UN emblem
United Nations System-Wide
  December 2000  
    The Second

Report on International Scientific Advisory Processes on the Environment and Sustainable Development

Hyperlinked version for the Internet

Prepared for the UN System-Wide Earthwatch Coordination, UNEP
by Jan-Stefan Fritz

    This Report was prepared for the UN System-Wide Earthwatch Coordination, UNEP, under contract, by Jan-Stefan Fritz, Ph.D.

The Document contains the views expressed by the author acting in his individual capacity and may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or the United Nations Environment Programme.

Research for Linked version completed mid-December 2000

Copies of this Report are available from:
Division of Early Warning and Assessment
United Nations Environment Programme
P.O. Box 30552
Nairobi, Kenya

    This report was written in consultation with all bodies for which profiles were prepared (see Annex 3) as well as numerous other individuals both within and outside the UN system. 

For their valuable assistance in providing information and/or comments, I would like to thank: Frank Biermann (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research), Rajeb Boulharouf (Secretariat of the Convention to Combat Desertification), Renate Christ (IPCC Secretariat), Robert A. Duce (GESAMP), Niklas Hohne (Climate Change Secretariat), Calestous Juma (Harvard University), Manfred Nauke (GESAMP), Dwight Peck (The Ramsar Convention Bureau), Véronique Plocq-Fichelet (SCOPE), Nelson Sabogal (The Secretariat for the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol), Ibrahim Shafii (Secretariat of the Basel Convention), Judy A. Stober (Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety), Aase Tuxen (UNEP Interim Secretariat for the Rotterdam Convention), Robert Vagg (UNEP/CMS Secretariat), Jerry Velasquez (UNU), Anne-Marie Verbeken (The STAP Secretariat), Ger van Vliet (CITES Secretariat), and Peter Wells (GESAMP). 

I would especially like to thank Lee A. Kimball (independent Consultant) and Arthur Dahl (UN System-Wide Earthwatch/UNEP) for having reviewed the complete Report and for providing detailed comments.



Science for Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Science for Intergovernmental Deliberations

Science for State of the Environment Knowledge







    ABSTRACT (contents)
    This Report is a qualitative, comparative analysis of international scientific advisory processes in the area of environment and sustainable development. It is a thorough overview and analysis of such advisory processes. As such, it complements other ongoing activities that seek to improve understanding of the issues at stake in international environmental affairs and the policy frameworks created to address these issues. It is intended as a contribution to preparations for CSD-9 deliberations on Agenda 21, Chapter 40 ‘Information for Decision-making’. 

This Report makes two specific contributions. First, it provides an overview of what advisory processes exist, how they work, and their interrelations. Second, this Report highlights recent trends, remaining information gaps, and makes recommendations to strengthen advisory processes by improving the way in which information is compiled, debated, shared and reflected in policy outcomes. Thus this Report offers a perspective on what catch-words like ‘information gaps’ and ‘interlinkages’ mean in practice, and their impact on the effectiveness of present and future international scientific advisory processes. 

Part 1 of the Report assesses the institutional linkages between existing scientific advisory and intergovernmental processes. Part 2 assesses the links between science and policy in the context of freshwater; an issue of particular contemporary relevance. Part 3 identifies some major recent trends and specific remaining information gaps. Part 4 makes some recommendations on how to bridge the gaps identified in the previous part. Figures are included to illustrate the science/policy nexus, trends in the creation of scientific advisory processes and the contents of websites of major advisory processes. Finally, Background Profiles have been prepared as sources of information on the major advisory processes referred to in the Report. For the sake of scope, the focus is on processes that, by their definition, take a planetary view.

   see Part 3 TRENDS
  General Trends in the Science/ Policy Nexus The first trend encompasses the increasing need for highly specialized knowledge of specific environmental concerns, and the simultaneous need for more holistic knowledge about biosphere dynamics. 

The second broad trend involves a shift in the content of scientific advice from identifying problem areas to suggesting alternative scenarios for effective action. 

  Specific Trends in Advisory Processes Marked improvement in the niche definition of scientific and technical advisory processes 

Greater dialogue between advisory processes and other communities 

Increased recognition that local/national-level capacity building should also be a goal of advisory processes 

Increased awareness of the need to coordinate through substantive collaboration 

Slow progress in improving data availability on emerging priorities 

Improved use of Internet to manage and disseminate information 

   see Part 3 GAPS
    A Data Gap exists between the availability of quality data from around the world and the needs of policymakers.

A Linkages Gap exists between the increasing number of advisory processes being founded.

A Public Access Gap exists between the production and synthesis of knowledge and its use by a broader readership.

A Systematic Organization of Information Gap exists making it difficult for users to find information quickly about different environmental media from different perspectives. 

An Impact Gap exists between the work of scientific advisory activities and efforts to support local/national-level capacity building. 

Bridging the Information for Decision-making Gap

The next UNEP Global Ministerial Forum would serve as an ideal venue for a dialogue between scientific advisors and other knowledge and policymakers. 

Standardized and/or harmonized methods for managing data and information from scientific support activities (e.g. G30S and international organizations) should serve clearly identified audiences or purposes. 

Link the earth observations systems to the specific needs of advisory processes to MEAs and other relevant intergovernmental deliberations. 

Continue to complement science with traditional knowledge as a means of bridging the gap between 'problem identification' and 'proposing alternatives for implementation'. 

Those advisory processes that have not undergone review processes should be encouraged to so. 

Bridging the Public Access Gap

To improve transparency, a Stakeholder Charter on Minimum Standards of Information provided by UN sources on environment and sustainable development could be established. 

To improve accessibility, a UN System-Wide Web Site Locator for Environment and Sustainable Development could be established. 

NGOs and related forums should be harnessed as sources of information on possible emerging problems and alternative means of supporting the implementation of agreements. 

Bridging the Linkages Gap

The best way of ensuring coordination amongst scientific advisory processes may be to encourage substantive collaboration. 

No new scientific advisory processes should be created unless no other appropriate international scientific body exists. 

An Ad Hoc Working Group to Identify Areas of Substantive Cooperation on Emerging Issues might be created. 

Bridging the Impact Gap

The scientific activities of international organizations could assist MEAs by  supporting effective National Focal Points and assisting the responsible national bodies to fulfil MEA report-writing requirements.
    This Report builds on a first Report on scientific advisory processes prepared for UNEP in 1998. The purpose of the first Report was to spark discussion on the topic of advisory processes with a view to then preparing a more in depth study. Following the publication of the first Report on scientific advisory processes, comments and observations on its findings and usefulness were compiled. In addition to the substantive comments, many responses thought a more extensive follow-up would be useful. A proposal to complete a second report appeared in UNEP’s Programme Budget for 1998/99. With CSD-9 focusing on information for decision-making in 2001, the urgency for a second Report was given. This Report is a contribution to preparations for CSD-9. 

The immediate mandate for this Report is the recommendation of the Earthwatch Working Party “that the [first] report be completed and sharpened with conclusions and recommendations”. 

    The broader context for this Report is found in many recent statements on the need to improve the knowledge component of intergovernmental deliberations on environment and sustainable development. More recently, delegates to the Global Ministerial Environment Forum agreed, in the Malmö Declaration, that there should be “improved avenues for communication between the scientific community, decision makers and other stakeholders.” CSD-9 and the 2002 Rio+10 meeting will surely reiterate this call. 

UNEP has also highlighted the importance of scientific advisory processes as part of its role as Global Environmental Authority. The UNEP Executive Director has emphasized the importance of scientific advice in his reform programme. In fact, UNEP’s new Corporate Profile is the first such document to specifically identify the value of scientific advisory processes. 

    While this Report contributes to specific upcoming events, notably CSD-9, it also is an ongoing effort. Thus comments to any aspect of this Report are welcome and should be directed to the author at jan-stefan.fritz@t-online.de or, by post, at UN System-Wide Earthwatch Coordination, International Environment House, 15 chemin des Anémones, 1219 Châtelaine, Genève, Switzerland. 
    "...to promote international cooperation and action, based on the best scientific and technical capabilities available"
-The Nairobi Declaration
    INTRODUCTION (contents)
Increasing investment in Advisory Processes

*Science/Policy Nexus

The Contributions of this Report
The Distinctive Role of Advisory Processes

Intergovernmental frameworks concerned with environmental affairs, involve at least four major processes. These include: institutional bargaining between states; the international administration of policy decisions and priorities; business and NGO lobbying; and the provision of scientific advice. 

The category of scientific advice is distinct because the participating independent scientists represent the only members of civil society to be consistently asked to advise government representatives. This recognizes that many advisory processes also include government-appointed experts. New scientific advisory processes are created every year. At present, several million US dollars are invested in international scientific advisory processes annually and over 3000 individuals are appointed to UN-sponsored processes alone, with many thousand others directly contributing their expertise.i

Normally, the role of scientific advisory processes is to support policymakers by providing relevant observations on the state of the environment. Traditionally, they were expected to involve natural scientists identifying problems in response to specific requests from policymakers. While this may seem a relatively simple arrangement, the practice of establishing advisory processes has been far more complex and challenging. Increasingly, advisory processes also assess socio-economic dimensions of problems as well as options for technical and policy responses. Debates about the independence of scientific expertise, especially concerning those advisory processes comprised of government-appointed experts, have also become more prevalent. This has made scientific and technical advisory processes foci for debate on problems and potential solutions, bringing together politicians, scientists, advocacy groups and a myriad other actors in intense debates about knowledge and social choice. 

While advisory processes are not intended to serve either research or advocacy purposes, invariably their role involves a bit of both. On one hand, advisory processes need to determine what knowledge exists, in whose hands it is held, what relevant research is being conducted, and how the results are presented to most usefully serve policy-making processes. On the other hand, though the knowledge that is provided principally aims to serve policymakers there is also a tacit desire on the part of scientists to ‘improve’ policymaking to the extent that policy should reflect the best knowledge and technical practices available. 

Given the complexity of the science*/policy nexus, it is impossible to speak of an ‘ideal’ advisory process. However, within a general framework, one can conceive of scientific advice as a lynchpin between international scientific support activities and the international policy realm. Figure 1 outlines the basic elements of a working scientific advisory process. 

This Report contributes to a better understanding of this challenging space by offering a qualitative, comparative analysis of international scientific advisory processes. It is a thorough overview and analysis of advisory processes.ii As such, it complements other ongoing activities that seek to improve understanding of the issues at stake in international environmental affairs and the linkages between legal frameworks created to address these issues. Some prominent examples include the GEO report series, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and the UNU Inter-linkages Initiative. 

