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United Nations Environment Programme and AAAS Agree to Partner on Environmental Goals
Examining the interplay between intellectual property and international environmental issues will be among the first joint initiatives of AAAS and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Leaders of the two organizations met 6 October at AAAS to sign an overarching agreement to pursue broad environmental goals together.
"This is much more than merely a signing ceremony," Klaus Toepfer, UNEP under-secretary general and executive director said in a meeting with AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of Science. "We want to make this partnership a living agreement that will strengthen the scientific basis for environmental decision-making in areas of concern."
The AAAS-UNEP agreement outlines a "partnership to work toward engaging science in sustainable development, strengthening the scientific basis for environmental decision-making, and raising public awareness about the scientific underpinning of environmental issues worldwide."
As a first step in the new partnership, two AAAS unitsScience & Intellectual Property in the Public Interest (SIPPI), and the Center for Science, Innovation, and Sustainable Developmentwill develop a short paper that examines some areas and issues where intellectual property rights and the environment intersect, and make recommendations for UNEP in addressing them.
Currently, explained Stephen Hansen, project manager for the SIPPI project, multiple international agreements affect the work of UNEP, from the Convention on Biological Diversity to the World Trade Organization's TRIPS Agreement, which focuses on trade, and the Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. "The overlap of intellectual property and environment in these agreements has implications for areas such as biodiversity, food, health, trade and traditional knowledge," Hansen noted.
"This evolving international system for intellectual property will affect how every country approaches strategies for sustainable developmentespecially in areas such as biodiversity, agriculture, health, trade, and traditional knowledge," explained Sherburne Abbott, chief international officer for AAAS.
UNEP's mission is to provide leadership and to encourage partnerships in caring for the environment. As an example of UNEP's leadership, Nick Nuttall, a media relations director for the organization, said government-requested assessments of environmental threats are an ongoing challenge. "We have just been asked, for example, to look at the link between environmental tension and conflict," Nuttall said. "In places such as Haiti, the Great Lakes region of East Africa, or the former Soviet Republics, land degradation and other environmental stresses have a clear impact on conflicts between people." Other UNEP initiatives include "working with networks of distinguished scientists on rising quantities of dust and soot in key regions, and assessing emerging dead zones in the world's oceans," Nuttall added.
AAAS CEO Leshner said that efforts to support the developing world and capacity-building are an increasing focus for the association. "We are honored to be invited by UNEP to sign a letter of agreement in support of key environmental goals," Leshner said. "The agreement represents a first symbolic step toward more concrete activities that may someday help to improve the quality of life for many people around the world."
Also in attendance at the signing ceremony were L. Brennan Van Dyke, regional director for North America; Ashbindu Singh, regional coordinator in UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment-North America; Albert H. Teich, director for Science and Policy at AAAS; and Audrey Chapman, director of AAAS Science and Human Rights program.
12 October 2004