International Joint Commission, 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 "comprehensive".

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.