their summit in Evian France from 1-3 June, the G-8 industrialized nations agreed to develop and implement new measures to address a number of humanitarian concerns, such as food security, public health and environmental issues. The G-8 agreed to take action to improve access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and pledged new measures to address maritime environmental concerns, such as working to restore and maintain fish stocks, which account for up to 10 percent of the world’s food supply, as well as accelerating the end of the use of single-hulled tankers, which have been involved in disastrous oil spills, such as the Prestige accident that took place off the coast of Spain in 2002.


Prior to the Summit, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown called on the G-8 leaders to give “due priority” to issues of poverty and development as set out in the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals. One of those goals is to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

Several international organizations, including the Global Water Partnership, Green Cross International, IUCN, International Network of Basin Organizations, International Secretariat for Water, Programme Solidarité Eau, World Water Council, and WWF, also urged world leaders to allocate funds to promote cooperation over transboundary waters for development, security and peace.


Links to further information

UN News Service, 1 June 2003


Environment News Service, 3 June 2003


UNDP press release, 29 May 2003


UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)


World Water Council press release




June 5th marked World Environment Day with activities taking place throughout the world to celebrate and raise awareness of environmental issues. In recognition of the International Year of Freshwater, the theme of this year’s World Environment Day – “Water: Two Billion People are Dying for It” - focused on global water issues. Speaking from Beirut, Lebanon; the official host country of World Environment Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan said that a third of the world’s population lack access to adequate sanitation and one person in six does not have access to safe drinking water. “What is needed, along with fresh water, is fresh thinking,” Annan said. “We need to learn how to value water.” If current trends continue, two out of every three people on earth will suffer moderate to severe water shortages in little more than two decades from now. Globally, one in six people still have no regular access to safe drinking water, and more than twice that number (2.4 billion people) lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.


At the Millennium Summit in 2000 and at last year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development, the international community set measurable, time-bound commitments for the provision of safe water and sanitation. As noted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “these targets…to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services, both by the year 2015…are vital in and of themselves, but are also crucial if we are to meet the other Millennium Development Goals, including reducing child mortality, combating malaria, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, empowering women, and improving the lives of slum dwellers.” He concluded his message by urging governments “to respond to the plight of 2 billion of our fellow human beings, who are dying for want of water and sanitation.”


World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).


Links to further information

UN Secretary-General’s World Environment Day Message


Environment News Service, 5 June 2003


World Environment Day homepage



The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) has recently received two prestigious awards in relation to its activities, programmes and campaigns. The first is the United Nations Association of Greater Boston (UNAGB) Leadership Award for the Council’s global advocacy and people-centered focus in promoting water, sanitation and hygiene to underserved populations in the developing world. In presenting the award, UNAGB President Arthur Holcombe said that the WSSCC had been instrumental in promoting greater political will within developing countries, but also at the international level, for supporting more integrated water and sanitation services that benefit relatively underserved populations in both rural and urban areas. “These efforts have increasingly included promotion of country-based pilot demonstration activities to bring about more receptive attitudes towards basic hygiene, and more innovative water and sanitation service systems that can directly benefit relatively poor, disadvantaged populations,” he added.


The WSSCC has also won the Sulabh International Social Service Organization’s 2003 Global Sanitation Award in recognition of its critical role in the prevention of hygiene, environmental sanitation and social justice. Citing its achievements, the Award jury said that the WSSCC has successfully “coordinated the triad of clean water, adequate sanitation and sound hygiene behavior, with a view to operating them as vital keys to sustainable development … and has suggested solutions to the problems of lack of access to safe drinking water and inadequate sanitation.”


Links to further information

WSSCC press release, 27 May 2003


WSSCC Sulabh Award press release



Nominations for the Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz International Prize for Water are now being accepted. The international prize, sponsored by the Prince Sultan Research Center for Environment, Water and Desert in Saudi Arabia, recognizes outstanding research and innovation in the field of water resource management. Topics for the award include: effective flood control methods; artificial ground water recharge; economical technologies in sea water desalinization; effective new techniques for irrigation water conservation and protection of ground water from agricultural pollutants. Nominations are being accepted until 30 October 2003.

