President's Message . . . and the Global Marine Assessment . . . . .
- [Time for Island Resources Foundation's "President's Annual Message,"
commemorating my April 1st (1995) employment date at the Foundation .
. . bp]
1) BIG NEWS is the re-establishment of the Library (Island
Systems Environmental Information Centre) at the H. Lavity Stoutt
Community College facility on Main Street in Road Town, Tortola, as a
result of another MASSIVE EFFORT by Judith and Ed Towle with a big
assist by Jean Pierre Bacle, after the July 2001 re-location of the
Library to the second floor of 123 Main Street, Road Town (over the
Road Town Bakery --- best bakery west of Gustavia, St. Barts.)
Three items related to this re-enforcement of our commitment to the
British Virgin Islands are:
a) Ed Towle has been working with principals in New York and the
BVI to move discussions of the future of Sandy Cay forward, including
an examination of the legal framework for the management of protected
areas by long-time Foundation supporter, Dr. Barbara Lausche.
b) Since January, Dr. Chris Howell (formerly Chief-of-Party for
a USAID-funded tourism development program in the Red Sea, and a
25-year Foundation Associate) has been carrying out cooperative
research on a Foundation program development effort in the BVI. So
far this has included special project activities with the Town and
Country Planning Office, and on-going counsel to the local "Island
Erosion" NGO, and the BVI Sediment Mitigation projects. In addition,
the Foundation has been active in several impact mitigation projects,
and we pulled together information about potential impacts of
dredging operations on humpback whales in the BVI during the winter
breeding and birthing season. All this in spite of
continuing/increasing problems with Immigration,
c) Construction has started for the new Marine Studies Centre at
the Paraquita Bay campus of the Community College. It is
anticipated/hoped that construction will be completed in 12 to 18
months, after which we hope the Foundation will be able to move
itself and the library (ok, the Island Systems Environmental
Information Centre) to a "permanent" base in the Marine Studies
2) Second BIG NEWS is that on January 18th, the Foundation had
an "Opening" of the new "NGO Environmental Reference Center at Coral
World," which combines a terrific small conference room and, library
made available to the Foundation by Trudie Prior, President of Coral
World, St. Thomas, in conjunction with the RELOCATION of the
Foundation's excellent collection of environmental data and reference
works for the [US] Virgin Islands.
The MOVE of the collection and organizing the materials for
this center were completed mostly by the team of Towle, Towle and
Bacle. . . . (same guys who did all three of the relocations of the
libraries from St. Thomas to storage to Tortola, and on and on. . . .)
The Foundation is looking for volunteer assistance in
staffing the office at Coral World on a regular basis. If you would
be interested, contact us---in the meantime, if you want to use the
collection there or the facilities, check with Ed Towle at
202/265-9712 or Sandra Tate at 340/775-6225.
3) Finally (in the spring house cleaning vein, anyway) Judith
Towle has just completed a major re-organization of the DC library,
which is linked to the integration of this collection with materials
that we recently moved from the islands to DC.
Among other things, we have uncovered a major cache of
Country Environmental Profiles, which will occasion a further
4) Jean Pierre Bacle, the Foundation's cartographer and
photo-interpreter, has been working on several interesting mapping
projects, including a fascinating research project with the NOAA
bio-geography team to see if digitized versions of historic aerial
photos can be used for coral reef mapping.
One by-product of this activity has been the posting of
hundreds of historic color aerial photos of the US Virgin Islands on
the NOAA Web Site at
http://biogeo.nos.noaa.gov/products/data/photos/usvi.shtml ---- be
SURE to click the little "Historic Photos" button, and you can find
aerial photos as fine as 1:20,000, for 1965, 1966, 1971, 1972, 1974,
1988, 1992. Obviously not all of these coverages are island-wide, but
it's a terrific resource. Congratulations and thanks to NOAA for
making these available to the public-at-large. . . .
