|Implementing Agenda 21: NGO Experiences from around the World (NGLS)|
The views expressed in this publication are those- of the authors. They do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations Non-Governmental Liasons Service (NGLS) 07 any other part of the United Nations system
The designations used do not imply the expression of any opinion what so-ever the part of' NGLS or any part of the United Nations system concerning the legal status of any country area or territory or its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.
Editors: Leyla Alyanak and Adrienne Cruz
Cover design: Cemil Giray
Layout Suroor Alikhan
Published in April 1997 by
United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS)
Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10. Switzerland
Room 6015, 866 UN Plaza, New York NY 10017. USA
Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development
The Special Session of the General Assembly for the five-year review of Agenda 21 provides an extraordinary opportunity for all those involved in its implementation to step back and take stock of what has gone right (and why), what has gone wrong (and why), and where we go from here.
To carry out this evaluation, governments will have before them evidence of many kinds and from many sources. As this evidence is examined, it will he important to keep in mind a few broad and fundamental questions. Since 1992, is the world community closer to meeting human needs? Is the quality of life improving for the world's population? Are we reducing risks to the quality of life and enhancing our capacity to meet needs? Are we broadening options for the future?
The answers may not he that easy to come by because, among other things, the yardsticks for measuring progress are not yet available in many instances. The exercise currently underway, aimed at developing, agreeing to, testing and adopting sustainable development indicators, is an important means to address this. Even when these indicators are in use, however, they will need to be complemented by first-hand insight into the progress of the post-Rio process.
In this light, the contributions in this hook are invaluable NGOs have a long and rich history of involvement with the UN, ever since the first years of the Organization when they were instrumental in getting the women's issue on the international policy agenda. The Earth Summit was a fuming point. ushering in a new chapter of quantitatively as well as qualitatively increased NGO involvement.
NGOs now speak from a number of perspectives: as local practitioners in the implementation process, as watchdogs who can he counted on to sound the alarm when national or international authorities fail to meet commitments, and as advocates who push for sustainable development policies and programmes at all levels
We are fortunate, in this hook, to hear NGOs' views from these diverse perspectives. NGO reflection on and lessons learned from their multidimensional experiences are essential to carrying out the demanding and critical task at hand that of accurately assessing the effectiveness of existing policies and practices in meeting the goals of Agenda 21 so that, with new insights and renewed commitment, we can chart a more effective sustainable development course for a better future.
The June 1997 Special Session of the UN General Assembly to review implementation of Agenda 21 provides a unique opportunity to assess the progress made and the difficulties and challenges of implementing the action programme adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). NGLS has published this collection of contributions from NGOs around the world in order to highlight dimensions of Agenda 21 implementation at the local level that might not otherwise be captured by the international dialogue. In their articles, contributors describe NGO projects and other activities focused on UNCED follow up and how UNCED's new approach to sustainable development affected thinking, programmes and strategies.
The most common theme running through all the articles is the real impact of post-UNCED activities at the local level, as well as civil society's strong commitment to Agenda 21 follow up, despite often difficult institutional and political challenges. Many contributors stress that "successful" follow-up activities are ones that link environmental protection with the goal of enabling local people to improve their livelihoods and their control over natural resources.
Almost all contributors to the book discuss the many challenges of implementing Agenda 21, such as limited financial resources and those related to institutional, political and other issues at the national and international levels. Articles from contributors in developing countries and those in transition from centrally-planned to market economies shed light on the opportunities and special challenges civil society faces within these contexts.
Many of the articles underline the importance of public information campaigns and all acknowledge the Earth Summit's impact in helping to popularize many issues related to sustainable development which some NGOs have been promoting for many years.
Several contributors to the book describe the way in which some social groups, despite heavy odds or conventional attitudes about their roles, have historically played an important role in promoting sustainable development, such as indigenous people and practitioners of some traditional religions in Africa.
Perhaps the most striking message of the book is one that can only be discovered by reading between-the-lines of every article: civil society organizations around the world, no matter the national setting or specific social, institutional and political context in which they operate, arc deeply committed to achieving many of the goals of the Agenda 21 programme of action. Their perseverance and optimism in the face of many difficulties underpin the day-to-day struggle to promote sustainable livelihoods and protect natural resources. The experiences of civil society organizations described in the following articles are truly inspiring and demonstrate the potential of civil society to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development when supported by genuine partnerships, institutional recognition and respect, and an enabling environment.
Tony Hill, NGLS Coordinator, March 1997
Mike Anane is Editor of The Triumph newspaper and Founding President of the League of Environment Journalists in Ghana.
Tanveer Arif is President of the Pakistani NGO, Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE).
Lawrence Arturo is the Director of the Office of the Environment, Bah International Community.
Tom Bigg is the Administrator of the United Nations Environment and Development UK Committee (UNED-UK).
Hazel Brown is Executive Officer, Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women.
Katongo Chisupa heads the Communications Unit of the Environmental Council of Zambia.
Kevin Cook is the Global Publications Officer for Consumers International.
Nigel Cross is the Executive Director of the Panos Institute in the United Kingdom.
Felix Dodds is Coordinator of the United Nations Environment and Development UK Committee (UNED-UK).
Eric L. Hyman is Programme Economist at Appropriate Technology International.
Magdi Ibrahim is Programme Coordinator at Environnement et Developpement au Maghreh ( ENDA - Maghreb ).
Ashish Kothari is a lecturer in environmental studies at the Indian Institute of Public Administration.
Olga Ponizova is a researcher in the Department of Economics at Moscow State University.
Jacqueline Roddick is Coordinator of the Scottish Academic Network on Global Environmental Change.
Barbara Rutherford is Policy Coordinator, Water Pollution and Toxics at the World Wide Fund for Nature International (WWF).
Jan Karel Sorgedrager coordinates the UNDP/UNV Eco-Volunteer project at the Environment Liaison Centre International in Kenya.
Kerrie Strathy is the Women and Education Adviser at the South Pacific Action Committee for Human Ecology and Environment.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is Executive Director of the Cordillera Women's Education and Resources Centre in the Philippines.
Vida Ogorelec Wagner is Executive Manager of the Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development.
Judy Walker is Director, Membership and Information Services at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).
Dominic Walubdngo is Director of the Forest Action Network in
Kitty Warnock is Environment Programme Director at the Panos Institute.
Samuel Watchueng is in charge of the Urban Environment Sector at ENDA-Maghreb.
by Tom Bigg and Felix Dodds
Over the years since the Earth Summit, enormous changes have taken place in the functioning of UN institutions and processes. Significant reductions in the funding provided by governments have forced the UN secretariat, agencies and programmes to cut back on their activities and staffing. Uncertainties over the intentions of major donors make long term planning extremely difficult. To add to this gloomy picture, the power of governments to take decisions to address many of the global problems identified in Rio is widely perceived to be on the decline, as multinational companies grow in influence and multilateral agreements reduce the authority of national governments over many areas of policy crucial to sustainable development. According to Richard Barnet and John Cavanagh in Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order, " The fundamental political conflict in the opening decades of the new century, we believe will not be between nations or even between trading blocs but between the forces of globalization and the territorially based forces of local survival seeking to preserve and redefine community."
On the positive side, the Earth Summit provided a focus for consideration of the changing role of the UN, given the end of the Cold War. International relations would no longer be governed by hostilities between two superpowers, and the Brundtland Commission's timely report provided the rationale for new ways of considering international cooperation and shared objectives and responsibility. The UN system as a whole was able to consider what this new paradigm would mean to its own operations, and also the ways in which "sustainable development" could give new relevance to the UN for a whole range of non-state actors, as well as governments. The UN has been open to those outside central government in certain contexts (the Economic and Social Council, implementation of country programmes, and consultation on specific issues, such as those addressed by UN conferences and summits). Agenda 21 and the other Rio agreements shifted the emphasis dramatically. Two elements recur throughout and are crucial to the changing role of NGOs in the UN system:
- the importance of local, or grassroots action
- the need for participation by those outside government in every stage of decision-making and implementation
The involvement of the major groups of society, as defined in Agenda 21, is not an optional extra for sustainable development but should be seen as a sine qua non. The concept of "partnership" has been whdely used (and abused) in recent years, but it lies at the heart of the agreements reached in Rio. According to Chapter 23 of Agenda 21, "Critical to the effective implementation of the objectives, policies and mechanisms agreed to by governments in all programme areas of Agenda 21 will be the commitment and genuine involvement of all social groups. One of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development is broad public participation in decision-making. Furthermore...the need for new forms of participation has emerged."
Recently other UN summits, notably the 1995 Social Summit, have elaborated on the role of Major Groups of civil society. 1 consideration of emerging opportunities for non-governmental involvement in the UN system should draw on these. However, it should focus principally on what happened before, during and since the Earth Summit, and on ways the principles established there have been put into practice. We do not intend to examine national structures for Agenda 21 implementation in detail, or the range of innovative developments in other UN processes, except when relevant to a consideration of the changing institutional arrangements for N GO participation in UN follow up to the Earth Summit.
NGOs and the UN: Before, During and After the Earth Summit
The International Facilitating Committee
The run up to the Earth Summit was clouded by disagreement over how NGOs should organize themselves. To address the issue, the Centre for Our Common Future called a meeting of NGOs in June 1990. Representatives from most of what would later be called the Major Groups attended. They included representatives of industry, trade unions, women's organizations, and youth and voluntary non-profit groups. The meeting led to the creation of the International Facilitating Committee (IFC), which would act as a "facilitating group," rather than a political or representative forum. After much discussion, industry was allowed to be part of the committee. The Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) played a vital role in providing continuity and support for the evolving NGO arrangements.
The International Non-Governmental Organizations Forum (INGOF)
Some NGOs were unhappy that the IFC was unable to agree on political statements, and they disliked industry's involvement. The Environmental Liaison Centre International led a group that set up an International Steering Committee (ISC). The ISC, along with the French government, organized what has been described as "a dreadful meeting" of NGOs in Paris in December 1991. At the meeting participants agreed on a synthesis of NGO positions entitled Roots for Our Future, and they elected representatives to an International Non-Governmental Organizations' Forum (INGOF). Two representatives from each geographical region were chosen to lead INGOF, which took over from the ISC during the final months before Rio.
The IFC provided the physical infrastructure in Rio for the NGO parallel meeting, known as the Global Forum. Many NGOs attending the UNCED fourth and final preparatory session, held in New York in March 1992, organized their substantive input through INGOF. INGOF used the six months before the summit to focus on developing NGO treaties, which offered a forum for NGOs to debate and agree on their plans of action during the summit. The treaties were an attempt to negotiate common positions to enable NGOs to cooperate more closely at the international level. They were not intended for consideration by governments preparing for the negotiations in Rio but constituted a parallel "alternative" process.
At the Earth Summit, hundreds of NGOs worked in issue-based groups under the INGOF process to negotiate over 40 treaties. INGOF also hosted regular plenary meetings to which all NGOs were invited. At the final plenary session, participants decided that NGOs did not want a new coordinating structure to continue after the Earth Summit. Instead, INGOF was asked to ensure that copies of the treaties were translated and distributed, and to provide an information clearing-house service for NGOs immediately after the conference. Substantive follow-up work was to be dealt with at the regional level, and the NGO treaties were to be used as public documents by NGOs as they saw fit. An international meeting to consolidate the regional work was called for at that time and held in Manila (Philippines) in late 1995.
INGOF was a bold attempt to deal with some of the key difficulties NGOs experienced when active internationally. Among its activities, INGOF acted as a distributor of up-to-date information. particularly through electronic conferencing; and a facilitator to promote NGO common positions by proposing that NGOs work on developing common positions for their own activities, and not focus all their energy on trying to change government positions.
Some of the larger NGOs viewed the INGOF process as a distraction and chose to focus on direct interaction with decision-makers. However, others saw the alternative treaty process as an opportunity to create "political space" for NGOs. They used the treaties to explore whether a political agenda could be agreed to with which NGOs across the world could work. However, both the IFC and INGOF had problems that were not resolved at Rio and both suffered from a perceived lack-of transparency and accountability.
UN Commission on Sustainable Development
So who would take forward the coordination of NGOs in the post-Rio process? At the first meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in April 1993, NGOs organized the way they had at the preparatory meetings, as if the structure that had operated then still existed. It became obvious that this was not a viable way of working. For example, the instigation of official CSD intercessional meetings meant that without any NGO facilitating process, there would be little involvement of NGOs or other Major Groups unless governments or the UN felt their presence would be beneficial. When this was the case, they went to NGOs they already had a relationship with, which continued to reinforce a predominately Northern NGO bias.
NGOs attending the CSD agreed to collect the views of those present on the way forward. This was accomplished, and a paper was presented to a full meeting of NGOs towards the end of the final week of the meeting. The paper received support, but no process was agreed on how to take it forward, because trust had broken down between Northern and Southern NGOs. However, discussions did take place during the following year to prepare for the next CSD. Some NGOs attending the "between the summits" meeting, organized by the Environment and Development Resources Centre in Copenhagen, took the opportunity to prepare a set of recommendations.
This draft agreement was presented to the NGOs at the CSD in May 1994, where discussions were frank and forthright. They extended the original paper to include the possibility-for the first time in the United Nations-of creating a body that would include representation from all Major Groups identified in Agenda 21. There was a heated debate on whether industry should be allowed to be a member of the steering committee, which was similar to discussions about setting up the IFC before the Earth Summit. In the end it was felt that the steering committee was not a political committee, and in the spirit of Rio and the Small Island Developing States Conference, it should be inclusive. Participants agreed that the committee would be made up of elected representatives from:
- regions (Western Europe, Eastern Europe, North America, Central America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America, Australasia, and Small Island States);
- issue-based caucuses;
- Major Groups (industry, indigenous people, farmers, NGOs, trade unions, youth, women, local government, and academics);
- North and South multi-regional caucuses; and major international networks.
The system of regional representation helped to ensure that there were more Southern than Northem NGO representatives on the committee. Two co-chairs-one from the North and one from the South-were chosen by all Northern and Southern-based NGOs present. During CSD sessions, the co-chairs took responsibility to organize steering committee meetings and to act as the focus for the steering committee in the intercessional period. It was agreed that they should be based in New York to enable them to have regular meetings with officials from the CSD secretariat in the Department of Policy Co-ordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD), as well as with relevant UN Missions.
Key roles identified for the steering committee were:
- transfer up-to-date information to members of the committee, so that they can disseminate it more widely;
- provide a link with DPCSD and particularly with its Division for Sustainable Development; facilitate selection of NGO representatives for governmental interses sional meetings;
- organize facilities for NGOs taking part in CSD meetings;
- facilitate setting up NGO working groups on issues to be addressed by the CSD;
- organize government/NGO dialogues and morning and evening strategy sessions for NGOs; and - act for the NGO body as a whole when there are disputes with the CSD secretariat or bureau, or between NGOs.
In many ways the NGO Steering Committee was an amalgam of the IFC and the ISC (INGOF) approaches before the Earth Summit. It was agreed that the steering committee should not take positions on behalf of NGOs; its role is to create the circumstances in which common NGO positions can be developed. This is a very important distinction: common positions should emerge in NGO caucuses, which are open to all eligible organizations. The caucuses should then present positions developed to the CSD. The steering committee also acts if there is a dispute within a caucus -for example, in 1995 members of the forest caucus objected to a document that was released with the names of their organizations listed as supporters, when none of the organizations had seen the document. The steering committee in this instance closed down the caucus and reopened it with a steering committee chair.
The caucuses have been vital to the success of NGO activities at the CSD, and increased access has been achieved because NGOs are relatively well organized. NGOs at CSD meetings have access to governmental "informal" and "informal informal" sessions, and they have been able to address delegates during these. This has been at the bequest of the chair of the relevant meetings, but because the chairs of the CSD-Ambassador Razali, Dr Klaus Tr, Ambassador Cavalcanti and Minister Gechev-all have placed great emphasis on NGO participation, even the more reluctant countries have acquiesced. The steering committee has made necessary arrangements to coordinate NGO interventions on the issue under discussion. I his is a move away from the system in operation during sessions of other UN commissions, in which NGOs are only able to speak at the end or beginning of sessions. As a result, NGO speakers are obliged to be succinct, to the point, and not excessively lecture the governments.
The steering committee had three overall working objectives when
it was set up-to be transparent, accountable and democratic. It has been able to
achieve these. Each year elections to the committee from the various caucuses
take place and two co-chairs are elected or endorsed by the whole body of NGOs.
Since 1993 the committee has grown as Major Groups, international networks and
issue-based caucuses have joined. At present the committee's membership
includes, among many others, organizations such as the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions, International Chamber of Commerce,
International Council for Local Environmental
initiatives, Greenpeace International, Women's Environment and Development Organization, Third World Network and the Habitat International Coalition and many others. The steering committee, through financial support from Ford Foundation and the government of the Netherlands, has been able to employ staff in New York to prepare for the June 1997 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), or Earth Summit 11 as known by NGOs.
Run Up to Earth Summit 11
The steering committee has been vital in a number of areas in preparing NGOs and other Major Groups for UNGASS. The committee has:
- produced a synthesis paper of all the NGO papers available at CSD-4, held in May 1996;
- set up a CSD NGO Steering Committee web page for up-to-date information on UNGASS;
- produced a monthly newsletter to keep people informed of UNGASS developments;
- set up a list server for all steering committee members so they can keep each other informed;
- produced a training document for NGOs attending the 1997 events;
- produced an information pack of 20 papers on ten issues that NGOs can use for their own domestic meetings;
- produced a directory of all NGOs accredited to take part in the 1997 events;
- set up a process so that NGOs can agree on positions about major issues to be addressed at the 1997 events;
- raised funds for Southern and Eastern European NGO participation at the three key meetings in New York during 1997;
- raised funds for staff and infrastructural costs associated with the 1997 events;
- is working to establish infrastructure for NGOs at the 1997 events; and set up a general list server for anyone interested in the 1997 events.
Opportunities in 1997
There are two elements to the review of Agenda 21 that are central to the approaches NGOs will take in preparing for UNGASS. One is to raise the profile and therefore the stakes of the event as much as possible. This will entail working nationally and internationally to make sure that the five year review is used as an occasion for widespread consideration of experiences since the Earth Summit and key issues to be addressed for the future. The other element is for NGOs working at the UN level to consider where critical decisions are taken, and whether those areas in which they are given extensive rights are merely a playground for those working on "soft" issues, while the real decisions on key questions of trade and finance are taken in intergovernmental fore well beyond their reach:
'NGOs must consider the fundamental question of whether their work in the UN process should be intensified with an eye to achieving better results or whether they are simply participating in marginal activity, while the important decisions are being taken by bodies beyond their influence (such as the G-7, World Trade Organization or the Bretton Woods institutions). -Jens Martens and Peter Mucke, German NGO Forum 1996
These two approaches are complementary, because UNGASS offers the opportunity for governments to acknowledge that progress toward sustainable development will require far greater coordination of different international activities. The institutions established to further the objectives of sustainable development should not be peripheral, but should be enabled to call to account other bodies as appropriate. Similarly, the extent to which this rationale has been applied to regional, national and local decision making processes should be the focus for non-governmental organizations in preparing for UNGASS.
Changes in NGO Access to the UN System
A comprehensive review of NGO involvement in the work of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was finalized at the ECOSOC meeting in July 1996. Two issues debated in meetings of the Open Ended Working Group on the Review of Arrangements for Consultations with
NGOs are particularly significant when considering follow up to the Earth Summit. They are the rights of national organizations to participate in ECOSOC processes and new definitions of the nature and roles of NGOs, which include use of the "Major Groups" terminology of Agenda 21 and an emphasis on networks and other innovative structures.
The first, based on the priorities identified in Agenda 21, has been accepted. The second has proved problematic because informal structures and an expanded definition of the concept of civil society do not correspond with the more narrow mandate and objectives of the working group.
Ad hoc Arrangements in Various Fora
While these changes to official arrangements for AGO accreditation have been debated, a large number of less formal developments have occurred. These can be understood as pointers for changes that could be widely applied in the future or as impromptu occurrences dependent upon a set of circumstances, which could not necessarily be replicated.
Those frequently cited are discussed below.
The International Facilitating Group for Habitat 11 was set up using the model that the CSD NGOs devised. The terms of reference were changed little, but it was decided that there should be four co-chairs: two Northern and two Southern, made up of two women and two men. This management team was to coordinate the work of the IFG in the run up to Habitat II. The lFG has carried on working after the conference; its work will be reviewed at the next meeting of the Commission on Human Settlements in May 1997.
During preparatory meetings for Habitat II. NGOs were able to participate in meetings of the informal drafting group, which was preparing the text for the Istanbul programme of action. This extended to tabling textual amendments directly. A real breakthrough for the NGOs in Istanbul was when the UN agreed le. bring out the Ngo Composite Text as an official
UN document (A/Conf.165/lNF/8), which is the first time NGO amendments were given official recognition. This was due to strong support by the United States government. In addition, NGOs were allowed to take the floor and speak from a microphone on their amendments, which enabled governments to listen and respond to NGO proposals. If a government sponsored an NGO amendment, the conference was allowed to debate it. This is the first time an NGO document has been made available in this way.
One proposal under consideration for the future of the Commission on Human Settlements after Habitat 11 is that it be reconstituted as a quadripartite body with representation from governments, NGOs, local authorities and the private sector. This will be discussed at the commission's meeting in May 1997.
Global Environment Facility
Prior to meetings of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), one day is devoted to open dialogue with NGOs. Extensive changes to the relations with NGOs have occurred since the GEF was first created. Given the role of the World Bank in the GEF this could constitute an opening for greater involvement of NGOs in meetings of the international financial institutions.
United Nations Joint Programme on HI V/AIDS
This is the newest interagency UN body, which brings together WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA and the World Bank, in the fight against AIDS. Five seats have been allocated to NGOs on the UNAIDS governing board.
Intergovernmental Panel on Forests
The IPF, an open-ended intergovernmental working group of the
Commission on Sustainable Development, has built on the partnership with NGOs
that was evident at the CSD. During panel sessions, NGOs have worked through the
CSD NGO Steering Committee to choose representatives to attend governmental
intercessional meetings. At the panel itself, the NGO caucus on forests
facilitates interventions, which have been
been substantive and on the agenda item under discussion. The chair's draft included NGO amendments within the text and indicated NGO amendaments in the same way as suggested textual changes from individual governments, the G-77 and the European Union. This is the first time NGO recommendations have been recognized in this way in official UN negotiation of a draft text without the support of countries for the amendments.
A More Effective UN System
Many NGOs and some governments are using the 1997 review as an opportunity to open up wider debate on ways to improve instruments designed to promote sustainable development work. In particular, the lack of ownership of decisions taken in UN intergovernmental fora has been cited as a real stumbling block. Also of concern is the inadequacy of the consensus-building process, which is a means within the UN to initiate dynamic and decisive action. A range of practical steps that could be taken have been put forward as potential solutions to these shortcomings.
Non-governmental organizations have had to adapt to rapidly-changing patterns for interaction with the various parts of the UN system dealing with Earth Summit follow up. Often they have been able to take advantage of the evolving nature of current arrangements for NGO participation in different fora to push for steadily increasing access and influence in UN intergovernmental negotiations. The rapidity of change frequently has made advances easier; yet it carries with it the danger that such developments easily could be reversed.
The CSD NGO Steering Committee has established new ways of
operating, which have already been used as a model for closer cooperation
between NGOs, governments and the UN system. UNGASS will demonstrate if this is an aberration or not. It definitely reflects changes at local and national Ievel in many parts of the world and otters a valid process for NGOs operating internationally, which is transparent, democratic and accountable.
Changing Responsibilities for NGOs
"NGOs," according to Peter Padbury of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, "are often seen as critics. Many NGOs working on the sustainability agenda have shifted from seeing themselves as critics to seeing themselves as 'co-creators' who bring analysis, expertise and solutions to policy dialogues. They can link local action with the global dialogue."
Despite the importance placed on decisions and actions at the local level, it is extremely difficult to establish direct links between the UN and such contexts. NGOs operating at the international level have a key role to play in building such links. However, these responsibilities are not clearly spelt out-indeed, the disparate nature of NGOs makes it difficult to be prescriptive in this respect. Nevertheless, an enhanced role for civil society in the functions of the UN will require NGOs to pay serious attention to the degree to which they can claim to be a legitimate voice of others.
These issues of legitimacy and representativity will become more and more relevant as organizations of civil society gain more of a role in the process of governance. Questions such as the capacity of these organizations to express the aspirations of people, while providing information and education, will become increasingly relevant.
Report of a Seminar on Involvement of Civil Society in Follow-up to the Social Summit, held in Mohonk, New York, 1995
It is not viable to separate consideration of ways to ensure greater representation of NGOs at the UN level from questions about their legitimacy and mandate from a wider community. Just as the link between the UN and national decision making needs to be strengthened, NGOs working at the international level also have a responsibility to promote public interest and involvement in the process of working towards sustainability.
More and more, NGOs are helping to set public policy agendas-identifying and defining critical issues, and providing policy makers with advice and assistance. 11 is this movement beyond advocacy and the provision of services towards broader participation in the public policy realm that has such significance for governance."
-Our global Neighbourhood report of the Commission for Global Governance, 1994.
by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
This article will identity general trends of Agenda 21 implementation. During the 14th session of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, held in Geneva from 29 July-2 August 1996, indigenous peoples met and agreed to make a more comprehensive review, which will be given to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) during its five-year review of Agenda 21 in June 1997.
If the rhetoric of Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration of Principles are truly implemented, undoubtedly these will have positive impacts on indigenous peoples. Principle 22 of the Rio declaration states:
"Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture, and interests and enable their effective participation in sustainable development."
The declaration acknowledged that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption should be reduced to achieve sustainable development (Principle 8). This is important because it is an admission that the prevailing development paradigm is unsustainable; therefore, elements of these or the whole paradigm should be altered. Indigenous peoples have questioned this kind of development since colonization.
UNCED was a watershed because it looked at environment and development in an integrated fashion. It linked issues such as poverty, inequity, unequal trade and the debt crisis to environmental degradation. Indigenous peoples have always had a holistic view of the world. From their perspective, the major weakness of the Rio documents is that they still operate within the framework of the dominant development paradigm, which regards economic growth through more competitive and liberalized markets as the way to development. UNCED is about looking for the balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability. It was not about questioning the economic growth model as the main reason for environmental degradation.
One aspect that is glaringly absent from the documents is the whole issue of mining. For many indigenous peoples, mining of minerals and oil remains the main economic activity in their communities that has resulted in massive environmental degradation and economic disasters. Although mining is one of the most unsustainable activities of land and resource management, Chapter 10 of Agenda 21 on Integrated Approach to the Planning and Management of Land Resources, makes no reference to mineral lands. Obviously, this whole issue was conveniently avoided because large-scale commercial mining cannot pass the test of environmental sustainability.
Another weakness of Agenda 21 and other UNCIED documents is the lack of affirmation of our inherent rights to self-determination and our ancestral territories and resources. We believe that our capacity to contribute effectively to attaining a sustainable planet is directly linked to the recognition and respect of these rights.
The Significance of Chapter 26
When we started lobbying during the PrepComs, we did not intend to have a separate chapter on indigenous peoples, because this can "ghettoize" our concerns. We attempted to ensure that the issues and perspectives of indigenous peoples were reflected in all the chapters. However, when it was apparent that our influence over the other chapters was minimal, we changed our approach to strengthen further chapter 26.
Nevertheless, the inclusion of indigenous peoples as one of the major groups was important. This chapter brought indigenous peoples into the whole sustainable development discourse. It also gave additional bite to our lobbying at the subsequent UN conferences and at the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Furthermore. it reinforced the legitimacy of our tight for our rights to ancestral lands and territories and selfdetermination.
Whatever we gained in the final documents that came out of Rio can be partly credited to the lobbying we did and to the efforts of some advocates from the NGOs and governments. However, the real credit should be given to indigenous peoples from the past and present generations who have sustained the struggles to defend our territories and our sustainable lifestyles amidst tremendous pressures from modem society.
What Has Happened Four Years After Rio?
After lobbying by indigenous peoples, the United Nations declared 1993 as the International Year of the World's Indigenous People. Subsequently, the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People was declared. Some UN agencies such as UNESCO designated special focal points for indigenous peoples, and the International Labour Office (ILO) set up an Interregional Programme to Support Self-Reliancc of Indigenous and Tribal Communities through Cooperatives and Other Self-Help Organizations. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided support to governments, some NGOs and indigenous peoples' organizations and facilitated regional meetings among indigenous peoples between 1994 and 1995.