Links to further information
Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz International Prize for Water homepage


MAY 2003


The United Nations Foundation and the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) have launched the Coral Reef Fund, aimed at helping protect and manage more than 110,000 square miles of damaged or threatened coral reef worldwide.


“Coral reefs are vital to our planet’s health,” said UN Foundation President Timothy Wirth at the launching of the Fund. “They are home to more than a million species of plants and animals, and help sustain millions of communities by providing food, employment and protection from coastal erosion and ocean storms. Unfortunately, 60 percent of coral reefs are already endangered or under threat.”


Working with local and indigenous communities, ICRAN said it would promote environmentally responsible activities near reefs, including ecotourism and sustainable marine fishing. The Coral Reef Fund will also promote opportunities for creating jobs and educating communities to ensure the future of these ecosystems. “ICRAN will use these funds to ensure that coral reefs are protected and well managed for generations to come,” said ICRAN Chair Richard Kenchington. “The health and biodiversity of coral reefs are critical to the cultural values and economic livelihoods of millions of people who depend on coral reefs and other coastal environments.”


Links to further information

UN Wire press release, 15 May 2003


International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) homepage


United Nations Foundation homepage


Coral Reef Fund homepage



Speaking to the Committee on World Food Security, which met at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome from 12-16 May 2003, former International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Michel Camdessus stressed the importance of clean water and said that an increase of $100 billion a year was needed to bring safe water to the 1.1 billion people who now do without. He said the most important thing developing countries can do is to have a water policy and urged developing countries to report publicly on how they intend to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).


FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf added to Camdessus’s call by saying that “one major hope for achieving the World Food Security target of reducing the number of undernourished by half…is the existence of strong solidarity and commitment at international and national levels to tackle the problem of food insecurity and poverty.”


Links to further information

FAO press release, 14 May 2003


Committee of World Food Security – Selected documents



The World Water Council, organizer of the recent 3rd World Water Forum in Japan, is seeking candidatures to host the next Forum scheduled for 2006. The World Water Council has already contacted countries that earlier expressed interest in hosting the Forum and has received confirmation of interest from Brazil, Egypt, Mexico and Turkey. The Council will continue discussions with these countries and others who may express an interest during the coming weeks, with a view to making a preliminary selection at its Board meeting on 27 June in Marseilles, France, and a final selection at its General Assembly on 1 October. Criteria to host the meeting includes support by a national government; the degree of assurance of financing for the Forum and its preparatory activities; the organization structure and links to the World Water Council in designing the programme, both for the Forum and for the Forum’s Ministerial Conference; the size and ease of access of the venue; and the necessary infrastructure.


Links to further information

World Water Council



APRIL 2003



The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands has become the newest member of the World Bank-supported Global Development Learning Network (GDLN). The GDLN is a partnership of organizations dedicated to promoting poverty reduction and sustainable development through capacity building programmes. The new GDLN center in Delft will focus on water resources management programmes, including: integrated river basin management; wetlands management; public-private partnerships; water law and institutions; drinking water distribution systems; groundwater modeling; flood management; river engineering; natural treatment of urban wastewater; and cleaner production technologies.


“We see the partnership with UNESCO-IHE as a critical link to one of our greatest challenges – how to help countries make real progress in water resource management,” said World Bank Institute Vice President Frannie Léautier. “We all know that business as usual will not work to make the kind of progress we need to make. That’s why we are working in partnership through GDLN – tapping into the power of technology – to scale up our efforts and improve our outcomes.”


Links to further information

World Bank press release, 23 April 2003


UNESCO-IHE homepage


Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) homepage



The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has announced plans to contribute US$400 million to address critical global water problems over the next four years, bringing the international environmental financial organization’s total investment for water issues to more than $1.37 billion. “Degradation of our land and water presents an enormously complex challenge,” said GEF CEO/Chair Mohamed T. El-Ashry. “GEF’s contribution will fund projects in developing countries that seek to sustain our planet’s water ecosystems, while yielding national, regional, and global benefits.”