5) In late March, 2002, Island Resources Foundation concluded
negotiations for the sale of the Davis Park cottage on Fire Island,
Long Island, NY. This property was donated to the Foundation 25 years
ago as a bequest of Virginia Hearst Radcliffe, a well-known Caribbean
travel writer. Among other issues, this sale will enable the
Foundation to liquidate a 20-year debt to Dr. and Mrs. Towle, for
salaries which the Towles were not paid in the early 1980's.
Dr. Towle has announced that his payment will be used to
support a special research project on the twentieth century history
of the conservation movement in the insular English-speaking
Caribbean. More on this later. . .
The Fire Island property is one of the last of the major assets of
the Foundation, which means that the five-year process of downsizing
and asset liquidation while meeting the Foundation's goals of service
to the environmental community of small islands is approaching an
end. The on-going commitment of the Foundation's current level of
service and outreach is currently a focus of strategic planning
efforts by the officers and Board of the Foundation.
6) The environmental education programs of the Foundation
include maintenance of the score of e-mail afinity groups that we
moderate, in addition to continuing support for the establishment of
an international network to advance shared information on sustainable
development among small island communities around the world. In June
of this year the Foundation will become a charter member of the
"Global Islands Network," which will be inaugurated at the seventh
biennial meeting of the International Small Islands Association
(ISISA) in Prince Edward Island, Candada. This basic organizational
activity is largely the result of indefatigable efforts by Graeme
Robertson of Skye, and support from the Hamburg-based Lighthouse
Foundation, which also supported an organizing meeting last year in
2002 is the tenth anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and
Development (Rio, 1992). In September there will be a meeting in
Johannesburg, South Africa to review progress to date and to map
future global directions. Preparations for this "Rio Plus 10"
meeting, the "World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)," have
focused attention on many key development and environmental policy
issues with major implications for small islands. For that reason
Island Resources Foundation has been drawn into a number of
development policy issues which we would not necessarily address in
more "normal" times.
In general, we have been devoting a lot of attention to
environmental assessment activities, such as the UNEP Global
Environmental Outlook (GEO), the Millenium Assessment, and Reefs at
Risk. The Foundation has been one of 40-some global "Collaborating
Centers" for the UNEP GEO process; we have been involved in the
Milleniium Assessment process from the beginning (and we will be
attending a Caribbean regional "kick-off" meeting in Trinidad in
April, 2002); and we are a partner with World Resources Institute
(WRI), UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and ICLARM in the
Caribbean refinement of the "Reefs at Risk" global initiative.
Specifically, the Foundation has invested a considerable
effort in reviewing a proposal put forth by Iceland and other
European countries to set up a global process for regular Global
Marine Assessments (yes, GMAs). Obviously, done correctly, this
Global Marine Assessment process can have GREAT impacts on small
islands around the world. The Foundation have gotten a bit exercised
about the Global Marine Assessment because until now there has been
relatively little involvement in this process by island interests,
and we think the issues are important.
A copy of my conclusions on the Global Marine Assessment is
Guess that's it for this year's April Fool's message - - - - best
wishes to all members and supporters . . .
Island Resources Foundation
PS --- Although it takes about 90-days for the funds to clear, if you
want to make a donation to Island Resources Foundation by CREDIT
CARD, you can now do it on-line, using the facilities at
http://www.justgive.org This is a secure, reliable service which
forwards 100% of your tax deductible donation to Island Resources
Or, be traditional and just mail a check to Island Resources
Foundation, 1718 "P" Street NW, Suite T-4, Washington, DC 20036. . .
Foundation Message about the Global Marine Assessment Strategy
[Apologies for duplicate postings, future discussion of the Global
Marine Assesment will be conducted by the Foundation on the Caribbean
Assessment e-mail group --- anyone can subscribe by sending a totally
blank e-mail message to <email@example.com>
. . . bp]
As mentioned previously, Island Resources Foundation was invited to
attend a "Technical Workshop for The Feasibility Study For
Establishing A Regular Process For The Assessment Of The State Of The
Marine Environment" in Bremen, Germany, 18-20 March 2002.