Multilateral financial institutions, such as the World Bank' produced policy papers on indigenous peoples. While the papers recognize that indigenous peoples should be consulted or involved in project development, the institutions' track record in terms of really addressing indigenous peoples' concerns is very poor. In tact, they played key roles in marginalizing and displacing indigenous peoples from their lands. Since multilateral banks exist to promote the market economy, the projects they support undemmine indigenous peoples' subsistence production systems, cosmology or worldview, and value systems.
Many conflicts have erupted between indigenous peoples and govemments with bank-supported projects, and the injustices committed by these institutions should be addressed if they want to develop partnerships with indigenous peoples. If these multilateral financial institutions still insist on just promoting the neo-liberal market paradigm, there is not much hope that indigenous peoples can relate with them without sacrificing their rights.
Some governments such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Norway have a representative of indigenous peoples in their delegations to UN conferences and sessions like the CSD. Some donor governments, such as the Netherlands, have produced policy papers on indigenous peoples and have allotted money for indigenous peoples' organizations.
However, on the whole I think the majority of indigenous peoples will say that Rio did not really make a significant dent in arresting environmental degradation in our communities. In fact, immediately after Rio we can cite case after case of how governments, transnational corporations and other multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank and the IMF, violated Agenda 21.
Continuing Conflicts over Control of Territory and Resources
Many conflicts today are over resources found on indigenous peoples' lands. Many Third World countries still rely largely on extracting primary natural resources to trade with richer nations. Most of the remaining lands, which are still considered frontier lands, are ancestral territories of indigenous peoples. We continue to be sacrificed for the sake of national interests. This is the story of indigenous peoples from colonization up to the present. The only difference between then and now is the rhetoric acknowledging indigenous peoples' roles in sustainable development, and the importance of indigenous and traditional knowledge, which is found in many documents of the UN, the World Bank and governments. Many are paying lip service to indigenous peoples and sustainable development. But the practice has remained basically the same. Our rights to have control over our lands and resources are blatantly violated even now in the name of sustainable development. Trade liberalization, which is the obsession of many countries, has aggravated such conflicts.
For example in the Philippines the revised Mining Code, now known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942), was signed into law on 6 March 1995. Among other things, the law provides for 100% foreign equity in mining investments, leases for 50-75 years over huge tracts of mineral lands, and 100% repatriation of profits for foreign corporations. Even before this was signed, there have already been 54 applications from foreign mining corporations. The bulk of the mineral lands up for grabs is found in the ancestral territories of ten million indigenous peoples and Moros (Muslims).
And in Brazil, Decree 1775 has just been passed. It opened up 344 reserves or 57% of indigenous peoples' lands to claims by any person, company or local authority that thinks they may have a case. This decree contradicts Article 231 of the Brazil constitution, which recognizes the inalienable right of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands and natural resources. Since the decree was enacted in 1996 loggers, miners, ranchers and others are filing injunctions to reverse indigenous land titles.'
In Nigeria, the traditional economic base of the Ogoni people has been ruined by Shell Oil Company's drilling of over 900 million barrels of oil. Ogoni traditional lands are ruined beyond rescue. The people continue to live in dire poverty, and they still do not have electric lights. Kenule Saro-Wiwa, the head of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and eight others sacrificed their lives to assert their rights to have control over their territory.
These are all post-UNCED developments. The ratification of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the setting up of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have major implications for the implementation of Agenda 21. Member states have to adhere to the requirement that national laws be consistent with GATT rules. The liberalization of investment laws automatically conflicts with the ancestral land rights of indigenous peoples. Mining has always been an investment that ensures tremendous profits. Therefore, indigenous peoples living on mineral lands are experiencing more aggressive incursions into their lands.
From the late 1940s to the 1980s, dam building has been a major area for World Bank lending. World Bank reports say around 350,000 people may be displaced by dams it funded between 1994 and 1996. Evidence of aggressive dam construction can be seen in all parts of the world.
In Brazil, 400 Maaxi Indians in Carapara 11 were driven out of their villages to make way for the construction of the Cotingo Rive Hydroelectric Dam. And the Bakun Dam in Malaysia will require the clear cutting of 80,000 hectares of rainforest and forced displacement of 5,000 8,000 indigenous peoples from 15 communities. The legacy of 50 years of dam building shows that mega-hydroelectric dams are unsustainable, ye loans and funds continue to be made for such projects. For indigenous peoples, dams are not environmentally sustainable nor socially acceptable, so they are resisting them.
Bioprospecting, Intellectual Property Rights, and the Human Genome Diversity Project
Since UNCED, many indigenous peoples have been fighting against the systematic appropriation of their biological and human genetic resources Appropriation is done in the name of conserving biodiversity, and various instruments are used to legitimize it. The WTO Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS), which allows for patenting of life forms, is the most dangerous instrument.
Transnational corporations and governments have discovered that genetic and biological resources are "gold mines." Many of our sacred lands and burial grounds have been ravaged beyond rehabilitation by traditional mining. Now, the new form of prospecting is bioprospecting, which invades and colonizes the sacred spaces not only of our plants and animals, but of our own bodies. Bioprospecting activities are carried out aggressively in our lands. The science of biotechnology, particularly genetic engineering, has provided the impetus for commodifying and commercializing genetic resources.
TRIPS has provided the legal framework for this appropriation and commercialization to take place. TRIPS awards intellectual property rights (IPRs), such as patents, to private entities who have "innovated" a product and can reproduce it on a commercial scale. It automatically excludes most indigenous peoples from being granted lPRs. Many of their practices don't fit within the framework of TRIPS since communal sharing of genetic resources is regarded as knowledge that is social, collective and cumulative-therefore it cannot be appropriated by a single individual.
Transnational pharmaceutical, agribusiness, and biotechnology corporations cut their research expenses significantly by acquiring indigenous knowledge about indigenous seeds and medicinal plants. They compensate indigenous peoples to harvest the plants, and once the plants arrive at the corporations' laboratories, the process of innovation and patenting follows. This situation is not any different when indigenous small-scale miners are used to trace mineral ore veins; when the mining prospectors obtain this knowledge, they take over, and indigenous peoples end up as the miners. In bioprospecting, we end up as the harvesters of the medicinal plants, and in the Human Genome Diversity Project we ourselves become the raw materials.
Recognition of the sovereign rights of states to have control over their own biological resources is important, because it counters the Northem agenda of regarding biodiversity as the global commons. However, the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities over their biodiversity is not equally addressed. It is important to balance the possible abuse of states in allowing the appropriation and exploitation of this biodiversity by the local elite or transnational corporations. Some nation-states claim sovereignty over these resources, only to offer them to the highest bidders who are mostly foreign investors. For example, the main issue under discussion in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is how to share equitably the benefits accruing from biodiversity. But the key issue for indigenous peoples is how the state and the international community guarantee our rights to have control over the resources, and how we should use it and share them.
The importance of conserving biodiversity was stressed in chapter 15 of Agenda 21, but recommendations for biodiversity conservation are very limited. These range from setting up integrated protected area systems to valuing biodiversity which acknowledges the roles of indigenous peoples in conserving this biodiversity and recommends that these roles be strengthened. However, discussing biodiversity conservation outside of the framework of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources is meningless.
Transnational corporations and industrialized countries look primarily at biodiversity as raw material for the biotechnology industry. This follows the same pattern of how ancestral lands, territories and resources of indigenous peoples were appropriated in the past. This time the legal framework for the appropriation of genetic resources is negotiated internationally. Governments should harmonize their laws with these international agreements reached in the Uruguay Round. Regional economic agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) are following the same track, and it seems that what has not been achieved globally at the GATT/WTO will be opened up at regional levels.
Indigenous peoples have sponsored on their own, or in coordination with other NGOs or UN agencies, discussions and conferences on intellectual property rights. Almost all of the conferences have arrived at a common conclusion: the intellectual property rights regime of WTO is a Northern concept, which is antithetical to the world view and practice of indigenous peoples. While we are trying to lobby the UN, CBD, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and others to provide protection to our genetic resources and indigenous knowledge, the mad race to collect medicinal plants, seeds, and indigenous knowledge is on. Bilateral genetic prospecting agreements are already being forged between biopirates, universities, unsuspecting indigenous peoples' communities or organizations, and unscrupulous individuals. While many bioprospecting corporations claim they are concerned with the welfare of indigenous peoples, even the seemingly best arrangements end up with indigenous peoples feeling cheated, exploited and manipulated.
The Human Genome Diversity Project has been condemned by many
indigenous peoples as one of most despicable projects targeting indigenous
peoples. indigenous peoples refer to this as the "Vampire Project." We are told
that because many of us are on the verge of extinction. our genetic
material has to be collected since these are "isolates of historic interest," and for the sake of medical science. In my opinion the project symbolizes the ultimate colonization of indigenous peoples and the destruction of their values and traditions. However, in spite of worldwide protests, the collection of genetic materials is still taking place, and the patenting of indigenous peoples' cell lines has happened already. On 14 March 1995, the genes of an indigenous person from the Hagahai tribe of Papua New Guinea was awarded United States patent no. 5,397,696. The Hagahai, now only 260 people, find that their DNA-the building block of their very identity-is the property of the US government.
The picture 1 have presented is evidence enough to say that Agenda 21 has not been implemented to the satisfaction of indigenous peoples. Also, there is no strong evidence to show that there is genuine political will to implement Agenda 21. More often than not, when economic interests are challenged by environmental considerations, the environment is sacrificed. Worst, when mainstream development is challenged by us, we are branded as subversives, which gives those in power the license to violate our basic human rights. Principles 10, 14 and 22 of the Rio declaration and Chapter 26 of Agenda 21 have been blatantly violated. Genuine consultation and involvement of indigenous peoples, which is stressed in Chapter 26, is hardly done. Involvement of indigenous peoples is only allowed if they agree with the projects designed for them.
In spite of the gloomy picture described, there are still positive developments upon which we can build our hopes. Notwithstanding the tremendous limitations in resources, numbers, and expertise, etc., we have shown that we can participate equally and effectively in lobbying international bodies and conferences. Before Rio, indigenous peoples concentrated on lobbying at the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations. We have also lobbied at the conferences that followed Rio. However, we need to build up our capabilities to lobby and do advocacy work. We look at the Agenda 21 as a building block, which can be used toward the recognition and respect for our rights.
More importantly, we have also seen that many indigenous peoples have persisted in their resistance against development projects and policies that are going to be detrimental to them. Our capacity to say no at the community level should be reinforced many times over. Our right to veto projects that we think are detrimental to us should be accorded. Whatever achievements we have at the international level will be meaningless if our people on the ground have lost the will to assert their rights and demands.
1. Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development, United Nations Department of Public Information, New York, 1992.
2. Cultural Survival Quarterly (Spring 1996), Cultural Survival, Cambridge (Massachusetts), 1996.
3. Final statement of a regional meeting on Intellectual Property Rights and Biodiversity, Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia), 28-30 September 1994.
3. Earth Summit Briefings, Third World Network, Penang (Malaysia), 1992.
3. Ethics and Agenda, United Nations Environment Programme, New York, 1994.
4. Multinational Monitor (April 1996), Essential Information, Washington DC, 1996.
5. Tauli-Corpuz, Victoria, Asian Indigenous Peoples' Perspectives on Environment and Development, UNCED Secretariat, New York, 1991.
6. Tauli-Corpuz, Victoria, Mining Indigenous Peoples' Lands, Minds, and Bodies, Unpublished speech presented at the International Forum On Globalization, George Washington University, Washington DC, May 1996.
7. Third World Resurgence, Issue No. 70 (KDN PP 6738/1/96), June, Third World Network, Penang, 1996.
by Eric L. Hyman
Agenda 21 discusses the predicament of low-income people and their relationship to forest environments in Chapter 2 on combating poverty and Chapter 11 on protecting forests. It emphasizes that providing rural people with greater economic incentives and managerial control over local natural resources can empower them to conserve these resources more effectively over the long term if they have the necessary initial technical assistance. One of the areas in which this hypothesis applies most clearly is in nontimber forest products (NTFPs). Agenda 21 also emphasizes the need for environmental monitoring and helping forest resource users gain access to the information needed for effective resource management.
Poverty forces NTFP gatherers to maximize short-term income by overharvesting at the expense of future income. Traditional systems that control use of open-access resources are breaking down, and governments are facing constraints in enforcing resource use restrictions. Forest resources are also being lost to other major land uses such as agriculture, commercial logging, livestock grazing and mining. At the same time, population growth and migration are placing Increasing stress on the remaining resources.
Low-income people living in rural areas, particularly women and indigenous cultural groups, rely on forests for subsistence products and an important source of income. Yet, while some NTFPs bring high profits to processors and traders in international markets, gatherers selling NTFPs usually receive a small share of the value of the final products.
Unorganized gatherers typically sell small amounts of NTFPs with little or no processing. Individually, these small-scale producers have little bargaining power and lack information on prices and alternative markets. There are often many intermediaries in the marketing chain for NTFPs. Buyers frequently carve out exclusive purchasing territories, especially in remote areas where transport and transaction costs are high and products are perishable or have a short harvest season.
When processing takes place closer to the forest, NTFP gatherers can obtain higher prices for raw materials because several layers of intermediaries are eliminated. Processing enterprises can also be structured so that gatherers earn additional profits through an ownership share. Even if local processing is not feasible, marketing cooperatives can reap economies of scale and improve gatherers' bargaining power. But to make these changes possible, NTFP gatherers often require some initial external assistance.
Because of the link between conservation and development, development assistance agencies are devoting increasing attention to NTFPs. One example is the work of Appropriate Technology international (ATI), an international NGO that joins forces with local NGOs and the private sector to help smallscale producers. ATI's value-chain approach begins with an analysis of the feasibility of local processing and alternative marketing arrangements to identify profitable opportunities that can be environmentally sustainable. ATI and its partner organizations help organize production and marketing and leverage financing. They also develop or transfer technologies for production and processing, and provide technical and managerial assistance and training.
By emphasizing low cost, labor-intensive technologies, ATl's previous activities have always had at least neutral environmental impacts. After participating in the UNCED NGO summit, ATI began developing new programmes with more explicit goals for positive environmental benefits, such as NTFPs.'
Helping NTFP producers increase their earnings and have a greater stake in long-term resource sustainability through processing can help motivate local people to preserve forest resources, but does not guarantee sustainable practices will be followed. NTFP development is not a panacea for saving forests because deforestation has other larger economic, social, and political causes that it cannot address. Furthermore, many products previously obtained from the wild have been replaced by cultivated or synthetic substitutes.
Consequently, NTFP programs need to be carefully designed, managed, and monitored. For this reason, ATI helps establish systems for tracking and regulating harvesting rates, avoiding resource-damaging harvesting practices, and monitoring other environmental impacts. ATI works with other NGOs and local groups in environmental monitoring and identifies mitigation measures as needed.
Jatamansi Oil in Nepal
Some 50,000 people collect NTFPs in the mountains of mid-Western Nepal, and trade in these products is estimated to be in the thousands of tons. The area has high biodiversity, but forest resources show signs of overuse by the growing population. In September 1993, the Biodiversity Conservation Network (BCN) funded an ATI feasibility study on the processing of various NTFPs in Western Nepal and jatamansi (Nardostachys grandiflora) was identified as one of the most promising. The essential oil extracted from jatamansi rhizomes is used in traditional medicines, cosmetics and flavoured tobacco in India. It is also increasingly popular as a fixative for perfumes and aromatherapy products in other countries.
ATI subsequently helped local residents in the Humla area to form their own NGO, the Humla Conservation and Development Association (HCDA), and in December 1994 financed establishment of the Humla Oil Pvt. Ltd. to process jatamansi. The goal of this project is to increase the incomes of the gatherers and strengthen community-based conservation systems. Technical and managerial support are being supplied by the Biodiversity Unit of the Asia Network for Small-Scale Bioresources (ANSAB), a nine-nation network based in Kathmandu which ATI helped launch in 1991.
Before the local processing plant began operating, gatherers harvested jatamansi from common-property lands and sold the rhizomes unprocessed or with minimal preprocessing (cleaning and sun-drying) to traders, who then exported it unprocessed. Previously, there were at least four levels of intermediaries between the gatherers and Indian processing companies, and while the Delhi price for dried jatamansi rhizome was US$2.26 per kilogram, gatherers in Humla received just US$0.36 per kilogram.
The processing plant produces essential oil through steam distillation. About 150-180 kilograms of dried jatamansi rhizomes can be processed per batch, which yields 1.33-1.60 kilograms of oil. Annual production is expected to be 150 kilograms of jatamansi oil, which should expand to 250 kilograms. At full capacity, the facility will serve 225 gatherers, who each sell an average of 150 kilograms of dried jatamansi per year. The main market is Indian manufacturers, but European and North American cosmetics firms are potential purchasers. The processing plant sells mare (the residue after producing the essential oil) to domestic artisanal producers of incense. The company plans to diversify its operations by processing other NTFPs in the future.
"While you in the West are interested in conserving natural resources, our daily lives depend on it," said Tsewang Lama, Director of the HCDA, which is gradually taking over ownership and management of the processing plant. I HCDA is encouraging sustainable resource use by training gatherers to cut only part of the rhizome. Jatamansi is already overharvested in parts of Nepal, but is still abundant in the remote project area. At present, Jatamansi is not cultivated on farmland and its requirements for cultivation are not known.
To expand processing to benefit NTFP collectors in more locations, ATI leveraged additional funding from the Biodiversity Conservation Network, which has also designed a monitoring system to track the resource and environmental impacts. ANSAB established a company, Western Jaributi Services (WJS), to assist the various NTFP enterprises. WJS will receive a royalty on gross sales, which will be used for further expansion and to recover its costs of product identification, business plan, preparation, technical and managerial assistance, quality control, marketing and resource monitoring.
Other NTFP Activities
AT/lndia (a local affiliate of ATI) and Economic Development Associates (EDA), a consulting firm, are helping to establish a company that buys raw honey produced in natural forests for processing and marketing. The honey can be marketed as an organic product because it is made by an indigenous bee species from the nectar of wild plants, rather than by a commonly introduced species in fruit orchards where pesticides are used.
The processing company promotes improved practices to maintain bee colonies (better hives, division of large colonies, pest and disease control, and supplementary feeding) and more efficient extraction of honey (through a centrifugal extractor that can be shared by ten families). As a result of project technical assistance, annual production of honey per hive is expected to increase from 1-3 kilograms to 5-8 kilograms. A part-time family enterprise could easily produce 75 kilograms per year.
The first honey processing plant will initially be owned and operated by AT/lndia and later divested to local beekeeper committees who purchase shares of the company. Technical assistance costs will eventually be recovered through a royalty on gross sales.
AT/lndia and EDA are also promoting production of tasar silk. Tasar silk is a stronger fabric than regular silk and commands a higher price in India. It is produced by a different type of silkworm (Antheraea proylei) that eats leaves of several oak species instead of mulberry. Harvesting the leaves from communal forests is a sustainable use that encourages maintenance of the tree cover.
The main constraint is the availability of good quality tasar silkworm eggs. This constraint will be overcome by establishing decentralized "grainage units," which produce disease-free eggs. Each grainage unit will be owned by a local cooperative and can serve 600 growers. For each grainage unit, 150 home-based microenterprises will be established to reel cocoons, which will be purchased from the growers by the grainage enterprise, using a wet process. The reeled silk will be marketed domestically to weavers under a common brand name.
ATI provided technical assistance to an Ecuadorian enterprise processing for wild mushrooms export. They are produced by a mycorrhizal fungus (Suillus luteus), which lives symbiotically on roots of an introduced species of pine (Pinus radiata). These mushrooms can generate more income than the trees, greatly increasing the returns to reforestation. About 200 local households currently collect this mushroom, which is produced 8-9 months a year in the area.
ATI began its work in rattan in the Philippines with a subsector analysis of this industry. Small-scale producers are heavily involved in rattan harvesting, preprocessing and processing. Rattan is a high-valued raw material for the furniture and handicraft industries. The industry generated US$275 million in annual export sales for the Philippines in 1992, but exports fell 16% since 1989 due to declining raw material supplies.
Improvements in rattan harvesting technology can reduce waste from large cane breakage by half and allow resprouting of multistemmed small cane species. Better drying technology and chemical treatment can improve the quality and selling price of the canes. More effective monitoring and enforcement of government requirements for enrichment planting of rattan in natural forest concessions are also needed, and improved nursery techniques can increase the survival and growth of rattan seedlings.
ATI/Philippines is providing technical assistance to local NGOs working with rattan producers and processors. It convened a national conference to disseminate the findings of the subsector study and prepared a comprehensive program for expansion of the industry. The programme includes cost recovery for local NGOs assisting microenterprises and leveraging of enterprise finance from commercial banks and government development banks. ATI is also developing rattan activities in Indonesia.
NTFPs merit increased development assistance because they can benefit lowincome producers while providing an incentive to preserve natural forests. ATI's value chain approach examines a range of potential interventions in collection, preprocessing and marketing, processing, and resource regeneration. ATI then implements the most promising options with local partners.
In ATI's experience, organizing producers to process and market NTFPs (especially for export) is often more of a challenge than technology dissemination. More research is needed on optimal harvesting rates and methods, but simple, improved technologies for processing NTFPs are often available.
NTFP enterprises can be owned or managed by producer groups or linked to larger firms, and technical assistance can be structured to recover costs and prevent continuing dependency. These enterprises will only continue to benefit small-scale producers over the long term if they are commercially viable. Operating cost subsidies should be avoided because they only benefit a small proportion of potential beneficiaries.
To ensure resource sustainability, an ongoing system should be instituted to monitor the resource base and promote regeneration. More collaborations between the private sector and development assistance and conservation organizations can be beneficial.
1. Some other ATI post-UNCED programs are assisting coffee producers and processors (reducing pesticide use and converting processing waste into fertilizer) and improving dairy feeding systems (increasing productivity while reducing methane emissions associated with global warming).
2. The BCN is a joint venture by World Wide Fund for Nature (known in the US as World Wildlife Fund), The Nature Conservancy, and World Resources Institute, with funding from USAID.
This paper is a condensed version of the author's Assisting Small-Scale Producers of Nontimber Forest Products Through a Subsector Approach. The author would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Ann Koontz and Leyla Alyanak and the extensive suggestions of Susan Drake Swift.
by Judy Walker
The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) is the international environmental agency for local governments. It was established in 1990 at the World Congress of Local Governments for a Sustainable Future. The congress was held at the United Nations in New York in response to the needs of local authorities-cities, towns and counties-that are taking on increasing responsibility as managers of both the local and global environment. Presently, ICLEI has more than 190 members, including 174 local governments from 46 countries, and represents more than 174 million people. ICLEI and its membership are currently acting in response to several of the objectives established for the world community at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
Local authorities and their communities share global concerns related to water, air, natural resources, biological and cultural diversity, and economics. And it is local authorities who are charged with maintaining the basic functioning of human settlements. In most countries of the world, local authorities are responsible in whole or in part for tax collection, solid waste management, water supply, sewerage services, road maintenance, land-use planning, development control, disaster mitigation, health services, regulation of markets, fire and police services, parks maintenance, inspection and licensing to maintain compliance with national standards, and education. In countries with strong local government systems, additional functions can also be found under local administrative control, such as housing provision, public transit management, environmental management and impact assessment, and energy supply. The role of local government in environmental protection is increasing on a worldwide basis. As national governments reduce their budgets and as environmental pressures increase, the demands on municipalities grow.
ICLEI directly supports the management capacity of its member cities through training. research. technical assistance, and information resources and exchange. And through its project activities, ICLEI brings together municipalities that have specific expertise to develop methods and approaches for addressing regional or global environmental problems at the local level.
ICLEI supports its members by:
- serving as an international clearinghouse on sustainable development and environmental protection policies, programmes, and techniques being implemented at the local level;
- initiating joint projects or campaigns among groups of local governments to research and develop new approaches to pressing environmental and development problems;
- organizing training programmes and publishing reports and technical manuals on state-of-the-art environmental management practices;
- serving as an advocate for local government before national and international governments, agencies and organizations to increase their understanding and support of local environmental protection and sustainable development activities; and
- assisting local authorities to develop new products and service concepts to meet their needs by engaging partnerships with private sector firms.
UN Conference on Environment and Development
At UNCED, ICLEI, along with local authorities and other local authority associations, played an active role in raising the profile of local governments as managers of the local and global environment. Chapter 28 of Agenda 21, which resulted from these efforts, calls upon local authorities around the world to undertake a consultative process with their communities to establish their own local Agenda 21 s by 1996. This Local Agenda 21 mandate, introduced and championed by ICLEI in the Earth Summit's preparatory process, was taken up by more than 1200 local authorities around the world. Two of ICLEI'S major ongoing programs were undertaken in direct response to the challenges raised at UNCED-specifically in response to Agenda 21 and the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Local Agenda 21
During the Earth Summit, lCLEl's Local Agenda 21 proposal was endorsed. The initiative was created to assist municipalities in their implementation of Agenda 21 by establishing ongoing, local sustainable development planning processes. This initiative is organized into two separate projects.
Local Agenda 21 Model Communities Program is a research and development collaboration to develop tools and models for sustainable development planning that can be used by local authorities around the world. ICLEI is working intensively over a three-year period with a group of 14 municipalities from all regions of the world. The program provides technical support for local planning efforts and facilitates the evaluation of different approaches, methods and tools by the participating municipal staff.
Local Agenda 21 Model Communities include Buga (Colombia), Cape Town (South Africa), Durban (South Africa), Hamilton (New Zealand), Hamilton-Wentworth (Canada), Jinja (Uganda), Johannesburg (South Africa), Johnstone Shire (Australia), Lancashire County (United Kingdom), Manus Province (Papua New Guinea), Mwanza (Tanzania), Pimpri Chinchwad (India), Quito (Ecuador) and Santos (Brazil).
In the early stages of the project, ICLEI developed and presented a general approach to local sustainable development planning called Strategic Services Planning (SSP). The SSP approach was then presented to prospective participants through a series of regional workshops. During the workshops, participants reviewed and revised the planning elements in order to adapt the SSP to their own unique needs. They exchanged planning ideas and experiences and began to prepare work plans for their Local Agenda 21 efforts. Regional workshops were held in Buga (Colombia) in August 1994, Hat Yai (Thailand) in September 1994, and Johannesburg in April 1995.
In addition to the development of locally suitable planning frameworks for the participating model communities, the program will complete a set of general guidelines for local sustainable development planning and a series of papers on specific planning methods and tools.
Local Agenda 21 Communities Network is a larger network of local governments, as well as associations of local governments, that are implementing Local Agenda 21 processes consistent with certain basic criteria for sustainable development planning. ICLEI is working with this expanding network to help participants exchange experiences and address specific planning issues with technical support on a case-by-case basis. At a series of seminars in Latin America, Asia and Africa, participants from 28 countries were introduced to case studies on local and national Agenda 21 campaigns.
As part of this network, the ICLEI European Secretariat has joined with the major European networks of local authorities, including the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), Eurocities, and the United Towns Organization, to establish the European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign. More than 600 delegates, representing more than 200 local authorities from 34 European countries, participated in the European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns in May 1994. As a result, 300 representatives adopted the Aalborg Charter, in which 80 European communities committed themselves to establish Local Agenda 21 processes and long-term local environmental action plans. As part of its support for the participants in the campaign, ICLEI published the European Local Agenda 21 Guide in March 1995.
The Japan Office of ICLI's Asia Pacific Secretariat is playing a key role in the promotion of Local Agenda 21 in Japan. In early 1995, ICLEI representatives actively participated in a national government panel mandated to develop a national policy on local agendas among Japanese municipalities. ICLEI has also supported or provided input to the establishment of national campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
ICLEI publishes the Local Agenda 21 Network News twice a year to keep all participants updated on local activities taking place within this community. ICLEI members also have the opportunity to interact through a conference on the Association of Progressive Communications (APC) networks.
Cities For Climate Protection Campaign
In January 1993, ICLEI joined with UNEP to host the first Municipal Leaders' Summit on Climate Change and the Urban Environment, which was held at the United Nations in New York. At this event, and with the support of participating municipalities and some European cities, ICLEI launched its worldwide Cities for Climate Change Campaign to help implement the Framework Convention on Climate Change established at UNCED.
The campaign's original target was to engage 100 municipalities in it by 1995. By July 1995, 113 municipalities had joined the campaign, with the majority located in Europe and North America. These two continents account for about 600 megatons (MT) of CO2 emissions annually-or 10% of the world's total emissions.
Membership in the campaign begins once a local council has adopted a resolution based on ICLI's Municipal Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change. Members pledge to develop:
- a local action plan that spells out a greenhouse gas reduction target and policies to achieve the target;
- measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their own operations, such as municipally-owned buildings and/or vehicle fleets; and
- a public education and awareness initiative.
