International Environment:

Strengthening the Implementation of Environmental Agreements

RCED-92-188: Published: Aug 24, 1992. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO and the Congressional Research Service held a symposium on strengthening international environmental agreements, focusing on: (1) the availability of information on the implementation of international environmental agreements; (2) how this information can be used; and (3) whether incentives would help countries to implement these agreements.

GAO found that: (1) information on implementation of international environmental agreements is lacking due to the agreements' secretariats' dependency on self-reporting by the participants, who usually report late and incompletely; (2) both developed and developing countries have reporting problems; (3) the secretariats generally do not have the authority or resources needed to verify reported information or to independently monitor and assess participants' compliance; (4) better and more available implementation information can build public support for compliance and help direct multilateral aid and technical assistance to countries lacking the capacity to implement the agreements; and (5) because developing countries generally lack resources, monetary and technical assistance incentives can increase their motivation to participate in and implement international agreements.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Language similar to the matters for congressional consideration has been considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. As issues of monitoring and compliance with international environmental agreements will continue to resurface, GAO will have additional opportunities to advise Congress on these issues in the future.

    Matter: As a result of agreements reached at the United Nations (UN) Conference on Environment and Development, as well as those that could be developed as nations continue to address international environmental problems, Congress will have a number of opportunities to consider means to strengthen both existing and future environmental agreements. At these points, Congress may wish to establish as a policy goal that agreements provide for more comprehensive information about nations' implementation and for greater public access to this information.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress has considered actions to implement agreements reached at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992. GAO will continue to provide advice and assistance to relevant committees. Language similar to the matters for congressional consideration was drafted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee for inclusion in the State Department/AID reauthorization bill, entitled International Relations Act of 1993 (see OCR memo 6/10/93). The language, however, was dropped. These issues will continue to resurface and GAO will be in a position to provide assistance to relevant committees.

    Matter: As agreements are presented for ratification, the Senate should make clear its interest in developing monitoring mechanisms to supplement countries' reports on implementation. These mechanisms could include: (1) independent fact-finding by the secretariats, hearings or other information-gathering activities; and (2) opportunities for nongovernmental organizations to present and review information.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress is considering actions to implement agreements reached at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992. GAO will continue to provide advice and assistance to relevant committees. The House Foreign Affairs Committee considered draft language, similar to the language in the GAO report, to the International Relations Act of 1993. This language, however, was later dropped.

    Matter: In providing authorization or appropriations for international institutions, such as the UN Environmental Programme, Congress should encourage these institutions or the secretariats they support to develop the mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of environmental agreements.

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress is considering actions to implement agreements reached at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992. GAO will continue to provide advice and assistance to relevant committees. Language was considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Department/AID reauthorization bill, entitled International Relations Act of 1993. The language, however, was dropped.

    Matter: Congress may wish to pursue a goal of increasing developing countries' participation in agreements, as well as these countries' capacity to implement agreements. In addition to providing assistance under bilateral aid programs, Congress could encourage international institutions to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries, both for participation in negotiations leading up to the agreements and their subsequent governance, and for implementation and the reporting of information once the agreements have been adopted.

 

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