  Building on the first Report The present Report is the second of its kind, and builds on the first one. The first Report reviewed and compared the diversity of existing advisory processes. It observed that there were several needs, including: to establish clearer expectations between advisors and policy makers; more dialogue should be encouraged between scientists and policy makers; capacity-building should be a goal of advisory processes; to avoid duplication amongst advisory processes; to support the collection of more relevant data to fill knowledge gaps; and the Internet could be exploited both as a source of information and as a guide to its quality. 
    *Refers to requests for advice or scientific support.
Giving meaning to 'information gaps' and 'interlinkages'

This Report explores how scientific advisory processes work and the relationships they build to fulfil their mandates. In so doing, it concentrates on the links that define the way in which advisory processes relate to the various communities around them, including scientific, policymaking, traditional knowledge, and NGOs. The aim is to provide helpful observations and suggestions on how advisory processes may be strengthened, by improving the way in which information is compiled, debated, shared and reflected in policy outcomes. This also offers a perspective on what catch-words like ‘information gaps’ and ‘interlinkages’ mean in practice, and their impact on the effectiveness of present and future international scientific advisory processes. 
The Importance of the Regional, National and Local Levels
For the sake of scope, this report focuses only on scientific advisory processes that, by their definition, take a planetary view. That is, the focus is on processes that were established to contribute policy-relevant data, information, and/or knowledge about global environment dynamics. Moreover, the majority of processes considered here created by UN agencies or under UN auspices to provide advice to intergovernmental processes on environment and sustainable development. While focusing on the global level, this Report recognizes that global-level advice must be applied to regional, national and local situations in order to improve the state of the environment and to achieve sustainable development. Similarly, this Report recognizes that all global environmental issues are inherently local issues as well. Thus, many of the conclusions that can be drawn from this international analysis will also be relevant to the regional, national and local levels. Indeed, numerous programmes and activities exist within the UN system, and even more beyond, which are dedicated to the bridging the local/global divide. In this light, the present report aims to be illustrative rather than comprehensive. 
Report Contents
The body of the Report is organized into four Parts and three Annexes. Part 1 highlights the linkages between advisory processes from an institutional perspective. It captures how scientific advice is organized in relation to intergovernmental policymaking, focusing both on the current situation and processes of change. Within this part, three general types of science-policy interaction are considered: science for multilateral environmental agreements, science for intergovernmental deliberations, and science for state of the environment knowledge. 
    Part 2 assesses the institutional science-policy linkages in terms of how they function to address an issue of particular contemporary relevance. Freshwater is considered here. This is an excellent example of a contentious issue in which states have strong interests and claims, and yet one which is also considered an international issue wherein international bodies also make substantial contributions.
    Part 3 identifies the major trends in the provision of scientific advice over the past several years. It also identifies some major information gaps that remain between advisory processes and the international community in general. Part 4 offers specific recommendations aimed at bridging the gaps identified in the previous part.
    Annex 1 provides a detailed table of the website contents of some prominent scientific advisory processes. Annex 2 lists acronyms frequently used in this Report. Finally, Annex 3 lists the profiles that were prepared as background information for over a dozen advisory processes. For the sake of economy, these profiles are listed in this Report and will be available on the Internet via the Earthwatch website. 
    i These figures are based on rough estimates of financial figures available in documents and  individuals appointed to the main UN sponsored advisory processes considered in this Report.
ii Perhaps the first comparative study of advisory processes was Lee A. Kimball, Treaty Implementation: Scientific and Technical Advice Enters a New Stage, published by the American Society for International Law, 1996. 
  PART 1: LINKAGES (contents)

Box 1. Advisory Bodies to Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Technical Working Group of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes (Basel-TWG
Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD-SBSTTA
Advisory Committees of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES
Committee on Science and Technology of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD-CST
Scientific Council of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS
Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC-SBSTA
Assessment and Technical Options Bodies of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Ozone
Interim Chemical Review Committee - Rotterdam Convention on PIC for Certain Hazardous Chemicals in International Trade (PIC-Interim CRC)
Scientific and Technical Review Panel of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar-STRP

The following are referred to in MEAs as advisory processes: 
GESAMP is referred to in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 related thereto (MARPOL 73/78) 
IUCN is identified as the advisory body on natural sites under the World Heritage Convention (WHC), and it provides scientific support to CITES and Ramsar 

    This section includes scientific advisory bodies, established by meetings of Parties to multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) to advise them on specific issues. While their role as advisors is relatively similar, differences occur in the way these bodies are organized, their internal dynamics, the nature of their work, and interrelations.
Organization and Dynamics

The most important fact to remember about bodies listed in Box 1, is that - with the exception of the last two - all are created by governments as subsidiary bodies. This warrants noting because, in addition to scientific or other considerations, political considerations also determine their organization and dynamics as well as their work and relations with other advisory processes. 

Types of subsidiary bodies

i. Small expert groups

In general terms, two types of subsidiary body are created to advise the Parties to MEAs. The first type is open to representatives from all Parties, and the second is a small expert group. Smaller bodies are usually established to provide specific technical advice to MEAs. Some notable examples include the scientific and technical advisory bodies to CITES, PIC, Ramsar, and Ozone Conventions. In such cases where only a limited number of experts are invited to participate, criteria for invitations usually include strict stipulations for regional representation. Most conventions identify between 5 and 7 regions, from which a representative number of experts is appointed. Other criteria by which participants are appointed include their expertise in relevant matters and, to a lesser extent in technical bodies, gender. Since it is often difficult for Parties to find a consensus on the criteria used to select experts, regional distribution and expertise are the two that are consistently applied. 
ii. Open advisory bodies
Those bodies open to representatives of all Parties range in size from about 50 - 200 individuals. Prominent examples of this type of subsidiary advisory body include those created under the Basel Convention, CBDCMSUNCCD, and UNFCCC. Depending on the criteria agreed to by Parties, experts will be appointed by their governments, to a greater or lesser extent as government representatives or independent experts. While these advisory processes consider scientific, technical and other information, participants represent a wide range of backgrounds and include many diplomats. From this perspective, many open advisory bodies are ‘framework bodies’. To incorporate the necessary technical expertise for writing reports and for deliberations, open advisory processes employ a variety of means to facilitate their work. This includes: establishing ad hoc expert or working groups, holding ad hoc specialist meetings, and appointing rosters of experts. 
Rosters of Experts
Rosters have become a popular feature of framework advisory processes. All three Rio Conventions - biodiversity, climate change and desertification - have begun establishing them. The rosters serve to provide supplementary specialized knowledge to what is provided by members of the framework process. Ideally, rosters aim to balance the need for intellectual independence while maintaining a close link to intergovernmental negotiations. Though many resources have been invested in establishing rosters, experience with their use is relatively limited. Some uses include selecting individuals for meetings and report writing. However, the complicated process and investments (both administrative and financial) needed to establish them, have raised many questions about the criteria used to appoint experts and whether this constrains recourse to non-listed experts, identifying appropriate tasks, and cost-effectiveness. Other specific debates have focused on such issues as: regional representation, gender balance, independence of expertise, and disciplinary representation. Although not included in this section, GEF-STAP is a useful example of the successful application of an expert roster. Some principal features of STAP's roster include: a well-defined sphere of contribution, it gives advice on operational programming, quality control mechanisms exist for appointing and retaining experts, standards for advice have been established, its activities are reviewed, and it supports the scientific community in some developing countries.
Technical Advice vs. Substantively Broader Advice



Work and Outputs

Similar to distinguishing between expert bodies and open advisory processes, a distinction can also be made between those bodies that provide technical advice and those that provide substantively broader advice. Those processes furnishing advice on broad issue areas - notably the Rio Convention subsidiary bodies - have a challenging task. Perhaps the most challenging of these tasks is the need to balance the furnishing of specific advice with an understanding of the issue area as a whole. In this, these bodies reflect two of the dominant trends visible in many contemporary advisory processes. On one hand, advice to many MEAs is becoming increasingly technical and specialized. Many MEAs require highly specialized knowledge relating to problem identification, articulation, and alternatives for action. On the other hand, there is an increasing need for broad advice on the intra- and inter-relations between ecosystem and social dynamics. For example, this can be seen such agreements as the Biosafety and Kyoto Protocols. 

Balancing Science and Traditional Knowledge



Balancing the broad and the specific, means that scientific advisory processes must increasingly seek support of other communities. For example, CBD- SBSTTA must now consider the relations between indigenous knowledge, scientific knowledge, and the international law of intellectual property rights in light of the Biosafety Protocol and Convention Article 8(j). More broadly, the CST of the Desertification Convention devoted time at its third session to the importance of local and traditional knowledge in managing drought and combating desertification. Balancing knowledge gathered by science advisors and civil society will become an important element in the implementation of the Convention, which will invariably require the use of existing skills and traditional tasks. In general terms, one writer on the subject has noted that: 
 “... technical change does not transform societies independently of other factors unrelated to technology as such. The social and cultural factors - the attitudes and the beliefs attached to economic, political and social organization - influence the role that science and technology play in a given society.”i
The importance of NGO support work
In addition to broadening the type of knowledge needed, many advisory processes increasingly rely on NGOs. These provide such services as: necessary support including environmental monitoring and data management, promoting the work of convention across a wider community, and contributing other expertise. Two notable examples are CITESand Ramsar-STRP. For its part, STRP has a number of International Organization Partners: IUCN provides secretariat services to the Ramsar Convention, Wetlands International maintains the Ramsar Site Database, and Birdlife International and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) promote Ramsar values and provide support to Ramsar activities. In this respect, STRP reflects an increasing emphasis among many advisory processes on: 
integrating more closely the work of NGOs and other international organizations; 

improving and ensuring the quality of reports to decision-making bodies by drawing on as many sources as possible (the question of quality is regularly emphasized in meetings of advisory processes, as a result of which more consultant reports are peer reviewed before being submitted to government representatives); and 

opening meetings and workshops to NGOs and other relevant participants. 