In addition to the above commitments, one-third of the participating cities have adopted the Toronto Target, which is a pledge to reduce local CO2 emissions by 20% or more by the year 2005 or 2010. This group is investing more than US$100 million to achieve its goals.
Canada has a very active campaign, with 33 municipalities committed. To encourage even stronger support, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, ICLI's campaign partner, recently established the 20% Club for those municipalities that commit themselves to cut back emissions by 20% of 1990 levels. The eight largest cities in Canada are currently members. ICLEI has also been working with the city of Ottawa to develop a software tool to help Canadian cities to quantify their greenhouse gas emissions and identify the measures they need to apply to meet their emission reduction targets.
The United States campaign was introduced in November 1994 at the annual conference of the National League of Cities. Eight months later, the local councils of 15 cities had agreed to the campaign commitments.
The ICLEI European Secretariat has been very successful in recruiting members for the campaign in Europe-by July 1995, 61 municipalities had joined it. The secretariat, in conjunction with the ICLEI International Training Centre, has been active in providing workshops and seminars for participants.
The city of Heidelberg, in collaboration with ICLEI and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), sponsored a conference in September 1994 on How to Combat Global Warming at the Local Level. The meeting served as a platform for the presentation of results of the OECD's Urban Energy Management Programme. A handbook of good local energy practices will be published as a result.
In March 1995, ICLEI held a one-day training workshop in Berlin for European campaign members on Introduction to Local Action Plans. The meeting focused on methodologies, strategies and financing options. It also provided European campaign members with an opportunity to exchange experiences and discuss obstacles that they have encountered.
After the workshop, the members stayed on for the Second Municipal Leaders' Summit on Climate Change, also organized by ICLI's European Secretariat. ICLEI scheduled the second summit to coincide with the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). This allowed municipal leaders the opportunity to present a communique to the COP.
The communique recommended that the COP create a local authority subsidiary body to support local authority efforts to help FCCC signatories comply with the treaty. The communique was supported by 150 local authorities and municipal organizations from more than 50 countries, which represented more than 250 million people worldwide.
The Japan Office of the ICLEI Asia Pacific Secretariat has been building support for local government action on climate change in Asia. With help from the Office of the Senate of the Philippines, ICLEI convened a meeting in Manila in February 1995 to explore the establishment of the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign in the Asia Pacific region.
In October 1995, the Asia Pacific Campaign was launched during the Third Local Government Leaders' Summit on Climate Change, which was sponsored by ICLEI and hosted by Saitama Prefecture (Japan). More than 230 local government leaders from 52 countries participated in the summit.
Cities for Climate Protection on the Internet
In June 1995, ICLEI launched the new Cities for Climate Protection Campaign site on the World Wide Web. The site contains information on climate change, examples of what municipalities are doing to combat global warming, and excerpts from ICLI's policy and practice manuals. The site is designed to provide an international electronic forum for municipal leaders and the general public and up-to-date information on climate change.
In addition to its project activity, ICLEI has continued to play a role at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which resulted from UNCED. ICLEI was appointed by the Group of Four major associations of local governments to serve as their technical representative at the CSD. ICLEI prepared an extensive white paper for the Group of Four which was submitted to the Second Session of the CSD in 1994. The paper focuses on the human settlements chapter of Agenda 21. In addition to presenting this paper, ICLEI successfully achieved national government sponsorship of a mandate for the CSD to prepare a special report on local governments and the implementation of Agenda 21.
Based on the achievements of the second session, the CSD secretariat entered into a contract with ICLEI to prepare the first special report of a Major Group to the CSD at its third session in 1995. ICLEI, working with the secretariat, prepared a series of case studies on Local Agenda 21 activities (distributed to all national delegations), organized a special panel of local government leaders at the CSD meeting, and held an exhibit about Local Agenda 21. As a result, the CSD held a special Local Authorities Day at its third session, which highlighted the direct action of local governments in response to global environmental concerns.
ICLEI and its members of local authorities from large and small communities around the globe are rising to the challenges identified in Rio and achieving concrete results. The challenge before the council now is to emphasize commitments to measurable targets and better evaluate performance toward those targets. We must be able to both identify our progress and isolate our most persistent challenges.
In doing so, we should expect that, in combination, the independent actions of local governments and their communities that are responding to the objectives identified at UNCED will produce a ripple effect of responsible social and environmental behaviour that will ultimately encompass the globe.
- World Secretariat: Toronto (Canada)
- European Secretariat: Freiburg (Germany)
- International Training Centre: Freiburg
- Asia Pacific Japan Office: Tokyo
- Office of the Africa Regional Coordinator: Harare (Zimbabwe)
- Office of the Latin America Regional Coordinator: Quito (Ecuador)
- Cities for Climate Protection US Office: Berkeley (United States)
1. The address of the site is http://www.iclei.org/co2
2. These associations are the International Union of Local Authorities, the United Towns Organization, the World Association of Major Metropolises, and the Summit Meeting of the World's Major Cities.
by Barbara Rutherford
As the UNCED agenda developed and the "environmentally safe and sound management of toxic chemicals" became a chapter in its own right, several very important global initiatives on synthetic chemical risk reduction were spawned. As a result of the Earth Summit and its preparations, there has been concrete movement towards the elusive goal of "sustainable industrial development." However, we have so much further to go, particularly if we are to achieve the ambitious goals contained in Agenda 21.
Top on the list of crucial events since 1992 are the establishment of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) and the development by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in conjunction with UNEP, FAO, ILO, WHO and UN,IDO of guidance for governments on pollution prevention and control through the tool internationally called "Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers." In these two initiatives we find adherence to the true spirit of partnership of Agenda 21.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been involved in these initiatives since their inception, and in the case of the IFCS, involvement predates UNCED itself WWF commends the work undertaken to create these two initiatives and considers their establishment and implementation among the best examples of concrete action after UNCED. Moreover, the participatory nature of these intergovernmental fore, and the key role played by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in them, marks the beginning of a new era in international policy making.
What is lacking, however, are resources for implementation at the national level. Also, the continued reluctance to move beyond traditional risk assessment and harmonization and classification of chemicals prevents many actors from using more innovative approaches that involve the most affected stakeholders and communities. Now more than ever we can appreciate the value of pollution prevention based upon the precautionary principle. If the horrific chemical disasters of the 1970s and 1980s were not enough to incite action to reduce risk, a scientific book called Our Stolen Future,' suggests that we are threatening our fertility, intelligence and survival, as well as the fertility and survival of wildlife, by our indiscriminate use of synthetic chemicals. We must reduce our use of toxics in production and products now.
The "New" Synthetic Chemical Threat: Endocrine Disruptors
Wildlife-and humans-are exposed daily to synthetic chemical compounds, which disrupt development of the reproductive, immune, nervous and endocrine systems by mimicking hormones, blocking their action, or interfering with the endocrine system in other ways. Hormones play a key role in human development, and notably in sexual differentiation.
The main message for those working in the field of toxic threats to biodiversity is this: it is no longer sufficient to approach population and species revitalization passively by providing appropriate habitats and expecting threatened populations to recover. Contamination of habitat may not be visible and may not cause immediate death. Instead, contaminants may cause population-threatening changes in the way an organism functions. For example, endocrine disruption may endanger populations whose immune systems are malfunctioning and who cannot recover from infections. Or, their ability to obtain sufficient food or avoid predators could be affected. There is also evidence that endocrine disrupters cause the loss of parenting instinct in some bird species because of neurotoxicological effects. Abnormal sexual development of anatomy or behaviour because of endocrine disruption means populations may not be able to reproduce in sufficient numbers.
Long-lived species are particularly at risk, even though they may not show overt signs of reproductive impairment. Populations of many long-lived species are declining, some to the verge of extinction, without being noticed. Human beings may be affected by compounds of this nature too.
This is not surprising, given that we are at the top of the food chain. Evidence of lowered sperm counts and significant increases in testicular and breast cancer, as well as cases of undescended testes, is heightening this concern.
One of the great difficulties in identifying how chemicals affect wildlife and humans is recognizing that the pattern of effects varies among species and among compounds. Three general conclusions can be drawn about the substances called "endocrine disruptors." First and most important, even one, very low dose of an endocrine disruptor at a crucial stage in the development of an embryo is sufficient to cause irreversible damage. Second, the gap between exposure and effect may be as long as a generation or two, since the damage caused more likely will turn up in the offspring of the exposed organisms. This is because the embryo is the most sensitive life stage for the hazards posed by these chemicals. Third, endocrine disruptor chemicals, like other synthetic chemicals, can have cumulative effects.
Policy Development and Implementation
Designing policy responses is difficult given the wide range of potential and serious effects, implicated substances, and long lag between cause and effect. Policy implementation, as reflected in Chapter 19 of Agenda 21, needs to cover many different actors in civil society, as well as in government. Although there are many appropriate responses, including further research and more stringent regulations, the fundamental response must be to reduce synthetic chemical use. As recognized in Chapter 19, the classic example of risk reduction is to cut back use through substitution of harmless alternatives and alternative methodologies.
As a necessary first step, it is imperative that we gather more relevant data to inform policy decisions on harmful synthetic chemicals released into the environment and allow each affected group and member in society to participate in environmentally safe and sound chemicals management. Contaminants are carried as particulates or gases in the air, surface waters, groundwaters and ocean currents across or between continents, and by animals that travel long distances from the site of contamination. Therefore the contaminant can enter the food chain in areas remote from their site of release. Accordingly, data on synthetic chemical use and production collected must be comparable internationally, and policy solutions must also be international.
Chapter 19 of Agenda 21 calls for the development of guidance for governments on collecting such information by using chemical inventories. Taking up this challenge, the OECD hosted five workshops with the UN International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) on pollutant release and transfers (PRTRs). PRTRs are a system of tracking chemical use, transfer and release, which record chemical-specific and standardized data on emissions of toxic substances to air, water and land (including off-site disposal) from polluting industrial facilities-private, municipal, or state-and chemicals contained in products.
Experiences with publicly-accessible PRTRs have shown them to be powerful tools leading to reductions in the use and release of toxics and the adoption of less-polluting materials and technologies, or so called cleaner production. Many businesses (and governments) do not know which chemicals they use, and what amounts they release into the environment, at different stages in their life cycle (from extraction or manufacture to use and disposal). Public inventories in an increasing number of countries are beginning to stimulate reduction of pollution at source by providing information to anyone who needs it: the company president, a community leader, an investor, a purchasing agent or vendor, a scientist or a government official.. The data provided by these multimedia inventories helps to broaden the groups of people involved in choosing the materials we use, and to what extent businesses are moving toward processes and products that avoid puking toxic chemicals into the environment in the first place.
WWF assisted in the design of the OECD PRTR workshops series and participated actively in each of the workshops. These international workshops, held in 1994 and 1995, offered NGOs an unusual opportunity to spur adoption of the right to know about the use and release of toxic chemicals around the world and participate as equal partners in the design of international policy. The OECD has published the final PRTR guidance document and has held regional implementation workshops in the Czech Republic and Australia. In addition, the UN Institute for Training and Research is working with the Czech Republic, Mexico and Egypt to develop proposals for national PRTRs.
The Precautionary Principle
However, apart from improving information, the actual and potential impacts of some synthetic chemicals, including the "endocrine disruptors," are so serious that action is justifiable to eliminate and reduce their use and production. Based upon the "precautionary principle" set out in the Rio Declaration, Principle 15, we must act now to halt further contamination of the environment, ecosystems, wildlife and humans by endocrine disruptors and other toxic chemicals.
In 1987, the North Sea ministers agreed to reduce at source "polluting emission of substances that are persistent, toxic and liable to bioaccumulatc...especially when there is reason to assume that certain damage or harmful effects on the living resources of the sea are likely to be caused by such substances, even when there is no scientific evidence to prove a causal link between emission and effects." In 1990 this approach was extended beyond the sea to the environment at large at the Bergen conference. There ministers declared that, "Environmental measures must anticipate, prevent, and attack the causes of environmental degradation. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation."
Growing International Consensus
Regional seas agreements have been in the forefront of international commitment to reducing toxics. For example, at the second North Sea Conference, held in London in 1987, signatory countries agreed, among other things, to reduce North Sea inputs of substances that are persistent, toxic and liable to bioaccumulate. This was recognized as a small but important first step. At the third ministerial conference in The Hague in March 1990, ministers agreed to "phase out those pesticides which are the most persistent, toxic and liable to bioaccumulate." At the Fourth International Conference on the Protection of the North Sea in 1995, Annex 11 to the Ministerial Declaration contained a definition of hazardous substances, which include substances that have adverse effects on the function of the endocrine system.
International Action on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 on protection of the oceans specifically calls for states to eliminate and reduce emissions or discharge of organohalogens and other synthetic organic compounds that could accumulate to "dangerous levels" in the marine environment. I his call to action has led 109 countries to adopt a Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment, which includes a commitment to develop a global, legally binding instrument to reduce and/or eliminate emissions, discharges, and the manufacture, use and illegal traffic of selected persistent organic pollutants. There is also a parallel regional process under the auspices of the ECE 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to negotiate a protocol on the elimination and restriction of certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The IFCS has also established an ad hoc working group to oversee the work on POPs, which recommended that the UNEP Governing Council convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee to phase out and eliminate POPs. The governing council has followed this recommendation, and negotiations are to take place in early 1998 and conclude by the year 2000.
Another key objective identified in Chapter 19 is the full participation and implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure on chemicals in international trade. The Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety has also overseen and provided advice to the implementation process, which now includes negotiation for a legally binding instrument.
Prevention and Reduction At Source
The need to phase out the use and production of certain toxic chemicals is urgent and well-founded given growing international consensus. Yet progress remains slow on the implementation of these international commitments.
There are several international fore and institutions that support the use of clean production to eliminate problems from pollution. Increasingly, this concept is framed to include clean agricultural production, which ultimately means no synthetic inputs. As a long-term sustainability goal this is laudable, but in the short and medium term WWF advocates national commitment to pesticide reduction programmes, which will reduce the use of, and reliance on, synthetic chemical pesticides.
Registration and Re-registration at the National Level
In addressing the risks posed by chemicals in the environment, in the past scientists and policy makers focused on a few hundred chemicals and proceeded on a chemical-by-chemical basis. They were guided in large part by concerns over acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, environmental persistence and tendency to bioaccumulate. As a practical matter, a chemical-by-chemical approach is inadequate to effectively or efficiently determine the safety of the roughly 100,000 chemicals already in use and the 200-300 new products entering the market each year. Moreover, this initial focus on acute toxicity, careinogenicity, environmental persistence and bioaccumulation has missed the endocrine disruption problem.
All chemicals licensed for environmental release should be tested for a minimum of two generations for a wide variety of effects, including reproductive, immunological, endocrinological and neurological endpoints.
Chemicals should be assumed guilty of endocrine disruption until proven innocent.
WWF is advocating for the IFCS to take a lead role in designing appropriate policy solutions to the problems posed by endocrine disruption, which it has in part agreed to assume. As the international coordination body responsible for the environmentally safe and sound management of toxic chemicals, it should be providing leadership and guidance for important emerging issues.
The creation of the IFCS has led to better coordination among the international agencies that develop and implement policy on the use and impacts of toxics as part of their mandate. In addition, it has created a platform where governments, international agencies and NGOs-as partners-can address the workplan set out in Chapter 19, share successes and failures, and promote innovative policy responses, such as the PRTR toxics tracking tool, coordinate research on endocrine disruption, and systematic programmes to reduce pesticides. Since the IFCS now functions as a coordination mechanism, it has guided the process to recommend international action to reduce and eliminate certain persistent organic pollutants, including international legal action.
The IFCS should also be taking the lead on emerging issues, such as endocrine disruption, to collect the best scientific knowledge and make recommendations on how to act prudently to avoid irreversible harm.
International aid agencies should begin to fund the implementation of these innovative policy tools, and coordination of the other work on toxics done under Chapters 14, 18 and 20 should become a priority so that available resources are used as efficiently as possible. Finally, the special role of NGOs in tracking and promoting innovative pollution prevention initiatives should be financially and otherwise supported.
1. Our Stolen Future is co-authored by WWF-US Senior Programme Scientist Dr. Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski and Dr. John Peterson Myers.
by Kevin Cook
As the largest-ever gathering of government leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) focused world attention on environmental problems as never before.
UNCED's vision of sustainable development, elaborated in Agenda 21, is centred on three fundamental challenges to be tackled on a global scale:
- current patterns of consumption and production must be changed
in a sustainable direction;
- population growth must be reduced by measures that also lessen poverty; and
- we must achieve a fair global distribution of available resources.
Although population growth has overshadowed human consumption as a priority of previous environmental conferences and negotiations, UNCED correctly regarded both issues as two sides of the same coin. It stressed that human consumption puts the most pressure on our environment, with population acting as its multiplier. Whereas, on a national level, the environmental impact of population tends to be more apparent than that of consumption, the reverse is true on a global scale.
As stated in Agenda 21, "The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries." Agenda 21 also stresses that, "Measures to be undertaken at the international level for the protection and enhancement of the environment must take fully into account the current imbalances in global patterns of consumption and production."
UNCED concluded that it will not be possible to combine a high and growing world population with the universal adoption of environmentally destructive consumption patterns. Developing countries clearly have the burden of responsibility to reduce global population growth. But developed countries, where consumption rates are exceedingly high, "should take the lead in achieving sustainable consumption," says Agenda 21.
The Crisis of Consumption
Since 1950, the peoples of the world have consumed as many goods and services as all previous generations combined. Today, the richest one-fifth of the world population-living primarily in Northern industrialized countries-account for most of the world's consumption, while the other four fifths still struggle to satisfy their basic needs.
This so-called "North-South" consumption gap is large and unsustainable. Northern countries have absorbed close to 80% of the world's resources and currently generate more than 75% of the world's municipal and industrial wastes, while contributing to about 80% of human-made global CO2 emissions since 1950.
Although in the past some wealthy Berthed countries have demonstrated a reluctance to change their unsustainable consumption patterns-or even to acknowledge that they are a problem-UNCED achieved a broad global consensus that all governments, as well as NGOs, must cooperate in this critical process of change. Encouraging advancements are being made, but they are still far too few and fall well short of the magnitude of efforts needed.
Sustainable consumption requires a "critical mass" of people willing to ask themselves, "How much is enough?" It means finding ways to maintain and improve consumers' quality of life, while at the same time consuming less of the earth's resources and generating far less waste and pollution in the process. It essentially embodies the definition of sustainable development by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED): "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
How this monumental global task can eventually be accomplished,
and how it will affect the living standards of the world's affluent consumers,
is still unknown. For the international NGO community-and particularly the world
consumer movement-it requires a wide range of participatory
actions at various levels, in both industrialized and developing countries, to roll back consumption rates and to help achieve new and sustainable development paths.
Challenges and Dilemmas
Few NGOs have been more strongly affected and challenged by UNCED than consumer organizations. UNCED's forceful call for global sustainable consumption has, in a sense, brought hundreds of consumer organizations around the world to an uncertain crossroads in their work. In the North, a growing number of large consumer groups are learning to "think globally while acting locally." They know that they cannot only test and report on luxury goods like cars, washing machines and cameras, but they must also be prepared to inform, educate, motivate and organize people to adopt more sustainable consumption patterns and lifestyles-even if it earns them the contempt and lost support of many consumers.
In the South, a diversity of smaller grassroots organizations has added a number of critical environmental concerns to agendas that have traditionally focused on people's basic needs for essential goods and services, such as food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and sanitation.
Although consumer organizations are concerned about the environment, they are not environmental groups. Nevertheless, they must be prepared to confront the conflicting demands of environmentalism and consumerism when necessary. And as consumer organizations increase their involvement in environmental issues, many are forming closer alliances with environmental and development groups who, in a similar manner, are stepping up their involvement in consumer issues.
Consumer organizations understand that the transition to an environmentally sustainable global society can only succeed with the willing participation of individual consumers. This requires nothing less than a dramatic shift in the social and cultural traditions and values that drive unsustainable consumption.
A key step in working towards sustainable consumption lies in seeking innovative definitions of consumers' needs-a direct challenge to today's producer-driven "consumer culture," which stimulates wasteful consumption by promoting an imbalance between people's wants and needs.
But sustainable consumption cannot be understood or dealt with in isolation. Rather, it is part of a continuum linking a complex sequence of events: from the extraction of raw materials' pre-processing, manufacture and life cycles of products, to factors influencing their purchase, use and disposal. This continuum is in turn linked to a multitude of impacts on the environment at all stages.
For consumer organizations, it is often difficult to reach a balanced or definitive conclusion about the impact of certain products on different physical environments. One example is the detailed research on disposable versus washable diapers, which was carried out recently by consumer organizations in the Netherlands and the United States. Although the Dutch group concluded washable diapers are clearly preferable in the context of the Netherlands (with its severe constraints on landfill sites), the US organization found it impossible to recommend one type of diaper over the other.
Consumer organizations face other problems related to the most obvious measure for reducing environmental damage and wasteful consumption-making some goods more expensive (for example, conserving energy by letting fuel prices rise). To support higher prices for some products, especially basic goods that are needed by the poor, presents an obvious dilemma for consumer organizations. A great many of them have built their reputations on advising people about "best product buys" (involving, at least indirectly, the promotion of consumption). Consumer organizations could suffer an identity crisis if they suddenly started telling consumers that certain products should cost more-and that many others are not even needed and probably should not be purchased.
Actions on the Environment
Despite such predicaments, the world consumer movement still has an undeniable responsibility to promote sustainable consumption choices: "empowering" consumers to buy, use and dispose of products (or better yet to reduce, reuse and recycle them) in ways that cause as little environmental damage as possible. Contrary to popular thinking, these choices are not restricted to consumers in rich countries. The widening gap between rich and poor-a determining factor in consumption rates-does not adhere to North-South boundaries but is present to varying degrees in all countries.
For example, the emerging middle class in India today outnumbers the total population of the largest countries within the European Union. The consumption patterns of this growing middle class-and those of relatively affluent consumers in many other developing nations-are modeled after those of Northern consumers, thanks largely to the globalization of trade and markets, increased foreign investments and pervasive advertising by multinational corporations. Yet the continuation of this trend on an everincreasing scale could one day lead to global ecological collapse.
Widespread poverty among consumers in the South poses another severe and imminent threat to the global environment, as millions of people there are literally "consuming their ecosystem" simply to survive. Economic development is essential if Southern consumers are to attain sustainable consumption levels and higher standards of living. At the same time, it is imperative that countries of the South not repeat the environmentally devastating errors of industrialized countries in the North.
The 'right to a healthy and sustainable environment"-to live and work in an environment that is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations-is included in a charter of eight "consumer rights," which are advocated and defended by consumer organizations around the world. But all consumers also have five key responsibilities that form a counterbalance to their rights and are therefore equally emphasized by the consumer movement. They include environmental awareness-the responsibility to realize the environmental costs and consequences of our consumption patterns and lifestyles; and social concern-the responsibility to consider the impact of our consumption patterns and lifestyles on other citizens, especially the poor, disadvantaged and powerless.
These and responsibilities were underscored by a global conference on sustainable consumption, held in The Hague, Netherlands in May 1993. The conference was jointly sponsored by the Dutch consumer organization Consumentenbond and Consumers International, which is a federation of more than 0() consumer organizations in over 80 countries. Consumer leaders from 4() countries examined key issues and challenges of sustainable consumption, which were also elaborated in a major policy document, Beyond the Year 2000: The Transition to Sustainable Consumption, for the world consumer movement.
The crucial importance of sustainable consumption was reaffirmed by the 14th World Congress of Consumers International, held in Montpellier, France in September 1994. Representatives of some 250 consumer organizations in 75 countries identified sustainable consumption as one of the two most important challenges now facing their movement. One of the congress's 30 resolutions, addressing Consumers and the Environment, called on consumer groups worldwide to promote sustainable consumption and support each other in environmental testing programmes, surveys and assessments of products and services.
At national and local levels, consumer organizations have undertaken a wide range of environmental actions that draw on their well-honed skills in independent research, advocacy, testing and publishing. A majority of these actions involve:
- educating consumers about sustainable consumption, with a view to changing their attitudes and behaviour;
- providing consumers with timely environmental information about popular products and services (and examining the "cradle to grave" life-cycles of the most important ones);
- including environmental criteria in comparative product tests and surveys;
- monitoring and exposing misleading "green claims" by product manufacturers and advertisers, and helping governments draw up codes of practice, laws and regulations that outlaw them;
- researching "eco-labelling" schemes (now introduced in over 30 countries, including several in the South) to help consumers identify "green" products;
- urging the highest standards of environmental performance for products, whether domestically consumed or exported;
- negotiating with governments, manufacturers and other concerned parties to ensure that consumer products and services are environmentally sound;
- conducting boycotts and educational campaigns in response to specific environmental problems linked to industries, businesses, government policies and consumers;
- advocating the environmental interests of consumers at relevant national, regional and international fore;
- advocating appropriate economic measures (for example, tax incentives, implementation of the "polluter pays" principle, and deposit refund schemes for bottles) that support the environmental interests of consumers; and
- networking and cooperating with other NGOs on environmental and consumer issues of shared concern and interest.
Advocating Environmental Concerns
Consumers International, through its consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as the only global federation of consumer organizations, has advocated environmental and consumer concerns before various UN organizations. At UNCED, Consumers International drew attention to issues of biotechnology, agriculture, pesticides and sustainable consumption. Since then the organization has participated actively in major international meetings on production and consumption-particularly those of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.
In July 1995, Consumers international lobbied intensely and successfully for a new ECOSOC resolution that calls for expansion of the UN's Guidelines for Consumer Protection into new areas-starting with sustainable consumption. Although not legally binding, the guidelines still form the single most important document for consumer protection around the world. In its resolution, ECOSOC noted '´the impact the guidelines have had...in promoting just, equitable and sustainable economic and social development through their implementation by governments."
The new guidelines will probably cover areas such as environmental product testing and labelling, education programmes for sustainable consumption and international standards for environmental claims. Consumers International and cooperating NGOs expect to assist the UN in setting up some mechanisms for elaborating these new guidelines.
These and other developments reflect an increased willingness-even enthusiasm-expressed by growing numbers of people to become environmentally responsible consumers. And thanks in large part to UNCED, the promotion of sustainable consumption is now firmly at the top of the consumer movement's agenda for the 1990s and beyond.
by Jan Karel Sorgedrager
The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio recognized that environmental concerns are linked in a very fundamental sense to development, and survival of present and future generations depends on the promotion of sustainable, environmentally sound development. While conventions, policies and regulations have contributed to large advances toward a global and national commitment to safeguarding the environment, sustainability can only be ensured if the commitment is internalized by communities linked to a sustainable support network. For the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) this recognition provided an opportunity to give substance to the mandate, given to it during a 1991 UNV meeting in Kathmandu, to promote a cadre of environmental volunteers. Discussions between UNV and a number of NGOs resulted in a new grassroots programme called Eco-volunteers.
The programme was implemented in March of 1993 and operates in nine countries. The Environment Liaison Centrc International (ELLCI), a global network of more then 900 NGOs in 107 countries, coordinated projects in Canada, Costa Rica, India, Philippines, Poland, Uganda, Uruguay, Zimbabwe and South Africa, which is still receiving active support. In most of the countries activities are continuing without financial support. In each programme country an ELCI member organization was selected on the basis of their commitment to the Eico-volunteer concept and its proven capacity to support the programme in a positive way. In close collaboration with these member organizations, a national United Nations Volunteer was then selected to identify, manage, and support the Eco-volunteers that would be involved in the project. Depending on the socio-cultural situation in the different countries, the programme works with either individual Eco-volunteers or with community based organizations (CBOs).
The Eco-volunteer concept is based on the self-help principle. Whereas typical projects try to start a process of self-help in communities, the Ecovolunteer programme identifies, supports, analyzes and promotes existing initiatives developed by local men or women-Eco-volunteers-to solve the environmental problems facing their communities. The key strategy is to minimize external intervention at the local level while providing local communities with access to information and the resources they need, as well as the capacity to obtain these to support the work in which they are already engaged. In principle the resources include:
- modest financial support for the on-going activities of an individual Eco-volunteer or a community organization;
- provision of information about other organizations or communities working on similar issues or facing similar problems, which allows Eco-volunteers to communicate and share experiences and ideas to strengthen their own local initiatives;
- facilitating the inclusion of these local organizations in international activities and networks related to their work;
- developing mechanisms to ensure that local level experience in particular issues informs the development of national and global policy and programme design on these issues; and
- collective and participatory evaluation of the Ecovolunteer concept as a methodology for addressing the challenges of sustainable development.
