Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands


Joint Statement of the Chairpersons of the Five Scientific Programmes
International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP)
International Hydrological Programme (IHP)
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)
Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme
Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST)


Commission III, UNESCO General Conference
(Thirteenth Session, Paris, 4-5 November 1999)

We are now at a new threshold of opportunity, fuelled by a consensus among the five programmes that we share a unity of purpose and that we can be considerably more effective by combining efforts and reinforcing synergies. This favorable climate coincides with a moment of change within UNESCO and the beginning of the new strategic planning process. Inspiration for our discussions was drawn from the new contract between science and society called for by the World Conference on Science, to which all of our programmes are committed. We also bore in mind that this General Conference is discussing the role of UNESCO in the 21st century. Preparing for the ten-year international review of UNCED (Rio + 10) was yet another factor. With all these perspectives in mind, we reaffirm our will to act in a constructive and complementary way by taking joint actions among our programmes whenever possible.


Our discussions led us to the following conclusions:

  1. Addressing the challenge of sustainable development is perhaps the most daunting task of the 21st century, and one that will require deep-seated changes in our ways of thinking and acting. For science this shift has profound implications, ranging from coping with increasing complexity, breaking down traditional disciplinary barriers, designing research to be relevant for policy-making, rethinking education at all levels, and communicating scientific information to non-technical user groups. Most importantly, there needs to be a greater input of science into the policy-making process, in both qualitative and quantitative terms. In this respect, one of the most pressing needs is to integrate and diffuse knowledge so that it can be applied to the solution of "real world" problems.
  1. Success in achieving sustainable development will depend above all on political will to take the decisions necessary to support such changes. Such political will has thus far been lacking. Of particular concern is the failure to provide adequate levels of support for the sciences and for education, despite their having been recognized as key instruments for achieving a sustainable future.
  1. Action towards sustainable development needs to be taken primarily at national level. UNESCO should respond to Governments’ expressed requirement that science provide integrated input into policy-making so as to transcend sectoral boundaries.
  1. There are four overriding outcomes which each of the five programmes, separately and collectively, seeks to attain. These are: relevance to solving concrete problems, injection of research outputs into policy-making at the national and global levels, empowerment of people and communities, and education and public understanding.
  1. To enhance their effectiveness, the five programmes will work to reinforce partnerships and networking at all levels, particularly with the International Council of Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC), as well as with UN system partners.
  1. UNESCO, like other institutions, is operating in an increasingly competitive environment in which resources are scarce. More than ever, there is need to adapt, reform, and deliver results. The Organization must therefore capitalize to greater effect upon its comparative advantages with respect to science in support of environment and sustainable development. These comparative advantages include:
  1. Co-operation among the five programmes has advanced significantly in the past biennium through a number of co-operative activities.
  1. However, several areas of real concern remain relating to:


We have therefore decided to:

  1. Form a "Steering Group of the Five Chairpersons" to strengthen further the links between the five programmes. This group will operate in a results driven, flexible and cost-effective manner. It requires the secretaries of the programmes to facilitate jointly the working of the group. In the next two years, it will focus on:

  1. Experiment with ways of integrating the work of the five programmes at national level, with the goal of providing substantive input into the efforts of countries to address environment and sustainable development problems. This will be tested in a few countries on a trial basis in 2000-2001, building on the experience of the alliance of national committees in the Nordic-Baltic region to develop an integrated coastal zone strategy.
  1. Develop joint demonstration projects in specific locations which lend themselves to an integrated approach from research and training to policy implementation. Possible locations include, inter alia, large river basins and extensive wetlands, biosphere reserves, world heritage sites, and coastal mega-cities.
  1. Devote increased attention to education and public understanding, as the essential underpinning for sustainable development. Educational curricula at all levels need to be scientifically sound, to train people to deal with complexity, and to address the interfaces between disciplines and realms of knowledge that lie at the heart of sustainability. In addition, greater efforts will be made to ensure that the scientific outputs of the five programmes are communicated effectively to decision-makers, educators, and other non-specialists. The five programmes need to co-operate increasingly with UNESCO’s education programmes. Interdisciplinary UNESCO Chairs in the area of environment and sustainable development and the work of young scientists should be encouraged.
  1. Within UNESCO the five programmes recognize that they will work increasingly with:
  1. Develop joint activities in the following new thematic areas:
  1. Increase joint activities in relation to the three Rio conventions (biodiversity, climate change and desertification) and other related multilateral agreements, integrated coastal area management and small islands, natural disaster reduction, freshwater, social transformations and sustainability, urbanization and city governance.


We recommend that:

  1. The five scientific programmes be given the highest priority in the next Medium-Term Strategy.
  1. Innovative management policies and incentives be implemented to enhance the financing capacity of the five programmes. While welcoming the decision to allocate fixed budget provisions to the programmes, we recommend that UNESCO’s governing bodies should also address the need to increase substantially the financial and staffing resources allocated to the five programmes.
  1. Donor countries, and the donor community in general, increase extra-budgetary support for UNESCO’s action in environment and sustainable development.
  1. The five Secretariats develop jointly a strategy for increasing extra-budgetary support.
  1. The Director-General examine ways to foster integrated approaches and collective visibility for the five science programmes through the Bureau for the Co-ordination of Environmental Programmes, while recognising the current effective and efficient co-ordination of environmental programmes.
  1. All efforts be made to facilitate collaboration as regards environment and sustainable development among the Natural Science, Social and Human Sciences, Education, Culture and Communication Sectors within UNESCO, and to overcome structural barriers that impede such collaboration. The whole of UNESCO’s expertise and action needs to be tapped and integrated in order to take best advantage of its unique institutional identity.

7. The Director-General ensure that the secretariats of the respective programmes as well as the Bureau for the Co-ordination of Environmental Programmes actively follow-up this Joint Statement and that the secretariats meet regularly for this purpose. The secretaries are charged with the duty of ensuring that all essential information be circulated amongst the five programmes in a regular, timely fashion.

8. The new Director-General reinforce UNESCO’s overall effort in environment and sustainable development, and in particular the five programmes, as well as education for sustainability, in line with the new directions, requirements and opportunities emerging within the international community.

Javier Castroviejo, Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB)
Edward Derbyshire, International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP)
Su Jilan, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)
Kuniyoshi Takeuchi, International Hydrological Programme (IHP)
Kenneth Wiltshire, Management of Social Transformations Programme (MOST)

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