IUCN not only serves the Ramsar Convention, but also others, including the World Heritage Convention wherein it is named the advisory body on natural sites. In fact, as a mix between intergovernmental and non-governmental organization, IUCN is a good example of the value that the balance between government and NGO interests can bring. 
The process of furnishing scientific advice
Once formulated, advice is furnished in either draft decision or report form. The standard process for advisory processes to deliver findings is to forward them to the Secretariat for distribution to Parties. Often a small presentation is made to Parties by a representative of the advisory body. In this sense, the science-policy bridge is strong. Subsidiary bodies provide advice on request. However, there is a weak link between what is invested to synthesize knowledge and the ‘intellectual mileage’ derived from it. To appreciate the full range of materials that advisory processes prepare, one must consider not only those forwarded to Parties, but also the numerous background and technical reports that are prepared by or on behalf of the advisory body. These reports are often filed after meetings, rarely if ever referred to again. This concerns particularly the larger advisory processes, responsible for deliberating on a wide range of issues. While this is not inherently a problem, the question arises whether more effort could not be made in treating these reports as a resource to be accessible for future purposes. 
    A case in point is the CST of the Desertification Convention, which had several reports prepared on various aspects of traditional knowledge. Though these were important documents for its third session, their contents were not considered in detail or used for specific purposes by the COP. While the real relevance of these reports will become apparent in the work of an ad hoc panel on traditional knowledge and in national reports to the Convention, they are a resource potentially useful for other purposes. They are available on the Internet, but a broader question may be whether it might be useful to have a centralized point of access allowing readers an overview of all traditional knowledge reports published UN system-wide. For more detail, see the list of recommendations
Convention Implementation
The science-policy bridge is also being expanded by some MEAs, which involve their subsidiary advisory processes in implementation. For example, the joint meetings of the UNFCCC’s SBSTA and Subsidiary Body on Implementation are aimed at strengthening the implementation of the Convention (adverse effects and response measures) and making preparations for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (compliance). The joint meetings of the Technical and Legal Working Groups of the Basel Convention are a another example. 
Making Increasing Amounts of Information Accessible

Information Technology

One priority for advisory processes in recent years has been to organize knowledge for better access. The amount of information that many advisory processes must managed is so large and detailed that new means are needed to organize it, while maintaining and even improving access. Since publication of the first Report on Scientific Advisory Processes, use of the Internet has increased substantially and the websites of MEAs and their advisory processes have become much more sophisticated. The first Report observed that more attention needed to be devoted to ensuring the completeness and improving the quality of information provided by advisory processes. Since then, the situation has greatly improved. Now background documents, meeting reports, decisions and even some live footage are generally available. Concerning the biodiversity conventions a step has even been taken to harmonize the information that is presented in the form of a joint website (see coordination below). See also Annex 1 for an overview of what information is provided by the websites of some major advisory processes. 

    A useful complement to the official documents and reports is the meeting coverage of the independent Earth Negotiations Bulletin, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. It provides excellent coverage of all major environment and sustainable development related negotiations and intergovernmental deliberations. 
Using IT to Reduce Costs
Beyond providing increasing amounts of information via the Internet, little use has been made of video conferencing or other IT-based means of reducing costs. Information technology is generally used in addition to, rather than in place of, traditional means of communication and meeting. However, some examples of cost-saving uses of IT exist. For example, Ramsar-STRP conducts some of its work over a closed e-mail discussion group, and the Interim Secretariat for PIC is considering an office automation project. 
The Increasing Emphasis on Interlinkages


During the past few years, an increasing interest has emerged to better coordinate the work of MEAs and their subsidiary bodies. Two meetings were held in 1999 on coordinating the work of MEAs and their subsidiary bodies. The first was a UNU sponsored meeting entitled Inter-linkages – Synergies and Coordination between Multilateral Environmental Agreements (Tokyo, July 1999) and the second was a UNEP Consultative Meeting on Collaboration Among the Scientific and Technical Subsidiary Bodies of Multilateral Environmental Conventions (Bonn, October 1999). These meetings highlighted three broad areas of focus concerning the management of MEA-relevant environmental information: 

harmonizing information systems and information exchanges (includes standardizing databases, indicators and related information requirements, etc.

coordinating the work of the subsidiary bodies of MEAs 

streamlining National Reporting 

The UNU conference provided the impetus for a UNU Inter-linkages Initiative which will involve many activities to promote increased coordination between the conventions through to 2002. Unfortunately, the UNU Initiative has placed little emphasis on synergies among advisory processes or, in fact, the possibility of using advisory processes to promote synergies amongst MEAs. 

Bilateral Collaboration through MoUs
In practice, coordination has come mainly in the form of bilateral collaboration on specific issues. Often, memoranda of understanding (MoUs) are signed to provide general frameworks for cooperation between contracting Partners. Most conventions involved in work related to each other have now signed or are in the process of signing MoUs. Since most MEAs are only recent creations and their MoUs as well, the results cannot yet be assessed.
Most recently, coordination is also being pursued through the Internet, by providing common windows to a variety of activities. Unfortunately, there are relatively few examples to date. One notable example is the website created to provide a common face to the legally distinct biodiversity conventions (CBD, CMS, CITES, Ramsar and World Heritage). While the website does not yet have a high profile, it offers a good comparative overview, listing links to each Convention according to 20 criteria, including contact details, document availability, national focal points and national reports.  (for more information, see: http://www.biodiv.org/rioconv/websites.html)
Improving Global-National level Coordination
A third area of coordination being pursued is between MEA subsidiary bodies and related national activities. One problem already identified is that while similar information or reports are often required by various conventions, reporting requirements and schedules are not harmonized. Similarly, different ministries from the same country sometimes submit contradictory information to the different conventions. Concerning biodiversity, an effort is now underway develop a harmonized reporting system. Several reports on harmonizing information have already been prepared byWCMC for UNEP and the biodiversity convention secretariats.ii

Box 2. Bodies Providing Science for Intergovernmental Deliberations

Commission on Sustainable Development - Ad Hoc Open-Ended Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Energy and Sustainable Development
Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) 
Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (concluded) 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 
Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) 
Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility
World Conservation Union (IUCN) 
World Commissions 

- Independent World Commission on the Oceans (1995-1998) 
- World Commission on Dams (IUCN/World Bank)(1998-2000) 
UN Specialized Agencies and Affiliated International Organizations (the following list is indicative only): 

FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), and the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS
IAEA’s Nuclear Safety Programme, and Nuclear Sciences and Applications Programme 
UNESCO's intergovernmental scientific activities (International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP), International Hydrological Programme (IHP), Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC
WHO’s Cluster of Sustainable Development and Human Environment activities, which include programmes on Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality and Air Quality. 
WMO’s Applications of Meteorology Programme, Atmospheric Research and Environment Programme, Hydrology and Water Resources Programme, World Climate Programme and World Weather Watch. 

Science for Capacity-building or Catalytic purposes vs. regulatory purposes
The bodies included in this section furnish advice to intergovernmental deliberations, mainly by providing information for capacity-building or catalytic purposes. By contrast, those included in the first section were created to furnish advice for regulatory purposes. Three types of bodies have been included in this section: intergovernmental bodies; commissions of eminent persons; and bodies which may include governments, but which are generally independent. 
    Each of the bodies considered here are distinct in terms of their organization, internal dynamics, work, outputs, uses of information technology, and relations with other bodies. In other words, each body was created for different purposes, by different sets of actors. However, they are similar in that they serve as important mechanisms for bringing science to policy deliberations. This is done in several ways, including catalyzing action and agenda setting, establishing authoritative standards, and supporting effective action. These roles are interrelated and bodies may contribute to one or more of these roles. 
Catalyzing Action by introducing new concepts and setting terms of debate

Catalyzing Action and Agenda Setting

An important role played by bodies included in this section is to catalyze policy action by using science to set the terms of debate. Before the international community of states begins policy deliberations on an issue, there is often a need to highlight the importance of that issue and consolidate current thinking. In such cases, advisory processes that can harness scientific knowledge and present it in policy relevant terms are useful. Sometimes, this may lead to concrete action, such as negotiations on a legal agreement. At other times it may simply introduce new terms or concepts, which serve to frame diffuse debates. Perhaps the pre-eminent example of a body that both shaped the policy framework and introduced new concepts was the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). Its work publicized the term ‘sustainable development’ and led to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The term sustainable development served to provide a conceptual framework to subsequent discussions on environmental protection and human development, while UNCED paved the way for at least three Conventions. 

    Similar expectations, though focused on specific issue areas are held-out for other more recent World Commissions of eminent persons, including the World Solar Commission, the World Commission on Dams and the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century. The longer-term outcomes of these remain to be seen. Many also hold high expectations for the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), which was proposed in the final report of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF). Many observers hope that UNFF will catalyze support for deliberations on a legal-binding agreement relating to forests. Finally, and most successfully to date, IPCC is an example of a scientific body that has had a tremendous catalytic influence on intergovernmental deliberations. Established several years before the Convention on Climate Change was signed, IPCC has played a substantial and on-going role in setting the terms of debate underpinning climate change negotiations. 
Agenda Setting by establishing the basis of policy deliberations
A second contribution of bodies included here is to influence intergovernmental negotiations so that these incorporate a significant scientific component. This may be done either by providing intellectual frameworks or by developing the agenda of ensuing intergovernmental deliberations. While very similar to the catalytic role discussed above, the role of agenda setting is more immediate and direct. The actions of the scientific body directly influences intergovernmental deliberations. 
    For example, through its Ad Hoc Working Group on POPs, IFCS established the basis for intergovernmental negotiations towards the recently signed International Convention for Implementing International Action on Certain POPs. Similarly, the CSD-Energy Group is expected to identify scientifically-based priorities and the basic agenda for deliberations on energy at CSD-9. 
Establishing Standards for Policy to live up to


Setting Authoritative Standards

A third role bodies in this section play is to establish authoritative scientific standards for policy deliberations, decisions and even implementation. There are several criteria which influence whether a body is accepted as providing standards for policy. Above all, the body must be recognized as providing independent, authoritative information that is presented clearly to policymakers. Often, but not always, scientific consensus is an important factor in establishing the authority of an advisory process. However, whether a process is judged to be authoritative does not reflect whether scientific consensus exists. Instead, this reflects more a consensus amongst policy makers that the knowledge provided is the ‘best available’. How exactly this works in practice varies from case to case, so unfortunately an in depth consideration of this is beyond the scope of this short Report. However, while calls for ‘scientific consensus’ may be useful this will, in all likelihood, not affect whether science is reflected in policy or not. 