Non-Dependent NGO-CBO Relations
An important feature of this approach is the way in which it
aims to develop appropriate relationships between NGOs or projects and the local
communities. Many projects fail as a consequence of an uneven relation between
the NGO or project and the community. This is due to the shortterm expectations
of donors, which pressure NGOs to deliver concrete results as fast as possible.
This prevents many NGOs and projects from establishing a sound horizontal
relationship with their target groups and results in different
expectations and conflicting priorities. It also hinders the sharing of vital information, coordination, and in the end, the achievement of self-help within the community.
Poor relationships can also be traced back to social and cultural differences that often exist between the parties involved. The professional or volunteer aid worker who enters the community from the outside is perceived as a stranger with superior knowledge. He or she needs to invest a considerable amount of time before the community accepts him or her as a companion.
Another effect of unequal relationships is that communities begin to view NGOs as easy access to free resources, and NGOs often have done little to change this perception. With time this has only increased the dependence of the community on the development agent, which prevents the community from gaining control over the development process-instead of being actors, they turn into spectators.
The Eco-volunteer approach avoids the above problems by discouraging dependency-building in several ways. Financial input is minimal, and the most significant resource provided by the project is information and linkage to organizations and resources other than the NGO providing the service. This implies that once the formal project has ended, the local community organization has become part of a much broader network of people and resources. This new networking capacity requires no on-going financial input: it should be capable of generating its own resources and be truly sustainable.
One of the major advantages of working with Eco-volunteers is that these men and women are rooted in and accepted by the community; they are the chosen leaders and thus legitimate representatives of their communities. Another advantage of local volunteers over the "traditional volunteer" is that the Eco-volunteer uses local knowledge, skills and wisdom that are in accordance with local customs and beliefs, and therefore easily accepted by the community.
Luis Mora Cordero from Costa Rica is a good example of an Ecovolunteer. As a community leader and farmer, he developed an indigenous watershed restoration system on his own farm. The success of his experiment was soon noticed by neighbouring farmers, who asked him for help. Don Luis began advising and guiding some 17 neighbouring communities in a large-scale effort to develop and preserve their water resources and regenerate native trees and plants. Today this successful experiment is being flaunted as a model process, not just in Costa Rica, but in adjoining countries as well.
Looking at several years of Eco-volunteer programmes in different countries reveals that the programme has undergone some considerable changes. In the original concept, on-going community activities were identified, in order to be analyzed and replicated in other countries. This concept proved limited: although most societies know some form of voluntarism, the concept of voluntarism is very heterogeneous. The social, cultural and economic background of a society determine to a large extent the interpretation of this concept and the subsequent implementation strategy for the programme. So in spite of the fact that the programme has adapted itself to the local socio-cultural and economic situation in each country, all have a number of issues in common that are considered essential to the further development of the programme. The most important of these common issues is communication and information sharing.
Communication and Information Exchange
One of the main means of support the programme offers the Eco-volunteers is to link them to the thematic networks in which ELCI is involved. Therefore, a major objective of the programme is to support Eco-volunteers working on these thematic issues at the local level, so that ELCI can use these experiences to make a strong input into policy making. At present many of the local community activities are relevant to one or more of ELCI's thematic areas. The programme is developing communication mechanisms for the effective exchange of information to and from the communities. In this context the member organizations and national coordinators are the brokers of information and other resources.
For the Eco-volunteer programme, communication and exchange of information takes place at three different levels. One of the main challenges is to develop effective mechanisms to address people's information needs in a way that they can understand, while translating their experiences into a form suitable for use at other levels. Hence it is important to establish which types of information are relevant to the different levels, and how to best exchange the information.
The first communication level is the local one, where the different groups can share experiences and discuss their activities. Effective tools for facilitating communication at this level are community exchange visits, workshops, and local and national meetings. A good example can be taken from the programme in Uganda. Of the ten Eco-volunteer communities involved in the programme, three are involved in fish-farming. One of the groups reported very disappointing results from its fish pond, while the others reported good to excellent results. The coordinator of the Ugandan programme decided to organize an exchange visit between the different groups and have them discuss their experiences. After only a short while, the combined group had identified the reasons behind the disappointing results. They discovered that the Tilapia provided by the government extension worker belonged to the wrong species. Also, the pond was operational all year round, but it had no permanent water source, which contributed to the failure of the initiative. Based on the exchange visit, the group decided to acquire new stock and operate the pond on a seasonal basis only. Since then results have improved dramatically.
The second level of communication and information exchange is at the national level. Here the responsibility for managing communication lies mainly with the national United Nations Volunteer and the member organization. They are responsible for assessing the information needs of the communities, finding the information, and offering it in the appropriate format and at the appropriate times to the communities. For their part, the volunteer and member organizations are responsible for informing national policy and decision makers about the Eco-volunteer programme and advising on the impact of the programme in national policy development for sustainable resource use and environment. It is therefore a prerequisite for the member organization to have access to the various information resources in the country. This requires good knowledge of national development issues and good contacts with the various organizations involved.
In Uruguay, India, Poland and the Philippines, on several occasions Ecovolunteers have successfully organized campaigns against activities that were either unsustainable or harmful to public health. In the Philippines a logging ban was put in place, while in Uruguay the planned construction of a hightension power line over a densely populated and poor area of Montevideo was averted. An Eco-volunteer from India managed to mobilize the community and establish a dialogue with forest officials who were denying people access to the forests with which they had been living in harmony for centuries. A successful campaign against illegal mining resulted in saving a national park from being destroyed. In Poland the promotion of sustainable transport systems led to the opening of the first bicycle path in the town of Krakow. This successful project led to the development of a national campaign on sustainable transport systems.
The third level of communication is the international one, in which the ELCI secretariat plays a critical role in coordinating and channelling the different types of information coming from, and going to, the countries involved.
Future Development and implications
The Eco-volunteer programme is proving to be a significant learning process for all parties involved. There is considerable information available on the type of activities and the physical achievements of the various grassroots projects. However there is not enough qualitative information on experiences to draw conclusions and determine the possible implications these could have on policy development. It is important to realize that, besides the fact that the Eco-volunteer concept differs from country to country, each group or person has its own objectives, expectations and activities.
The results of a participatory evaluation of the programme were available by May 1996. It shows how the programme has strengthened local leadership as well as local organizations. The results also indicate the possible impact the programme can have on the design of future community-based programmes concerning sustainable use of natural resources and the environment.
by Nigel Cross and Kitty Warnock
When a development project goes wrong, and leaves people and communities worse off (which is often), there is always someone who can point to the absurdity of the enterprise in the first place. Why did the irrigation engineers not realize that water extraction from the lake would lead to salinization and desertification? How could the aid agency have been so dumb as to send food to an area of surplus production; alternatively, how could they have been so naive as to purchase food locally, enriching an already fat merchant class? Corruption aside, someone thought they were making the right decision, based on the best available information at the time.
"The best available information" is a euphemism for a pragmatic, technocratic bottom-line that justifies implementation of a project in the absence of more convincing data. Did Shell act on the best available information when it decided to dump the Brent Spar oil platform at sea? They claimed so, but campaigners thought otherwise. In the end, even the campaigners got it wrong and were forced to apologize. The right information is hard to come by and can be interpreted differently by different interest groups.
Information production is no longer enough. Information needs to be debated and set in a socio-cultural context; it must be the result of a participatory process, as opposed to a window-dressing exercise in "consultation."
The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) made a stab at linking information with participation. The Rio declaration roundly stated that, "Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development," and went on to highlight the role of information. "States," it said, "shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available." Public awareness is consistently cited throughout Agenda 21 as a necessary condition for the realization of UNCED goals-sustainable production and consumption, improving the status of women, promoting health, and reducing the impact of natural disasters.
So far so good. The UNCED emphasis on governments' responsibility to inform citizens goes some way towards acknowledging that freedom of information is a prerequisite for public debate. But it is a partial, didactic, topdown approach that does not distinguish between public awareness and public understanding and involvement. Awareness without understanding, and a focus on problems without an informed debate on appropriate solutions, can lead to pressure for simplistic policies that can often do more harm than good.
Agenda 21 remains vague about the mechanisms for involving stakeholders in decision making. Perhaps because of the legion of special interest groups and non-government organizations that lobbied UNCED, there is the usual exhortation to strengthen the role of NGOs: "independence," says Chapter 27, "is a major attribute of NGOs and is the precondition of real participation." This assumes that NGO independence leads to freedom of action, creativity in researching and seeking solutions, and a willingness to gather a plurality of views. It certainly implies that the state is not always right; civil society is more likely to be right-on.
But the umbilical connection between a vibrant civil society and an independent mass media is not addressed in Agenda 21. In Europe or North America, governments are accustomed to the power of the Fourth Estate. Electoral victory or defeat is attributed to media bias. Public and judicial enquiries, consultation processes and lobbyists all assume the media will play a crucial role in informing and influencing public opinion. But for all the Western rhetoric about "good governance," the critical link between media pluralism and "good governance" or "good development" has been consistently understated.
It is, of course, sensible to approach the media with care. In developing countries there is often a legacy of government-controlled media, and the word "joumalist" may smell of the secret state, or of government press releases. Journalistic standards dictated by a ministry of information or security do not meet the needs of civil society. But this scene is changing in some developing countries, for example in francophone West Africa, where there is a burgeoning independent press. These developments and the influences that bring them about need to be encouraged as an important element of the development dynamic.
Since UNCED there has been some donor and agency recognition that information should not only be top-down and didactic. Democratic decision making requires something more: locally generated information, and affirmative action in favour of Southern perspectives receiving greater representation in the North. Information activities are beginning to be seen as good in themselves and not just as an add-on to a technical or material development programme.
Development agencies are, at one level, convinced of the fundamental contribution of information to development, but they hesitate before investing resources in information activities. They're not sure what will work, what kind of information is needed, nor how it should be supported. And- in these days of close cost-monitoring and squeezed budgets-there is legitimate concern that measurable targets and indicators of success are elusive. Part of the problem is that the information/communications field is rapidly changing. The quantity of information available is huge, but the lack of interpretative resources in developing countries means the South faces both information overload and information shortfall. In theory, the means to handle information-satellites, electronic media, digital technology, the Internet-are increasingly available and potentially democratic. But in practice there is a new information elitism, which further disenfranchises the majority of the world's population.
So how do the majority of the world's people, barely literate and with only intermittent access to local language radio? influence development or respond to the UNCED agenda? With vigour. All over the world people arc using community-based organizations, the ballot box and the media to express their views. But until such views count in the corridors of governments and funfers, sustainable development is a long way off.
Pastoralists Raise their Voices
One way people influence official decision making in democratic societies is by developing their own policy solutions to their problems and campaigning for their adoption by government. Information is at the heart of this process of political empowemment. Community organizations take the initiative and control the process of gathering, reflecting on and presenting information, and generating public debate.
Pastoral groups in East Africa, after years of oppression, are attempting this approach. Loss of land to agriculture and a changing economic context have undermined the viability of their economic and cultural systems, while development projects have failed to produce benefits and positive change. The decline is exacerbated by the hostility and scorn nomadic pastoralists have been subjected to by governments and settled populations. In 1992, NGOs representing and working with pastoralists in Kenya came together to exchange experiences and ideas for improving the situation. As well as initiating research and practical projects, they were detemmined to try to change the negative attitude of the general public, which is born largely of ignorance and prejudice, and to seek better designed and targeted policies from government.
At the same time, in neighbouring Tanzania, a group of journalists decided that the public needed better information in order to build an understanding that would reduce the frequent clashes between pastoralists and (state-backed) agriculturalists. They decided to travel with nomadic pastoralists and present their side of the story to the public-a rare initiative for hard-pressed, citybased, underfunded developing country journalists. This grew into a regionwide media campaign, which was the catalyst for recognition by the Kenya Pastoralists' Forum of the role that professionally presented infommation could play in achieving their goals.
The forum invited an independent Nairobi-based development media organization-the Interlink Rural Information Service-to work with them to increase public and government recognition of pastoralists' perspectives. The first result of this collaboration has been a series of media features published in Kenya's independent national papers on the reasons for pastoralists' low participation in the education system. This is probably the first time the public has had the chance to read about pastoralists' life in such a direct, detailed and unprejudiced way.
Parallel with the campaign to break down the prejudices of the largely urban, educated newspaper reading public, whose views inform government decisions, the pastoralists' forum will present a series of policy papers directly to government and development decision makers. Each of these papers is initiated, debated and approved by the members of the forum and written with the help of the professional writers. For the first time, politicians will hear what pastoralists themselves think can be done to improve their situation. It is too early to say what impact this will have; this is very much in the UNCED spirit of facilitating real participation.
Making Women's Rights Real
Participation is not just about minorities gaining access to decision makers; it can also be about empowering majorities. Women's reproductive rights were recognized at UNCED and taken further at the International Conference on Population and Development and the Fourth World Conference on Women. But how can these rights be realized when they are so fundamentally bound up and constrained by the social, cultural, psychological, educational, economic and political systems in every society?
When reproductive decision making is so fundamentally bound up with and constrained by these systems, debate needs to be opened at all levels in order to turn rights into realities. Informed and in-depth media reporting has the potential to feed normally unheard perspectives directly into national and international debate.
Panos' Reproductive Health Programme aims to generate more widespread and inclusive public debate on issues of reproductive health and choice, and the related issues of gender equity and women's empowerment. The programme's first activity was a series of commissions for journalists in developing countries to research and write about under-reported reproductive health issues in their countries and show how these are shaped by women's position in society. The journalists' reports were published in their national newspapers and in the book Private Decisions. Public Debate: Women, Reproduction and Population. The reports were aimed at decision makers, NGOs and the media.
Panos also helped some of the journalists and others attend the ICPD and cover it for their media. Such access is costly and sadly rare, but it is essential to stimulate debate at national and community levels.
To support even wider discussion of the issues, Panos is also working with the indigenous language press. One workshop has already been held in Bangalore to provide journalists from Asia with contacts and understanding of issues in order to cover complex and sensitive subjects in depth, avoid the sort of sensationalist and dogmatic reporting that often characterizes reproductive issues, and stimulate real reflection and debate.
The media can also be a vehicle for communities to monitor their governments and hold them accountable: one Egyptian journalist in the Panos programme has used the opportunity to draw public attention to the Egyptian government's failure in her opinion to carry through its commitment to end female genital mutilation.
In conclusion, here is information working as it should for sustainable development-a free press in a democratic political system speaking for, with and to the people. This is, after all, the spirit, if not the text, of UNCED.
by Lawrence Arturo
As a worldwide non-governmental organization, the Bah International Community has long had an interest in sustainable development and environmental protection. In the 1920s, Richard St. Barbe Baker, a Bah, founded The Men of the Trees, which was one of the first international environmental organizations. During the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s he hosted the ground-breaking World [Forestry Charter Gatherings, which were dedicated to bringing worldwide attention to the condition of the environment.
In the early 1980s, Bah around the world were encouraged by their international governing council, the Universal House of Justice, to begin to apply systematically the principles of their faith to the challenges of social and economic development. As a result, in the decade prior to UNCED Bah, communities worldwide launched more than 1000 development projects. They were mostly small-scale and included medical camps in Pakistan and Alaska, primary health care clinics in Kenya and India, agricultural schools in Tanzania and Brazil, and community development radio stations in the Americas and Africa.
The Earth Summit process and the spirit released by the parallel NGO Forum in Rio de Janeiro heightened awareness among the world's five million Bah and stimulated many to launch efforts to implement aspects of Agenda 21 in their individual and community lives.
Among the principles and concepts promulgated by the Rio Declaration on Environments and Development and Agenda 21-and that have resonated within Bah, communities-are the call for "new levels of cooperation among states, key sectors of societies and peoples" (Preamble, Rio Declaration); the assertion that women's full participation is essential to achieve sustainable development and that peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible (Principles 20 and 25, Rio Declaration); and that "education...is critical for achieving environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviours consistent with sustainable development" (Agenda 21, Chapter 36.3).
Local, National and International Initiatives
There has been a wide range of responses by Bah to many of the principles and recommendations agreed to at Rio. In Bolivia, Dr. William Baker, Head of the Dorothy Baker Environmental Studies Center, attended the Earth Summit and the global forum. The contacts he made and the information he gained from these meetings inspired him to bring back many new ideas, which have been incorporated into the organization's programme. The organization, a Bah-sponsored environmental research institute in the eastern Andean city of Cochabamba, is devoted to exploring how appropriate technologies and education for sustainable development can be applied to improve the lives of the Aymara and Quechua peoples, who eke out a living on the harsh Bolivian altiplano.
The organization has adapted the design for a solar-heated greenhouse to grow vegetables and fruits inexpensively at high altitudes and works to promote reforestation and soil conservation techniques suitable for the altiplano. These practical efforts are combined with a programme of environmental study classes for adults and pre-school classes for children. The accent of the classes is on showing a community how to help itself. They underscore the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings and emphasize the essential unity and equality of all peoples-teachings that help tap into the underlying aspirations all humans share and empower them to become increasingly responsible for their own development.
The use of solar-heated greenhouses has led to the construction of more than 120 low-cost family-sized greenhouses in about 30 communities. The effort to promote soil conservation and reforestation focuses on building small soil infiltration dams to control erosion on the region's barren mountainsides. Drawing on a base of "graduates," the organization has helped to organize four altiplano communities-Pasto Grande, KullpaaYawritotora, and Japoe'asa-in Tapacari province to participate in the project. During 1994 and early 1995, some 300 volunteers from these communities built approximately 2000 small check-dams on nearby hillsides.
The simple rock and fill dams, which take three or four people a few hours to build, help slow the rainfall run-off, so that water filters into the ground and leaves precious soil in catch basins behind the dam. Organizers hope that if enough such dams are built, the ecological system on the altiplano hillsides can be restored.
The Bah, have undertaken a number of other initiatives linked in one way or another to the Earth Summit. Less than nine months after UNCED, the Bah, community of Brazil, in conjunction with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), launched a conservation education programme, which trained schoolteachers in and around the capital, Brasilia, and produced curriculum materials and a video on environmental issues. The second phase of this project is underway and is replicating these activities in several Brazilian states.
In India, the Bah, Vocational Institute for Rural Women in Indore received the prestigious Global 500 Award from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). After the Earth Summit, it expanded its efforts in environmental education, such as hosting workshops and environmental awareness programmes in the surrounding rural communities.
In five Latin American countries and the United States, Bah, community radio stations carry programmes and public service announcements on environment and development, which focus on topics such as sustainable agricultural practices and care for the earth.
In 1994 the Bah, International Community, in collaboration with other organizations, hosted a World Forestry Charter Gathering at St. James Palace in the United Kingdom. The gathering was noteworthy for its focus on the Forest Principles adopted at the Earth Summit, and for highlighting the need to view forests as the common heritage of humanity in order to conserve and sustainably manage them into the distant future.
Within the Bah, community itself, schools, summer schools, youth conferences and other meetings taking place around the world have devoted sessions and sometimes entire programmes to issues of environment and development. Bah, communities are involved increasingly with governments and organizations of civil society on the local, national and international levels. The communities participate in conferences, roundtables, commissions and coalitions, many in connection with major UN consultations that focus, to some degree, on sustainable development.
A Global Campaign
While these mostly grassroots efforts are taking place, the Bah, International Community's Office of the Environment launched an initiative aimed at promoting a new sense of responsibility toward the environment by people across the planet. This initiative began as a concept paper entitled World Citizenship: A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development. The paper stresses the need to promote a global ethic in order to make sustainable development an aspiration and commitment in peoples' daily lives. It was presented at the first session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in June 1993. It has since formed the basis of a worldwide campaign carried out in collaboration with a number of the Bah, International Community's 175 national affiliates-and many of the individuals and local communities that comprise them.
The aim and focus of this campaign can perhaps best be described by quoting from the first paragraphs of the statement:
"The greatest challenge facing the world community as it mobilizes to implement Agenda 21 is to release the enormous financial, technical, human and moral resources required for sustainable development. These resources will be freed up only as the peoples of the world develop a profound sense of responsibility for the fate of the planet and for the wellbeing of the entire human family.
This sense of responsibility can only emerge from the acceptance of the oneness of humanity and will only be sustained by a unifying vision of a peaceful, prosperous world society. Without such a global ethic, people will be unable to become active, constructive participants in the worldwide process of sustainable development.
While Agenda 21 provides an indispensable framework of scientific knowledge and technical know-how for the implementation of sustainable development, it does not inspire personal commitment to a global ethic. This is not to say that ethics and values were ignored during the UNCED process. The call for unifying values was heard throughout, from heads of state to UN officials to representatives of non-governmental organizations and individual citizens. In particular, the concepts of 'our common humanity,' 'world citizenship' and 'unity in diversity' were invoked to serve as the ethical undergirding for Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration.
The world community has, in this way, already come to a basic accord on the need for a global ethic to vitalize Agenda 21. We suggest that the term 'world citizenship' be adopted to encompass the constellation of principles, values, attitudes and behaviours that the peoples of the world must embrace if sustainable development is to be realized.
World citizenship begins with an acceptance of the oneness of the human family and the interconnectedness of the nations of 'the earth, our home.' While it encourages a sane and legitimate patriotism, it also insists upon a wider loyalty, a love of humanity as a whole. It does not, however, imply abandonment of legitimate loyalties, the suppression of cultural diversity, the abolition of national autonomy, nor the imposition of uniformity. Its hallmark is 'unity in diversity.' World citizenship encompasses the principles of social and economic justice, both within and between nations; non-adversarial decision making at all levels of society; equality of the sexes; racial, ethnic, national and religious harmony; and the willingness to sacrifice for the common good. Other facets of world citizen-ship-all of which promote human honour and dignity, understanding, amity, cooperation, trustworthiness, compassion and a desire to serve-can be deduced from those already mentioned. A few of these principles have been articulated in Agenda 21-most, however, are noticeably lacking. Moreover, no overall conceptual framework is provided under which they can be harmonized and promulgated.
Fostering world citizenship is a practical strategy for promoting sustainable development. So long as disunity, antagonism and provincialism characterize the social, political and economic relations within and among nations, a global, sustainable pattern of development can not be established. Over a century ago Bah'llwarned, 'The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.' Only upon a foundation of genuine unity, harmony and understanding among the diverse peoples and nations of the world, can a sustainable global society be erected."
The Office of the Environment has distributed more than 100,000 copies of World Citizenship: A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development, has offered it at various UN conferences and events and encouraged broad distribution of the copies. The document exists in at least a dozen languages and has been put on several electronic bulletin boards and networks.
Bah, communities in several countries have held seminars, workshops and discussion groups on the ideas contained in the statement and several have undertaken concrete actions. For example, a number of Bah communities initiated efforts to encourage local authorities and organizations of civil society to implement Agenda 21. Bah, communities throughout Germany and the United Kingdom began approaching local authorities (the subject of Chapter 28 of Agenda 21) to discuss promoting the concept of world citizenship as a moral and ethical basis for development. Similarly, Bah, communities in Australia, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland have launched campaigns in schools focusing on world citizenship and sustainable development. In Brazil the Bah, community has initiated an annual World Citizenship award.
We believe that the energetic and positive response to World Citizenship is due, in large part, to its positive vision for the future and its practical approach to the application of universal principles. The first part of the statement stresses the transcendental nature of the concept of world citizenship as a new ethic for sustainable development; the second part outlines a global campaign to promote the concept through education programmes and public awareness campaigns, as called for in Chapter 36 of Agenda 21. The outline includes, for example, recommendations that the concept of world citizenship be taught in every school, that it be incorporated into educational materials on sustainable development produced by UN agencies, that campaigns to raise public awareness of the challenges of world citizenship be launched making use of the full range of media and the arts, and that world citizenship be promoted-internationally, nationally and locally-through the holding of contests and the presentation of awards.
For Bahs, development implies a dynamic coherence between the spiritual and material requirements of life on earth. The Bah, approach to development is organic and seeks to harmonize the seemingly paradoxical concepts of globalism and decentralization. Overall direction and guiding principles are established on the international-and often national-levels, helping to ensure a sense of global process and mission in all development activities. At the same time, actual programmes and activities arise largely from individual or community initiative, are driven by community decision making processes and are based on the principle of universal participation. They are, therefore, likely to address the needs, conditions and aspirations of the local or national society.
In this light, the response of the Bah, International Community to the Earth Summit process can be seen as one in which the community has become progressively more engaged in practical actions for sustainable development, based on the conditions and needs of the communities themselves and guided by the principles of the Bah, faith.
by Dominic Walubengo
The preparatory process leading to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) brought into sharp focus feet that the fight over natural resources has shifted from a physical, visible and armed confrontation to an invisible one, whose main weapon is information African delegations to all the UNCED preparatory committee meetings (PrepComs) had one common complaint: the lack of adequate information. African NGOs had a similar complaint: they lacked adequate information to enable them to lobby effectively.
The fact that the fight over natural resources has shifted means that NGOs campaigning for the sustainable use of natural resources have had to shift their strategies as well. The NGOs formerly spoke of local control of natural resources. However at the time they did not have the mandate to speak on behalf of local communities. So the NGOs went back to their communities and started awareness campaigns on topics discussed at the PrepComs. The topics varied from country to country, and from region to region. For example, NGOs from Central Africa concentrated on biological diversity and forestry issues; those from the Sahel concentrated on climate change and desertification; and NGOs from East and Southern Africa worked on climate change, biological diversity and desertification. Therefore, right from the preparatory stages, UNCED began changing NGO perspectives in Africa, and it is fair to say that NGOs in Africa have not been the same since.
The preparatory process to UNCED and the conference itself provided NGOs in Africa with an agenda: to a large extent it revolved around the question of who controls the natural resources that are so vital for the survival of the people of Africa. The NGOs realized that development efforts in Africa over recent decades have been frustrated by the complicated and multifaceted nature of change, a number of inherent contradictions among the various issues, and differences in perspectives among actors. The NGOs also realized that the heart of the problem appears to be insufficient local control over natural resource management and lack of influence over policy, administration and legislation pertaining to natural resource management. The question of who controls natural resources always resurfaces whether the discussion topic is emancipation, democratization, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, gender or women and development.
The Concept of a Natural Resource
Natural resources have been the source of conflict for thousands of years: States have gone to war to expand their borders and acquire more land, forests, oil, water and grazing rights. We need to answer several questions:
What is a natural resource? Where are natural resources found? Why are there conflicts over natural resources? A natural resource can be defined as something that occurs naturally in the world and is not caused, or made by people. Examples of natural resources are water, fish, wildlife, forests, coal and oil. Conflict takes place over natural resources because they are the essence of life-without them, life is not possible. This is the reason the preUNCED process focused so much on the control of natural resources.
In the exploitation of natural resources was at the centre of colonialism and is now at the centre of international trade. The globalization of trade has also globalized the debate on the control, management and exploitation of natural resources. Unfortunately, this debate tends to remain at the international level and seldomly comes down to the local level, where resources are actually found. Some NGOs have made an effort to bring this debate down to the grassroots-these include ENDA Tiers-Monde, the Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI), and EcoNews Africa (ERA), all of whom have been at the forefront of bringing the debate on desertification to local communities.
The Role of NGOs
In Africa, NGOs work at two levels. At the community level, they are small informal organizations, which are often invisible to outsiders and rarely receive external support. These community based organizations (CBOs) remain outside formal structures. Some examples of CBOs are women's groups, youth groups, village development committees, water users' associations, forest users' groups, farmers' groups, pastoralists' groups and self-help groups. Generally speaking, the activities of CBOs are limited to the local level and have little if any influence in national political processes.
The second level of NGO intervention is at a higher level: national or international. These NGOs, which provide services to communities directly or through CBOs and other NGOs, include networks and umbrella organizations. They offer a variety of services, some very specialized; they may be purely charity or service organizations, while others seek for a more political role.
After UNCED, NGOs grew rapidly in Africa. This was partly in response to widespread and persistent poverty, and the failure of governments to provide their citizens with basic services and social security. However, it was also because of UNCIED, many governments, which recognized the importance of NGOs, recognized the fact that NGOs are flexible and attempt to reach the poorer sections of society. Thus there are now many NGOs working in relief and the provision of medical services, water and even education. In some areas NGOs have assumed roles that are almost equal to that of governments by providing people with medical services, shelter and food. These include Somalia; North-Eastern Kenya; Eastern Zaire; Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan.
What then is the role of NGOs in natural resource management? NGOs are people's organizations and they were established for a purpose: they are pressure groups helping to make governments listen to the people's point of view. Not all NGOs challenge government policies; they often provide sound arguments based on well-researched information. For example, an NGO might argue against draining a swamp, by citing the negative environmental implications, including driving away rare animals and bird species, killing fish, reducing available water to a community, and changing people's lifestyles.
