G8 Leaders Pledge Marine Protection, Clean Water

EVIAN, France, June 3, 2003 (ENS) - Leaders of the world's eight largest industrialized democracies wound up their annual three day meeting today in Evian on the shore of Lake Geneva, with a joint statement that emphasizes environmental responsibility and sustainable development.

Economically, "major downside risks have receded and the conditions for a recovery are in place," the G8 leaders said, and they called for measures to prevent marine pollution and improve tanker safety, and adopted a plan of action to help halve the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.

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A protester confronts police at the G8 Summit (Photo courtesy Indymedia Paris)
All during the meeting, activists protesting G8 policies clashed with police on both sides of the lake. More than 100,000 came out on Sunday. Denonstrators were tear gassed, chased and beaten. Hundreds were arrested, and one activist climber in Lausanne was seriously injured when the rope from which he hung was cut by police.

Leaders of the G8 countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - pledged the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and urgent restoration and maintenance of global fish stocks.

"There is growing pressure on the marine environment," the G8 leaders acknowledged. "The decline in marine biodiversity and the depletion of fish stocks are of increasing concern, as is the use of Flags of Convenience, especially for fishing vessels, as a means to avoid management conservation measures," they said.

The sinking of the oil tanker "Prestige" off the coast of Spain in November 2002, said the leaders, "has again demonstrated that tanker safety and pollution prevention have to be further improved."

In addition, the leaders "agreed to take all necessary and appropriate steps to strengthen international maritime safety." They also agreed to accelerate the adoption of guidelines on places of refuge for vessels in distress such as the "Prestige."

Calling for support of the International Maritime Organization's efforts to strengthen maritime safety, the G8 action plan urges acceleration of the phaseout of single hull oil tankers, "mandatory pilotage" in narrow and restricted waters in conformity with International Maritime Organization rules, and enhanced compensation funds to benefit victims of oil pollution.

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U.S. President George W. Bush (left) is greeted by French President Jacques Chirac on his arrival in Evian. Papering over their differences over the Iraq war, the two leaders agreed to disagree. (Photo courtesy G8)
In their statement, the G8 leaders said that in addition to efforts to improve the safety regimes for tankers, they are "committed to act on the significant environmental threat posed by large cargo vessels and their bunkers," and they are encouraging the adoption of liability provisions including, where appropriate, through the ratification of international liability conventions.

Noting that "global sustainable development and poverty reduction requires healthier and more sustainably managed oceans and seas," the G8 leaders promised to maintain the productivity and biodiversity of important and vulnerable marine and coastal areas, including on the high seas.

The establishment of ecosystem networks of marine protected areas by 2012 in their own waters and regions is a priority under the action plan the leaders said, and they pledged to work with other countries to help them establish marine protected areas in their own waters.

Fresh water is a matter of "human security" the G8 leaders said, assuring each other and the world that they would act to "reverse the current trend of environmental degradation through the protection and balanced management of natural resources."

They made particular mention of the importance of proper water management in Africa, in support of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, as stated in the G8 Africa Action Plan. They promised to promote river basin cooperation throughout the world, with particular attention to African river basins.

Good governance, capacity building, and financial resources are needed to increase and stabilize water supplies, and the G8 leaders said, "We are committed to playing a more active role in the international efforts towards achieving these goals."

At the same time they underlined the need for "the United Nations to take a key role in the water sector."

While offering to share best practice technologies in the delivery of water and sanitation services including the "establishment and operation of partnerships, whether public-public or public-private, where appropriate," the G8 leaders clearly favor the public-private partnership model.

They decided to promote public-private partnerships by "inducing private sector investments" and encouraging use of local currency, facilitating international commercial investment and lending through use of risk guarantees, encouraging the harmonization of operational procedures, and facilitating the issue of national and international tenders.

To ensure sustainable forest management, the G8 leaders confirmed their determination to strengthen international efforts to tackle the problem of illegal logging.

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A working session at the G8 Summit. Heads of the World Bank, the European Union, African and Arab countries attended the summit in addition to the leaders of the eight primary nations. (Photo courtesy G8)
On the health front, the leaders pledged to fund the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and to eradicate polio. "We welcome the increased bilateral commitments for HIV/AIDS," they stated, "whilst recognising that significant additional funds are required."

The spread of SARS demonstrates the importance of global collaboration, including global disease surveillance, laboratory, diagnostic and research efforts, and prevention, care, and treatment, the leaders stated, and promised to collaborate on this effort.

The pre-eminent threat to international security, the leaders said, is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, which "poses a growing danger to us all," as well as the spread of international terrorism.

North Korea's uranium enrichment and plutonium production programs and its failure to comply with its safeguards agreement under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undermine the non-proliferation regime and are a clear breach of North Korea's international obligations, the G8 leaders stated. "We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs, a fundamental step to facilitate a comprehensive and peaceful solution."

Iran came in for a stern warning as well. "We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program," they said, stressing the importance of Iran's full compliance with its obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"We urge Iran to sign and implement an IAEA Additional Protocol without delay or conditions. We offer our strongest support to comprehensive IAEA examination of this country's nuclear program," the G8 leaders stated.

The eight leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and urged all countries that have not yet joined these agreements to do so.

The leaders adopted an Action Plan on how best to use science and technology for sustainable development focused on three areas:

Russia, the sole country whose ratification of the Kyoto Protocol could bring it into force, indicated that it is ready to ratify this year by agreeing to the common statement, "Those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol reaffirm their determination to see it enter into force."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 Summit (Photo courtesy G8)
The protocol is an international treaty under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It requires 37 industrialized countries to reduce their emission of six greenhouse gases an average of 5.2 percent of 1990 emissions during the five year period 2008-2012.

The rules for entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol require 55 Parties to the Convention to ratify the Protocol, including the industrialized countries governed by the protocol accounting for 55 percent of that groupís carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990.

To date, 43.9 percent of CO2 emissions are covered. Russia's ratification will bring the protocol into force.

Despite these positive statements for support of sustainable development, across the lake in Geneva, Switzerland, demonstrators against the G8 broke windows at the World Meteorological Organization and other buildings housing international organizations. In return, police attacked the Center of Independent Media in Geneva on Sunday.

The G8 protests extended far afield, even to the Jordan-Iraq border. Since Saturday, a delegation from Ya Basta, an Italian activist organization, repeatedly has been refused entry into Iraq, according to Indymedia UK. Timed to coincide with the G8 Summit, the delegation was sent to establish links between elements of civil society in Iraq, Palestine, and Europe, including the Baghdad Independent Media Centre.

"Yesterday at 3:08 UK time," the independent media organization said today, "we began receiving text messages from the delegation who feared that U.S. forces would shoot them at the border. The activists staged a sit down protest, but American soldiers then violently dragged them onto the rear of a truck, injuring nine.