    There are several examples of bodies that are generally considered to be authoritative and have thus set scientific standards which influence policy. IPCC, GEF-STAP and IUCN are examples of such bodies. IPCC is important to the degree that its assessments of climate dynamics are almost universally accepted as the standard which policy outcomes should manage. STAP provides similar scientific standards to the GEF, which is among the largest multilateral sources of funding for environment-related, capacity-building projects. STAP is interesting for its role in influencing and shaping operational programmes through scientific and technical advice, and for being among the few advisory processes that is specifically tied to a financial mechanism. This distinguishes it from most advisory bodies, which provide advice to policy deliberations. In addition, STAP’s work contributed to the establishment of the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA), which is in turn expected to provide standards for GEF’s International Waters focal area. What makes STAP so valuable is that its work is regularly reviewed and evaluated, clear criteria and standards exist to guide its work, and outputs are clearly defined and targeted. Finally, IUCN also plays a unique role with its expertise in applying ecosystems approaches to protected areas. Together with the Biodiversity Convention’s SBSTTA, the Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE) coordinated by WRI, and UNESCO’s MAB Programme, IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management has played a leading role in defining and now implementing an ecosystems approach. The ecosystems approach is now a standard framework for preparing environmental assessments and for the implementation of CBD. 
Supporting Policy Deliberations with Scientific Knowledge

Scientific Support

On the edge of what may be considered scientific advice, there are many further activities also bringing scientific knowledge to intergovernmental deliberations. Two prominent examples include WCMC and GESAMP. Briefly, WCMC contributes to Conventions on Biodiversity, Migratory Species, World Heritage, CITES, and several other international policy-relevant initiatives. For its part, GESAMP contributes SoE reports to its sponsors as requested, it is identified as a scientific advisory body in the MARPOL 73/78 Convention, and it provides input to other global and regional marine conventions. 

The Role of the Scientific Activities of International Organizations
Other examples of scientific support include the scientific activities of international organizations. Traditionally, these were often viewed as distinctively scientific activities and thus maintained only the minimum necessary relations with policy deliberations. However, since 1992 most take Agenda 21 and its priorities as guidelines for their work. This work mainly consists of acting as catalysts for national-level research, building national research capacities, and informing intergovernmental processes where relevant. As there are many such activities a thorough consideration of them is beyond the scope of this Report. However, some notable examples that warrant noting include: FAO’s work on agriculture, fisheries, forestry and food insecurity; UNESCO-IHP’s support for freshwater activities, the IOC’s support for oceans-related activities, and MAB’s work on ecosystems; as well as, WMO’s work on climate variability and predictability. 
    Their main means of providing support is to mobilize the scientific community to work on specific projects of international relevance. Sometimes this involves institutionally or programmatically linking national or local projects to intergovernmental activities. In most cases, it has involved facilitating international meetings of scientists and encouraging these to be ‘policy relevant’. For many scientific activities of international agencies, though not necessarily the ones listed above, uncertainty about what constitutes ‘policy relevance’, in addition to low public profiles, have resulted in lean budgets in recent years. Many such scientific activities still need to balance their desire to maintain scientific integrity through academic independence with the fact that they are intergovernmental entities which should serve public interests. 

Box 3. Major Recent Contributions to State of the Environment Knowledge:iii
(in reverse chronological order / only some of the most recent reports are linked) 

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (ongoing process through 2004) 
World Resources 2000-2001: People and Ecosystems: The Frayed Web of Life (WRI/UNEP/UNDP/World Bank, 2000) 
The Living Planet Report , (WWF, 2000) 
Global Environment Outlook - 2000 (UNEP, 1999) 
Emerging Environmental Issues for the 21st Century: A Study for GEO-2000 (SCOPE/UNEP, 1999) 
Protecting Our Planet – Securing Our Future: Linkages Among Global Environmental Issues and Human Needs (UNEP/NASA/World Bank, 1999) 
Critical Trends: Global Change and Sustainable Development (UN, 1997) 

Global International Waters Assessment (UNEP/GEF, to be completed in 2003) 
Climate Change: IPCC Third Assessment Report (IPCC, to be published in 2001)
A Sea of Troubles (GESAMP, to be published early 2001) 
Land-based Sources and Activities Affecting the Quality and Uses of the Marine, Coastal and Associated Freshwater Environment (GESAMP, to be published early 2001) 
Human Development Report (UNDP, 2000) 
World Development Indicators (World Bank, 2000) 
Poverty Report: Overcoming Human Poverty (UNDP, 2000) 
The Kosovo Conflict: Consequences for the Environment and Human Settlements (UNEP/UNCHS, 1999) 
World Disasters Report (IFRC, 1999) 
World Health Report (WHO, 1999) 
State of the World’s Forests (FAO, 1999) 
Synthesis of the Reports of the Scientific, Environmental Effects, and Technology and Economic Assessment Panels of the Montreal Protocol (UNEP, 1999) 
World Resources 1998-1999: Environmental Change and Human Health (WRI/UNEP/UNDP/World Bank, 1998) 
The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (FAO, 1998) 
Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World (UN/SEI/WMO, 1997) 
Health and Environment in Sustainable Development: Five Years After the Earth Summit (WHO, 1997) 
World Atlas of Desertification (UNEP, 1997) 
Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Plant and Animals (UNSCEAR, 1996)
Climate Change 1995 (IPCC, 1995) 
Global Biodiversity Assessment (UNEP, 1995) 
Global Waste Survey: Final Report (IMO, 1995) 

- Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)
- Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)
- Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS

Global syntheses for better understanding and policy
This section highlights a third distinct type of scientific advice to international processes. Rather than being created by governments or providing inputs into intergovernmental processes, Box 3 lists contributions made by international organizations to improve general knowledge of the state of the world’s environment. These contributions are generally provided in the form of environmental assessments and other collections of information on the state of the environment (SoE). As with the previous section, these assessments take on a myriad forms, structures, dynamics and outputs. For purposes here, assessments and observing systems are relevant as providers of policy-relevant information about the SoE. 
Overcoming the problems of past global SoE Reports
Since the Stockholm Conference (UNCHE) in 1972, printed reports have been the predominant way of providing policy-relevant, scientific information on the SoE. In the last few years a broad palette of reports has been published, covering a wide range of environment and sustainable development related issues. Surprisingly, given that no formal mechanism exists to coordinate what is published and by whom, there is little overlap. At the same time, as useful as many of the existing reports are, they have faced many challenges over the years: their policy-relevance was questioned, finding a readership was often difficult, and reports were out-dated within a day of publication. For those reports presenting data tables additional problems arose, as recently highlighted by the GEO-2000 Report: differences in criteria definition, uneven spatial coverage, inconsistent reporting time periods, data gaps, conceptual difficulties of measurement and differences in measurement method.iv Similar challenges also face efforts to revitalize the UN-sponsored global observing systems GCOS, GOOS and GTOS. 
    In response to this variety of challenges, many recent assessment processes and observing systems have embarked on efforts to reorient themselves in such a way as to: define their contributions to knowledge more clearly, target a specific audience, broaden their impact, and organize their work using innovative approaches. 
Reorienting the Contribution of SoE Reports



Defining their Contribution

One important question facing the assessment reports is defining the type of knowledge they seek to provide: is it more data presentation or analysis; and should it include natural sciences, social sciences, or even other types of knowledge. In recent years there has been a move away from publishing data sets, toward proffering policy-relevant observations about the state of the environment, developing future scenarios, identifying linkages between environment and social issues, and recommending plans of action. By making this shift, assessments are testing the balance between presenting hard data and making qualitative observations. This is a difficult balance if they are to avoid offering policy prescriptions, as has been recommended by some.v The real difficulty is that policymakers do not find data useful as indicators of policy priorities, but they do not want specific policy prescriptions either. The mark of a successful assessment is thus often the one that is judged to be sufficiently analytic to be interesting, while sufficiently quantitative to avoid being labelled as ‘biased’. How this plays out in practice changes from assessment to assessment and from time to time. 

Linking Ecosystems and Social Analyses
Along with the trend to provide evaluations rather than data, there is also increasing interest in assessing the linkages between environmental issues, as well as between these and human development. The importance of this lies in the simultaneous need for more specific and broader information, as discussed previously. Several reports exist along these lines, including a UNEP/NASA/ World Bank sponsored report sub-titled Linkages Among Global Environmental Issues and Human Needs, and a UNU-sponsored meeting on Inter-Linkages between MEAs. The latter proposed the creation of an open-ended ad hoc panel to further examine inter-linkages related issues. 
The Ecosystems Approach



In future, it will become increasingly important for assessments to offer both specific data and information, while also insightfully analysing the relevance of that information to other areas of environmental or human concern. This would probably be most useful to policymakers, if specific problems are identified at regional, transboundary, national and local levels. One attempt at striking this balance is the ecosystems approach. This has become a principal framework for addressing in management terms the linkages between individual environmental problem areas and human impacts. In addition to the major assessments being published using this method, including the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the World Resources Report: People and Ecosystems, the Ecosystems Conservation Group (comprised of UNEP, FAO, UNESCO, UNDP, IUCN, WWF, and the World Bank) has also prepared several substantive reports on ecosystem-related matters. 
Linking SoE Reporting and the Impact of Conflicts and Disasters
The balance of environmental and social analyses also underlies a new interest in assessing the effects of conflict on the environment. A recent report by the UNEP Balkans Task Force (now Balkans Unit) on the environmental effects of the Kosovo crisis is the first of its kind. The UNEP-BTF was also involved in evaluating the impacts of the Baia Mare mining spills in early 2000. A similarly interesting report was recently prepared by UNEP on the environmental impact of refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone in Guinea.vi Through such reports, and those on health and the environment, disasters, etc., a better picture is available of the linkages between human actions, policy frameworks and environmental consequences at meaningful regional and local levels. In this respect, assessment reports can serve important and policy-relevant reference purposes. 
The Importance of Strengthening the Global Observing Systems



In order to improve the ability of assessments to balance technical specificity and social context, it will certainly also become more important to implement the global observing systems. These provide a baseline set of data that can be applied for purposes ranging from the local to the global. Despite global monitoring efforts being cited as priority areas for UNEP since 1972, this has translated into little financial support and effective programming. The need for national agencies to support international efforts was advocated by former Head of the UK Meteorological Office, J.C.R. Hunt, in an editorial some years ago to the International Herald Tribune.vii He noted that international efforts required support from national levels in order to provide the essential knowledge for addressing climate change; though this applies to most aspects of global environmental change as well. The challenge facing the implementation of observing systems is that they must be able to provide particular and useful knowledge, from a myriad set of possible measurements. 
    To focus its efforts to provide accurate, continuous data useful for forecasting, GCOS has begun collaborating with SBSTA. In response to a request from the Parties to the UNFCCC, GCOS also prepared a report on the adequacy of global climate observing systems.viii
SoE Reports as indicators of progress
In addition to their specific contributions, SoE reports sometimes also implicitly serve to review international action and the implementation of MEAs. Well publicized reports are often referred to in the media as indicators of progress in tackling one issue or another. Most recently, the GEO-2000 Report was widely cited for its argument that the global environment is continuing to deteriorate. Similarly the IPCC Reports are also widely cited. At the same time, most reports have been poorly circulated relative to what was invested in their preparation. A case in point is the Global Biodiversity Assessment of several years ago. While certainly extensive, this report is inaccessible to most readers and consequently received little broader attention. 