Another example is when NGOs try to make people and governments aware of the environmental and human impacts of constructing dams. When a dam is constructed, promoters talk about the benefits that will be obtained from the production of cheap electricity and the availability of water for irrigation. Often, they do not inform people of an increase in the number of mosquitoes, and therefore malaria; that bilharzia may become commonplace; and worse, that whole villages will be submerged, which results in forced migration.
The NGO community in Africa faces a severe challenge in the management of natural resources. This challenge was made formal after UNCED. Many African governments now insist on the participation of NGOs in all development projects, with the result that NGOs are invited to contribute to among other things national environment action plans and national forestry master plans. Now the challenge to the NGOs is that they must perform; which means they must have adequate capacity and resources.
Capacity building in the NGO sector has not been easy-this is because until only a few years ago, one-party governments in Africa frowned on any organization or association which had any semblance of authority or influence. At that time governments believed that only they could solve the problems facing their people. This centralization of power reduced people's enthusiasm for self-help groups, which often develop into NGOs. Indeed, during UNCED PrepComs, several African governments wanted to prevent NGOs from participating in the debate as observers. Needless to say, they lost that debate.
Thanks to UNCED, there is now a move by some African governments to share management of some natural resources with local people. For example, the Tanzanian government has allowed collaborative management of the Mgori Forest in Singida Rural district. In Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service has started a community development section, which allows people living close to national parks to earn some income from tourism. In Zimbabwe, the Camp Fire programme actually allows people to manage the wildlife and earn revenue from tourists and hunters. Collaborative management of natural resources has been spearheaded by NGOs and individuals who believe in Agenda 21.
During the preparatory stages of UNCIED, many NGOs from Africa had contact with NGOs from other parts of the world. This interaction allowed African NGOs to exchange information and ideas with other NGOs. African NGOs also heard their own governments promising, in front of the whole world, to work with NGOs and other community groups. These promises have made it easier for NGOs to operate and work with governments. In addition, many African countries have signed several conventions resulting from UNCED, which contain sections advocating NGO participation in development projects. The conventions include those on biological diversity, climate change and desertification.
NGOs working in natural resource management during the post-UNCED era, have learned the following lessons:
1. NGOs should come up with a vision on local natural resource management in Africa. Training needs for local CBOs and NGOs should be identified as well as areas that need advocacy.
2. African NGOs should strengthen existing natural resources networks to enable them to carry out networking and learn from each other and their communities. These networks could serve as a forum for meetings of NGOs and CBOs involved in natural resource management and they could facilitate training, organization of exchange visits and production of newsletters.
3. NGOs are needed to work on cross-boundary issues, such as the environmeatal problems facing Lake Victoria, and the influx of refugees in East and Central Africa.
4. African NGOs should come up with a framework for participation of local people in the management of natural resources. In this framework, stakeholders in natural resources should be identified and advocacy should be emphasized.
5. NGOs and CBOs should face the question of their own sustainability and work out ways to ensure it.
6. The relationship between NGOs and governments should be more clearly defined, in order to avoid wasted resources and energy.
7. In Africa men still dominate and benefit more than women from development projects, including those expressly meant to benefit women. Poor people are often further marginalized by development projects.
8. Most government departments don't have money and therefore pass on their social responsibilities, such as education, health, medical services, to civil society, which is ill equipped to deal with these responsibilities.
9. Land tenure and property rights need to be looked at with a new perspective. Current laws are a major constraint to development projects in the area of natural resources, and new land bills being tabled in the African parliaments are designed to privatize land, but not solve the conflicts that arise out of land ownership and access. There is a serious conflict in the perspectives of agrarian and pastoralist communities.
10. People would like to earn money from the projects in which they are involved, whether the projects are tree planting, biogas or water catchment.
11. Communal projects only work when all participants have a stake in the project and share benefits equitably. Local people will not look after resources that they do not own, or have a stake in, and that do not benefit them directly.
To be sure, UNCED changed African NGOs for the better and highlighted their usefulness to their people. Promises made by African governments at UNCED have made it easier for NGOs to operate. And, contacts made at UNCED between African NGOs and those from other parts of the world have continued, and in some cases have resulted in active exchange of information and experiences. However, it is clear that UNCED made formal the fact that the NGO community in Africa faces a severe challenge in the management of natural resources. Thus NGOs must perform. They must maintain their role as pressure groups and help to make governments listen to the people's point of view. Nevertheless, they must obtain the mandate of local communities before speaking on their behalf; remain flexible and continue reaching the poorer sections of society; and ensure that poor people are not further marginalized by development projects.
by Hazel Brown
The five-year anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Development is an appropriate opportunity to review the sustainable development needs of the Caribbean in the post-UNCED period and the role and experience of Caribbean NGOs.
This review is being done in the context of the International Network of Small Island Developing States NGOs and Indigenous Peoples (INSNI). It is significant that the review of Agenda 21 includes the Programme of Action of the 1994 Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which was itself one of the outcomes of UNCED.
We will identify some of the constraints to the implementation of the SlDSProgramme of Action (POA), review some of the positive steps taken toward implementation, and identify a new and strategic approach for future action that involves participatory partnerships between regional intergovernmental agencies and Caribbean NGOs.
Conventional Development Approaches in the Caribbean
For decades the conventional approaches to development in the Caribbean have been characterized by features such as: producing a narrow range of goods mainly for export; importing most of the technology, equipment and energy used for production; a planning process that excludes the views and expertise of organized labour, farmers, women and several other major groups; an economic management system that measures growth in terms of indicators such as GNP and the value of exports; a dependence upon market forces to distribute wealth and opportunity; and the application of criteria for progress and success that fail to calculate the impact of development policies and programmes on people and natural resources of the region. The result of this approach has been some growth in exports and foreign exchange earnings, but rising national debt, gradual replacement of food self-sufficiency by food imports and food aid, the return of preventable diseases, and the increased burden of poverty, particularly on the region's women and children.
The Search for an Alternative Development Model
It was under these circumstances that the search for alternative development strategies and the implementation of the SIDS-POA was to be developed. This alternative model of development is grounded in the following principles:
- equity-between men and women, generations, racial and ethnic groups, rural and urban populations, abled and specially challenged persons, rich and poor, and countries of the industrialized North and those of the dependent South;
- participation-in decision-making at all levels, as well as in the implementation of policies and programmes;
- holism-ensuring that social, cultural, economic, ecological and political considerations are taken into account;
- sustainability-of all aspects of development; and
Over the past two decades Caribbean NGOs have developed strong
consensus on their approach and activities based on these principles. This
consensus is built upon our work in the region and elsewhere, and these
principles are the road signs that we use as we proceed on the path
sustainable human development.
One major constraint to achieving sustainable development has been the emphasis placed on the linkages between economies of scale and competitiveness. Our contention is that SIDS, historically disadvantaged, can hardly be expected to be competitive within the framework of the export-led, free market-driven strategies promoted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as well as the rules of the World Trade Organization. The experience has shown that in responding to this strategy to compete in the "free" market place, SIDS have suffered further depletion of their limited resources, such as rainforests, marine and coastal resources.
In May 1995, approximately one year after the historic SIDS conference, the Economic Council for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) convened a meeting of experts, including regional NGOs, on the implementation of the SIDS-POA. The meeting took note of the fact that little progress had been made in the region on the adoption of sustainable development approaches, or the integration at national level of the SIDS-POA. It was also noted that greater coordination was needed in strategy and policy formulation; the absence of a coordinating mechanism was a particularly critical factor affecting the slow pace of implementation of the SIDS-POA. Therefore it was agreed, on the basis of an NGO proposal, that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the ECLAC/CDCC secretariats should be requested jointly to provide a Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM). CARICOM and ECLAC/CDCC secretariats recently signed a cooperation agreement between their institutions and were involved in the implementation of aspects of the SIDS-POA at national and regional levels.
The challenge to these regional organizations was to create a mechanism for coordination that would facilitate consultation among regional partners, including NGOs, as well as assist with implementation of the SIDS-POA.
One of the most important aspects of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism was to be the formal establishment of a Regional Consultative Group, which would provide direction and guidance to the Joint Coordinating Unit (JCU). It was proposed that such a group would be made up of governmental representatives of CARlCOM and ECLAC/CDCC, other regional and international agencies, NGOs and the private sector.
This approach of collaboration and consultation was carefully nurtured during the major UN conferences and the preparatory meetings, particularly at the regional level where NGOs took the initiative and helped to formulate and build consensus around regional issues. These relationships developed as NGOs made their expertise available to regional governments, while at the same time developing skills in advocacy, negotiations and with the language of the conferences. NGOs encouraged Caribbean caucuses, involving government representatives, regional agencies and NGOs, to promote the region's cause. More and more governments felt comfortable having NGOs on their official delegations.
In terms of available resources that would enable the RCM to function, CARICOM submitted a proposal to the European Development Fund for institutional support. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also indicated that various scenarios were being considered to allow their offices to share technical resources with ECLAC. In addition, UNDP submitted a proposal to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) requesting a block B grant for institutional support and capacity building. The grant provides funding support for preparations of project proposals to implement Agenda 21.
A work programme was also drafted for the JCU, which draws on the technical support and expertise of all the regional actors including NGOs. Included in the work programme is the objective to "heighten public awareness of the SIDS-POA and foster greater public acceptance and sensitivity to special problems of small island developing states."
Another key issue in the implementation of the SIDS-POA is capacity building, for which there is a critical need, including training and information management. These could be enhanced by the use of information and communication technology to create a critical mass for the implementation of the SIDS-POA. This capacity building needs to be applied to all segments of society that are involved in the implementation of SIDS-POA. An integrated sustainable development strategy should draw on all economic, social and environmental knowledge and skills.
The capacity building process in the Caribbean has two dimensions: organizational and development of human resources. There is a need to restructure institutional mechanisms for effective implementation of the SIDSPOA, and the human dimension must be central to achieve social equity.
In light of the above, a strategy for implementing Agenda 21, particularly Chapter 36 on promoting education, public awareness and training, and the SIDS-POA is highlighted.
The Caribbean Region of INSNI presented the INSNI Caribbean Regional Public Awareness Project to the Caribbean Ministerial Meeting on the implementation of the SlDS-POA in Barbados in March 1997. The objectives of the project are:
- increase public awareness of the Caribbean national and
regional programmes of action and other POAs that affect work to increase
sustainable economic, social and environmental development;
- increase public ownership of the solutions being generated in each member country as part of a regional and international effort for sustainable development; and
- generate additional action and voluntary complementary activity by members of civil NGOs and indigenous peoples' organizations (lPOs).
To accomplish this goal, the Caribbean Regional Coordinator has already held informal discussions with the CARICOM Secretary-General and the Director of ECLAC; both have responded enthusiastically to the idea.
A Unique Approach
What is unique about this approach? INSNI, as a regional NGO will offer its services as a professional contractor (for a fee) to carry out an activity that has been identified in the work programme of the Joint Coordinating Unit of the Regional Coordinating Mechanism. This participatory partnership will change the existing relationship between these two major actors. INSNI will bring to the relationship many voluntary and in-kind resources, including the work of the INSNI Clearing House and the capacity building resources of the Southern Diaspora Research and Development Center, which is an outcome of INSNI work.
Arrangements have also been made to utilize outreach and public relations materials generated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), since INSNI has national NGO networks and/or convertor organizations for sustainable development in each country of the region, which are committed to assist and participate in this work. The success of the INSNI Caribbean Regional Public Awareness Project is based on the support that the project continues to provide to its national affiliates, particularly in the area of capacity building.
The proposal for this project was finalized at a meeting of the Caribbean Region of INSNI held just before the Caribbean Ministerial Meeting in March 1997.
Because of its regional and international structure, INSNI is an influential vehicle for maintaining linkages with other regional networks and providing current and timely information that is relevant to the region. Its participatory, democratic and inclusive structure ensures that other Caribbean countries, particularly non-independent ones, can become involved fully in the SIDS process. Given the range of technical issues that form part of its work, INSNI can also provide valuable assistance and input to the sustainable economic and environmental conservation programmes in the region.
by Mike Anane
Until recently our conception of knowledge was bound by the philosophy and methods of Western science-few people recognized that there are myriad sciences embedded in other cultures and civilizations. Unfortunately, attempts to find solutions to some problems afflicting the modern world have ignored religious and other cultural practices of indigenous people.
For example, environmental degradation has become a topical issue, and everyone has realized that the earth is gradually losing its capacity to sustain life. Evidence abounds of the steady deterioration of the earth, including atmospheric changes, air and water pollution, loss of species, use of pesticides, deforestation, declining soil fertility and the consequences of burgeoning population.
Scientific, political, geographical and economic-based attempts have been made to contain the alarming environmental crisis. However, the issue of culture, particularly traditional religious practices, generally has been ignored as having a role to play in conservation.
In Ghana, the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP), which provides a coherent framework for interventions to turn environment and development efforts into more environmentally sustainable programmes and practices, regrettably does not highlight the potential of religion in this endeavour. UNCED's Agenda 21 also tucks away religion under the broad theme of traditional knowledge, culture and indigenous people, with the argument that traditional knowledge is related to the entire culture of a people, including its identity, spiritual and religious beliefs. This tendency unfortunately overlooks the immense potential of religion as a key to natural resource management and sustainable development because these terms do not take into account Western or orthodox religions. I have no doubt that they may also have a deep spiritual relationship with the earth and deep respect for it.
It is a pity that the world missed a golden opportunity at UNCED to include religious groups as part of the nine officially-agreed Major Groups. This would have helped bring together experts on both Western and traditional religion, who could have provided their perspectives and experiences to help find ways to support each other in their quest for solutions to local and global environmental problems.
However, it is gratifying that in Ghana today, some NGOs and scholars are recognizing the importance of various traditional religious beliefs or culturebased knowledge systems in addressing alaming problems of environment and development. Indeed consensus seems to be emerging that a new type of relationship or contract is needed among indigenous people, national governments and international development agencies. The old '´top-down" or paternalistic forms of development can no longer be enough in the face of environmental catastrophe. In this bid, some Ghanaian NGOs have already launched conservation projects with traditional religion playing indispensable roles.
NGOs and Religion
Friends of the Earth (FoE) Ghana recognized how traditional or customary social institutions are promoting biodiversity, conservation and sustainable development, and it launched the first project to conserve some sacred groves in the country as part of its biodiversity programme. These fetish or sacred groves are patches of forest ranging from 0.5 to 1500 hectares; they may consist of only a few trees, stones or rivers, which serve a variety of purposes, such as burial grounds for royal families or habitats of traditional gods or fetishes.
FoE, together with the local community, is working to conserve the Guako grove on the outskirts of Accra, the capital of Ghana. In its rescue bid, FoE has embarked on education campaigns to make people aware of the need to conserve the grove. It also established a nursery for restocking the grove with more trees, and planting is in progress.
In another area, a group of forest department workers in the Ashanti region decided to start an AGO to help communities protect sacred groves.
Today, the Ghana Association for the Conservation of Nature (Ghacon), not only has foresters as members but chiefs, community leaders, hunters, farmers, university lecturers and women's groups in some of the remote parts of the country.
Ghacon says most of the untouched forest cover of the Ashanti region is made up of sacred groves, with a few forest reserves protected by the government. However, vast stretches of surrounding forests have been torn down by farming activities and logging. Therefore, Ghacon conducted a nationwide survey of forest cover designated as sacred groves and decided to join hands with communities to protect them.
Ghacon advises the communities about the construction of firebelts to protect the groves from rampant bush fires from nearby farms during the dry season. Organizations such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the GTZ, a German technical assistance programme, have contributed significant funds to support Ghacon's activities to protect the groves.
Many of these indigenous areas, which were established centuries ago, are protected by customary laws and are considered to be abodes of the gods. In most cases, royalty from a particular village has been buried in the areas, which are protected out of respect for the dead.
In other cases, rivers and streams are treated as sacred: their catchment area and surrounding forests are protected in the belief that the river god lives in the forest. Logging, cultivation, or entry on certain days by women during their menstrual cycle is forbidden.
In certain parts of Ghana, forests are also venerated because they house a variety of wild animals that are considered sacred or totems. One example is the belief in a common ancestry with the leopard, which is the symbol of the Akan people. The forest in which these animals are found is sacred; killing this species is therefore not allowed. The benefits for conservation are clear.
Sacred Groves and Conservation
Sacred groves contribute greatly toward conservation of biodiversity. Originally, the groves were based on religious and cultural beliefs, but they have since made significant contributions to the protection of wildlife and other biological resources. For example, a monkey sanctuary, located within the moist forest deciduous zone, is richer than any other Ghanaian forest in terms of diverse types and rare species of monkeys, such as the Black and White Colobus and Mona monkeys. These species are considered sacred by the people of local villages. Here, the unharmed "children of the gods" have come daily for hundreds of years into the villages to eat and play. The sanctuary is also rich in trees, with about 125 known species, including the rare Pericopsis Elata, which is listed in Appendix 11 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The Malshegu sacred grove in northern Ghana is another of the few remaining examples of non-riverine, closed canopy forest in the savanna. According to oral history, the Malshegu ancestors settled here in the early 18th century but did not find peace. They finally succeeded in warding off the marauding gangs of Arab slave raiders who were tormenting them and attributed this success to the spiritual support of a boulder under a baobab tree. The land surrounding the baobab tree was demarcated and labelled by the priest as fetish land in order to give the oracle a peaceful and shady home from where it could constantly oversee the village and the inhabitants. All forms of land use like farming and grazing were forbidden in the grove. The Lalshegu grove, which measures 0.8 hectares, is an isolated pocket of forest and stands in sharp contrast to its highly degraded surroundings. It now serves as a refuge for numerous indigenous animal species and seeds. Protection of the grove, which is a lush open canopy forest in a degraded open savannah, is the responsibility of the community. People firmly believe that the Kpalevorgu deity ensures fertility, protection, good rainfall and a bumper agriculture harvest.
Over 80% of sacred groves in Ghana serve as watersheds for catchment areas where they protect sources of drinking water. So far about 1.5% of Ghana's land is covered by some 2000 fetish groves, and most taboos and beliefs surrounding many of these groves are conservationist in nature and approach.
For example, the Asuo Akosua stream in the Ashanti region is believed to be inhabited by a beautiful woman goddess; the people worship the deity and carefully protect the water source of the stream. Farming activities are not allowed in this area, nor is clothes washing or other types of pollution.
These sacred groves are protected, conserved and maintained through a combination of taboos, prohibitions, beliefs and restrictions. Special members of the community organize periodic rituals, ancestral worship sessions and other customary rites. In almost all cases, burning, fuelwood gathering and tree felling are forbidden. These traditional religious beliefs and practices not only protect the sacred groves but also promote conservation of vegetation, which in turn promotes biodiversity and an ecological balance. The luxuriant green abundance of trees of different species and thick undergrowth in some parts of Ghana are living examples of what religion can do for conservation.
Lessons From the Past
Environmental conservation is not a recent phenomenon in indigenous African communities. Past generations knew about environmental degradation and the need for preservation. This knowledge found expression in traditional religious practices, because the African believes that everything belonging to the ecosystem and the environment has a strong spiritual meaning for humans. indeed the African's attitude to nature is deeply rooted in the belief that all things were created by the supreme being for a harmonious continuity and there must be a relationship of mutual obligations between all created things.
For example, natural phenomena were seen as possessing spiritual power, and the natural force that supplies food seen as superior and accorded respect and veneration. Certain trees could not be felled because they were considered Nyame Dua (God's trees) and therefore sacred and endowed with healing powers. Indiscriminate tree felling today was unheard of in the days when these traditional religious practices ensured the preservation of forests.
The Akans in Ghana saw land as a goddess, Asaose Yaa. On Thursdays and Fridays, one could not farm the land; this regulated human impact on the land, and thus secured its fertility. Land in these traditional societies belongs to clans and not to the individuals. Because the clan consists of both the living, the dead and even the unborn, it enhances the idea of sharing and caring for nature.
Generally, rivers and seas were also seen as abodes of the gods. As divinities, human activities that marred their beauty were considered taboo; therefore, pollution, industrial and human waste could not be discharged into these water bodies, or the culprits would be punished by the Abosomfo, or gods.
Sadly, despite the awareness of the indispensable role of religion in conservation and environmental protection, the good intentions of some NGOs and researchers to help revive these religious practices and conserve the groves and other sacred practices have been viewed with suspicion by certain indigenous communities. The communities might see the attempts as depriving them of their age-old traditional practices and replacing them with Western concepts. To many local people, the current Western buzzwords of "community empowerment" smack of outside interference, and they have justifiably resisted any attempts at empowerment.
Many conferences on sustainable development, including UNCED, have also persistently failed and even refused to acknowledge the role of religion in conservation and environmental protection, thus alienating indigenous people from the fight to save the environment. For many policy makers it's business as usual, and they tenaciously maintain the "top-down" approach to projects.
The Western Impact
Before the advent of colonization and Christianity and [slam, the African lived in harmony with nature. With the arrival of the white man, land that was collectively owned and managed by Africans was balkanized for individual ownership, with new and exotic crops introduced to feed the colonialist. Chemicals were poured into soils and rivers, virgin forests that had been preserved for their sacredness were raped by the colonial masters, and the trees that were felled were exported abroad.
Until recently, traditional religious practices were seen by our colonial masters as a hindrance to development. Missionaries who trooped to Africa alongside the colonial masters discouraged traditional practices, such as the worshipping of rivers, mountains and trees, which they described as idolatry and heathen.
Nevertheless, colonialism also had its good sides. The preservationist style of management of Africa's wildlife has its origins in the colonial period. Despite their economic interest in Africa, many Europeans viewed the continent as a "Garden of Eden," which provided them with the opportunity to experience a "wild and natural environment," which no longer existed in Europe. This resulted in a desire to maintain and preserve the wild and natural in Africa.
Accordingly, the first international conservation treaty, the Convention for the Preservation of Animals, was signed in London in 1900 and became the basis for colonial wildlife legislation in anglophone Africa. Subsequently, land was demarcated for national parks and game reserves, to protect large animal species and their habitat. This concern over the future of wildlife in Africa facilitated the creation of conservation organizations, such as the Wildlife Leadership Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature, which have continued to support African environmental organizations.
Once independence was attained, new African governments continued to maintain and expand the protected area systems; some legislation introduced during colonization still exists. indeed continuing government support for the preservationist attitude in many African countries today is a colonial legacy. A case in point is the Aburi Botanical Gardens near Accra. Established in 1875 by the British colonial government as a sanatorium for convalescent colonial officers, it became the first leading botanical museum in 1890 and still enjoys immense support from past and present Ghanaian governments.
Here again the paradox of colonialism is clear. In most cases, colonial decisions were taken without consideration of traditional land use systems and without the consent of local communities whose livelihoods were at stake. instead these communities were seen as a threat to wildlife and forests. So the colonial authorities prevented any human interference, and the local communities were deprived of access to pastures, farming land, fisheries and wildlife, which were resources they depended upon for their livelihood. Even hunting rights were denied to the indigenous people.
Not only was land first nationalized in colonial times, but the colonialists, in their desperation to protect wildlife in Africa, overlooked its traditional role in African culture, which is oriented toward contributing to survival and governed by totems, taboos and customs.
A critical look reveals that some of these places are managed by a council of elders who decide how the surrounding forest might be used, which trees to cut and why, and so on. Sadly, as the elders die off, the ancient traditions regarding the sacred groves are also dying. The younger generation do not seem to care much for customs and traditions and prefer to join the ruralurban exodus in search of white-collar jobs.
Christianity, science, poverty, Western education-none has succeeded in debunking the African belief in traditional religion. Most Western-educated Africans and Westerners flock to shrines in Africa whenever they are confronted with serious financial and social problems.
Clearly, traditional practices reveal that African societies were aware in the past of the need to protect their environment, which is shrouded in religious beliefs, partly because religion permeates virtually all aspects of African life. This awareness led to an environmental ethic, which implied using the spiritual world to protect the environment. Perhaps modern conservationists, policy makers and researchers, particularly in the West, should go back and learn from traditional religion and culture, which managed to live alongside the rivers and forests and use them sustainably. Myth is indeed more potent than history; indigenous people, who have lived harmoniously with nature, need to be encouraged to take charge of their own destinies. Ultimately, real progress lies in enabling the weak and the marginalized to become the producers of their bounty and welfare, not the beneficiaries of aid and recipients of charity.
Undoubtedly, religion is indispensable to modem-day conservation and environmental protection efforts. The Western world, which has long left its traditions behind and adopted lifestyles that have fumed its environment into one big sewer, should go back and revive its ancient religious traditions that compare favourably with those in Africa. This indeed is the true path to environmentally-sound and sustainable development.
by Ashish Kothari
The Convention on Biological Diversity, signed at the Earth Summit in 1992, marks a significant milestone in the history of global environmental relations. The convention is the first treaty to deal with the entire range of life forms found on earth, including wild plants and animals, crops and livestock, and micro-organisms. The convention, which entered into force as an international law in December 1993, has been ratified (as of 1996) by over 1 60 countries.
There are three major thrusts to the convention: conservation of biodiversity, sustainable utilization of biological resources, and equitable sharing of benefits arising from such utilization. These are matters that require not only an ecological understanding, but an enquiry into the basic moral and social tenets governing human society. It is these tenets that direct the way in which we use the natural world around us, the rate at which we use it, and the distribution of benefits we derive from it.
The convention has far-reaching implications for the conservation and development policies of each country. If any nation commits itself to following the convention's provisions, it will first have to understand these implications. How sensitive are the country's development policies to biodiversity concerns? Do current conservation attempts adequately cover the entire range of life forms? Can modern agriculture integrate diversity concerns, or will it need a drastic change? Who can effectively conserve biodiversity: governments or local traditional communities, or a combination of the two? How relevant are modern science and technology compared to traditional systems? How can conservation, sustainability and equity be achieved in the use of biological resources? What do recent trends in intellectual property rights imply for biodiversity? These are just a sample of the difficult issues that will have to be grappled with and resolved.
The Indian Context
India was the first country to sign the convention and the 48th to ratify it in February 1994. The Indian government was clearly of the opinion, not unjustified, that the country had a lot to gain from the convention. In no small measure was this view influenced by the handful of NGOs and individual environmentalists who had recognized its potential, pointing to the following: its provisions on in situ and ex situ conservation can provide a renewed thrust to wildlife protection and a new direction to agriculture; its clauses assuring national sovereignty and mandatory agreements on sharing of biological resources and related technologies can help to stem the wholesale theft of genetic resources from the tropical nations, and redress some of the imbalances between industrial and Third World nations; and its provisions regarding traditional communities can help these communities regain their rights, and some respect and returns for their contributions to conservation and sustainable use.
However, the NGOs repeatedly pointed out that the potential of the convention would remain on paper unless there was greater public debate on the various issues it raised, which would lead to creative and constructive interpretations of the convention's provisions and urgently needed follow-up action. Even the basic a task of taking an inventory of the biodiversity of the country needs to be completed, especially of lower plants, animals and microorganisms. Assessments must be made of the status of species, populations, and various human activities on biodiversity. But research is just one of the urgent tasks needed. We also need a drastic reorientation of our development policies and programmes in all sectors, from agriculture to industry to trade, in order to save not only biodiversity, but the entire natural environment on which we depend.
Even our conventional conservation strategies, in particular that of protecting wildlife with the aid of a top-down centralized bureaucracy, need to be reviewed in light of what the convention tells us of the role of local traditional communities. Clearly, a much more participatory and decentralized approach is needed.
Both NGOs and the government also realized that at the intemational level, India needs a whole series of actions. These range from conservation cooperation with neighbouring countries, to regulating foreign access to the country's biodiversity and ensuring appropriate returns for granting such access. It requires action on technology transfer and the safe handling and trade in organisms modified with biotechnology. The issue of intellectual property rights also needs to be dealt with, especially in the context of recent trends under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).
Action on Conservation and Sustainable Development
Although the Earth Summit was seen by many (including myself as a massive show with disappointing results at the government level, it nevertheless had the effect of generating considerable worldwide debate and interest in issues of environment and development and galvanizing a much larger NGO and public effort than before. In the case of the biodiversity convention, until then a peripheral subject discussed between a few government officials and even fewer NGOs in India, it became the focal point of growing interest and debate. Its major effect was felt by many NGOs and individuals already working on the biological, social, economic and political aspects of biodiversity; they received a boost and a renewed direction.