The GEF works with 139 countries on projects to strengthen the integrated management of land and water resources that are critical to ecosystem health, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. A total of $974 million committed by GEF over the past twelve years has leveraged $2.1 billion in co-financing from other sources for water-related projects. The recent contribution announcement coincided with the Third World Water Forum held this past March in Japan, which brought to the forefront global water issues as well as actions that countries and institutions must take to attain the targets set at last year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.


Links to further information

World Bank press release, 16 April 2003



MARCH 2003



Global water supply is expected to decline by a third in the next 20 years and political inertia will worsen the problem, states a new UN report. Described as the most comprehensive, up-to-date overview of the state of the world’s water resources, the World Water Development Report – Water for People, Water for Life was compiled by the 23 UN partners that make up the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP). Hosted by UNESCO, the WWAP comprises of all UN agencies and commissions dealing with water and working jointly to monitor progress against water-related targets in various fields, including health, food, ecosystems, cities, industry, energy, economic evaluation, resource sharing and governance.

The report notes that water resources will decline as a result of population growth, pollution and climate change, and implicates poor governance and a lack of political will to manage water resources effectively in the water crisis. A worst-case scenario projects 7 billion people in 60 countries experiencing water shortages in 2050, while a more positive projection shows 2 billion people in 48 countries living in water scarcity by the same time. Released ahead of the Third World Water Forum, which will convene from 16-23 March 2003 in Kyoto, the report lays the groundwork for regular UN monitoring and reporting of water resources.


Links to further information

UNESCO press release, 5 March 2003





Negotiations on a new legally binding instrument on civil liability and compensation for damage to transboundary waters caused by industrial accidents involving hazardous substances have been successfully concluded. Developed under the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the protocol arose subsequently after the accident in Baia Mare, Romania, where 100,000 tons of wastewater containing highly toxic pollutants spilled into the Tisza and Danube Rivers. The finalized protocol provides individuals impacted by transboundary effects of industrial accidents a legal claim to compensation and holds operators of industrial installations liable for damage, with the aim of encouraging operators to minimize risk and prevent damage that they will be liable for. Involving the UNECE member countries, industry, the insurance sector, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, the inclusive negotiation process took three years to complete. The protocol is expected to be formally adopted at the Ministerial ‘Environment for Europe’ Conference in Kiev, scheduled for 21-23 May 2003.


Links to further information

UNECE press release, 28 February 2003



In its effort to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015, the World Bank’s Board of Directors has recently endorsed a Water Resources Strategy aimed at sustainable development and poverty alleviation. “We need to assist poor and middle-income countries in confronting the financial hurdles affecting the water sector if we want to avert a crisis caused by water stress,” states Ian Johnson, the Bank's vice president for sustainable development. Currently, about 16% of all the Bank’s lending is dedicated to water, and this percentage is projected to grow over the next three years.


Praising the strategy’s focus on poverty and its approach to investing in both better water resource management and new priority infrastructure, Executive Directors at the Bank also welcomed the consideration of environmental and social safeguards that aim to ensure the sustainability of programmes and projects. “It is not a case of either management or new infrastructure,” Johnson highlights. “It is both. The strategy aims at reversing the trend of inequality in water availability between rich and poor countries.” The Bank also states that a key element of the new strategy is its intent to transform water from a potential source of conflict to a catalyst for economic integration and cooperation at all levels – from villages to international river basins.


Links to further information

World Bank press release, 27 February 2003


Water Resources Sector Strategy website



Over 400 experts have called on the United Nations to issue a ban on industrial fishing methods that are destroying fish populations, turtles, marine mammals and other marine species. in advance of the 25th session of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meeting that is scheduled to be held in Rome from 24-28 February. Published in a full page advertisement in the New York Times, the call to ban harmful fishing techniques, such as longlining and gillnetting, was first made at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference that was recently held in Denver, Colorado.