Expanding the Readership of SoE Reports

Identifying a Readership

There have been many debates about the use of printed assessments and whether “anybody actually reads or uses them”. Part of the problem arises out of the fact that in the past few assessment reports were prepared for a defined readership. This lack of readily identifiable readership is closely linked to difficulties in defining ‘policy relevance’ at an appropriate scale; which to most policymakers is at regional, transboundary, national and/or local levels. Constant debate on this issue and the search for financial resources have resulted in some change. 

i. Linking SoE Reports to policy frameworks

ii. Conducting Reader Surveys

The new Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) is an example of an assessment which serves a broad purpose, but which is also tied to a specific readership. GIWA is funded by GEF, largely because the final assessment will provide a scientific framework for GEF’s International Waters focal area. Beyond this, GIWA could also be useful because it serves each of the nine super-regions and 66 sub-regions for which the analysis is being carried out. 

Preparations for the GEO-3 provide another example. While not tied to a specific readership, the GEO team is conducting an Internet-based Reader Survey in order to improve the effectiveness of the third Report due in 2002. 

iii. Timing SoE Reports to Major Events
A third means being employed to improve readership is timing report publication to correspond with major events. For example, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and World Resources 2000-2001 reports, are being published to coincide with the UN Millennium Assembly. The GEO-3 Report is to be published for the Rio+10 Event in 2002. 
Using SoE Reports to Improve National-level Capacity

Broadening Impact through Capacity Building

Increasingly, there is also a recognition that SoE assessments are not only about having a readership, as important as this is. The ability of assessment and observation processes to contribute to capacity building is something that is being experimented with in a few cases, though it is still too early for an analysis thereof. However, the benefits of linking assessments to capacity-building could include, amongst many others: building a firmer knowledge-base for future assessments, building confidence in the assessments themselves, improving relevance by including the concerns of more contributors, and broadening the long-term impact of the assessment. 

    The Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, the GEO-3 process and GIWA, are all also seeking to extend the impact of their work by engaging in capacity building. All three processes are establishing regional assessment processes to strengthen both regional capacity and the final ‘global’ product. The GEO process has developed its process the furthest and has had a number of regional centres prepare environmental assessments and related products.
    The possibility of capacity building through the earth observation systems is less clear so far. One problem in the past has been the reliance on high-technologies, such as satellite remote sensing, accessible only to few people and institutions. At the same time, the need for more systematic information world-wide, especially from developing countries, is important in the implementation of conventions and effective capacity building. If the earth observation results were made available, with assistance in interpretation, for national and regional decision-making, there might be more support for them and a better build-up of information from developing countries. 
Employing IT to improve information management

Employing Innovative Processes

In addition to defining a readership and building capacity, a third approach to improve the definition and impact of assessment reports and observation processes is to employ innovative processes to manage them. For example, as the most ambitious assessment process, the GEO series of reports was established to be participatory and ongoing. Research centres and individuals world wide are involved in a process that illustrates the possibility of being open while remaining efficient. The GEO process has, however, become so complicated and extensive that there is now a search for effectiveness through the Internet. Thus, there are now efforts underway to launch a GEO Support System on the Internet as a means of facilitating contributions and interactions between contributors. 

    Building Linkages

Assessments and observing systems also play another important role as conduits for linkages between international agencies. So, for example, the Millennium Assessment, the World Resources Reports, GIWA, and the GESAMP reports are all collaborative efforts between various agencies. In fact, GESAMP is considered by many to be an excellent example of substantive collaboration between international institutions. 

SoE Reports and Observing Systems as means of Improving Inter-Agency Collaboration
The ability of international agencies to collaborate on a substantive basis is a successful means of promoting coordination. The global observing systems are among the more ambitious efforts to build substantive collaboration between major UN bodies involved in environment and sustainable development related work. If these are implemented, they would provide the infrastructure needed for common knowledge basis for all agencies to strengthen their respective assessment and advisory functions. Similarly, the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, the Linkages Report, World Resources reports and GESAMP reports all serve to pool the resources of various international institutions. 

    i  Jean-Jacques Salomon, 'The 'Uncertain Quest': Mobilising Science and Technology for Development,' Science and Public Policy (V.22, N.1, February 1995) p.10.

ii  See, for example, the Feasibility Study for a Harmonised Information Management Infrastructure for Biodiversity-related Treaties, written by Timothy H. Johnson, Ian K. Crain, Martin V. Sneary on behalf of WCMC (August 1998), and the background paper prepared by Mark Collins for the 1999 UNU Interlinkages Conference entitled 'Harmonization of Information for MEAs'

iii  For another extensive list of recent and ongoing environmental assessments see the Survey of Ongoing and Planned Science Assessments Related to the Proposed Millennium Assessment, updated December 1999 and available at http://www.ma-secretariat.org

iv  GEO-2000, Nairobi: UNEP, 1999, p.xix

v  See Inter-Linkages: Synergies and Coordination between Multilateral Environmental Agreements, Tokyo: UNU, July 1999, p.25.

vi  The Environmental Impact of Refugees in Guinea, Report to the Secretary General on the Findings and Recommendations of the Pre-Assessment on the Environmental Impact of Refugees in Guinea, Nairobi: UNEP with UNCHS and UNHCR, 1999.

vii  J.C.R. Hunt, 'Another Task for Kyoto: Strengthen Data-Gathering,' International Herald Tribune (December 1997).

viii  GCOS, 'Report on the Adequacy of Global Climate Observing Systems,' GCOS Report N.48, prepared for UNFCCC COP-4,October 1998.



United Nations System
UN Commission on Sustainable Development
UN System-Wide World Water Development Report (to be completed 2002) 
UN Inter-Agency Working Group on Water in Africa 
UN ACC Sub-Committee on Water Resources (Chaired by Director of IHP) 
For a comprehensive list of UN activities on freshwater see Report of the Secretary General on Activities of the Organizations of the UN System in the Field of Freshwater Resources (E/CN.17/1998/3 of April/May 1998) 
For a list of UN water-related databases (as at 10 August 1999) see http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/watbase.htm

Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA). For an annotated list of links see website. 
Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities
WCMC,Freshwater Biodiversity: A Preliminary Global Assessment (1998) 
Managing Water for African Cities (UNEP/UNCHS, UNF/UNFIP funded) 
UNEP Global Environment Monitoring System Freshwater Quality Programme (GEMS/WATER) 

UN and Affiliated International Organizations
FAO has numerous activities under its Water Resources, Development and Management Service. 
GEF: Global Action on Water has funded projects in the areas of water scarcity, pollution reduction, preventing conflict, and land-based sources of marine pollution. 
WHO: Global Assessment 2000: Status of the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector (to be published 2000); Divisions responsible for water projects include: Water, Sanitation and Health; Child Health and Development; and Control of Tropical Diseases. A Report of the UN Secretary-General on Progress in Providing Safe Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation for all during the 1990s is also to be published. 
Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) was established within WHO as follow-up to the UN International Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990). It organized a Fifth Global Forum on water in November 2000 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 
UNESCO - International Hydrological Programme (IHP) has many activities including the new Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP) programme and the Flow Regimes from International Experimental Network Data Sets (FRIEND). 
UNESCO - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) - Global Directory of Marine and Freshwater Professionals (GLODIR) 
UNDP Sustainable Energy and Environment Division (SEED) works with the Global Water Partnership and hosts the GEF International Waters secretariat, and has many other activities. For an extensive list of water-related links see http://www.undp.org/seed/water/
UNDP, World Bank and 15 bilateral donors have a Water and Sanitation Programme
The World Bank has many water activities and sponsored a Water Supply and Sanitation Forum in April 2000 
WMO has numerous activities under the Hydrology and Water Resources Programme, and the World Climate Research Programme has a Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) 

Other International Activities
Global Water Partnership 
International Water and Sanitation Centre (The Netherlands, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, WORLD BANK, WSSCC) - maintains the UNEP/UNCHS urban water website
World Commission on Dams (IUCN and The World Bank) 
World Water Council has initiated the World Water Vision (managed by IHP) and the World Water Forum (guided by the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century) 

Coming to Terms with the Myriad Activities
Too much, too little, in the wrong place, of the wrong type....

These are some of the basic concerns identified with freshwater resources. They are also concerns raised by some about the provision of policy-relevant scientific knowledge on this issue. Certainly, a myriad international activities exist, which provide research, support capacity building, catalyze international policy deliberations, and promote coordination. In the last two years alone, at least: three ministerial-level policy conferences were held; six major assessments were initiated (and some completed); and, three ‘comprehensive’ lists of international water-related activities were posted on the Internet, each providing useful but overlapping and incomplete information. 

    Even to many individuals familiar with the workings of the international system, it is difficult to get an overview of what activities exist and their contributions to improving freshwater resources world-wide. In fact, despite the myriad activities, freshwater ecosystems are still widely threatened and freshwater quality is still declining in many of those regions facing the greatest need.i Within the context of this Report, the consequence of having taken so many initiatives is that knowledge, priorities, and results have not been synthesized to produce anything near a collective, conceptual framework constituting a ‘freshwater issue area’. The need for a better overview of available information was already raised by the UN Expert Group Meeting on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management. As a contribution to this end, this Part highlights the foci of scientific activities and identifies some possible contributions of science to tackling freshwater issues. Finally, this Part illustrates some important elements of science/policy dynamics in this issue, using early warning systems for drought and floods as an example. 
The Impact of a Diffuse Policy Framework on the Foci of Scientific Activities

The Foci of Scientific Activities

Though many initiatives exist to promote action on freshwater issues, these have little consolidating influence. Unlike many other issues of international concern, there is no global, framework convention on freshwater. Nor is there any single global set of intergovernmental deliberations. In fact, reading through the many UN documents on the issue reveals a thorough-going emphasis on local, national and regional perspectives. This stems largely from the fact that freshwater is not an inherently global issue. Freshwater concerns can be considered in terms of vastly different levels of analysis: local (e.g. water pollution, urban supplies); regional (e.g. water shed management); and global (e.g. climate change). In addition, freshwater evokes distinct responses from different perspectives, whether these be scientific, consumer, economic, legal, intergovernmental political, domestic political, etc. At the international level, the activities listed in Box 4 reflect several core foci for international scientific activities concerned with freshwater: 

International law. The Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification, as well as the Ramsar Convention and CMS, serve to focus scientific activity on a number of specific freshwater-related concerns. In 1997 the UN General Assembly also passed the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses providing an umbrella for regional agreements. This convention includes articles on the: protection and preservation of ecosystems; prevention, reduction and control of pollution; introduction of alien or new species; protection and preservation of the marine environment; and, sustainable management of international watercourses. 

