The Global Ministerial Environment Forum and the Twenty-first Session of the Governing Council of UNEP

Nairobi, 5-9 February 2001 Speech by Finland as Chair of the Arctic Council in the years 2000-2002

UNEP is one of the observers of the Arctic Council. However, presenting UNEP only as an Arctic observer is an unfair understatement. UNEP has served as a very close partner to Arctic actors ever since the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS) was adopted at a ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland ten years ago. We much appreciate, for example, UNEP's Grid Arendal's active role in Arctic issues.

As chair of the Arctic Council, Finland has the honour to invite the Executive Director of UNEP, Dr Klaus Töpfer, to participate in the 10th Anniversary of the Rovaniemi process in June this year and address the meeting as a keynote speaker.

The Arctic Council was founded in 1996 as a circumpolar high-level forum that brings together the Governments of those countries which have a territorial outreach beyond the Arctic Circle. These are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation , Sweden and the United States. Representatives of Arctic Indigenous peoples are participating in the work on an equal footing with the Governments, an arrangement which has been considered unique in international co-operation. The objectives of cooperation were extended to cover the whole concept of sustainable development, including social, cultural and economic dimensions.

The internationally best known achievement of the Arctic Council is the comprehensive Assessment Report on Arctic Pollution Issues prepared by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) which was released in 1998. UNEP was one of the financing partners of this report, which is much used in the international environmental protection community.

The programme for the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) is currently preparing an overview report on biodiversity and conservation in the Arctic. UNEP, through the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), has actively participated in the preparation of this report which is to be released in June at the 10th Anniversary of the Rovaniemi process.

The cooperation on assessment between the Arctic Council and UNEP has been mutually beneficial and will be followed-up. AMAP is continuing its monitoring programme with a focus on trends in contaminants and their effects on the Arctic environment and CAFF is developing a programme to monitor key aspects of Arctic biodiversity.

AMAP is also providing information for The Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA), a UNEP initiative. The GIWA will produce an evaluation tool and a priority list that will assist GEF and its partners, such as the World Bank and regional investment banks, in prioritising their financing activities.

The Arctic Council Working Group on Emergency, Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR) is preparing a Circumpolar Map of Resources at Risk from Oil Spills in the Arctic for the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in 2002. This work may benefit UNEP's programme for Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (Apell).

The Second Ministerial Meeting in Barrow, Alaska, adopted a new project on Climate Impact Assessment in the Arctic. The project group was requested to address environmental, human health, social, cultural and economic impacts and consequences of climate variability and change, including policy recommendations. The interaction with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is fundamental and the findings of the arctic assessment are expected to contribute to IPCC's fourth assessment report.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The Arctic Ministerial Meeting in Barrow, Alaska, issued an urgent message to UNEP on mercury. The Ministerial Meeting called upon UNEP to initiate a global assessment of mercury to serve as the basis for appropriate international action. Taking into account the emerging information on mercury, this meeting could consider to initiate a global assessment on anthropogenic emissions and discharges of mercury, possibly under the auspices of UNEP.

Actions as regards mercury could be seen as a next step following the successful negotiations on POPs in Johannesburg. I can assure you that the message from Johannesburg was received with relief and enthusiasm by people living in the Arctic.

The Arctic Council will not drag its feet as regards actions to facilitate implementation of this agreement. The Council already has in place an Action Plan with specific initiatives on source elimination or reduction of the priority pollutants (PCB, dioxins, furans) ) in the Arctic region. UNEP and GEF are increasingly important partners to the Arctic Council and its members, also as regards joint financing of projects.

Several joint efforts are already under way. The project on "Persistent Toxic Substances, food safety and Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North" will be managed by AMAP in cooperation with the Russian Arctic Indigenous Peoples' Organisation RAIPON. A GEF-funded project entitled "Integrated Ecosystem Approach to Conserve Biodiversity and Minimize Habitat Fragmentation in the Russian Arctic" is being developed in cooperation with UNEP, CAFF and Russian Ministry for Natural Resources. Further cooperation and joint financing as regards important environmental initiatives in Northern Russia should be encouraged.

The Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, adopted in 1998, follows UNEP's methodology and illustrates the efforts of the Arctic countries to implement UNEP's Global Programme of Action at a regional level. A Partnership Conference with the goal of seeking funds to remedy Arctic priority pollution sources identified in the Regional Programme of Action and in the associated Russian National Program of Action/Arctic is being prepared by the Arctic Council Working Group on Protection of Marine Environment (PAME), GEF, UNEP and the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Seas.

Mr Chairman

The interface between UNEP and the Arctic Council's activities has already acquired features of a permanent relationship. We strongly recommend even deeper involvement by UNEP in Arctic environmental protection efforts. The inclusion of an Arctic chapter in the next Global Environment Overview, GEO III, which is scheduled to be released by UNEP in 2002, would be one additional way to deepen our fruitful cooperation.