Advice to Council 04-04 — New Directions for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America


New Directions for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America

The Joint Public Advisory Committee (JPAC) of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America;

IN ACCORDANCE with Article 16(4) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), which states that JPAC “may provide advice to Council on any matter within the scope of this agreement […] and on the implementation and further elaboration of this agreement, and may perform such other functions as the Council may direct”;

HAVING held a plenary session with the public on 27 October 2004 and received input on the three pillars identified in the Puebla Declaration setting a new strategic direction for the CEC, namely:  Information for decision making, capacity building and trade and environment including the NAAEC Article 10(6);

APPRECIATIVE of the presence of the Alternate Representatives at the opening of the plenary session to explain and situate the planning process;

BENEFITTING from a discussion of the preliminary results from the plenary session with the Alternate Representatives during an in-camera session on 27 October 2004;

NOTING JPAC’s endorsement of a more focused work program guided by a concise strategic plan and taking into account the results of the Ten-year Review and Assessment Committee report;

JPAC provides the following observations and recommendations for consideration by the Council as development of the Strategic and Operational Plans moves forward:

By way of introduction, it is important to note for the record that despite the fact that the CEC has a mandate for openness, transparency and public participation, by having had only last-minute access to the documents developed by the Parties to draft the Goals, Objectives and Actions, JPAC and for that matter, the public, are operating at a disadvantage in this decisive planning process, limiting our ability for a more fulsome contribution.  It was difficult to understand some of the terminology used in the presentations available during the plenary session without a prior understanding of the intent of the authors.  Also, it would have been most helpful for JPAC and the public to understand what criteria were used to identify priorities.  An adequate opportunity for public comment must be provided before the strategic and operational plans are finalized with key Secretariat staff in attendance

Information for decision-making

Capacity Building

Trade and Environment

The observations of both JPAC and the public on this third pillar were more punctual.  It was clearly recognized that trade and environment are at the core of the CEC’s mandate and that information and capacity building are there to assist the CEC in meeting its core objective.

– There should be clear direction in support of promoting clean energy and fuel production and the role of ecological services.

– Environment, environmental health, social impacts and labour should be integrated into the Proposed Goal.  It was noted that people in communities suffer double impacts – in the work place and in the communities where they live.

– There should be specific focus on children’s environmental health, for example, by advancing the concept of ethical trade particularly with respect to goods, products and services that may expose children and other vulnerable populations to environmental health threats.

Specific Obligations under the NAAEC

JPAC understands that the strategic planning process is intended to focus the work program to improve results, without prejudice to the specific obligations contained in the NAAEC.  However, it is important to stress that these obligations, including the citizen submission process and the obligation to conclude an agreement on transboundary environmental impact assessment, must continue to receive full attention and careful implementation.

Finally, JPAC expects to be kept informed of progress and to receive draft documents as they are developed and to have an opportunity to comment, in consultation with the public, on the strategic and operational plans before they are finalized.