The provisions of the convention on conservation and sustainable use have attracted limited but critical interest among NGOs. There is a greater recognition that the massive task of taking inventory and studying the country's biodiversity cannot be left to government agencies alone. Ecologists from the Indian institute of Science in Bangalore are now involving college students and teachers as "parataxonomists" in local inventories of the rich Western Ghats ecosystems. In the western Indian state of Gujarat, academics of the Indian institute of Management are helping to organize "biodiversity competitions," in which children are asked to identify local diversity, including crops. A much larger NGO effort to inventory the bird diversity of various regions and assess their status is also beginning.
Perhaps two of the most significant contributions of the convention in the field of in situ conservation are the attention it gives to the entire range of life forms and to the role of local communities. India's wildlife efforts in the last few decades, impressive though they have been, have concentrated very heavily on big mammals and birds. The new emphasis on diversity has been used by NGOs and independent scientists to focus on the neglected "lower" life forms, including micro-organisms, which have been the least studied of all. These life forms are the most prone to being taken out of the country for their possible pharmaceutical and other values; therefore we need to identify and study them ourselves.
Secondly, the conventional top-down model of wildlife conservation so far practiced in India is increasingly being questioned as social action groups, working with local communities across the country, demand recognition of the rights of these communities to a share in the benefits and management of protected areas. Again, the convention's emphasis on the importance of indigenous and local communities, for example Article 8j, is used to bolster this argument. In many national parks and sanctuaries, there is a renewed attempt to encourage local community participation.
The NGO critique of conventional commercial agriculture, in India's case typified by the Green Revolution model of intensive cropping with chemical additives and intensive irrigation, has also received a new thrust by the convention. Resolution 3, which was adopted by all countries at the time of the signing of the convention, deals with agricultural biodiversity. It is being used by NGOs to seek a change in policy. The biodiversity approach calls for a serious rethinking of the Green Revolution strategy, which may have helped us to achieve short-term food security at the expense of a long-term ecological collapse brought about by genetic erosion. An increasingly widespread network of farmers and community-based groups are trying organic farming and renewing indigenous seed and livestock diversity. For example, the Beej Bachao Andolan (Save the Seeds Movement) in the Himalayan foothills is reviving biodiverse cropping patters, with one single farmer experimenting with over 100 local varieties of rice and an equal number of varieties of kidney beans. Navdanya, which is a network of farmers, formal scientists and activists, is trying the same in the Westem Ghats and other areas. Governments have to respond; for example, in the case of livestock the official machinery has admitted that there has been serious erosion of diversity and has started to move on conserving what is left and reviving what is lost.
Finally, on the issue of sustainable use of biological resources, the convention has given another tool to NGOs who have long questioned the currently unsustainable and inequitable path of development that India has chosen. Agriculture is one sector, but questions are also being posed to industry, mining, trade, energy and other sectors that use biological resources without much thought about the consequences. Provisions are cited to bolster arguments for a complete overhaul of developmental policy. These provisions are contained in Article 6 on General Measures for Conservation and Sustainable Use, Article 7 on identification and Monitoring, Article 10 on Sustainable Use, and Article 14 on impact Assessment and Minimizing Adverse Impacts. One specific target is the country's Environmental Impact Assessment procedures, under which development projects are scrutinized for their potential ecological effects and then given clearance or rejected; NGOs are asking for the incorporation of biodiversity concerns into these procedures.
Action on Access and Benefit-Sharing
The convention's provisions on access and sharing of benefits were quickly grasped by some Indian NGOs during the negotiating stage. Pointing to the large-scale transfer of genetic resources outside the country, they started putting pressure on the government to stem the transfer. Based on their own research and on information received from foreign NGOs, they were able to cite specific examples of resource flow that had helped Northem countries greatly, but with no appreciable returns coming back. The environmental action group Kalpavriksh, for instance, cited evidence provided by the Canadabased Rural Advancement Foundation Intemational (RAFI) on the patenting of micro-organisms taken from India by American pharmaceutical companies, and the group put pressure on the governments to take action.
At about the same time in 1993 and 1994, considerable controversy erupted on the potential impacts of GATT and the runaway trend of patenting life forms and biotechnological products in industrialized countries. This controversy attracted attention among all sections of the Indian public, especially the media. Some NGOs were able to link it with the convention's provisions on access and intellectual property rights (lPRs). They pointed out that unless India took quick action, it would be unable to benefit from these provisions. Articles 15(4) and 15(5), which specify that transfer of genetic material can take place only under mutual agreement and prior informed consent, and Article 16(5), which discourages the application of lPRs that violate the provisions of the convention, were repeatedly cited as potential rallying points.
This argument has already had partial effect. The Indian government intends to promulgate a notification regulating the cross-border transfer of Indian genetic material. The notification, drafted by a group of governmental and non-governmental experts set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in 1995, unfortunately has not been promulgated, since the government is unclear on how to implement it. Indeed it is unclear how it will be administered, given the serious lack of readiness among Indian customs and scientific bodies to monitor the large-scale transfers of genetic material, which are already taking place. Nor are the terms and conditions clear under which transfers will be allowed; an exercise to determine the kinds of material transfer agreements or other contracts that will be acceptable is urgently needed. However, none of these is a strong enough reason not to urgently issue the notification, as only then will implementational difficulties be sorted out. Some NGOs are analyzing the agreements reached in several other countries to assess their applicability to India.
There have also been attempts by NGOs to provide alternatives to the privatized IPR system being promoted by GATT. Having succumbed to pressure from the GATT system and from the increasing number of multinational seed companies entering the country, the Indian Agriculture Ministry is pushing a Plant Varieties Protection Act. However, though it is essentially similar to the international Convention on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), public pressure has led it to introduce significantly stronger provisions for farmers' rights and curbs on the monopolistic rights of breeders than were available under UPOV. In addition, NGOs like the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, and the Gene Campaign have proposed legislative and other measures for ensuring community intellectual rights, recognizing that much of the information on biodiversity (especially agricultural diversity) is shared by communities and not held in private. Some of these suggestions have received a sympathetic response from government but will have to be worked on before entering official policy.
One of the sections of the convention that has attracted great interest is Article 8J, which commits countries to respect traditional knowledge and practices, seek permission from local communities before using this knowledge, and ensure equitable returns for such use. Even before Rio, NGOs and mass movements pointed out that traditional communities have tremendous experience and knowledge regarding biodiversity, the use of which has benefited larger society, but for which they have received little in return. They now recognize that the convention provides the opportunity to redress this. Apart from arguing for legislative measures to ensure this, NGOs are now systematizing the documentation of traditional knowledge.
One practical step is the proposal for preparing Community Biodiversity Registers (CBR), in which communities, with NGO assistance, document the wide-ranging traditional uses of biodiversity. Such a register could be used not only as proof of existence of this knowledge to counter attempts by outsiders to monopolize it, but could also be exchanged among communities and be used as a base for capacity enhancement. The proposal, initiated by the Foundation for Revitalization of Local Health Traditions, is now being taken up by groups in various parts of India. A draft of the register format was discussed in early 1995 and was field-tested and put into practice in mid-1995. By early 1997, work on CBRs was in progress in about 40 communities. Though both official and independent formal scientific bodies are involved, care is being taken so that communities have full control over the process, including determining who should have access to the register.
Various suggestions are being examined to ensure returns to local communities in the wider use of their knowledge and resources. These range from fees and royalties, to development inputs and exemption from the operation of IPRs. Interestingly, some NGOs are also urging the government to ensure that information collected in an All-India Project on Ethnobiology, conducted in the 1980s. is not used for commercial gains without prior consent of the communities of origin, and without appropriate arrangements for returning part of the benefits.
Government Follow Up
Not least due to the considerable NGO and local community pressure put on the government to follow the convention, the latter has taken a number of interesting initiatives. These include:
- Drafting comprehensive legislation on biodiversity to follow the provision of the convention. However, the draft has remained at the stage of a detailed statement of principles, since opinion is divided on whether a single law can deal with all aspects that the convention deals with. At the request of the MOEF, a report on the legal follow up has been prepared by the Centre for Environment Law, WWF-India, which recommends dealing with individual aspects of the CBD in separate laws. No follow up has been done by the MoEF on this report.
- Formulating a detailed National Action Plan on Biodiversity dealing with the aspects mentioned above and also involving a diversity of governmental and non-governmental experts. Currently, the plan is at the stage of an extended outline. Details were being incorporated by 1995, but the MoEF inexplicably has not moved further since then. However, one state government (Karnataka) has drafted a detailed plan of its own, with special provisions for empowering and benefitting local communities; the draft was prepared by ecologists at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
- Hosting a meeting of Asian countries to discuss regional cooperation on matters related to biodiversity in 1994. Though a number of important follow-up actions were decided on, no actual follow-up has taken place.
- Preparing a detailed status report on biodiversity in India, which covers both agricultural and wild biodiversity. Sponsored by the MoEF, the report was prepared by the autonomous Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA). Yet again, the MoEF has not moved ahead on its publication since 1995; IIPA is now planning to publish it on its own.
- Initiating a dialogue with industry and scientific agencies on enhancing indigenous capacity to sustainably utilize genetic resources.
- Initiating a process of building on traditional knowledge, especially to create more taxonomic capacity, and in particular with relation to medicinal plants.
- Informing state and local governments of the broad implication of the convention.
The Way Forward
One major lacunae in follow-up to the convention is the relative lack of involvement of local communities and social activists working with them. There is an urgent need to inform grassroots workers of the potential of the convention (as was done in the specific case of IPRs as relevant to GATT). This is especially critical if the convention's major implications are to be seriously followed up, including reviewing development policies from the point of view of biodiversity, giving local communities much greater stake in and benefits from biodiversity conservation, and reviewing the relationship of other international obligations, such as those under GATT, with Indian obligations under the convention. With sustained public pressure, India's follow-up to the convention will hopefully move toward these actions.
In this context, one of the most important roles that NGOs are playing is to popularize the convention among the general public. Some groups are now translating it into regional languages (Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi) and are spreading awareness in various forms. The voluntary group Kalpavriksh has repeatedly brought it into the mainstream media and published the country's first detailed analysis on the implications of the convention. In the last three years, almost every major meeting on wildlife and biodiversity has devoted space to a discussion on the convention. The popular media is carrying many more articles on subjects related to biodiversity than before; some, like Frontline and the annual Hindu Survey of Environment, have consistently carried analytical pieces on the convention. Such exposure is critical if this international agreement is to have the results it deserves.
by Magdi Ibrahim and Samuel Watchueng
Debates about the commitments of governments at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio underlined the urgency of issues such as drinking water availability in the South and concrete actions in favor of vulnerable sectors. However, despite good intentions, governments and international donors continue to invest in expensive water supply and waste water management systems. These limit the availability of resources and basic services to the most marginalized populations, especially in poor urban areas.
Morocco's population is approximately 27 million people; about 52% live in urban areas. Although the percentage of households in shantytowns dropped from 12.8% in 1982 to 6.8% in 1992, 900,000 to one million urban dwellers in the country live in a precarious situation, and the number of clandestine dwellers is rising. This means many Moroccans are ecologically, socially and economically fragile.
The NGO ENDA-Maghreb (Environnement et Developpement au Maghreh), present in Morocco since 1989, has launched a programme on Improving Living Conditions of Marginalized Inner-City Groups. The programme aims to diagnose and carry out participative research, as well as put into action sustainable improvements to living and especially conditions of hygiene, by working in concertation with the communities concerned and in partnership with local authorities.
Community Management of Urban Waste Programme
ENDA-Maghreb, in order to support local initiatives, has established a community network to manage urban waste with several associations and local authorities. The network's activities include identifying, developing, setting up, seeking funds for and carrying out projects that collect, treat and recycle solid and liquid urban waste. Actions include assisting local and community-based associations in identifying problems at the neighbourhood level, and providing support that uses local knowledge and appropriate technology in the project conception and launching phases. The combination of appropriate technologies, already tested in other Southern urban contexts, and the norms required by relevant technical departments, especially municipal ones, make up the innovative aspect of the network's approach.
In this way, the programme addresses the issue of services as well as employment, since it is widely acknowledged that passive subsidies from public institutions do not lead to a real process of change at the local level.
Tools of the Network
Partner associations benefit from the technological and methodological support of ENDA-Maghreb through its Technological and Solidarity Support programme (ATS). The programme consists of action-oriented research conducted by an ENDA technical team, which permits young researchers from the North and South to work together from the identification and conception phases right up to implementation of the project.
ENDA-Maghreb waste management programme covers different neighbourhoods in the following Moroccan urban areas: Figuig, Sale, Rabat, Tiflet, Khemisset, Beni Mellal and Taza. All the projects have several actors involved from project conception; they include beneficiary populations, local associations and cooperatives, agricultural associations, and other popular economic actors, such as waste recuperation networks.
The communication section of ENDA-Maghreb develops environmental education tools which support public awareness in neighbourhoods and encourage popular participation in the projects.
An evaluation, formation and action approach which uses training programmes and indicators, allows surveying and evaluation of projects during the implementation phase. The approach allows, through South-South exchange programmes, the possibility of exchange visits of technicians and project organizers of similar initiatives already launched in the Maghreb and the Middle East, such as in Egypt and Tunisia. It also provides knowledge for concerned actors and municipal technicians in the Maghreb about successful experiences in Sub-Saharan countries such as Senegal, Benin and Mali. This helps reinforce a spirit of decentralized cooperation and aids in promoting exchanges of South-South experiences with the necessary adaptation for each local context.
In order to promote South-South technological exchanges and national and sub-regional actions on environmental themes, ENDA-Maghreb is the focal point of PRECEUP (Programme d'Economie Environnementale. Urbaine et Populaire) for the Maghreb and the Middle East. Thus, the network is part of sub-regional and international actions.
Role of the Local Authorities
For all planned activities, the municipality or local authority responsible for providing basic services has demonstrated an interest in the approach proposed by the network. The authorities are particularly interested in improving and lowering the cost of collecting and unloading household wastes. In each project, the municipality or local authority supply land, workers and technicians.
It is important to note that with decentralization programmes,
strengthened local powers are faced with more and more complex problems. In
certain cases, municipalities have contacted the network in order to launch
projects that adopt appropriate technologies at the local level.
The main objective of each project is to improve the environment of neigh bourhoods and health and living standards of their residents. Specific objectives are to:
- establish rehabilitation of liquid wastes and recycling of
water for agricultural use;
- establish appropriate household waste collection services;
- eliminate in a sustainable way unauthorized dumping of household wastes;
- treat and recycle waste water;
- recuperate recyclable materials (paper, cartons, plastic and glass) and recycle these through existing networks.
- inform the public about environmental issues, especially problems linked to waste management;
- promote and facilitate pre-sorting of wastes in the household; and
- create jobs and income-generating activities.
The activities aim to achieve the following:
- appropriate systems of water collection;
- natural draining systems on each site when possible;
- canal systems to transport purified water to its location for agricultural use;
- door-to-door collections for residents who live too far away to voluntar ily participate in neighbourhood schemes;
- retrieval and animal-pulled transport to a pre-sorting unit and composting area;
- raise citizens' awareness of environmental issues and the management of household wastes;
- establish mechanisms for voluntary support and assistance by some neighbourhood residents; and
- sale of nonorganic materials (paper, cartons, plastic and metal) and compost from recycling networks.
Agreements of understanding have been signed between local associations and local authorities, and a signed convention of the partners is expected between the association, the relevant municipality and ENDA-Maghreb for the implementation phase of the projects. These agreements of understanding specify the role of each partner during the implementation phase of the projects.
Staffing, and technical needs have been calculated for each project, which has an average span of one to two years. Skills needed include the following: conception, coordination, animation and follow up, evaluation, supervision of local work, sorting, composting and security. The budget for each facet is shared between the local association, the beneficiary population and the municipality. ENDA-Maghreb aims to seek funding for all costs not covered with its donor partners.
There are both institutional and financial challenges to the projects. Obstacles have been encountered when seeking financial partners for the projects, which slows down and complicates implementation. There are also institutional challenges such as creating a real partnership with local authorities. Institutional and administrative blockages are also common, despite the fact that agreements of understanding have been reached with local authorities.
Local Needs and Training
Local associations, which often have fragile structures and little experience in larger projects, also lack sufficient technical capacity to manage urban waste projects and need extra training and follow up. Reinforcement of local capabilities is a challenging task and usually addressed by organizing training workshops on Community Management of Wastes in the framework of the network. Training programmes in public education are also indispensable to implementing the projects.
The participation of all concerned actors in solving problems together helps ensure the viability and sustainability of actions. Beneficiary populations, teachers, economic actors such as recuperators and transporters, local authorities and researchers all contribute to the goal and implementation of solutions to manage household wastes.
Perspectives and Recommendations
In keeping within the spirit of the network, the programme continues to identify potential operations, research new project sites and identify local partners, such as municipalities, associations and researchers.
Partnerships must continually be worked upon in order to promote urban networking among municipal and associated actors that results in an appropriate approach to urban waste management. Local authorities, who are increasingly searching for low-cost, appropriate solutions to urban environmental problems, are aware of the importance of working with civil society partners, especially NGOs, community groups and informal waste recuperation networks.
In this way the delegation of certain municipal prerogatives of waste collection and management can help diminish the burden to authorities and create local employment at the community level. Capacity building programmes will help improve local systems by improving productivity and working conditions, and providing economic benefits. These programmes will also improve the relationship and communication between local economic actors and the authorities.
Finally, specific programmes should be implemented that are aimed at enlarging collective services to manage wastes in neighbourhoods and shanty towns. The programmes, which account for specific socio-urban contexts, should focus on rehabilitating and better integrating the concerned neighbourhoods into the urban area in which they are located.
by Tanveer Arif
Though the sustenance and prosperity of humankind is tied to the sustainable use of fundamental living resources-genes, species, habitats and diversified ecosystems-these are at stake due to high population growth rates, industrialization, urbanization and enhanced economic activities. It has been widely recognized that the factors responsible for the degradation of environments include biological impoverishment, deforestation, unwise consumption patterns by affluent nations, indebtedness of poor nations, skewed land ownership patterns, institutional inertia, cultural preferences, unsustainable migration and settlement patterns, inequitable distribution of wealth, hunger, poverty and pollution.
Such negative trends cannot be reversed unless individuals and societies start behaving rationally and change our hunger to consume the world's biotic wealth. Agenda 21 focuses on the new policies and management paradigms needed to integrate globally the conservation of ecosystems with other development goals.
Human beings must be the central point of any development agenda: attainment of this ambitious agenda depends on the eradication of poverty and economic disparities within societies. We cannot talk about sustainable development in a world where there is a great imbalance between population and consumption. The North, with 25% of the world's population, consumes 75% of its resources, while the South, with 75% of its population, consumes 25% of the world's resources.
Agenda 21 envisages a programme of action for sustainable development based on 27 principles, to be implemented by governments with the collaboration and participation of grassroots communities, donors, NGOs and peoples' organizations. Implementation requires a strong worldwide movement of enlightened peoples' organizations and the creation of a society enriched by full education, employment and empowerment (people having control over their lives and destinies).
SCOPE and the Implementation of Agenda 21
In Pakistan the government has taken the necessary action to implement Agenda 21. Ministries, councils and agencies to work on environmental issues have been created. A National Conservation Strategy (NCS) has also been developed by the government, which identifies 14 core priority areas to fight environmental degradation and pollution.
The Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) is one of the NGOs that actively participated in the UNCED process and is committed to working for the implementation of Agenda 21. Established in 1988, SCOPE adopted "Think Globally, Act Locally" as its motto. It gave priority to developing linkages with local NGOs, research institutes, universities and government departments. It not only promoted environmental awareness and motivated the grassroots, but it also worked to protect public environmental rights through public interest litigation and advocacy work.
SCOPE can classify its activities in accordance with chapters 12, 14, 15 and 18 of Agenda 21, which look at:
- managing fragile ecosystems;
- promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development;
- conservation of biological diversity; and
- protection of the quality and supply of freshwater resources.
SCOPE Before UNCED
Some of SCOPE's achievements before the Earth Summit are briefly given below to depict how a small group of volunteers can achieve major results with meagre resources but strong commitment.
Water Purification Programme
Because 50% of the population of Pakistan does not have access to safe drinking water, SCOPE launched a clean water programme by developing a community-based drinking water treatment system. SCOPE installed four water purification units in urban and rural communities to provide clean drinking water to residents. These plants are located at Malir Saleh Mohd Village, Rehri Myani and Chanessar Goth. SCOPE has also established a field water testing laboratory to help citizens test drinking water quality.
Saving Kirthar National Park
SCOPE learned that the locus Highway project was designed in a way that the main highway would be built by cutting through Kirthar National Park, the largest national park in the country. SCOPE filed a writ petition in Sindh High Court on 20 June 1991, which challenged the permit issued by the government to construct the highway through the national park. It was the first legal petition on environment in the country's judicial history. Consequently, the merit of the case compelled the government to abandon the highway section through Kirthar.
Legal Fight to Save Houbara Bustard
For a long time the government allowed Arab dignitaries to hunt the protected and endangered Houbara Bustard with trained falcons. SCOPE challenged this illegal practice by filing a legal petition in Sindh High Court on 8 January 1992, which was admitted by the court. A favourable verdict was handed down by the court on 16 August 1992, in what the national and international media saw as a landmark in the history of the conservation movement in Pakistan.
Saving Haleji Lake Sanctuary
Similarly, SCOPE came to the rescue of the wildlife and ecology of Haleji Lake Sanctuary, 50 miles northeast of Karachi, to stop illegal commercial fishing in the lake. SCOPE filed lawsuits against corrupt officials and illegal contractors in court, and again, a decision in favour of SCOPE was handed down.
Action to Save Manchar Lake
Knowing that Asia's largest freshwater lake was facing degradation due to the influx of saline water from irrigation drainage canals, SCOPE undertook a Rapid Environmental impact Assessment of Manchar Lake, Dadu District, which called the government's attention to this matter through public complaints and press reports.
SCOPE After UNCED
While SCOPE was extensively active before the Earth Summit, it is clear UNCED galvanized many environmental groups worldwide and renewed and increased their commitments to environmental work.
Immediately after the UNCED, SCOPE decided to play a key role in safeguarding the country's environmental interests. Since the National Conservation Strategy was launched, the official environmental action programme identified land degradation and desertification as the most important priority area of action. Responding to this, SCOPE refocused its work on combating desertification. It keenly followed the negotiating process of the international Convention on Combating Desertification and designed its future strategy to implement the convention, which is a product of Agenda 21.
Crusade Against Sand Mining in the Malir Valley
Saving Malir Valley from the ill effects of illegal sand mining
was a challenge and test of SCOPE's firm commitment to combat desertification by
demonstrating a practical approach to implementing local Agenda 21. SCOPE joined
a large group of community-based organizations (CBOs) and farmers who were aware
of the severe desertification caused by illegal sand and gravel mining from the
beds of the River Malir. SCOPE undertook scientific research, surveys, and
organized a series of public hearings and press briefings to attract the
attention of government, media and NGOs.
These efforts bore fruit and the sand mining was halted. The government also announced a small dam project to reverse the process of desertification in the valley. SCOPE is also implementing water-thrifty micro-irrigation schemes and projects to help communities fight desertification in the valley. SCOPE's recently launched Water Harvesting Programme is proving to be a successful model in the valley.
Fighting Against Waterlogging and Salinity
SCOPE has been organizing farming communities in the interior of Sindh Province to launch an action plan to save croplands from the twin menace of waterlogging and salinity, both of which are causing severe desertification and productivity loss in the country. SCOPE has implemented a model eucalyptus plantation at a village near Hyderabad, in an effort to biologically rehabilitate waterlogged lands. The project was implemented with the help of a local CBO.
Aware of the consequences of waterlogging and salinization of soils in Sindh, SCOPE took the initiative and assembled grassroot institutions, NGOs, government departments and international experts to diagnose the constraints, prescribe solutions, and formulate an action plan to combat soil degradation.
NGOs Meet on Waterlogging and Follow Up
As a first step towards community participation in combating desertification, SCOPE organized an "All Sindh NGO Conference on Waterlogging and Salinity Check" in Hyderabad on 28-29 March 1994. A large number of representatives of NGOs from the 15 districts of Sindh took part in the conference, along with government officials and experts.
Organizing the Hyderabad conference was not only a response to a great environmental catastrophe, which was caused by waterlogging and salinity in Sindh, but was an effort to involve grassroots groups in issues pertaining to natural resource management. It was also designed to promote dialogue between government, aid agencies and NGOs on these vital issues.
Sindh NGO Commission to Fight Waterlogging and Salinity
As a follow up to this conference, a Sindh NGO Commission on Waterlogging and Salinity was formed. NGOs from all districts of Sindh are represented on the commission. In October 1994, the commission held its first meeting and elections in Hyderabad. SCOPE was elected Central Focal Point of the commission, with the assistance of four NGOs from four divisions of Sindh. The commission also adopted terms of reference that set its strategy for the future.
SCOPE has been implementing a Support Programme for Arid Zone Development to rehabilitate rural agribusiness in an effort to eliminate extreme poverty in the vast arid areas around Karachi. This is taking place with the active participation of the people of 12 villages and entails the development of water resources, conservation of available water resource-stock, reforestation of arid zones for controlled cattle grazing, and plantation of high-income yielding bushes and trees. The programme is being implemented with the help of local NGOs, which have been provided guidance and training by SCOPE.
SCOPE is also the Regional Focal Point for the Reseau International d'ONG sur la Drtification (RIOD) in Asia. RIOD is the International NGOs Network on Desertification. In this capacity, SCOPE recently organized an Asian NGO conference on implementation of the convention to combat desertification in Islamabad on 27-30 January 1996. The conference was attended by 100 NGO representatives and farmers.
UNCEU: The Learning Experience
UNCED has been a continuing source of energy for our work that gave us a new lease of life under the most unfavourable and hostile circumstances. Agenda 21 strengthened our belief that the solution of most complicated problems related to environment and sustainable development is concealed in this document, which was negotiated by governments and civil society in the true sense of responsibility.
by Olga Ponizova
Four years have passed since the Earth Summit in Rio, which capped the gigantic preparatory efforts for policy coordination among different national governmental bodies, business structures, non-govemmental organizations, research centers, financial organizations and international institutions.
There was no experience before UNCED in facilitating such a significant process for integrating international and national NGOs into intergovemmental negotiations. The time has come to evaluate the initial results of these efforts.
Disseminating UNCED Ideas
The process of disseminating information in Russia about decisions made at the Earth Summit was weak and ineffective. The country was involved in a political struggle between the president and Parliament, radical economic reforms caused severe social distortions, and the idea of sustainable development looked very abstract to a disintegrating society. Neither governmental institutions nor mass media paid much attention to publicizing the ideas that came out of UNCED. All the infommation about decisions at Rio were contained in just a few interviews that Russian participants gave to newspapers. Only one overview of this remarkable event was prepared by representatives of academic circles, at a Russian research centre in Siberia. Although some parts of the paper prepared by Mr V. Koptyug of Novosibirsk, present a subjective, communist interpretation of the content of the Earth Summit, nevertheless the effort should be recognized. A set of regular conferences and discussions on sustainable development issues were also held. Mr. Koptyug was later awarded a place on the High Level Commission on Sustainable Development, which was set up by the UN Secretary-General.
Under such conditions of "information hunger," several foreign organizations played an important role in supplying Russians with UNCED materials. Among them is the now defunct Centre for Our Common Future, which supported a Russian translation and publication of a layperson's version of Agenda 21. Written in simple language with clear illustrations, this small brochure has become a manual for organizations who share the ideals of Rio. Unfortunately, full packs of Rio documents are still not accessible, even to specialists.
NGOs arranged several meetings dedicated to Rio results and follow-up. One activity is the annual forum For Peace, Environment and Development, which since 1992 is organized by the Independent Peace Service. A significant contribution to the dissemination of UNCED decisions also has been made by youth organizations. Sustainability has become a regular topic at the International Youth Forum "Interweek," which takes place annually in Novosibirsk. A set of special publications and youth workshops was provided by the NGO Rainbow/Youth for Environment and Sustainable Development. In 1992 this organization created a network of youth organizations in the Newly Independent States (HIS), which is based on sharing the principles of sustainable development and is fueled by UNCED and Global Forum events. In fact, it became the first Russian non-govemmental organization to include the guideline for sustainable development in its charter. This caused trouble with the NGOs' registration; the Ministry of Justice resisted for about a month because Rainbow had such "a strange meaning of aims."