Capacity-building projects. The multilateral funding agencies, including GEF, UNDP and the World Bank are important foci of attention through their projects. The World Bank alone spends $US 3 billion on water a year with current outstanding commitments of another $US 20 billion. In addition, recent activities such as the UNEP/UNCHS project on water for African Cities, which is funded by the UN Foundation, will serve to focus attention on freshwater quality, supply and related issues. 

Assessments. FAO, WCMC, WRI and WWF have recently prepared assessments, which serve to focus general attention on trends and scenarios in freshwater issues and the impact of human activities as well as management efforts of freshwater ecosystems. 

Research activities. UNESCO and WMO sponsor the largest research activities, which focus mainly on the hydrological cycle and the impact of this on freshwater as a resource. 

Intergovernmental deliberations. The Commission on Sustainable Development and the World Water Forum serve as foci for attempts to establish an international policy-making framework. On a more operational level, UNEP’s Water Policy and Strategy provides a framework for focusing that organization’s scientific activities. The World Commission on Dams has also emerged as an important example of cooperation between NGOs and governmental institutions on a highly controversial issue.ii

    In the near future, GIWA and a conference to mark a ten-year review of Agenda 21, Chapter 18 (freshwater resources), to be held in 2002 and sponsored by the UN ACC Sub-Committee on Water Resources and the German Government, will be very important foci and sources of policy direction for international scientific activities. Whether these will provide general priorities for other activities as well depends on whether the different governing bodies mandate their respective scientific activities to provide complementary work. 
The Contributions of Science

The Contributions of International Scientific Activities

The UNEP Executive Director has identified assessment, management, and coordination as the most important components of addressing freshwater resources at the international level.iii These components encompass an enormous breadth of activity from understanding freshwater problems, initiating activities to mitigate or overcome problems, and improving the effectiveness of existing activities through targeting these in line with clear priorities. 

    Within that context, international scientific activities can make at least three general contributions (in addition to other specific contributions to individual MEAs): 

Global Observing and Assessments which involve long-term processes of improving knowledge about climate dynamics and hydrological cycles 

Early-Warning Systems which link knowledge, forecasting and information dissemination systems and serve specific regions and watersheds. 

Capacity-building is necessary to improve local, national, regional water-management expertise, information dissemination systems, as well as disaster preparedness, mitigation, and prevention activities. 

The possibility of an 'integrated' system of scientific advisory processes
It is clear that given this breadth of activity no single global scientific advisory process would be useful. Instead, an integrated system of scientific advisory and support processes would be useful as a basis for realizing all three contributions listed above. The need for integrated approaches has been stressed by policymakers at all recent meetings. From the perspective of scientific advisory processes an integrated approach involves at least two elements. The first element involves integrating programming by improving communication mechanisms between the scientific activities, decision-making processes, and implementing communities. Second, an integrated approach to freshwater-management must involve making international programmes compatible with a commonly-accepted ecosystems approach as politically feasible. 
    To bridge these various aspects of an integrated approach is the role of international institutions. The difficulty is the absence of a single policy directive. As well, decentralized funding and policy-making structures discourage coordinated programming. The only clarity that exist is that scientific activities should support, in the first order, local, national and regional levels. 
The Need for a Strategy to Focus International Water-Related Activities

Some Key Questions to be Answered to Improve Scientific Advice for Freshwater Management

The need for an international strategy to address freshwater issues is nonetheless deemed important. This was raised in depth by the 1998 UN Expert Group Meeting on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management in Harare, Zimbabwe. However, even this meeting added little clarity to the question of how policy-priorities should be established to focus the whole range of relevant international scientific activities. Should the inter-agency compatibility of water-related scientific activities be extended, then international institutions will collectively have to answer some important questions. These include: 

Are the priorities of the different foci listed above mutually-supportive? Or, are there conflicting priorities? 

Are existing scientific activities adapted to providing knowledge to support existing policy and capacity-building processes? 

Are the main areas of policy concern also reflected in the work of scientific support and advisory processes? 

What knowledge gaps exist that can be appropriately filled by international scientific activities in support of the expressed needs of local, national and regional decision-makers and stakeholders? 

What knowledge is still needed from local and national sources in regions most affected by freshwater-related problems? 

    Early-Warning Systems for Water-Related Disasters

This section briefly illustrates why an integrated approach is needed and how such an approach supports EWS.

Some existing EWS Initiatives
Early-warning systems for water shortages, drought, and floods have been identified as a valuable contribution international institutions could make in support of water resources management at the local, national and regional levels.iv One notable initiative is that of the Desertification Convention, within which its governing body established an ad hoc panel of experts on EWS. The place of EWS was also the topic of a 1998 International IDNDR Conference on EWS for the Reduction of Natural Disasters in Potsdam, Germany and it is now an integral part of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. 
The Need to Integrate EWS with Policymaking and Local Action
In order to be successfully implemented, EWS will need to be coupled with effective policy-making and early action. Even a system that provides all the right information is effectively a failure if its warnings are not directly translated into disaster preparedness, mitigation or, ideally, prevention. This means that, at the very least, the will to provide political support and the capacity to act must exist in the affected areas. This, in turn, requires translating information into action involving manageable technologies and taking place at the local level. In this case, the use of satellite technologies, however useful to experts themselves, will only be of use to an EWS if they can provide information useful for specific preventative, preparatory or other defined purposes. As was recently noted: "the real challenge of the 21st century will not be improvements in scientific research, but rather ensuring that advance in science are accessible to the most vulnerable." The same individual noted that EWS in developing countries were hampered by "gaps in hazard databases, lack of research in basic science and resource constraints on maintaining technology."v
    It would thus seem that the most effective way of involving scientific advice to support EWS is to integrate these systems into a project cycle. This would entail setting priorities, initial planning to identify the linkages between EWS and early action, monitoring the results of experiences, assessing the effectiveness of the drought prevention project cycle, and readjusting the priorities to target the cycle more effectively. 

    Carmen Revenga, et. al., Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE): Freshwater Systems, World Resources Institute: October 2000. 

ii  A recent book has event cited the World Commission on Dams as an excellent example of the possibilities of improved cooperation between governmental and non-governmental institutions. See Wolfgang H. Reinicke and Francis Deng, Critical Choices, The United Nations, Networks, and the Future of Global Governance, final Report of the Global Public Policy Project, Washington, D.C., 2000. 

iii  Report of the Executive Director on Water Policy and Strategy of the UN Environment Programme and Addendum, UNEP/GCSS.VI/6/ and Add.1 of 27 April 2000. 

iv  For numerous situation and analytic reports on the topic of water-related disasters see http://www.reliefweb.int

v  Barbara E. Carby (Director-General, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Jamaica), 'Role of Science in the Evolution of Disaster Management,' Background Paper for Thematic Meeting on Scientific Expertise and Public Decision-Making at the UNESCO/ICSU World Conference on Science, 1999. 


Two Types of Trends can be Observed
The number of scientific advisory bodies has increased steadily over the past decade. Table 1 illustrates the growth in permanent advisory processes serving intergovernmental purposes on some major issues. As advisory processes have become more established it has become possible to identify some characteristic trends. These trends reflect fundamental changes in the content and focus of scientific advice over the past decades. For the sake of simplicity, these trends can be divided into two types: first, general trends in the evolution of the science/policy nexus and, second, specific trends concerning particular aspects of advisory processes. The latter series of trends are presented with reference to observations made in the first Report on Scientific Advisory Processes. That Report made several observations, including the need to: establish clear expectations; encourage dialogue between scientists and policy-makers; develop capacity-building as a goal of advisory processes; counter the continued potential for duplication; support the data requirements for emerging priorities; and, improve the Internet as a source of information and as a guide to its quality. 
    Before turning to the trends themselves, it warrants noting that most are generally positive. This in turn reflects favourably on the increasing efforts being invested in advisory processes. Having said this, there is much to be done to bridge the remaining gaps. These gaps will be addressed after the trends.
    The Major Trends
General Trends

i. increasing need to balance specialized and holistic knowledge

Two broad trends can be identified in the provision of knowledge for policy-making, each consisting of two sometimes contradictory sub-elements. The first trend encompasses the increasing need for highly specialized knowledge concerning specific environmental concerns, and the simultaneous need for more holistic knowledge about biosphere dynamics. Advisory processes are increasingly required to provide advice that incorporates the newest specialist knowledge about an issue and technological advances, while being able to understand the dynamics of that issue in a broader context. Perhaps the most prominent recent example is the expertise needed to understand genetically modified organisms, while also understanding their place in a sustainable biosphere and related social practices including intellectual property rights. More broadly, the ecosystems or water basin approaches also represent a recognition that specialized knowledge is needed in terms of its organic, physical and social context. Understanding such relationships is an important reason why advisory processes are slowly moving to including more types of knowledge in their advisory functions. 
ii. A Shift from Problem Identification to Alternative Scenarios for Action
The second broad trend involves a shift in the content of scientific advice from identifying problem areas, to incorporating evaluations of technical response options and their economic feasibility, to socio-economic causes and impacts, to the present interest in suggesting alternative scenarios for effective action. Many environmental problems are now relatively well understood in terms of their basic causes and effects, while the best paths of action remain unclear. A thorough consideration of possible alternatives for action is also important where incomplete knowledge of a problem exists. Discussions on the precautionary principle in the context of biodiversity and climate change conventions have highlighted this. In future, scientific advisory processes will need to balance data presentation, policy-relevant observations, and policy options. A difficulty in this trend concerns the need to balance the roles of advisory and intergovernmental processes. This balance is particularly difficult for many advisory processes with mandates to identify environmental problems from traditional scientific perspectives. At the same time, this trend opens the door to advisory processes seeking to incorporate a broader spectrum of knowledge. 
    In any case, the move to put greater emphasis on implementation has begun. For example, the eighth session of CSD decided that Rio+10 should deal with implementation of Agenda 21. More emphatically, the Malmö Ministerial Declaration highlighted the “alarming discrepancy between commitments and actions”. Finally, the challenge of balancing the two general trends will certainly become evident in those issues identified by UNEP as being its priority areas for policy development - forests, land, water, environmental health, and urban environment. 


Biological Diversity
Oceans &
Coastal Areas
Ozone Depletion
Arid Lands
LULUC & Forests
Env'tal Health2
Touris 2
Urban Env't2
CMS (1983)
IPCC (1988)
Montreal Protocol (1989)


1  GEF-STAP  is included after its review of 1994, which established the current focal areas.

2  Environmental Health, Energy, Tourism and Urban Environment are listed here because although no central scientific advisory processes exist for these issues, recent bodies have been established which will seek to incorporate at least some scientific advice.