There is a web site at http://www.unep.org/marineassessment/ which has:
Background documents, including the results of a prior
(September 2001) meeting in Rekjavik;
Conclusions from this conference, which should be posted to
this web site, shortly.
In brief, at the instance of Iceland and some other countries, the
UNEP Governing Council directed the UNEP Secretariat to study whether
there should be regular marine assessments. Not surprisingly, the
answer coming from the consultation process set up by UNEP is "Yes."
This conclusion and recommendations for HOW that process should be
accomplished will be presented to the NEXT UNEP GOVERNING COUNCIL
meeting in February, 2003.
In addition to the report to the UNEP Governing Council, the
issue of management of the world's oceans is achieving a lot of
attention. This means that there are several forums in which the
issue of a regular process for Global Marine Assessments could be
discussed. These alternative forums include:
o the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity,
o the "informal consultative process" for the United Nations,
and the several "prepcoms" leading to the World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD --- Johannesburg, Sept 2002)
All of these sessions provide opportunities for supporting the
general concept of a Global Marine Assessment, or even committing
resources to support the as-yet non-existent UNEP Global Marine
Finally, one of the underlying questions about the Global
Marine Assessment (now abbreviated GMA, of course) is whether such a
process would or should be directly managed by UNEP. This was not
directly addressed by this meeting, but it was announced that at
other forums, senior UNEP staff had said that the UNEP secretariat
probably would NOT manage a Global Marine Assessment process. (I
cannot imagine why.)
Going into the meeting in Bremen, I said I was concerned that
1) the preliminary products seemed to reflect a "truncated view"
of assessment processes, and that
2) an excessive concern for national governments (who, as the
only members of the UNEP Governing Council are the audience and
constituency for this Feasibility Study) which could prejudice the
interests of SMALL ISLANDS.
Attending this workshop at our own costs (except for the meals
provided at the meetings and a great reception in the Rattskeller of
Bremen), we were able to get "small island communities" added to the
list of major stakeholders in the assessment process. Observers of
this process should be alert to the tendency to convert this to
"SIDS," although I think we made clear to THIS FORUM that the
specific interests of Small Island Developing States and small
islands can be, and frequently are QUITE DIFFERENT.
The Bremen workshop also reinforced the concept that assessments
should be based primarily on REGIONAL assessments based on geographic
and "eco-regional" definitions. In addition, it was accepted that the
regional assessment processes would be coordinated by "regional
collaborating centers." Exactly how those centers would be selected
and supported was NOT discussed.
In addition, I was very impressed with a concept for an overall
process for the Global Marine Assessment that was presented by
Patricio Bernal, the Executive Director of the UNESCO
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO/IOC---IOC was also
one of the sponsors of the Workshop). The "Bernal Prototype" combines
many of the successful elements of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change with specific elements of the "region-driven" reality
of global marine assessments.
In general however, Island Resources Foundation was NOT SUCCESSFUL in
getting issues we thought significant considered by the Workshop.
o Support for local livelihoods for people directly dependent
on the marine environment was not incorporated in the overall goal
statement for the Global Marine Assessment program.
o There was no support for the idea of including an objective
for "data re-cycling" or re-use or re-interpretation of some of the
scores of often very creditable information resources that ALREADY
exist and which might be used, or recovered, for new studies of seas
at the regional level.
o This meeting was NOT primarily concerned with defining the
operations of a potential Global Marine Assessment, but even with
that qualification, there seemed to be a reluctance to include
resources such as the Millenium Assessment or Reefs at Risk in the
GMA. Similarly, I was surprised to hear NOT ONE person suggest that
we should be looking to the navies of the world for information
resources. (I was told that "NATO" was mentioned in one of the
o There was no explicit commitment to "re-convene" this
workshop or any similar group sometime around the end of 2002 in
order to refine the conclusions of this workshop, especially in light
of all of the intervening global forums. To my mind, the conclusions
of this meeting cannot be very appropriate for February of 2003,
without further discussion.