UNCED raised gender issues and helped facilitate the birth of women's organizations. In November 1993 in Moscow, the congress on Women for Environment took place: during the congress the Environmental Women's Assembly was formed, with achieving sustainable development as one of its main priorities. Another new development in the Russian environmental movement, initiated-by the Earth Summit and its follow-up, are the environmental centres in the business sector. The Committee on Environment has been formed under the aegis of the Russian Chamber of Commerce. It aims to integrate ideas of sustainable development into business policy elaboration. It also formulates recommendations for the government on the development of "green entrepreneurship. "
NGO Participation in Elaborating National Sustainable Policy
UNCED confirmed the need to search for new models of development and proclaimed sustainability as a guideline. Participants at the Earth Summit pushed aside the experience of a consumer society and the so-called socialist road to development-both exhaust natural resources and degrade the environment-and approved Agenda 21 as a global manual to help humankind overcome ecological crisis and move toward a sustainable future.
For Central and Eastem European countries (CEE) in transition, which are challenging new development options, sustainability has become the most urgent goal, and the CEE governments are stimulating discussion on the specifics of sustainable development.
In 1994 in Russia, the Ministry of Environment announced a competition for the elaboration of a concept for Russia's transition to sustainable development. About 50 NGOs, groups of independent researchers and individual experts participated in the competition. Ideas varied from very radical suggestions, which ignored the market economy, to proposals combining a market-based economy with an active state regulatory role. Russian NGOs used this opportunity to disseminate their views on the urgent political and social reforms needed in Russia, which they considered relevant to the principles proclaimed in Agenda 21. A member of the NGO EcoAccord, the winner of the competition, was included in the official task force set up by the government to prepare a report for the Russian President on the country's transition to sustainable development. The final draft of the report was adopted by a governmental commission, which was made up mostly of representatives from nature exploiting ministries, such as oil and energy, water or forestry. However, some principle positions concerning the role of NGOs, decentralization of environmental policy, and strengthening international cooperation have been kept.
The initial conception was discussed at the First Russian Congress on Nature Protection, held in June 1995, and at the NGOs' preparatory conference. These two events helped air sustainability issues publicly and yielded a number of changes and improvements, which were submitted by participants to the task force.
On 1 April 1996 the Russian President approved the concept of Russia's transition to sustainable development in Decree N 440 and recommended to the Russian government that it use the key statements and concepts of the document when preparing legal and normative acts and programmes. The President ordered that this work continue through the preparation of a strategy for sustainable development, to be reviewed by the govemment in 1996. At that time we believed a working group was needed to carry out the strategy for sustainable development with equal representation from governmental and non-governmental sectors.
NGOs also took actions and actively participated in discussions on some key issues of sustainable development in Russia. One of the most important issues formulated in the UNCED resolutions were concerned with protecting wildlife and biodiversity. Russia, which has huge, practically untouched territories, lacks legislation regulating the creation of new reserve areas. The government apparatus also lacks willingness to cooperate with neighbouring countries, such as Finland and especially China, to create joint reserves and national parks.
A final but most impressive result of NGO activities in this area was a well-organized protest campaign against the construction of a high-speed railroad across natural reserves from St. Petersburg to Moscow. In the end, based on the results of an independent environmental study, Russia's Ministry of Nature Protection backtracked and gave up this "project of the 21st century."
Another major problem for Russia, which is stressed in practically all the Rio documents and participants' reports, is the need develop public participation in the elaboration of environmental and sustainable development policy. Disclosure of information should be the first important step in this direction, and one can only imagine how difficult is to make this move in a country with such totalitarian traditions.
Still, there is a war of laws. Some, like the Basic Law, the Russian constitution, and the law on environmental protection guarantee the right of Russian citizens to know the truth about environmental quality. Others, such as the law on state secrets, virtually denies this right. However, the period after Rio has been marked by active NGO campaigns against military and civil threats to the environment. Russian NGOs called for disclosure of information on the nuclear tests that take place regularly on Novaya Zemlya island. Although official representatives from the Ministry of Defense deny dumping military chemical substances in the Barents, White, Kara and Baltic seas? NGOs have demanded that the government conduct special investigations on these issues.
A number of positive changes in people's awareness of these issues have taken place through a combination of propaganda campaigns and direct actions in regions affected by military toxics or nuclear tests. This interest has increased attention paid by the media to environmental problems in general. In addition, despite the low level of investment in the economy, the inflation rate has stabilized during the last year and unemployment rates are not very high. These positive changes are rekindling interest in environmental problems; interest was already high at the end of the 1980s, before radical economic reforms were launched.
Becoming a Part of the Global Commons
As sustainability becomes a focal point for development into the 21 st century, and nations and their governments unite in their willingness to move towards a sustainable future, it is urgent for Russia to find her place in this process. Russian NGOs are paving the way toward global partnerships by strengthening international cooperation in environmental protection.
In the 1990s NGOs participated in several large-scale projects dealing with biodiversity protection. Some were jointly implemented with international organizations, such as the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Others were initiated by Russian NGOs and have been supported recently by international financial institutions. For example, the Wild Nature Center in Moscow publishes information materials concerning biodiversity issues, and it is involved in the development of a Global Environmental Facility project on biodiversity protection in Russia. Regional members of the Social Ecological Union, one of the largest Russian environmental NGOs, are coordinating their activities to save the Amur tiger in Far Eastern Russia with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is assisting the Russian government to implement an ambitious project on the sustainable management of forest resources in the region.
From our viewpoint, less attention is focused on cooperation on climate change. First, this can be explained by the technical approach historically used in the fommer USSR to deal with these issues, which might discourage many humanitarian-oriented NGOs from becoming involved in the issue. Second, donor support for this particular issue appears to be low. Also, it is very difficult to stimulate use of alternative energy sources to solve a climate change problem where there is a huge financial deficit and a regular practice of non-payment for energy consumption in the Russian economy. Some Russian NGOs, such as ECO-Defense, took part in the Berlin Summit on Climate Change and related events and work toward public awareness on energy issues. However, in general activity in this field is rather low.
It is hard to explain the low participation of Russian NGOs in the NGO Network of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, as well as the weak attempts to attract Russian and the newly independent states NGOs to play an active role in it. Lack of information about the activities, tasks, and aims of the CSD is one problem. To solve this problem, the Russian Association for the United Nations and ECO-Accord started a GLOBAL-lnfo project to facilitate access by Russian organizations to international information on sustainable development. Unfortunately, Russian NGOs haven't expressed much interest in the activities of the CSD. They often concentrate only on local or national problems and ignore the fact that action at all levels is needed to achieve sustainable development.
There is also tremendous potential in the development of East-South cooperation. Countries in transition and developing countries have a lot in common, such as underdeveloped national economies, unstable national currencies and weak democratic institutions. Non-govemmental organizations might initiate a process of strengthening cooperation with the South in favour of sustainable future.
It is now clear that the Earth Summit had a major influence on Russian society. It raised considerable public awareness on sustainable development problems, stimulated discussion and debate, contributed to breaking old stereotypes on intensive exploitation of natural resources as the only way to economic wealth and political power, and it raised the intellectual capacity of society. Russian NGOs played their own important role in promoting these changes. Since Rio, sustainable development has become an integral part of overall national policy in Russia. To a large extent, Russian NGOs contributed in elaborating the basic text for Russia's transition to sustainable development, and they initiated a number of concrete projects based on sustainability principles. Still, a lot of work remains to be done in order to involve different sectors of Russian society in the sustainable development process.
by Jacqueline Roddick
Scotland is a small country: five million people, with their own political identity, legal and educational systems, regional civil service and two historic languages. United since 1707 with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 60 million people represented in a single parliament, Scotland has not forgotten its own national political identity. Small countries provide an easier target for the penetration of new ideas; there are fewer people to be told, and they know one another. Political weakness gives them a greater incentive to listen. So there may be some lessons in the post-UNCED Scottish experience for the international community.
Lesson 1: Seeds Sprout Where the Ground is Fertile. If Not Always Politically Convenient
Scotland already had a Major Groups body when UNCED was convened, so bringing another together on environmental issues was not an impossible feat. The Constitutional Convention, which is campaigning for a regional parliament, unites local authorities, trade unions, churches, some business organizations (particularly those representing small business), and the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties (though not the Conservatives or the Scottish Nationalists). The Labour Party holds a clear majority of parliamentary seats in urban Scotland, and this pattern is reflected in the convention's support among local authorities. Rural Scotland votes Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Nationalist.
The convention is chaired by a churchman, Canon Kenyon Wright, who is also Director of the Kairos Centre for a Sustainable Society. In 1991, viewing the Rio negotiations as a vital moral issue, Canon Wright took advantage of his contacts in the convention to approach local authorities and suggest the creation of the Scottish Environmental Forum. Trade unions and church groups gave him their support, as did the crucial local authority sector, whose members were in the process of adopting environmental charters.
So did non-government organizations including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) of Scotland, Friends of the Earth (FOE) Scotland, and Oxfam Scotland. A few months later individual academics working within the forum created the Scottish Academic Network on Global Environmental Change (SANGEC).
Under Canon Wright's leadership, the forum was more interested in campaigning to change consumer patterns in Scotland than in following the Rio negotiations. A series of "Pledges for the Planet" were organized. Separated from London by a day's train journey, Scottish organizations had virtually no involvement in pre-UNCED participative processes within the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, individuals did go to Rio and returned to play a part in local environmental politics. SANGEC had two members involved in Earth Summit PrepComs and held press conferences and put together periodic briefings on the negotiations.
Lesson 2: Cooperation with Local Authorities Provides the Foundations
After Rio, the forum acquired a new constitution and a long list of supporters, as local authorities in particular took on board the importance of their role in implementing Agenda 21.' A rapprochement with the regional government, the Scottish Office, resulted in recognition of the forum and funds to match those provided by local authorities. The forum was keen to make progress on a "Scottish sustainability strategy" in line with the recommendation in Chapter 8 that every country should draw up its own national sustainability plan. Canon Wright used his talents as a facilitator of consensus to bring together representative economic institutions such as the Scottish Council for Development and industry (representing local authorities and industry).
But negotiations over many months produced little more than a decision to back the idea of a broad participative process rather than a model economic plan produced by a paid consultant, which some NGOs preferred. Small business representatives disappeared. Local authority participants, the backbone of the forum, were now represented by professional environmental managers and were becoming restless. It was not clear how a consensus body could create an entirely new map of a "sustainable Scotland," nor what motivation different Major Groups would have to choose "facilitators" or make the effort to contribute once a facilitator had been chosen.
Meanwhile, NGOs and academics alike were discussing national reports. Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link, WWF-Scotland and others, earlier had taken the initiative of commissioning a 1991 State of the Scottish Environment Report covering agriculture, forests and fishing. It was just over 80 pages and jointly financed by the Scottish Office at a cost of UK£5000. Kevin Dunion moved from being Oxfam's Campaign Organizer to Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland. With his support and that of SANGEC, there was a brief flurry of interest in the possibilities of creating an independent NGO report on Scotland, though the project died because of lack of funds. In response to early post-UNCED enthusiasm on indicators,' SANGEC held a seminar in Edinburgh to review the State of the Scottish Environment Report with one of its authors, Dr. Tom Dargie. Dr. Dargie's account of his experience was starkly convincing on the pitfalls inherent in a comprehensive "scientific" 80page national report, and he suggested using the alternative 700-page Canadian model.
Lesson 3: Fears, Frictions and Confusion are Normal
In 1993, two episodes triggered local authority uneasiness. In June a SANGEC/Scottish Environmental Forum representative chaired the NGO working group on national reports at the Commission on Sustainable Development and gave its report to the appropriate working group in the name of the forum. In September, Canon Kenyon Wright together with Cathy McCormick, a Glasgow community activist, appeared at the UK national conference on Partnerships for Change, which was sponsored by the Conservative government.
Logically, neither episode should have been particularly alarming. The SANGEC speech at the UN was cautious about any rigid reporting framework, reflecting an acquaintance with Southern hostility to "conditionality" as well as the strictures of Dr. Dargie, while Canon Wright went to Manchester accompanied by a well-known working class environmental activist. Nonetheless, there was a sense of alarm, particularly among members from Labour authorities. On one hand, they felt the forum was making no progress; on the other, they feared it was becoming a radical green crusade with dangerous ties to the Conservatives. In words, it was taking forum members into national and international political arenas with implications they did not understand.
One outcome was a change in the forum's leadership: Canon Wright was removed as chair and replaced by Kevin Dunion. FOE-Scotland had a track record of working with local authorities on their environmental charters, and plausible contacts with Labour. Canon Wright was elected vice-chair.
Lesson 4: If in Doubt. Find a Catalyst
Another outcome was a shift in SANGEO policy toward the forum. SANGEC members had been involved in the creation of the Commission on Sustainable Development and were aware of the political importance of national reports. They were also aware of the importance of independent NGO reports as a complement to what governments said. If there was doubt about the forum's willingness to take up this role, then other UNCED-accredited NGOs would have to step into the breach. Giving local authorities some experience of the commission, and the political parameters within which it worked, became priorities.
In April 1994, SANGEC members working with local authorities joined with Strathclyde Regional Council's representative in the forum to organize a conference on indicators for the Conference of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). This was an exercise in educating local authority officers who were not experts in environmental issues. The organizers were cautious in handling their audience: local academics working on environmental issues were allowed to participate with strict instructions that they say nothing, for fear that an expert brief would alienate those in local authorities, where support for putting UNCED into practice would rest. The following day, SANGEC held an "expert" conference on the issue of indicators involving the COSLA conference organizers, Dr. Dargie of State of the Scottish Environment Report fame, a representative of Canada's State of the Environment Unit, and members of the English New Economics Foundation, which is working with WWF-UK on indicators for the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). After the conference soundings were taken among SANGISC members, and a report of the conference and the different positions taken within it was hastily written up for the 1994 CSD in May.´ With scientific opinion in Scotland divided on the credibility of fixed set indicators, and SANGEC members with experience of the Rio negotiations worried about Southern reaction to new forms of "conditionality," this document leaned heavily on the conclusions of the local authority working group. "In the last analysis," it said, "those working at the local level must have the final say."
Lesson 5a: Learning by Doing- One Toe in the Water.
Three weeks after the April conferences, three SANGEC representatives arrived at the 1994 commission: SANGEC's coordinator, Jane Brooke, Cathy McCormick (representing local community activists who had long pressed the council to remodel its housing stock to solve the problem of fuel poverty and ill-health triggered by dampness), and the housing policy research officer from Glasgow District Council (Scotland's largest local authority). Cathy is well known in Scotland, not only from television but also as a campaigner with Scottish Education and Action for Development, which has a track record in bringing together representatives of poor communities in Southern countries and in Scotland on issues where there are common interests. At the last minute, the Scottish Environmental Forum adopted her as its own representative at the 1994 CSD as an "observer." The effort had begun to taring Scottish major groups into the CSD by bringing "their own people" to the commission to learn what it was about.
The experience was a success. Through Cathy, FOE-Scotland became more enthusiastic about the UN and the commission. Glasgow District Council began to be aware that work done in its housing department was contributing to environmental sustainability and gave the effort tentative political backing. Further contacts were made through the UN, including a contact with the International Conference on Local Environmental initiatives. City Housing is now working with the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Greater Glasgow Health Board to explore the social, economic and health impacts of its energy strategy and examine the implications of adopting a sustainable development strategy as an enhancement to sound professional practice.
Lesson 5b: Needs to be Followed by Others as Soon as Possible
Over the summer, SANGEC intensified efforts to build on this first contact, in conjunction with Reforesting Scotland, which was also accredited to the commission. Scotland's absent woodland-the Old Caledonian Forest, demolished over a thousand years ago leaving bare and barren hills-is locally a high profile environmental issue. The goal was to produce a Scottish NGO report on Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 on deforestation and the Forest Principles. The chosen vehicle was a conference bringing together speakers from the regional government (the Scottish Office), local community activists with a track record on campaigning for land reform and the right to take over stateowned plantation forests, local NGOs with practical experience of sustainable forestry, and others with relevant national or international experience. The time scale was short, since it had to comply with commission reporting requirements: three summer months to organize the conference, and a further month to put together the final report. Initially, Reforesting Scotland and other NGOs were enthusiastic.
Over the summer months, anxiety set in. Conference attendance was unpredictable. No one knew what a report would look like, or what expert evidence it would need, since the corps of scientific expertise on forestry in Scotland is large. No one knew how to handle reporting to the commission on UK government performance: relationships with government departments-sometimes tense, sometimes friendly-could be jeopardized if the report was too "confrontational." But a bland report would anger NGOs, who felt strongly that the UK government was much more progressive on issues of participation overseas than in Scottish rural communities. The exercise was almost abandoned. SANGEC insisted: whatever Northern government departments might feel about NGOs reporting on their activities, members believed that independent NGO from the North were essential to the survival of the Commission on Sustainable Development beyond its 1997 review.
In the end, the conference went forward, with financial help from the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and political help from community activists. The Scottish Office sent a representative, and Forestry Commission experts attended.
The conference, which included a rich exchange of Scottish experiences and viewpoints, also took in a summary of Welsh experience in the field of sustainable forestry that set benchmarks for the involvement of small farmers and local communities. The contact was made possible by financial help from WWF-Scotland.6 Putting together a ten-page report able to cover the essential issues of biodiversity, standards of sustainable forest management and participation took longer than expected, as SANGEC, with help from the Centre for Human Ecology in Edinburgh and Reforesting Scotland, circulated different successive drafts. The report was a month late going to its FAO Focal Point-though a month earlier than the final version of the UK government's own report-and still had gaps. But it worked. The report was neither "confrontational" nor uncritical. Its expert credentials were reasonable, thanks to hard work by local NGOs involved with woodland regeneration and retired experts on biodiversity in boreal forests. Furthermore, it looked like an appropriate NGO report on Scotland's lost forests, which recognized the human tragedy involved in their loss and the human responsibility for environmental degradation. Many people had been touched at some point by the reporting process, and the report gave voice to something that was a touchstone of national political identity for the Scottish environmental movement. Suddenly, making Scottish reports to the Commission on Sustainable Development began to look feasible.
Lesson 6: Coordination Must Allow for Intra-Stakeholder Competition
Meanwhile the struggle of the forum's steering group to find a distinct role for itself in a post-UNCED context continued. A successful conference on Sustainability in the Workplace was organized in April 1994 and drew in industry representatives, as well as local authorities, churches and NGOs. This provided a snapshot of the issues that all groups felt were most critical to progress on the environmental agenda, but it provided no "hard" strategy or conclusions. Forum working groups were set up on specific issues, including work with local communities, work on models of a "sustainable Scotland," and preparation of an adequate newsletter and briefing service. A vital extra resource was found in the shape of six months' salary for a coordinator, located initially at Friends of the Earth Scotland.
SANGEC members and others involved in local authority work were keen to have the forum take initiatives in the field of work with local communities and take the lead in preparations for local authority-led "local Agenda 21s." But efforts to develop a second conference on the role of local communities were hampered throughout 1994 by the competing interests of different participants. Canon Wright, together with the churches and the Scottish Environmental Education Council, set about transforming his original moral crusade into a programme for community work, both moral and educative, called Vision 21. The Community Service Volunteers, also represented on the forum's steering group, had received Scottish Office funding for a newsletter covering local community involvement. Parallel work was also being carried out by Scottish Education and Action for Development, which by 1994 was in the middle of organizing conferences and tours around the theme of alliances designed for Shifting the Balance.
Furthermore, local community councils, statutory bodies with varying degrees of real local participation across the country, were given responsibilities in this field by the Scottish Office.. By mid-1994 the Association of Community Councils began to turn to Friends of the Earth Scotland for advice in an area where they had little previous experience. The future relationship between this body and activist groups was unclear. Tensions were already emerging in rural areas between groups, such as the Highlands and Islands Forum with twelve years of encouraging and teaching community empowerment, and other participative bodies inspired by the new interest of local authorities. A possible conflict was visible between activist forums and those more closely linked with different tiers of government.
By the end of 1994, a corporate view of what the forum was for finally began to develop. There would be many local NGO and local authority initiatives under Agenda 21. The forum's responsibility was not to organize them but to help activists develop them within a framework where they reinforced one another. inevitably there would be conflicts; the forum would be the body with overall authority for mediating frictions and facilitating compromises. It would act in the rural area as "a forum of forums," and perhaps ultimately in urban areas as well.
Lesson 7: The Best Recipe for Harmonizing the Results is Agenda 21
Following the Scottish NGO Report on Forests, reporting to the commission began to seem the best interim vehicle for establishing this role. Local authorities were interested; reporting would allow them to take credit for the progress that was being made on the environmental front. Smaller NGOs, as well as FOE-Scotland and WWF-Scotland, recognized its legitimacy. Among community groups, the Highlands and islands Forum had already participated in the Scottish NGO Report on Forests.
The chapter structure of Agenda 21 was now seen as an opportunity. There was no need to develop a whole-scale strategy for a sustainable Scotland at once. Rather, within each year's calendar of chapters, a focus could be found to which Scotland had something to contribute, and the forum could take the opportunity to develop a coordinated Scottish non-government view of the state of play, the opportunities and the obstacles. Progress toward a national sustainability strategy could be made in parts and build on what was already there. On the key chapter, the forum could perhaps bring together a small group around a table to draw up a list of issues that should be covered by the report, and follow it up with a broader seminar to discuss the report and elect a committee to write it. Where individual organizations had something more to contribute in another thematic area, the forum could help facilitate their participation.
In January 1995, work began on Chapter 9 of Agenda 21 covering ozone depletion, transboundary air pollution, and CO2 emissions, with the convening of a group of 12 "wise heads" to draw up a list of issues. It was also agreed that the forum's major focus for 1996 would be to hold a conference on the role of local communities in implementing Agenda 21 in Scotland in preparation for the 1997 review of the commission's work.
It has taken national governments time to get the elements of their administrations together to carry out their UNCED commitments, and most NGOs see progress to date as far too slow. But local authorities and nongovernment organizations have also been slow to carry out their responsibilities under UNCED. All the problems of coordination between departments, characteristic of the national level, recur in regional centres like the Scottish Office, and all over again in local authorities. Nor is coordination necessarily any easier among individual NGOs competing for funds than it is among employees and ministers from different government departments.
In the end, the success of UNCED depends on local success in getting three processes going in quick succession: the education of non-environment departments, as well as local NGOs and members of other major groups, about the details of the UNCED agreements; their involvement in implementing the agreements within their sphere of competence; and the creation of mechanisms for resolving conflicts among them. Reports from Major Groups on how these processes are going, and what overall progress has been made on implementation, may or may not solve the needs of the CSD Secretariat for accurate and standardized information. But they can provide a vehicle for putting the processes themselves in motion, and thus:
- teach those without special knowledge of environmental issues what needs to be implemented by forcing them to get their "act together" to meet an international deadline;
- reward with recognition and publicity work that is being done by brave souls in advance of their sector; and
- bring sectors and individuals with different views together to sort out a common view.
The process is a necessary step towards creating the product. That, at least, is the lesson we have learned in Scotland in the last few years.
1. UK local authorities estimate that 70% of Agenda 21 requires local government action.
2. The Secretary of State for Scotland has departmental responsibility for the Scottish Office. Individual members of Parliament for the ruling UK party are assigned sub-departments within the Scottish Office.
3. The Road from Rio: Institutions and Indicators in SANGEC Briefings! September 1992 and Institutions and Indicators Update' SANGEC Briefngs, March 1993.
4. For example, Labour MEP for Strathclyde West, Ken Collins, who chairs the European Parliament's Environment Committee, is a member of the FOE-Scotland Board.
5. See "Reporting on Sustainability" in SANGEC Bulletin, Spring 1994.
6. See "People, Forests and Biodiversity" in SANGEC Bulletin, Winter 1994. The approach to WWF-Scotland reflected the importance of its role in chairing the Forests Working Group of Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link.
7. As envisaged by Chapter 28 of Agenda 21.
by Vida Ogorelec Wagner
"Slovenia, the Green Piece of Europe," is the slogan that is a part of the new campaign for tourist promotion in Slovenia. It reflects the fact that this small country is one of the greatest examples of ecological and landscape diversity in Central Europe. It also reflects the Slovenian people's pride in the nature they have inherited and of their emotional attachment to it. However, behind this slogan are two pressing questions. How really green and sustainable is the existing development trend of Slovenia? And how can we preserve or even improve the natural environment for future generations without having to sacrifice economic development or quality of life? The project "Agenda 21 for Slovenia" is an attempt to stimulate public discussion on these two issues.
Transition: An Opportunity for Sustainable Development
Since 1990, Slovenia has been in a process of transition as it shifts from a socialist to a market economy, builds an independent state, and begins approaching the European Union. While the current changes in social and economic systems present a unique opportunity for the implementation of sustainable development, there is a growing danger that this opportunity may be missed. In order to address this, non-governmental organizations decided to initiate a public discussion on how to reach the goals set by the world leaders in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Agenda 21 for Slovenia, a project of Slovenian nongovernmental organizations, materialized in response to what they perceived to be signals from the Slovenian government that it did not recognize the importance of environmental issues and the commitments made in Rio. The NGO believe there is no political will to implement the the 1993 Environmental Protection Act, and there is no national programme of environmental protection, in fact, budget spending for environment has been in decline since 1991. At the same time, the Green Party received 9% of the votes in the 1990 election. This reflects a somewhat Utopian concept of sustainable development on the part of some government officials and relative ignorance of it by others. As a result there is no systematic work in this direction at the government level-no council, strategy or research. The country is rushing into a free-market economy, rather than approaching the model of sustainability.
Agenda 21 for Slovenia
The project, coordinated by Umanotera, the Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development, began in early 1995 by conducting a brief survey among Slovenian NGOs to determine how familiar they are with key international documents on sustainable development, such as Our Common Future and Agenda 21, and whether they would like to participate in drafting an NGO framework strategy. Even though NGO members were not well-read on the topic, they expressed an overwhelming enthusiasm for the project.
The first national-level workshop, organized two months later, welcomed 24 members from 19 Slovenian NGOs and a number of observers from governmental institutions. Basic documents were presented, including Our Common Future, Agenda 21 and Beyond the Limits, as well as information on Sustainable Europe (a Friends of the Earth campaign), the Environment for Europe process, and national environmental policy. Workshop participants identified key environmental problems and barriers to sustainability in Slovenia, and participants were asked to distinguish between the root causes of problems and their manifestations or symptoms.
Three types of social activity were repeatedly identified: cultural, institutional and economic, which together represent a comprehensive social system. The main cause of problems identified was the lack of a holistic approach from politics and science to everyday life. As a result, "solutions" to specific problems emerged as new problems elsewhere or for the future.
In order to harmonize the necessary social changes with principles of sustainable development, reform must be approached on all three levels simultaneously, with full awareness of the laws applying to interrelations within the system.
A condensed version of this national workshop was prepared and held by local NGOs in Ljubljana (the capital), Maribor (the second largest town), Trbovlje (an old mining town) and in Novo Mesto (a mixed manufacturing town on the Krka River). These workshops served to compare specific local situations with the national framework.
A second national workshop, where we produced an action plan for NGOs as an internal document, dealt with the search for solutions. After the workshop, a small group of dedicated individuals worked together on the framework strategy for sustainable development entitled Agenda 21 for Slovenia-A Contribution of Non-Governmental Organizations. The document was based on discussions held in the workshops and included an indepth analysis of the present state of development in various sectors of Slovenia.
The structure of the action plan followed the three aspects of sustainability. The cultural aspect contained chapters entitled Holistic Approach Lifestyles and Education. Chapters on institutional aspects were entitled Non-Govemmental Organizations, Legal State and Economic Instruments. Chapters on economic aspects were entitled Industry, Energy, Towns and Settlements, Transport, Tourism and Recreation, Agriculture, and Nature Conservation. All topics were interrelated and often considered the same problem from different perspectives because we were dealing with a common social system. The selection did not aspire to cover every issue or to provide answers to every question. Instead we focused on those areas and aspects most significant for sustainable development in today's Slovenia.
Participating EGO members were consulted on the draft before it was finally edited and sent to print. The public's response was positive: Pavel Gantar, Minister of Environment, announced that the document would be useful to the ministry in drafting the National Environmental Protection Programme. Zare Pregelj, Chairman of the Parliamentary Council on Environment and Infrastructure, expressed the desire for Parliament to study the proposed strategy and possibly to commission a more in-depth study on transition towards sustainable development.
The project's goal was not only to produce the document; rather, it is an ongoing process to stimulate discussion, first among NGOs, and then among the wider public, particularly decision makers. The chapters on Sustainable Development in Slovenia and on Steps Towards Sustainability explain the actions required at the national level in specific fields and at the local level.
Clearly, the initiative for this will not come from national or local government. In our opinion the government prefers to do "business as usual" and does not respond to the clear commitments of Agenda 21, which says, "Sustainable development is primarily the responsibility of governments, and this will require national strategies, plans and policies."