3  Though the Balkans Task Force is not a scientific advisory process per se, it is the first body that is mandated to provide conflict and disaster related SoE reports.

~   Denotes advisory bodies that provide advice to specific conventions, but are not tied exclusively to those conventions

Specific Trends

In addition to the general trends, a number of specific trends can be observed.  These are presented here with a view to reflecting on observations made in the first Report prepared in 1998. Since then, the following can be said to have occurred:
Improved niche definition. In general, advisory processes have more well-developed mandates, which also take into account relations with other bodies. Two examples are the improved definitions of work for SBSTA and IPCC concerning the Convention in Climate Change. Concerning desertification, the CST has begun providing substantive advice that has been well received. 
Greater dialogue between advisory processes and other communities. There is more recognition of the need to improve dialogue between the various communities involved in work related to conventions or intergovernmental deliberations. In fact, there is a growing interest in not only bridging the science-policy gap, but also the science-civil knowledge gap. 
Capacity-building as a goal of international advisory processes. The role that international advisory processes can play to mobilize domestic scientific capacity is being recognized. Some recent assessment processes are leading the way on this. However, the win/win (more domestic capacity/stronger input to MEAs) possibilities are only slowly being tapped. For example, collaboration between advisory processes and international agencies supporting domestic scientific capacity building is still limited. In light of this example, as well as declining sums in development support and increasing interest in promoting ‘synergies’, this issue deserves further attention. 
Increased coordination through substantive collaboration. Over the past few years more concerted efforts have been made to improve the ‘synergies and linkages’ between various advisory processes. These efforts recognize that coordination represents more than joint statements and must include substantive collaboration. One example of this is the rejuvenated inter-agency Ecosystem Conservation Group, which has prepared many substantive reports and is now preparing a strategic overview of environmental monitoring and assessment of ecosystems. Other examples of substantive collaboration, with good chances of leading to improved coordination, include the joint website of the biodiversity conventions, the inter-linkages meetings, and the building of linkages between the global observing systems and MEAs. 
Improved data availability for emerging priorities. Progress toward improving the availability of data to support forecasting is still slow. In isolated cases resources are being invested and positive results are emerging. One positive example is the collaborative relationship emerging between GCOS and UNFCCC. Progress is still slow on providing more detailed analyses of regional problems and their causes and impacts. 
Effective use of Internet. Over the past years website design and content has improved steadily, leading to markedly better access to information. One element that has not improved is the sense of ‘system’ among websites provided by UN and affiliated institutions. Without specific knowledge of the organization of the UN system it is difficult to find information. That is, information is not organized by issue or priority areas. As a contribution to using the Internet as a guide to information accessibility and quality, this Report has developed a table comparing information availability as provided by the activities profiled in this Report ( see Annex I).
Identifying the Information Gaps
    Despite the generally positive trends identified above, there remain many information gaps. While Agenda 21 speaks of a single gap, there are in fact a number of gaps that can be identified as being particularly problematic.
A Data Gap was identified by Agenda 21 as the gap between the availability of quality data from around the world and the needs of both national and international policymakers. While many policy statements exist calling for the strengthening of Earthwatch, few resources have actually been made available to realize a functioning and effective information collection, management and dissemination system on the state of the global environment. 
A Linkages Gap exists between the increasing number of advisory processes being founded. Although it is increasingly recognized that environmental problems can only be solved holistically, only a few ongoing collaborative efforts exist. Only one advisory process was actually mandated to produce a list of all related activities and possible avenues of collaboration. The linkages gap may widen if ‘autarkic’ advisory processes are created in future. At the latest, this will become apparent should separate advisory processes be established when intergovernmental deliberations proceed on water, land, forests, environmental health and urban environment. 
A Public Access Gap exists between the production and synthesis of knowledge and its use by a broad readership. Each year, dozens of reports are prepared by external consultants and UN staff members at great cost. These often reflect useful syntheses of current knowledge and many are of high quality. However, once the official meetings for which the reports are intended are over the reports are shelved. While most are available on the Internet, a user requires a good knowledge of the UN system to search the myriad institutions potentially supporting similar activities. No overview exists of UN supported publications and research on environment and sustainable development. This is a critical deficit in the transparency of the UN’s work. 
A Systematic Organization of Information Gap i exists resulting in an information overload and making it difficult to find information quickly about different environmental media from different perspectives. Users should be able to find information about specific problems and possible technical and policy alternatives. For example, most items included in the now popular lists of 'success stories' and 'best practices' are relevant to various conventions. However, the creation and maintenance of these lists is sporadic, preventing any overview. Lee A. Kimball has described this as the 'dual-axis dilemma' of information management: on one axis, information is needed on the full range of environmental problems; and on the other axis, information is needed on human activities and their impacts on different environmental media.
An Impact Gap exists between the work of scientific advisory activities and efforts to support local/national-level capacity building. Advisory processes harness much knowledge, which is sometimes only used for limited purposes. Located at the interface between scientific research and policymaking, advisory processes can set priorities useful to UN scientific and research support activities. While there is much talk of capacity building, there are few examples of advisory processes using their positions to assist international scientific programmes in strengthening local/national capabilities to manage national activities - thus, ultimately improving support for implementing international agreements. 
The Relevance of Adaptive Management
Adaptive Management is a term often used to describe the ideal institutional framework for addressing environment and sustainable development issues. The term is also used in the explication of the ecosystems concept by SBSTTA. At its core, adaptive management involves learning from experiences and treating actions as experiments which provide those experiences. From this perspective, policies and knowledge are continuously interactive processes of assessing, deciding, doing and evaluating. Since experiences will differ from issue to issue, there is no single model for what constitutes an ‘ideal’ advisory process. Equally, it is impossible to articulate a universally appropriate definition of advice effectiveness. Indeed, Part 1 aimed highlight the diversity of advisory processes. Having said this, one way of conceptualizing the system of scientific advice for multilateral processes is offered in Figure 1. Within that context, the Trends Section illustrated some areas of progress and improvement with the integration of scientific advice in policy-making processes. Nonetheless, information gaps remain and the Malmö Ministerial Declaration stressed the need to “improve avenues for communication between the scientific community, decision makers and other stakeholders”.ii
Bridging the Gaps as a Means of Improving Implementation

In bridging the information gaps, the aim must be support an informed shift of emphasis from achieving agreement to effective implementation. By its very nature, this shift will require much adaptive management to bring together the international community of states and their commitments in spite of the “complex and dynamic nature of ecosystems and the absence of complete knowledge or understanding of their functioning.”iii
This section seeks to complement a list of potential areas of focus during CSD-9 prepared by the UN Division for Sustainable Development with the UN System-Wide Earthwatch Coordination (joint task managers of Agenda 21, Chapter 40 on ‘Information for Decision-Making’). With this and the list of information gaps in mind, the following are a series of problem-solving and outcome-oriented recommendations. These recommendations are modest and realistic and can be implemented with few additional resources since they aim to strengthen what already exists. They are organized as recommendations to bridge the gaps identified in the previous section. 
Recommendations to Bridge the Information for Decision-making Gap


Improving Dialogue between Advisory Processes and Policymakers

The next UNEP Global Ministerial Forum would serve as an ideal venue to improve dialogue between providers of scientific and other knowledge and policymakers. As a Forum designed to promote strategic policy discussions and to strengthen constructive partnerships a session could be scheduled to identify types of advice that policymakers prefer, areas needing further advice in future, and reviewing success stories of past advisory processes. 



Standardizing methods and improving information harmonization to support activities in need of scientific advice and support

Harmonized processes and standardized methods in information management are useful to the extent that they serve the actual needs of some audience or specific purpose. For example, the benefit of harmonizing national reporting mechanisms of the biodiversity conventions, is that it serves to simplify the work of national governments and improve the information required under the conventions. Following this example, standardized and/or harmonized methods for managing data and information from scientific support activities (e.g. G30S and international organizations) should serve clearly identified audiences or purposes. In particular, this might include UNEP’s proposed work on disaster EWS, which must first though set its own priorities for what an operational EWS will need. 



Reversing the decline in essential observations

As shown in Part 1, earth observation systems potentially play an important support role to advisory processes in addition to being providers of 'baseline knowledge'. For this reason, there have been many recent calls to strengthen these systems with additional resources. It may also be functionally supportive to link the earth observations systems to the specific needs of advisory processes to MEAs and other relevant intergovernmental deliberations. One benefit would be to avoid the difficulty of setting priorities, as faced by past international observing systems. The priority foci should be determined by policy-making processes and applied to the scientific activities of international institutions. As discussed, this has been effectively initiated by GCOS and the Climate Change Convention. This issue might be considered during CSD-9 as part of discussions on dual-purpose observation programmes that serve both international scientific research and policymaking. 



Continuing to complement science with traditional knowledge

Rather than offering a formal proposal, this paragraph serves to stress the importance of identifying the ‘best’ information and knowledge to support policymaking. Such knowledge should come from all possible sources to serve the demand. This is an important means of bridging the gap between ‘problem identification’ and ‘proposing alternatives for implementation’. For example, the Biodiversity and Desertification conventions play important roles in determining what traditional knowledge can usefully supply and how it should be included within scientific advice for policymaking. These will set an example for future framework advisory processes dealing with broad issues, including possibly forests, land, water and environmental health. 



Supporting Effectiveness through Constructive Self-Evaluation

Many advisory processes have gone through internal review processes and the consensus seems to be that this has led to positive results. One specific result identified in the past, includes a clearer sense of expectations by policymakers and scientists, both in terms of what advice is sought and what can be plausibly delivered. Those advisory processes that have not undergone review processes should be encouraged to do so.

Recommendations to Bridge the Public Access Gap
Improving Public Access Information

In some countries public service institutions have introduced Customer Charters as means of improving services in a non-regulatory fashion. Using this as an example, it would be useful to establish a Stakeholder Charter on Minimum Standards of Information provided by UN sources on environment and sustainable development. Such a Charter would provide a non-regulatory standard to assist institutions in providing accessible and timely information. Naturally, this will take much preparatory work, but if treated as an ongoing project the benefits could be captured immediately. Some foreseeable benefits include: a clear guide to what the public can expect from the UN, increased transparency of the UN’s work, coordination is promoted without administration, and, webmasters would have a guide to preparing websites and their content. 