Despite scientific data proving the collapse of fisheries worldwide, many destructive fishing methods are still practiced. Approximately one quarter of the world’s fish catch is discarded back in the sea, primarily because fishing gear cannot distinguish between target catch and other species. Scientists have now documented and ranked a complete suite of ecological impacts associated with all commercial fishing gears used in the United States and are urging stakeholders to recognize the importance of further managing fishing techniques, in addition to managing fish catches.


Links to further information

Environment News Service, 18 February 2003




The rapidly expanding aquaculture industry and its hunger for fish feed are placing undue pressure on wild fish stocks, finds a new report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). Stating that aquaculture currently consumes 70% of the global production of fish oil and 34% of total fishmeal, the report projects that the industry could be using all of the world’s fish oil and half of its fishmeal by 2010. According to WWF’s estimates, four kilograms of wild-caught fish are needed to produce one kilogram of farmed fish. The irony is that fish farming is widely viewed and marketed as a way to take pressure off wild fish,” states WWF, which is urging governments to develop and promote alternative feed resources for the aquaculture industry, such as by-catch and offals from fishing and plant-based proteins. WWF is also calling on the aquaculture industry to demand sustainable sources of fish oil and fish feed.


Links to further information

WWF news feature, 18 February 2003


Food for thought: The use of marine resources in fish feed




Australia has lodged an official document objecting to Iceland�s reservation to the international ban on commercial whaling. Following a 10-year absence from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Iceland was readmitted to the IWC last October at a Special Meeting in Cambridge, UK. Iceland�s readmission was made with a reservation against the international moratorium on commercial whaling, allowing it to commence commercial whaling after 2006 and to conduct scientific whaling at an earlier date. Prior to withdrawing from the IWC in 1992, Iceland was subject to the global whaling moratorium.


Iceland's reservation to the whaling ban threatens to �render the Convention meaningless,� said David Kemp, Australia�s Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Kemp added that the reservation could �set a precedent that could have negative consequences for the orderly development of international law and could possibly undermine the authority of other international conventions.� This issue will be addressed at the next IWC annual meeting, which is scheduled to be held in Berlin this June. Australia has indicated that it will continue to champion the cause of putting an end to commercial whaling and promote the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.


Lack of consensus on whether to allow limited commercial hunting has stalemated discussions at the 49-member Commission. In a recent meeting in Tokyo, whaling nations reiterated their position on ending the IWC�s whaling moratorium. Norwegian whaling commissioner Odd Gunnar Skagestad critiqued the IWC, stating that it has �lost so much relevance and so much credibility that it certainly gives the impression that it is on its last legs,� while Japanese Fisheries Agency official Joji Morishita described the IWC as dysfunctional


Links to further information

Environmental News Network, 13 February 2003


Environment News Service, 12 February 2003






In a bid to raise awareness and action to manage and protect the world�s clean water resources, the United Nations has declared 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a recent press conference that the Year would strive to �mobilize the world behind these goals by raising awareness, by generating new ideas and strategies, and by promoting participation, partnerships and peaceful dialogue.� Adding to his comments, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr�chette said that freshwater issues were at the heart of humankind�s hopes for peace and development in the 21st century and that the Year should promote peaceful dialogue on water-related issues. ��Water problems can also be a catalyst for cooperation,� she stressed, and called for greater interaction between governments, the private sector and �users� to create �equitable and environmentally sound solutions.�


According to the UN, 1.2 billion people are without access to freshwater and 2.4 billion people lack proper sanitation. Moreover, some 3 million die each year from diseases caused by unsafe water. As part of the Year�s observances, the UN will issue the first edition of the World Water Development Report, a joint effort involving 23 UN agencies and other entities to provide a comprehensive view of today�s water problems and to offer wide-ranging recommendations for meeting future water demand.


Links to further information

UN press release, 12 December 2002


UN International Year of Freshwater 2003 website


UNESCO International Year of Freshwater 2003 website


UNEP World Water Day 2003 website


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