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Overview 2003: Timeline


UN global population projections for 2050 have dropped by 400 million people from the 9.3 billion that was estimated two years ago. The new figure of 8.9 billion reflects the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and reduction in the number of projected births


A panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations holds its first meeting to look into the modes of participation in UN processes of non-governmental organizations, as well as of other non-governmental actors such as the private sector and parliamentarians

The 22nd Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) held in Nairobi, Kenya

Preparations start in Paris for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report on global warming

World Trade Organization (WTO) grants the Secretariats of six multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) provisional observer status at meetings of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment. This decision extends to UNEP, as well as the Basel Convention, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Montreal Protocol, International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

NGOs in Chile ask the government to present a proposal to UNESCO to declare part of Chilean Patagonia a Heritage of Humanity, to prevent polluting industries from being built in the region

The Abu Dhabi Declaration on Environment and Energy ratified by the Arab Ministers for Energy and Environmental Affairs


Over 24 000 people from around the world attend the 3rd World Water Forum, held in Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga, Japan

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) launches a new compliance mechanism aimed at underpinning public participation in environmental decision-making under the Aarhus Convention

US Senate rejects provision to allow for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska

Water Sciences and Technology Association (NGO) holds the Sixth Gulf Water Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the theme “water in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Towards Sustainable Development”. The conference emphasizes Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

War in Iraq begins


Arctic Council releases report documenting unacceptable levels of human-made environmental toxins in the Inuit population of Greenland

The Fourth Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe meets in Vienna, Austria and adopts the Vienna Living Forest Summit Declaration “European Forests-Common Benefits, Shared Responsibilities”

The World Bank approves implementation of a project financed with a US$5 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to help islands and coastal nations in the Caribbean adapt to climate change


Parties to the UNECE Aarhus Convention adopt a protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, the first such legally binding international instrument on the issue

War in Iraq declared over

Environment Ministers and senior officials from 51 countries in the UNECE region meet in Kyiv, Ukraine for the Fifth Pan-European Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe (EfE)”

22 European countries sign new Protocol on Civil Liability and Damage Caused by Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents on Transboundary Waters to the Conventions on Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents and on Protection and Use of Transboundary Waters and International Lakes

35 European countries and the EU sign new Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Espoo Convention

The Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians adopted and signed by ministers from Central and Eastern Europe

A programme is inaugurated to administer and conserve the Guarani Aquifer, South America’s largest underground freshwater reservoir, which covers 1.2 million km2 across Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay

The Third Session of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF-3) meets in Geneva, Switzerland. Delegates address progress in the implementation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/ Intergovernmental Forum on Forests proposals for action related to: economic aspects of forests; forest health and productivity; and maintaining forest cover to meet present and future needs


The G8 Summit in Evian, France, gives priority to issues aimed at promoting global economic growth, enhancing sustainable development and improving security

The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) adopts the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Environment Action Plan in Maputo. Civil society organizations also adopt the plan

New figures for deforestation in Amazonia are the highest in six years

Serious floods in Mexico, including tropical storms. Death and damage in Venezuela because of the heavy rains, floods and landslides following a long period of drought, lack of water and brush fires

Russian and French Presidents issue declaration on cooperation in Arctic research, and express importance of indigenous peoples’ roles in sustainable development and environmental protection

Wild forest fires spread from southern Turkey into the Syrian pine forests, causing heavy damage
The tenth International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, Japan, focuses on stability and degradation of coral reef ecosystems

The United Nations Foundation and the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) launch the Coral Reef Fund, aimed at protecting and managing more than 284 000 km2 of damaged or threatened coral reefs worldwide


Delegates from over 30 countries and 22 multilateral organizations attend the Earth Observation Summit hosted by the United States State Department in Washington, D.C., US

The Revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is endorsed by the Assembly of the African Union (AU)

AU leaders adopt the NEPAD Environment Action Plan

The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) identifies more than 50 companies that have illegally deforested more than 10 000 ha of tropical forest in the Amazon region

Norway announces consultation process on the proposed opening of the Barents Sea for oil and gas exploration

Biggest West Asia recycling plant opens in Jeddah. The plant is designed to manage the city’s mounting waste disposal problems

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in the United Arab Emirates announces the establishment of the largest desert botanical garden in the Arab world. The project aims at preserving environmental resources, fauna and flora


The Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, the main subsidiary body of the UN Commission on Human Rights, adopts a resolution containing guidelines to ensure compliance by international companies with existing human rights, labour and environmental standards

Heatwaves in large parts of Europe. Many excess heat-related deaths reported

Excess forest fires in Europe and western Canada

Canada announces designation of Ukkusiksalik National Park in Nunavut, the culmination of many years of work by Inuit communities and Parks Canada

Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) held in Havana, Cuba


The Xllth World Forestry Congress held in Quebec City, Canada

Trade and environment ministers gather for the first time at a High Level Roundtable on Trade and Environment in Cozumel, Mexico, ahead of the WTO Ministerial Conference to discuss key trade and environment issues in negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda

The Cartagena Protocol on safety and trade in genetically modified organisms and their derivatives enters into force. The protocol is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity

Planet’s list of protected areas tops 100 000 mark

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports that the annual ozone hole over the Antarctic has matched the size record set three years ago of 28 million km2

The Vth World Parks Congress sets the conservation agenda for the next decade through the Durban Accord, Action Plan and Recommendations.

World Climate Change Conference takes place in Moscow, Russia

Sustained drought in Argentina, the worst in more than 75 years. The drought extends to adjacent zones in Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is particularly serious in some regions of Paraguay

Scientists report the break-up of the Arctic’s largest ice-shelf – the Ward Hunt

Eighth meeting of the GCC ministers responsible for the environment held in Kuwait


The 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution enters into force

The National Space Research Institute (INPE) of Brazil launches a second satellite, jointly developed with China, to monitor the state of forests in tropical Amazonia

Third Ibero-American Forum of Ministers of the Environment held in Oaxaca, Mexico

Reports show that Andean glaciers in the southern part of Argentina and Chile receded twice as quickly in the five years from 1995–2000 as in the previous 25 years

A new species of bird, the Semillero de Carrizal (Amaurospiza carrizalensis) is discovered in Venezuela. It is a chaffinch native to Carrizal Island, in the eastern part of Venezuela, whose habitat has already very seriously deteriorated

The Water Middle East International Conference held in Bahrain emphasizes demand management and technological solutions to the water problem in the region

Big forest fires in California, US


Ministers from Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan adopt and sign the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea

The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) held in Bangkok. The theme of Forum IV is “chemical safety in a vulnerable world”

The working group of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), launched by the UNEP Governing Council in February 2003, meets in Bangkok

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) ratifies its Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems

The UN launches $25 million appeal to save gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans from extinction and to secure their natural habitat

The 14th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment in Latin America and the Caribbean held in Panama City, Panama

The golden lion tamarin has moved from critically endangered to endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The species, which is endemic to Brazil, was the only primate that shifted into a lower threat category on the list

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution enters into force


COP-9 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Milan, Italy

The Pan-African Implementation and Partnership Conference on Water held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa

EU fisheries ministers agree on catch quotas and limited numbers of days trawlers may go to sea and adopt a long-term recovery plan for endangered fish stocks

International Meteorological Organization brings forward the deadline for phasing out single-hull oil tankers from 2007 to April 2005

The 15th Session of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment held in Cairo, Egypt

Catastrophic earthquake strikes the city of Bam in southeast Iran

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