Civil society, on the other hand, recognizes that we share a global responsibility for a "fundamental change to replace unsustainable patterns of production and consumption." Most NGO activities focus on specific areas. For example there is a well-structured plan of action in place for organic farming in Slovenia, with hopes to establish at least one demonstration farm within three years, develop national standards for organic food, and set up a network. In the field of transport much effort was made to prevent Parliament from adopting the National Programme for Highway Construction, which called for building 400 kilometres of new highways by the year 2004. But resistance failed and the highway programme was adopted, despite the fact that 43 NGOs signed a petition against it.
NGOs in Maribor are having more success with their programme to make the city bicycle-friendly; they have modeled the programme on a project in the nearby Austrian city of Graz. NGO involvement in nature conservation is also showing positive results. For example, at Skocjanski zatok on the Adriatic coast, a wetland is being fumed into a protected area. There are also numerous NGOs working in the field of environmental education, but nationwide coordination is lacking.
Much of the national activity is being coordinated by Umanotera. In January 1996 it began publishing a quarterly newsletter and has prepared several projects for promotion, policy development and implementation of the transition to sustainable development. The two priority areas of focus are a Local Agenda 21 initiative (where Umanotera is working in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, EcoCounselling Europe and the Regional Environmental Centre), and promotion of economic instruments for sustainability through the project entitled Green Budget Reform Prospects in Central and Eastern Europe (in partnership with the Wuppertal Institute of Germany). The first set of activities is designed to strengthen environmental protection at the local level in Slovenia by means of educational seminars, training courses, counselling, publications and information sharing. The Green Budget Reform is a regional attempt to take advantage of the transition in fiscal and economic frameworks in order to apply a gradual shift in taxes from labour to environment, while reducing subsidies that result in environmental damage.
One of the recommendations from the Agenda 21 for Slovenia workshops was that successful pilot projects incorporating principles of sustainable development in practice offer the best opportunity for building positive motivation and overcoming resistance to change. As a result, a three-year project was designed to "adopt" a farm, assist it in its transition to organic farming and eco-tourism and have it serve as a demonstration farm to offer valuable knowledge and experience in the process of transition.
According to Agenda 21 for Slovenia, "We are well aware that the road to sustainability will be a long and profound process, necessitating many changes." So we are not discouraged by occasional failures. On the contrary, these provide invaluable learning experiences. The document also summarizes the spirit of the Agenda 21 project:
"Slovenia's geographic position and the legacy of its past have resulted in combining high economic development and quality of life with a well-preserved natural environment, extremely rich in its diversity of landscape biology. This should not lead us into complacency, however. On the contrary, our challenge is to seize those advantages that have resulted from a delay in Western-style development. From the perspective of sustainable development, many of our 'disadvantages' actually reveal themselves as advantages. Respecting the natural and cultural properties of our land, we can reach a considerably higher degree of development and quality of life. A combination of traditional approaches and modem technology will assist us in living within the limits of environmental space for Slovenia and the planet Earth....With this document, we hope to present an optimistic concept of a human society as a self regulating system, capable of balancing itself with nature while not having to sacrifice economic development or quality of life. Outdated social and economic structures will be the only necessary 'sacrifices' in this process."
by Kerrie Strathy
As part of the National Environment Awareness (NEA) Campaign' that was carried out by the South Pacific Action Committee for Human Ecology and Environment (SPACHEE), based in Suva (Fiji), women were involved in an experiential workshop in July 1992 to explore their relationship with forest ecosystems. This article outlines the initial Women and Forests Workshop, which encouraged women to recognize the importance of biological diversity in forest ecosystems and to protect forests for the future. It highlights the traditional medicine documentation and promotion programme that emerged from it. The Women and Forests Workshop and follow-up activities were made possible with assistance from Asenaca Ravuvu, Environmental Education Officer of the Fiji Department of Forestry, who was keen to be involved in this programme because women involved in a three-day workshop in 1991 on forestry issues indicated an interest in learning more.
The Pacific Islands Developing Countries report to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) made the point that the nations of the South Pacific region are custodians of a large portion of the earth's surface. Their combined Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) occupy 30 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean-an area three times larger than China or the United States of America and ten times the size of India. Land makes up only 1.8% of that total; the islands' population is estimated at 5.8 million.
South Pacific Islanders depend on the biological resources of their small islands and surrounding ocean to meet their needs. This economic and cultural dependence gives them a close and special relationship with their environment. The main activities on the islands continue to be fishing and agriculture. For some islands, these are the only source of export income. Island ecosystems, however, are extremely fragile and must be handled with care if they are to continue to meet the needs of current and future generations.
For many generations the islanders have used forest resources sustainably and could go on doing so if the living value of these forests is recognized. Increasing pressure to accumulate cash is now threatening the survival of rainforestsin Fiji and other Pacific countries. Solomon Islands, for example, estimates that if current rates of logging continue all useful timber species will be gone within the next seven years. High population densities and growth are also putting increased pressure on resources such as trees, and on the environment in general.
Since many of the islands making up the South Pacific region are isolated from one other, they have a high degree of ecosystem and species diversity. Many of the plants found on these small land masses are endemic and found nowhere else in the world. These plants are essential to the health and wellbeing of islanders who use them for food, fuel and medicines.
The Need for Environment Education
A sustainable future for fragile island ecosystems and for the earth itself depends upon a healthy environment, economy and lifestyles. But the future well-being of Pacific Islanders also depends on an awareness and commitment to improve all three-every day and not just on 22 April, which is Earth Day. Our survival and that of future generations is being seriously threatened by our actions.
Effective environmental management ultimately depends upon the widespread adoption of an environment ethic or code of conduct reflecting environment awareness and the need for sustainable development and biological diversity. Sustainable development requires far more than action on the part of United Nations agencies and governments. Cooperation among them is crucial, but sustainable development is not possible without public participation in decision making and the information necessary to make sound decisions.
We have the ability to make rational decisions about our future. We must learn to live within the limits of our natural resources and find better ways of using, protecting and sustaining them. The people and economies of the Pacific Islands depend on developing and managing natural resources wisely. When we do not live on our income-our renewable resources-we are destroying our capital. Development options that impoverish the environment have no vision.
Forest depletion is just one of the ways humans are testing the earth's capacity and destroying their capital. With the earth's forests disappearing in excess of an acre a second, a sense of urgency is merely common sense. Solutions are based on environmental awareness-people who are aware of trees' protective functions will not uproot them.
Since many of the plants found in the South Pacific are used primarily by women, the report of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), based in Western Samoa, highlighted the need "to facilitate the access to environmental information for all groups, in particular women and youth, in order to enhance the management of resources and the environment." Chapter 8 of Agenda 21 also recognized the need to involve all concerned in decision making and land use management. The need to involve women in managing fragile ecosystems was also highlighted in Chapter 12. Chapter 15 emphasized the particular role of women in the conservation of biological diversity.
In response to concerns voiced by local women's organizations and the above considerations brought back by the SPACHEE representative to UNCED, a pilot Women and Forests Workshop was organized. Women living in the interior of the larger Pacific Islands, such as Fiji, depend on forests to meet their basic needs for food, fuel, medicines, craft materials and much more. Agenda 21, the SPREP report and the workshop organizers recognized that if forests are used wisely, women will continue to be able to meet the subsistence and cultural needs of their families and contribute economically to the families.
Women and Forests Workshop
Organizers of the 1992 Women and Forests Workshop quickly abandoned the idea of holding the week-long workshop entirely in Suva, Fiji's capital. So instead of spending a week hearing about forest ecosystems and the need to conserve biological diversity, participants had an opportunity to experience first-hand why this is important.
After a brief introduction to forest ecosystems in Suva, participants spent five days with Nadovu villagers who live in and depend on Fiji's productive rainforest. Holding part of the workshop in Nadovu had very positive benefits for the women of Nadovu, for the community, and for workshop participants. They came to understand the true meaning of rainforest since it rained every day except the last one!
Participants began the workshop by naming their favourite tree and explaining the reasons for their choice. Many named the coconut tree because all its parts-leaves, husk, fruit, wood-are useful. They also identified fruit and nut trees, trees to supply craft materials, trees used for traditional medicine and a variety of other useful trees, such as hibiscus. This initial exercise clearly demonstrated the importance of biological diversity to women, their families and their communities.
Dr. Randy Thaman, Professor of Biogeography at the University of the South Pacific (USP), encouraged participants to view living trees and forests as capital. Forests, he argued, were traditionally perceived in this way, but with the introduction of the monetary economy, many people came to view logging and other cash-earning activities as the only value of trees and forests. Dr. Thaman concluded by telling participants that, "We must live on the interest, not the capital, provided by our natural resources [such as forests] if we are to provide a good future for our children." For the remainder of the workshop, participants looked for ways to encourage others to value living forests.
Another goal of the workshop was to look at various ways to communicate messages about environmental protection and forest conservation. Participants learned how songs, posters and videos can convey important information about environment concerns. Songs, such as "Take Care of Our Island" and "Mati Sobu. ua mai" (High Tide, Low Tide) were so popular that participants wanted to perform them at the public opening held on the first evening.' They later wrote their own songs and poetry and suggested printing t-shirts and/or traditional sulus with clear messages as a means of stimulating environment awareness throughout Fiji and the South Pacific.
The manager of a small logging operation in the next village heard the workshop participants were in the area and invited them to see the sawmill, which was an exciting and stimulating opportunity for the participants. They were immediately struck by the waste and destruction of some logging operations. Leftover bits of trees were pushed down hillsides, and sawdust was left lying in big heaps that were washed towards the river-along with the soil that was being eroded as a result of the loss of forest cover. Earlier, several participants had noticed the red muddy river flowing through Nadovu after the torrential rains the day before. Participants also noticed that the sawmill itself was leaking oil, which was running towards the river.
The visit to the sawmill had a major impact on participants, and many undertook a number of follow-up activities since the pilot workshop. They developed on-going community awareness programmes related to forest conservation and protection. A Rainforest News Alert education kit was prepared and a video, Protect the Earth and She Will Provide for You, was produced.
After she graduated from the University of the South Pacific, SPACHEE's representative to UNCED began working with the Fiji Forestry Department to develop more education kits and programmes. Another participant carried out research into pulp logging operations in Fiji. Some developed the Lali Theatre Company as a result of the enthusiastic response to the popular theatre video they saw, and to villagers' reactions to their performance. Other participants have been involved in planting traditional kau salusalu plants, fruit and medicinal trees.
Traditional Medicine Workshop
The second phase of the Women and Forests Programme was the Regional Traditional Medicine Practitioners' (TMP) Workshop held in August 1993. Since many of the participants in the pilot workshop had a particular interest in traditional medicine, they played an active role in planning and implementing the TMP workshop. These women were keen to encourage regional information-sharing about traditional medicines and threats posed to them by loss of biodiversity due to rainforest destruction.
The TMP workshop was held in Fiji, with participants from seven Pacific Island nations who explored the practice of traditional medicine in the Pacific. They represented governments and non-government organizations in Tahiti, Cook Islands, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. They included traditional medicine practitioners, Western or so-called modern medical practitioners, educators, conservationists and supporters.
This workshop was jointly organized by SPACHEE, the Fiji Forestry Department and the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). It generated so much interest that the USP and the South Pacific Forestry Development Programme (SPFDP) offered to assist. There was also assistance from the Fiji-German Forestry Project, and the International Women's Development Agency (IWDA).
The workshop was initially conceived to have only two Fiji participants to make sure countries were represented in a balanced way. Organizers, however, felt that it would be useful to have a larger Fijian group to assist with the Fiji follow-up workshops included in the 1993 Women and Environment Education Project. Much of the work was done in small groups, with the Fijians often working together to ensure they would accomplish something concrete by the end of the workshop; they did manage a rough draft of a traditional medicine handbook for use by village health workers and women in rural communities.
The basic aim of the workshop was to encourage the documentation and promotion of indigenous knowledge about medicinal plants. Fiji participants brought samples of the plants they use for traditional medicines, and regional participants brought photographs of theirs. In fact, the workshop began the day before the official opening as participants identified a medicinal use for virtually every plant they encountered on the short walk from the dormitories to the dining hall. There was much excitement when participants learned that other islanders were using the same plant species, or that plants they were not currently using had medicinal uses in other countries.
PASIFICA DECLARATION ON TRADITlONAL MEDICINE
We, the women traditional medicine healers, conservationists and supporters, who have come together for the first time at the SPACHEE/YWCA/Fiji Forestry Department Regional Traditional Medicine Practitioners' Workshop, held in Fiji, from 23-27 August 1993, do hereby declare that we are committed to Save the Plants that Save Lives.
We are concerned about the health and well-being of the people of the Pacific and their island environments. We recognize that the loss of traditional medicine knowledge and plants is a serious issue which needs to be urgently addressed as outlined in the Chiang Mai Declaration of 26 March 1988.
In response to our concern we have formed a Regional Women Traditional Medicine Healers' Associanon to:
- encourage the conservation of traditional medicine
- encourage the documentation and dissemination of traditional medicine knowledge
- encourage the protection of traditional medicine plants
- encourage Pacific Is/and governments to recognize the important role that traditional medicine can play in national health services.
We draw attention of the governments of the Pacific Islands, regional organizations (including Pacific regional offices of international agencies), non-government organizations and the people of the Pacific to:
- the unacceptable loss of medicinal plants due to habitat destruction
- the need to encourage research on the availability. safety and efficacy of traditional medicine plants
- the need for Pacific Is/and governments to recognize the important role that traditional medicine can play in national health services
- the significant economic value of medicinal plants used today
- the need to ensure that indigenous knowledge and practice of traditional medicine are respected and protected
- the need to ensure that researchers respect traditional land ownership and rights, and compensate indigenous people for their use.
We, the participants of the Regional Traditional Medicine Practitioners' Workshop, call on all people of the Pacific and the world to Save the Plants that Save Lives.
Participants noted that while traditional medicine is important to the health and well-being of Pacific Islanders, some plant species are becoming hard to find. Another issue was proper identification of medicinal plant species and the conditions they were used to treat. A one-day field visit was organized to the Nakavu Natural Forest Management Project (part of the FijiGerman Forestry Project) to involve participants in an inventory of traditional medicine plants.
Dr. Ken Chen, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Adviser for Traditional Medicine in Manila, spoke about WHO's interest in the area of traditional medicine and stressed its important role in achieving WHO's goal of Health for All by the Year 2000. Dr. Wolf Forstreuter, of the Fiji Forest Inventory Project, talked about how minor forest products, such as traditional medicines, are included in their forest inventory in recognition of the fact that a forest can provide much more than timber.
SPACHEE's chairperson, Dr. William Aalbersberg, talked about the need to document traditional medicine practices and some USP research initiatives to ensure the efficacy and safety of medicinal plants. He also addressed the issues of indigenous knowledge, how researchers should recognize this knowledge, and the rights of landowners to compensation for their knowledge and the use of their plant species.
The rest of the programme, like the earlier one, involved participants as resource persons and facilitators in discussion groups. Cook Islanders talked about the traditional medicine demonstration garden started by their Conservation Department. Participants from Tahiti talked about the Traditional Healers' Association, which they launched in the early 1980s.
Participants developed plans to encourage the promotion of traditional medicine practice and the conservation of traditional medicine plant species. These plans include the establishment of traditional medicine associations at national level and demonstration gardens, such as the one established at USP as part of the official closing ceremony.
Participants were keen to initiate follow-up activities at home. Less than a month after the workshop ended, the two participants from eastern
Fiji started the Lomiviti Traditional Healers' Association and secured a piece of land in Levuka for a traditional medicine demonstration garden and nursery. Another demonstration garden may be incorporated into the Mount Evans Range ecotourism development. Work is also progressing on a traditional medicine video. These are just a few examples of the many exciting follow-up activities already underway.
The workshop aimed to determine the need for a network of traditional medicine associations in the South Pacific, but it went one step further and established a Regional Traditional Medicine Association. Workshop participants appointed a provisional executive committee to develop a constitution for the association, encourage national follow-up plans, and plan the next workshop to assess progress on documentation and promotions. Participants also developed the Pasifica Declaration on Traditional Medicine.
A presentation was made about the workshop to a South Pacific heads of forestry meeting in 1993. It generated a great deal of interest and discussion. The theme of the meeting was What Value Forests and Trees?, and papers focused on non-timber uses. As a result of the presentation, the final statement from the meeting included reference to the medicinal value of forests and the need to conserve medicinal plants. Heads of forestry also identified the need for research on the usefulness and income generating potential of medicinal plants, which could encourage communities to retain and use their forest resources sustainably.
The interest shown by participants at the heads of forestry meeting led the New Zealand ODA representative to offer to assist the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) South Pacific Forestry Development Programme (SPFDP) to work with SPACHEE and the Fiji Forestry Department on a follow-up workshop. The SPFDP and the German aid agency Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) also provided assistance for regional participants to attend, while support from the Canada Fund made it possible for the Fiji participants to join their Pacific sisters. Due to the interest shown by heads of forestry representatives from countries not involved in the first phase of our work, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands were included in the second Regional Traditional Medicine Workshop, held in April 1995.
At the conclusion of this workshop, it was announced that the Fiji healers and conservationists had worked together to register the Women's Association for Natural Medicinal Therapy (WAINIMATE), as a charitable trust. These healers shared their experience with those at the second Regional Traditional Medicine Workshop, and are anxious to continue working with their Pacific sisters to ensure the conservation of traditional medicine plants, and the integration of traditional medicines into national health delivery systems.
With assistance from the Canada Fund, Fijian healers are working on a Fijian traditional medicine handbook, which was drafted at the August 1993 workshop. This handbook or cookbook of traditional medicines is designed to be easily understood and used by the layperson, particularly village women. The healers have also assisted in verifying documentation being compiled for the World Health Organization's publication on traditional medicine in the South Pacific by chemistry professors based at the USP.
The Pacific, like the rest of the earth, is facing a life threatening assault on its environment, as discussed at UNCED. For many Pacific Islanders, it is already late, but not too late, to take action. While the world situation can be described as desperate, it is not hopeless. There is still time for people to move forward together to build a future that is just and sustainable. To prevent further degradation of fragile island ecosystems, it may be useful to consider the consequences of our actions on the next seven generations, as some societies do.
The continuing work on traditional medicine documentation and promotion is one example of how a group of women is moving forward to ensure the protection of forest ecosystems and biological diversity. Fiji participants have held several workshops to continue documenting and promoting traditional medicine. These women believe that if people know the medicines found in their forests, they can more readily be convinced to protect them for future generations.
1. The NEA campaign was part of the National Environment Management Project to develop a National Environment Strategy for Fiji. It was designed to stimulate awareness and action to prevent environmental degradation in Fiji. Public awareness was stimulated through community workshops, radio spots, and the production and distribution of posters and leaflets.
2. South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), 1992.
3. Participants were encouraged to write their own songs in local languages and translate those taught by the singer/songwriter who led this session.
3. The Lali Theatre Company held its first public performance on World Environment Day (5 June 1993) at the launch of SPACHEE's Low-Income Urban Community Participatory Primary Environment Care Project. The performance drama focused on forest loss and was well received.
4. At the official closing of the workshop, participants and invited guests assisted with the establishment of a Traditional Medicine Demonstration Garden at USP's main campus in Suva. They included Jim Samisoni (Director of the Fiji School of Medicine), Dr. Lefebre (WHO), Tang Hon Tat and Klaus Enevoldsen (SPFDP), Ruth Lechte (World YWCA), Matron of the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, and representatives from UNDP, the South Pacific Commission's Community Education and Training Centre, the Papua New Guinea Embassy and the British Embassy.
by Katongo Chisupa
In 1994 retired teacher Martha Mwale saw a friend developing her business very successfully. The 51-year-old former teacher decided to chat with her friend and find out how she had boosted her business. The friend explained that she had obtained a loan of ZK300,000 from the Women Finance Trust of Zambia (WFTZ). She said she also had taken a basic course in business management arranged at a local institution.
Ms. Mwale later formed a group of her own with nine women marketers. They applied for financial assistance from WFTZ and received a loan of ZK 1 million. Each member qualified for ZK200,000, reimbursable over six months. Initially a 35% interest rate was charged on the loans, although this has risen to 56%, as in most commercial banks.
"You have to struggle as you know things are not always easy," explains Ms. Mwale, who looks after five of her nine children. "I feel 1 am making more money because 1 am able to look after my family well."
Ms. Mwale does not share her husband's income from repairing furniture and other items. "Before 1 got the loan, sometimes I would think of closing the shop," she says. Ms. Mwale represents many women who find it difficult to borrow money through normal commercial banks.
Over the past decade a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been set up to deal specifically with issues affecting women. WFTZ, in existence since 1994, is one of these groups and is committed to the economic empowerment of women. Its main objective is to empower women entrepreneurs who do not have access to economic resources through credit and savings, while providing information, training, advocacy, lobbying and networking services.
"It is very difficult to get an overdraft from any bank....It is difficult, but the WFTZ does not demand too many things," Ms. Mwale says. Women who borrow money have to be 18 years of age, a resident in Zambia, have some business sense, and become members of the WFTZ by paying ZK3000.
When an application is successful, 10% of the loan is deposited in the bank as a guarantee, and a certain amount of the money borrowed is paid at that rate over a period of time. Business confidence of the women applicants is bolstered by the WFTZ through assurances that the bank will help give them advice about the business world.
The Kabwata market is situated in one of the Lusaka suburbs. It now has five groups of ten women each who are eligible to borrow from the WFTZ. Ms. Mwale paid back her first loan within the stipulated time frame of six months and was immediately eligible for the second one. The WFTZ wasted no time in processing her next loan of ZK350,000. "Today, my table is not well stocked but most of the time it is," explains Ms. Mwale with a tinge of pride in her smile.
She feels strongly that if a person is self-employed, they have no choice but to work hard, because if they relax they won't get enough bread and butter. Ms. Mwale, whose goods include a variety of vegetables, says one needs to "get the best to get the best....If you get good quality supplies, business will move very fast."
Joyce Mulenga is thankful to the WFTZ for what it has done for her family. She agrees that the WFTZ has opened the gates to every woman in Lusaka interested in launching a small business. "They are not harsh," she says. "They are good people." Ms. Mulenga joined the bank two days after Ms. Mwale. She runs a restaurant, which specializes in making tea. Under the auspices of the bank, she has taken a short course in business planning management. She was initially given ZK200,000 with nine other marketers receiving similar loans, on condition that each woman should pay back ZK20,000 every two weeks.
She repaid her loan on time. Unfortunately, some in her group failed to do so due to poor business management and double dealing. Currently Ms. Mulenga has a ZK350,000 loan, which she is repaying at ZK75,000 per month over six months. "It's not much," she says. "I could manage to pay back even if I borrowed ZK 1 million."
"On a good business day, I make up to ZK100,000. Before, it was very difficult to do business." Ms. Mulenga started from a very poor background. She worked for an older prosperous man selling eggs in various markets from 1982-1990. During that period she learnt the rudiments of business. After the man died, she decided to start her own business with meagre resources. In 1992 she managed to build a shop in Kabwata market and has two dedicated workers.
Today, she is able to look after her seven children. The family lives in Chawama, one of the townships on the outskirts of Lusaka. "Things have changed for the better. These days I have a lot relatives coming to seek help from me," says the 40-year old divorcee proudly.
In the sprawling Matero township on the western side of Lusaka, a small group of women runs a block making project. Thirty-six year old Betty Mwanza is the chairperson of the Vwira (Suffering) Women's Club. She leads an extremely determined group of 11 women. With the help of the Finnish International Development Agency (FINNIDA), the women received training in the block making trade from 1994 to 1995. Upon completion of the course, the group approached WFTZ for funding. The response was positive, and they received ZK1.1 million, which they paid back within six months.
The women are based at a local reformed church, where they make and sell their low-priced blocks to companies, institutions and individuals. The women make an average of 50 blocks per day; 50% of the profit realized is shared every month, while the other 50% is deposited into a bank account or reinvested.
The women, who are mostly widows or divorcees, make roughly ZK40,000 for every 1000 blocks they sell. So far, their biggest order of blocks has come from a local businessman who asked for 3000 blocks to build his house on the western side of the city, in Lilanda township. "The demand for blocks is very high," says Ms. Mwanza. "We are very happy with the WFTZ for the help they are rendering to the women in Lusaka."
By the end of March 1996, the trust had approved 334 loan application worth ZK98 million. The major beneficiaries of the money have been marketers at Lusaka-based markets. In general, WFTZ has been satisfied with the loan recovery rate. Except for a few isolated cases, most members have honoured their obligations. "This is a revolving fund which must be paid back so that other marketers may benefit from it," says credit controller Doris Nalumbwe. "Our members seem to appreciate this fact and hence the favorable rate. To ensure that the loans are utilized for the purpose intended, the trust carries out spot checks on the loanee's business." Fortnightly meetings are held with the loanees to review their respective ventures.
The marketers are also taught the importance business planning, costing and pricing, entrepreneurship, stock control, marketing, banking and safe record-keeping. Members are encouraged to participate in these training programmes to sharpen their business skills and improve their access to credit offered by commercial banks. Training is also offered to suit the members' needs for specific product lines."
WFTZ's objective to economically empower the women of Zambia- fits in well with that of Agenda 21, which is dedicated in part to strengthening the role of Major Groups, in this case NGOs. Section 27 of Agenda 21 on Partnership with NGOs says they play a vital role in shaping and implementing participatory democracy. It also says that NGOs' independence from government and other sectors of society is one of their major attributes. NGOs can play an important role in helping society to agree on how to move away from unsustainable development patterns.
The gender inequality that exists in Zambia hopefully can be eliminated by initiatives like WFTZ, which provide business opportunities for women. In Zambia men slowly are changing their attitudes toward their female counterparts, both at home and in the workplace, and accepting to work together as equals. Beneficiaries of the WFTZ loans have become breadwinners in their respective homes. The Zambian government has created what it proudly calls an "enabling environment" to eliminate constitutional, legal, administrative, cultural, behavioural, social and economic obstacles to women's full participation in sustainable development and public life, as stated in Agenda 21. The WFTZ is one such "enabling environment."
When WFTZ started its operations, the highest loan it could give out was ZK200,000 per person, but over time this has increased to about ZK1 million per individual applicant. However, women are encouraged to apply as a group. Most members are involved in selling charcoal and foodstuffs, although there are some members, such as the Vwiragroup, who have diversified into brick making. The WFTZ holds its yearly general meetings to present audited accounts to the members, discuss financial performance, appraise progress and elect members of the board. During this period, members provide input to determine the future of the trust.
The WFTZ is aiming to become a self-sustained organization, reach out to a majority of micro- and small-scale women entrepreneurs throughout the country, and be a credible financial institution in the country.
At the 1975 United Nations World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City, a resolution was passed to establish an institution that would provide financial services to women. Four years later in 1979, Women World Banking (WWB), a global and independent non-profit financial institution, was set up to advocate for full economic participation of women. The WWB has affiliates in more than 40 countries, of which WFTZ is one, and it is governed by an 11member board of directors elected at the annual general meeting. Board members are professional women lawyers, bankers, accountants, managers and business women who serve voluntarily and are not salaried.
The WFTZ lead comes from institutions, such as the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, which started slowly and worked with a few poor women in rural Bangladesh by giving them loans.
WFTZ General Manager Moonde Yeta stresses that the organization doesn't want to make the mistake of going all over the country at the same time. It prefers instead to take a cautious approach: for the next two years, the bank hopes to continue working in the vicinity of Lusaka. "I know this hurts women in rural areas and those outside Lusaka and we feel for them strongly," explains Ms. Yeta. But we also feel that it is better for us to build a sustainable organization that is going to be there beyond the 21 st century and that is our ultimate goal for this organization to be the bank for women."
1. In 1996, 1000 Zambian Kwacha were worth approximately one US dollar.
The United Nations Non-Governamental Liaison Service (NGLS) is an interagency unit of the UN system that facilitates dialogue and fosters cooperation between the UN system and the NGO community worldwide on global development issues. NGLS has offrices in Geneva and New York.
The work of NGLS is currently supported by:
· United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP Lead Agency)
· United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD-Administering Agency)
· Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
· International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
· Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
· United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, UNCHS (Habitat)
· United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
· United Nations Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (UN/DPCSD)
· United Nations Department of Public Information (UN/DPI)
· United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
· United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
· United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP)
· United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
· World Bank
· World Food Programme (WFP)
In 1996, NGLS also received financial support for its activities from the Governments of Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Centre for Human Rights, International Labour Office (ILO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and from a number of NGOs.
For further information on NGLS's activities, please contact:
· UN-NGLS, Palais des Nations, CH- 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, Telephone +41-22/798 5850, fax +41-22/788 7366, e-mail <email@example.com>
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