Improving the Use of Information Technologies to make information accessible

More effort should be made to improve accessibility to UN supported scientific and synthesis work. Many studies commissioned by the UN, UNEP and other agencies are excellent sources of information and analysis, but these are either used for a single purpose and then filed or not used at all. To improve accessibility, a UN System-Wide Web Site Locator for Environment and Sustainable Development could be established. This should be a low-maintenance, accessible, well-advertised website locator which points the way to finding documents, reports, and other relevant information. Such a site would also provide a useful mask highlighting similarities and differences in existing information sources, without formally coordinating the presentation of Internet sites. A third benefit to all information providers would be to highlight what knowledge exists and what knowledge gaps remain. The basis for such a website exists in the UN System-Wide Earthwatch Coordination site, which is described by the UN Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements as an excellent site. Moreover, a locator would contribute to implementing Earthwatch’s mandate to provide “effective, accessible and strictly non-political scientific knowledge” capable of meeting the needs of decision-makers.iv In any case, the valuable contributions of newly-established clearinghouses (eg. biodiversity and desertification) and web site linkages (eg. biodiversity) must be considered in conceiving any Locator. 

Improving Information Provision from NGOs

NGOs and related forums should be harnessed as sources of information on emerging problems and alternative means of supporting the implementation of agreements. Many NGOs have experience balancing science/civil knowledge and the need for cost-effectiveness in project implementation. This supports the recommendation made in the Report of the UN Secretary-General that "UNEP and Habitat should strengthen their systems of receiving and responding to information from non-governmental organizations, especially on emerging problems, and encourage non-governmental organizations to provide information on new problems."v

Recommendations to Bridge the Linkages Gap
Encouraging Coordination through Substantive Cooperation

There is surprisingly little competition between the various advisory processes. In fact, since publication of the first Report, there has been a marked improvement in what was identified above as niche definition. Thus, there should not be any effort to create a formal coordinating mechanism between advisory processes. Collaboration should be needs driven, ends oriented, and reflect self interest on the part of all participants. The best way of ensuring coordination amongst scientific advisory processes may be to encourage substantive collaboration. Encouraging collaborative approaches is a means of pooling resources and improving outputs; in other words, giving concrete meaning to calls for improved ‘synergies’. 

Strengthening Existing Advisory Processes to Address Emerging Issues

Existing scientific advisory processes should be supported and strengthened to address emerging issues. New scientific advisory processes should be created only when no other appropriate scientific body exists. Most emerging issues, including those identified by UNEP as policy priority areas, have scientific bodies that already exist. As issues emerge onto the policy agenda, efforts should be made to identify appropriate existing scientific bodies that could provide the necessary scientific knowledge. In other words, the system of providing scientific advice should remain decentralized. 

Creating an Ad Hoc Working Group to Identify Areas of Substantive Cooperation on Emerging Issues

To identify gaps in linkages it may be useful to establish an ad hoc, informal working group to identify areas of possible cooperation among advisory processes. This was suggested by the UNU Inter-linkages Report, and much of this role is being fulfilled by the UNU Inter-linkages Initiative. However, that Initiative has placed relatively little emphasis on scientific advisory process. Thus, a time limited, clearly defined, cost effective working group may be useful to identify areas that could benefit from increased collaboration - including UNEP’s environmental policy priority areas. Other substantive areas have been identified by the UNU Initiative and the 1998 Linkages Report referred to earlier. 

Recommendations to Bridge the Impact Gap
    Improving the Capacity of Developing Countries to Contribute to International Scientific Advisory Processes

There is a strong potential link between international advisory processes, the scientific activities of international institutions, and capacity building in developing countries. Advisory processes should be encouraged to set priorities by identifying areas needing further information from developing countries. Such priorities should be encouraged as useful guides to the scientific activities of international institutions that support capacity building. International scientific activities could assist MEAs by supporting effective National Focal Points and assisting the responsible national bodies to fulfil MEA report-writing requirements.

Recommendations on the Future of this Report
Following its publication, this Report should be formatted specifically for the Internet. The contents should then be updated regularly and all references to institutions, programmes and other activities should be hyperlinked. Instead of Profiles, an expanded Table of websites (see Annex I) could provide the necessary background information on all relevant activities. Finally, up-to-date print versions of the Report could then be made available for all relevant meetings in limited numbers. 
Further Reports should be considered on the role of advisory processes in the review of convention implementation, means of improving the participation of experts from developing countries, and the possible contributions of other knowledge types to intergovernmental deliberations. 
    Implementing the above two recommendations could serve several important purposes, including: 

to update UNEP’s webpage on Scientific Advisory Groups

a summary may be useful for UNEP, should it update its Corporate Profile (see p.14); 

an up-to-date version could be provided to CSD-9, 

it may be useful for preparing the upcoming Report of the Secretary General on Enhancing Complementarities among International Instruments related to Environment and Sustainable Development, to be prepared for the 55th UN General Assembly by UNEP, 

the UNEP meeting of Subsidiary Advisory Bodies (scheduled for Autumn 2000), and 

UNU Inter-linkages Initiative 

More generally, the Report could serve to: 

assist in the creation of new advisory processes that wish to have an immediate overview of what bodies already exist and their different experiences. 

    I would like to thank Lee A. Kimball for her very helpful contributions to Parts 3 and 4, including the suggestion to add the 'Systematic Organization of Information Gap' as a separate Information Gap. 

ii  For a detailed analysis of adaptive management understood in these terms see Kai N. Lee, Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment, Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1993. 

iii  For a good outline of what adaptive management entails in the international context see SBSTTA, Ecosystem Approach: Further Conceptual Elaboration, (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA /5/11 of 23 October 1999). 

iv  For more information see: Resolution A/543/242 of 10 August 1999, adopted by the General Assembly on the Report of the Secretary-General on Environment and Human Settlements, paragraph 9; and, the Report of the Secretary-General on Environment and Human Settlements (A/53/463 of 6 October 1998), which includes as an Annex the Report of the United Nations Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements

v  Report of the Secretary General on Environment and Human Settlements (A/53/463 of 6 October 1998), paragraph 30(f).

Mission Statement
History/ Background
Text of Treaty
Contact Info
National Focal Points
Calendar of Meetings/ Events
Advisory Body Meeting Doc's
COP Meeting Doc's
Scientific Reports
National Reports
Site Map
Clear Site
! CMS-
Available by Post
Available by Post
Advisory Processes
Clear site except for Frames

! = This website is made using frames, so links within the website structure are less clear when the document is accessed directly. To reach the homepage, click on its name in the first column on the left of the table.

  ANNEX 2: ACRONYMS (contents)
ACC Administrative Committee on Coordination (Return)
CBD Convention on Biological Diversity (Return)
CITES Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Return)
CMS Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (Return)
COP Conference of the Parties (Return)
CRC Chemical Review Committee (PIC Convention) 
CSD Commission on Sustainable Development (Return)
CST Committee on Science and Technology (UNCCD)
EWS Early Warning System (Return)
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (Return)
G3OS Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS, GTOS)
GCOS Global Climate Observing System
GCSS Governing Council Special Session (UNEP) (Return)
GEF Global Environment Facility (Return)
GEMS Global Environment Monitoring System (UNEP)
GEO Global Environment Outlook (UNEP) (Return)
GESAMP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (Return)
GIWA Global International Waters Assessment (Return)
GOOS Global Ocean Observing System
GTOS Global Terrestrial Observing System
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency (Return)
ICSU International Council for Science (Return)
IDNDR International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (Return)
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Return)
IFCS Intergovernmental Panel on Chemical Safety (Return)
IFRC International Federation of Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies (Return)
IHP Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (UNESCO)
IMO International Maritime Organization (Return)
IOC Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO)
IT information technology (Return)
IUCN World Conservation Union (Return)
LULUC Land Use and Land-Use Change (Return)
MAB Man and the Biosphere Programme (UNESCO) (Return)
MARPOL 73/78 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 (Return)
MEA multilateral environmental agreement (Return)
MoU memorandum of understanding 
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Agency (United States) (Return)
NGO non-governmental organization (Return)
OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
PIC Prior Informed Consent (Convention on) (Return)
SBC Secretariat of the Basel Convention (Return)
SBSTA Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (UNFCCC)
SBSTTA Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (CBD) 
SCOPE Scientific Committee On Problems of the Environment (of ICSU)
SEI Stockholm Environment Institute (Return)
SoE state of the environment (reports) (Return)
STAP Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (GEF) (Return)
STRP Scientific and Technical Review Panel (Ramsar) 
TWG Technical Working Group (Basel) (Return)
UNCCD UN Convention to Combat Desertification (Return)
UNCED UN Conference on Environment and Development (Return)
UNCHS UN Centre on Human Settlements (Return)
UNDP UN Development Programme (Return)
UNESCO UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Return)
UNFCCC UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Return)
UNEP UN Environment Programme (Return)
UNF UN Foundation
UNFF UN Forum on Forests (Return)
UNFIP UN Fund for International Partnerships
UNHCR UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Return)
UNICEF UN Children's Fund
UNSCEAR UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (Return)
UNU UN University (Return)
WCMC World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP) (Return)
WHC World Heritage Convention
WHO World Health Organization (Return)
WMO World Meteorological Organization (Return)
WSSCC Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
WWF World Wide Fund for Nature (Return)
  The following is a list of international scientific advisory bodies on the environment and sustainable development for which short background profiles were prepared. This list aims to highlight some of the principal advisory processes and should not be viewed as a comprehensive list. The contents of all profiles were collated in consultation with the relevant Secretariats where possible, but responsibility for content and accuracy remains with the author. Those profiles which were prepared with no final comment from the responsible Secretariats are marked as Drafts and should be treated as incomplete. All profiles were prepared between February and August 2000.

Each profile provides information on the following (as available): 

Background, including: founding date, sponsoring body(ies), and mandate. 

Organization and Dynamics, including: membership and membership dynamics (How is the membership selected? What is looked for in appointing members? How long do they serve? Is there a regular rotation?); processes for gathering and managing information; and, experiences with membership composition, selection, and organization. 

Work and Outputs, including: list of principal recent outputs; recent meetings; principal means of conveying information to policymakers; and, experiences with responses from policymakers. 

Information Technology used to improve information management. 

Linkages, including: a list of cooperative arrangements with other scientific advisory or support activities; as well as the main reasons why cooperation is pursued and experiences thereof. 

For the sake of economy, complete profiles are not attached to this Report. 

Technical Working Group Basel Convention
Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice Convention on Biological Diversity
Advisory Committees Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Committee on Science and Technology UN Convention to Combat Desertification
Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel Global Environment Facility
  Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety
  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection
The Scientific Council Convention on Migratory Species
Assessment Panels  Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
(Interim) Chemicals Review Committee  Convention on the PIC Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
Scientific and Technical Review Panel Convention on Wetlands
Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment International Council for Science
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