Year XXXIV, 1992, Number 3 - Page 230

 

 

A World Authority for the Environment
 
JERRY BOURGEOIS
 
 
 
Nowadays the world environment is all too often easy prey to an exponential growth in unsupportable pollution.
World-wide, oceans and rivers are being polluted, forests are deteriorating and, as a consequence, the ozone layer is being damaged, without considering the many other attacks perpetrated against the environment.
The time has therefore come to intervene quickly! The phenomenon of uncontrolled and anarchic economic and industrial development cannot last any longer. However, control is itself a problem. It remains a fact that the countries in the southern hemisphere need to develop in order to improve their standards of living. Such development automatically implies an excess of pollution throughout the world.
We must therefore recognise that this problem exists, given that all the citizens of our planet have the right to live in an environment worthy of human intelligence.
As a result, developing countries must not repeat the mistakes made by wealthy countries during their development.
A sense of an awareness of the need to save the environment is now detectable, but it is mostly felt at a national level, and much less so at the international one. In some countries committed interest groups have already managed to master the dangerous progression of pollution. World-wide, however, many problems still await an answer.
We hope that all mankind will come to terms with this reality at a deeper level: the environment has no boundaries and, alas, neither does pollution.
Hence it is an urgent necessity that people are made aware of the destructive results of our planet’s pollution, and come to understand how vital it really is to combat and overcome behind-the-scenes economic and commercial manoeuvres.
Is it irresponsibility, selfishness or malevolence that rise to pollution? As it seems at present, all these three together.
The present political reality of neighbouring and sovereign states does not help us to fight the dangerous and rampant pollution now occurring throughout the world.
In order to illustrate the current state of affairs, an example can be made of the pollution of the seas and oceans, that are sullied by tankers which clean out their tanks by pouring crude oil into the sea with impunity. Such actions are far too frequent, and are mostly carried out outside nationally-controlled waters, where it is difficult to put a stop to them. We can assess the situation by the damage this causes to sea life and the pollution which is visible on the beaches of many coastal countries. Many other examples of pollution could be cited.
When we helplessly behold the deterioration of our environment we feel dismay, yet at the same time we are fired by a strong feeling of rebellion that incites us to take immediate action. But what is to be done?
It was on 11th March 1989 at the Hague, that Holland, Sweden and France sent an “appeal” for the creation of a World Authority for the Environment. The so-called “Hague Appeal” was originally signed by 27 countries: at present there are 43 signatories, and Italy is among them.
This World Authority could be set up within the UN in the same fashion as the FAD (Food and Agriculture Organization) and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). The UN already operates a programme, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), whose main aim is to create programmes for submission to the governments of the countries of the world. But are these programmes really respected and applied?
In fact, this body has no power to apply sanctions if countries do not accept its programmes.
A pool of experts could be created within the UN Secretariat to examine how this Authority for the Environment could be set up under the UN. Many other possibilities parallel to the UN can be envisaged.
This universal authority, which would be born by means of pooling a part of state sovereignty, will have to be democratic, just, efficient and serve all the peoples of the world. It will have to be endowed with some limited but real powers with which to check and coerce, as circumstances require.
Some of the world’s most notable figures are backing this authority, something which reassures us in our commitment to the success of the initiative. I wish to cite three of the most meaningful declarations: that of Mr. Josè Lutzenberger, Brazilian Minister of the Environment, “If we really come to create this Universal Authority it will be a very positive thing. Personally, I have always thought in global terms, and I am now convinced that some pressure should be exerted to make this happen”; Professor Alexandre Kiss, President of the European Council for Environmental Law, Strasbourg, “At present, there are no coercive codes imposing the general obligation to respect the environment on every country and to see that it is respected everywhere on their territory, on the open seas, in the Antarctic and in outer space”; and President François Mitterrand, “In 1992, we are going to work to make sure that this Authority really will be created. We will bring this project up on all occasions, including the Rio conference: we hope that this World Authority will establish its legitimacy through experience and independence, and that it will serve as a signal to political leaders all over the world.”
We sincerely hope that in Rio, next June, on the occasion of the big world summit for the environment and development, the foundations of this universal authority will be laid, so that this world gathering will not be a failure and result in a mere declaration of intent.
We shall do as much as we can to present and defend this initiative in Rio.

 

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