International Joint Commission  [Printer-friendly version]
October 5, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: These official guidelines for the review of
the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement show that precaution is on
the agenda for discussion. Outspoken citizens can strengthen it.]

[RPR introduction: Here are the "principles" that the International
Joint Commission (IJC) recommends as a guide to the U.S. and Canada
when they review the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 2006.

We have heard that the IJC and the governments of Canada and the U.S.
are particularly seeking testimony on the importance of human health
in carrying out the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. We hope
citizens will speak out loud and clear at the 14 public meetings
being held this month and next. (See previous story in this issue of
Rachel's Precaution Reporter). --RPR Editors]

The Parties [to the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the U.S. and Canada]
are responsible for the overall review of the Great Lakes Water
Quality Agreement.

In the process of conducting the review, the International Joint
Commission recommends that the Parties adhere to the following
principles. It is recognized that "the Parties shall conduct a
comprehensive review of the operation and effectiveness of the
Agreement" (Article X.4). Consequently, for discussion purposes, the
principles were organized around "operation and effectiveness" and

I. Operation and Effectiveness

The process of conducting the review should be:

** Open and Transparent

To the extent practicable, deliberations related to the review should
be open and part of the public record.

** Inclusive

Solicit a full range of views and perspective throughout the [Great
Lakes] Basin through a variety of means (meetings, workshops,
websites, etc.). Engage a wide spectrum of groups and individuals,
including those who are not normally part of Agreement activities and
discussions. Is the Agreement meeting the needs of the people of the
Great Lakes basin?

** Ensure that the Review is Timely

Capitalize on the opportunity of wide-spread community support for a
review, the renewal of the Great Lakes Program in Canada and the
proposals for a Restoration Program in the U.S.

Timely onset of the review is as important as a reasonable time frame
for completing the review. It should be sufficiently long to obtain
necessary information and viewpoints, but sufficiently short to
minimize "burnout." A time period of 18-months is suggested.

** All Aspects of the Review Must be Binational

Workgroups or teams should normally have an equal number of members
from both countries. Consultations should allow equal opportunities
for the citizens of both countries to voice their opinions.

** Impartial

The review should be impartial and avoid conflict of interest.
Recognizing that all players in the Basin have a vested interest in
maintaining certain roles and responsibilities, care should be taken
to avoid having organizations alone review their own work.

II. Comprehensive

The process of reviewing the Agreement comprehensively will address,
by necessity, substantive issues within the Agreement. Principles for
guiding a comprehensive review should:

** Consider the Purpose of the Agreement First

In order for the review process to be most efficient, the purpose of
the Agreement should be confirmed before taking a more in-depth look
at the articles and annexes of the Agreement.

** Use Science and Science-Policy Linkages as the Basis for the Review

The review should be guided by the scientific evidence regarding what
action is needed to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and
biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.

In line with the Commission's Guiding Principles, the concept of
sustainable development, the ecosystem approach, virtual elimination
and zero discharge of persistent toxic substances should be affirmed.

Moreover, while the importance of a sound scientific basis for
conclusions and recommendations should be emphasized, it may sometimes
be necessary to adopt a precautionary approach and to act even in the
absence of a scientific consensus where prudence is essential to
protect the public welfare.

** Be Forward-Looking

Consider the relevance of existing articles and annexes, as well as
any new issues for possible additions that are aligned with the
Agreement purpose. The goals, objectives, and endpoints in the
Agreement should serve as drivers for action.

** Consider Governance

Consider governance roles, responsibilities, and relationships for
those implementing the Agreement, including the Parties' interactions
with First Nations, Tribes, States, Provinces, municipal and regional
governments, and non-governmental organizations, in order to maximize
a sense of ownership throughout the Great Lakes community. Consider
the roles and effectiveness of organizations created under, or
implementing, the Agreement (e.g., the IJC together with its Great
Lakes Regional Office, the Water Quality Board, the Science Advisory
Board, and the Binational Executive Committee.) Clarify, as necessary,
how the Agreement relates to other basin organizations, such as the
Commission on Economic Cooperation (CEC), Great Lakes Fishery
Commission (GLFC), Great Lakes Commission (GLC), and Council of Great
Lakes Governors (CGLG).

** Consider Accountability

Each element in the Agreement being reviewed should consider how
accountability to the public can be enhanced for Agreement
implementation by the Parties, states and provinces, as well as by
cooperating stakeholders in the Great Lakes basin.