Finally, and frankly most troubling, I have the feeling that the
Global Marine Assessment is being crafted to meet the needs of the
international organizations more than the needs of the developing
countries and small islands that have such a stake in the management
of the oceans. Although there was no explicit discussion of the
actual size and operational scope of the GMA, it is my impression
that the target will be a relatively small skeleton program with an
annual cost of $5 million to $9 million/year.
This level of activity may be sufficient to "do" periodic
global assessments, but it is totally insufficient to provide small
island communities, and developing countries in general, with the
level of PRIOR support that they will need to:
1) DEFINE NEEDS going into the assessment process;
2) CONDUCT the REGIONAL ANALYSES and STUDIES which are necessary
to assess and fill the information gaps which will be found
everywhere (but which can be remediated by institutions such as the
European Envirionment Agency in the developed world).
3) PRODUCE the nation-, stakeholder-, and region-specific
INFORMATION PRODUCTS that are even more important (and frequently
more complex to produce) in these developing areas than in areas with
better developed media infrastructure.
In short, it is my fear that the Global Marine Assessment is being
crafted like the World Trade Organization ---- rich countries and
poor countries have equal "legal" standing, but the program lacks
the resources to provide the compensating support needed to provide
real EQUALITY for the developing states. [Reminds me of one of my
favorite quotes by Anatole France: "The law, in its majestic
equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under
bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."]
To achieve a program which INCLUDES the necessary support systems for
such a Global Marine Assessment, I would guess would require
something like $25 to $40 million per year, much of which would be
channeled through the various regional collaborating centers serving
developing countries. Urge your national representatives to the
various UN and WSSD activities to push for a LARGER Global Marine
Assessment programme, rather than a weak system with no supports for
developing states or small island community stakeholders. It does not
seem that $40 million is a lot to set up a viable system to assess
the conditions of 80% of the surface of the globe.
Finally, speaking to colleagues in the Caribbean, I urge you to write
Kenneth Sherman <Kenneth.Sherman@...> for a copy of his
background paper on the effectiveness of the Regional Seas Programs
in achieving Large Marine Ecosystem assessments that have resulted in
real management impacts. Among the seventy countries participating in
such activities, Mr. Sherman includes the countries of the Wider
Caribbean among these MAJOR SUCCESS STORIES.
RECOMMENDED NEXT STEPS:
1) Check the Global Marine Assessment web site at
http://www.unep.org/marineassessment/, and print out the CONCLUSIONS
paper for the Bremen Workshop when it is finalized. Share this paper
2) Urge your national representative to the major international
forums (i.e., your UN Ambassador) to SUPPORT a --- properly funded
--- Global Marine Assessment as part of the up-coming "Informal
Consultative Process (ICP)" for the UN, as part of the Conference of
Parties for the Convention on Biodiversity (COP CBD), as part of the
PrepComs for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the
summit itself in Johannesburg in September.
Stress that to be effective, any global assessment process
MUST include facilities to support the ability of SMALL ISLAND
COMMUNITIES and developing countries in general to PARTICIPATE fully
and equitably in such a process.
3) FINALLY, reserve judgment on support for the Global Marine
Assessment at the UNEP Governing Council in February of 2003, to see
if the final proposal for a GMA contains sufficient support for small
island communities. If the final proposal to the UNEP council does
NOT include sufficient support resources, many small island
communities should probably OPPOSE a GMA because it provides
information resources which can only be of use to national
governments or transnational corporations whose interests are NOT the
same as small island communities.
Island Resources, the Virgin Islands and Washington
For fastest mail service: 1718 "P" St NW # T-4, Washington, DC 20036
Fone 202/265-9712 fax 202/232-0748; E-mail: <bpotter@...>
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