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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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Renewing commitments

The award of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace to the Secretary General of the United Nations and to the family of organizations that he leads, highlights the renewed interest shown in systems of international and regional governance. To begin with, much of this interest is expressed at and around international activities, including the WSSD, meetings of the G7/G8 and the negotiations of the WTO and multilateral environmental agreements. Protests and demonstrations, coupled with less adversarial side events and more open consultations involving officials, NGOs and the broader public, help to galvanize renewed commitment to action by formal institutions.

'A common characteristic of these initiatives is a highly structured approach, complete with the establishment of formal institutions and the setting of very specific targets.'

This commitment is translated into initiatives to better understand and deal with issues of current concern. A common characteristic of these initiatives is a highly structured approach, complete with the establishment of formal institutions and the setting of very specific targets. Efforts to improve knowledge of the issues build upon existing activities, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and Global International Water Assessment. To these are added an Arctic Climate Impact Assessment and a global assessment of the nitrogen cycle.

Target-setting draws on the efforts of international conferences in the 1990s. These were outlined in A Better World for All (IMF and others 2000). Following this precedent, global environmental and social priorities are expressed in terms of measures that target basic needs such as reducing extreme poverty, cutting infant and child mortality, improving reproductive health, promoting gender equity, upgrading environmental conditions and achieving universal primary education. Quantifiable indicators are agreed to help track progress towards each of these goals.

The environmental targets fall into two broad categories. Climate stabilization, improving ecoefficiency and reducing toxic wastes require a focus on industrial activities and the demands of modern lifestyles. Halting deforestation and land degradation, maintaining biodiversity, sustaining fisheries and improving access to clean water and sanitation, require issues of poverty and growing populations to be addressed as well. The targets agreed for developing countries reflect a general acceptance that the process of development and industrialization must continue in these regions. Thus, although per capita materials use and releases of pollutants will grow, they should not exceed the levels recorded in the OECD regions and will gradually converge to similar values.