The Stockholm Declaration and the persistent efforts of United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) have been the prime driving force behind the cumulative efforts of nations to protect their environment, wild life and natural resources which constitute a vital life support system for all life on this planet.
Separate roles have been played by other international organizations such as OECD, ICSU, IUCN etc. without which it would have been very difficult to compel many reluctant countries to adopt the necessary national or international measures for the protection of environment and natural resources.
Adaptation of the Global Environmental Monitoring system (GEMs) within the Earth-watch Programme was a significant achievement which demonstrated the feasibility of practical action within the confines agreed upon earlier.
As it were the national governments which were to decide as to how and when Stockholm recommendations are to be implemented, the actual action came at a very slow pace. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assisted by many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was able to obtain ratification of the following set of treaties which were negotiated during or after the Stokholm Conference and which have now come into effect:
1. Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Paris, 1972.
2. Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of wastes and other matter, London, 1972.
3. Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of wild Fauna and Flora, Washington D.C., 1973.
4. Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, London, 1973 (MARPOL).
These treaties were negotiated with considerable difficulties. However, once open for ratification, the nations were not in a hurry to act. Rather very low priorities were accorded to the treaties. For example, the Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL) could receive the required number of ratifications to bring it into force by October 1983 only – ten years after its inception.
The Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), signed in Washington D.C. in 1973, is a very significant treaty as far as wild life conservation is concerned. The lucrative profits and the great demand of products of wild life, such as musk pods, horns of rhinos, skin of crocodiles, and larger mammals, elephant tusks etc., have attracted poachers and smugglers to engage in clandestine trade to earn huge profits. CITES has been designed to establish a system by which States may strictly control international trade in specimen of species which are on the verge of extinction.
The convention made an attempt to restrict the rapid depletion of wild life due to international trade which was realized as a growing danger to endangered species by the international community. India became a party to this convention in 1976 and has adopted the international system of licensing and legal procurement of certificates to control the trade of all the species listed in Appendices to the CITES Convention. Under the Convention countries which are signatories to the Convention cannot import or export the species listed in the CITES appendix without proper licenses.
Each country has a separate management for the implementation of the provisions of the Convention. In our country, the Inspector General Forests and the Director Wild Life Preservation, Government of India have been designated as the management authorities.
The Directors of Zoological Survey and Botanical Survey of India as well as the Director Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute have been appointed as the scientific authorities for India. All international trade related with wild life can be operated only from four major ports of Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras.
The ratification of CITES convention by a large number of countries was a significant achievement of UNEP. However, in the case of following treaties only modest success was achieved
1. Convention on Wetlands of International importance. Especially the waterfowl habitat, Ramsar, Iran, 1971.
2. International Convention on Establishment of International fund for compensation for Oil pollution damage, Brussels, 1971.
3. Convention on Prohibition of Military or any other hostile use of Environmental Modification Technique, New York, 1976.
4. Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living resources, Canberra, Australia, 1980. However, it was during the latter half of 1980s that UNEP assisted by other international agencies was more successful in getting a number of treaties negotiated and signed. Two protocols of the Convention on Long range Transboundary Air Pollution of 1979 were negotiated:
1. Protocol on the Reduction of Sulphur Emission or their Transboundary Fluxes by at least 30 percent in 1985.
2. Protocol Concerning the Control of Emission of Nitrogen oxides or their transboundary fluxes in 1988.
Important United Nations Conventions signed during the period between 1985-1990 in which UNEP and other international Agencies took a significant part were:
1. Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone layer, 1985.
2 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete Ozone layer, 1987.
3. Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, 1986.
4. Convention on Assistance in the Case of Nuclear Accidents or Radiological Emergency, 1986.
5. Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, 1989.
In Additions to these a number of older treaties and conventions were gradually receiving ratification. Though the credit of all these achievements cannot be attributed to UNEP alone, yet this specialized institution of the United Nations has served well as an effective instrument of the international community for the implementation of the Stockholm Declaration.