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President's Message . . . and the Global Marine Assessment . . . . .

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  • Potter at Island Resources
    [Time for Island Resources Foundation s President s Annual Message, commemorating my April 1st (1995) employment date at the Foundation . . . bp] 1) BIG
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2002
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      [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
      announcement shortly.


      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
      appended below.


      Guess that's it for this year's April Fool's message - - - - best
      wishes to all members and supporters . . .

      bruce potter
      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
      Foundation. .
      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 <carib-assessment-subscribe@yahoogroups.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
      Assessment program.
      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
      workshop groups.)

      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.


      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
      with colleagues.

      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.

      bruce potter

      Island Resources, the Virgin Islands and Washington
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