International Joint Commission
Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality

GOVERNANCE - THE CASE FOR FLEXIBILITY AND CHANGE

July 1998

Overview

In the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of the United States and Canada agreed "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem." Under the terms of the Agreement, the two federal governments agreed "to make a maximum effort to develop programs, practices and technology necessary for a better understanding of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem and to eliminate or reduce to the maximum extent practicable the discharge of pollutants into the Great Lakes System."

The International Joint Commission (IJC) is directed to make a full assessment of the progress toward achieving the objectives of the Agreement every two years. The Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality is the Commission's most recent assessment of progress.

The Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality

In July 1998, The International Joint Commission released its Ninth Biennial Report. The goal of the report is to rejuvenate action on the part of governments and bring solutions and resolution to on-going problems and issues affecting the Great Lakes.

In addition to making 19 recommendations that present a number of specific targets and deadlines to help achieve the Agreement's purpose, the report discusses several important issues that must be recognized.

This information sheet is one of seven that highlight important issues discussed in the report.

GOVERNANCE -- THE CASE FOR FLEXIBILITY AND CHANGE

Governance is the institutional framework within which society deals with socio-economic, environmental and political priorities. Each institution or sector within the framework has a defined role and established means to focus on problems and opportunities. Each must evolve and adapt to ever-changing priorities and expectations.

The past decade has experienced a profound shift from a top-down, command-and-control, government-dominated approach to a bottom-up, partnership-based inclusive approach. To ensure efficiency and effectiveness in times of change and uncertainty, all basin stakeholders, within government and outside, must develop and pursue creative approaches to Great Lakes basin governance.

Key Players

Twenty-five years of progress under the Agreement were made possible through the combined efforts and participation of:

After a quarter-century, each may have become too set in their respective roles to tackle the arduous path ahead in the best way possible. The players themselves are in the best position to suggest new ways to change in order to respond to changes in society, without losing sight of their common goal.

The Great Lakes community as a whole is bound together by the common goal of restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. All players make positive contributions to solutions from their own perspective and by applying their unique talents and expertise. None has a monopoly on the answers. The Commission encourages governments and other stakeholders to examine their approach to governance, with a view to incorporating changes necessary to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

In its Ninth Biennial Report, the Commission offers pragmatic suggestions for each player to more effectively contribute to fulfilling the purpose of the Agreement.

Scheduled Review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has been renegotiated twice in the past 26 years to include current issues such persistent toxic substances. It is scheduled to be reviewed again this year. The Commission firmly believes that the present Agreement is sound, effective and flexible. Review and renegotiation are not necessary. Rather, the governments need to renew and fulfill their commitments and focus on implementation, enforcement and other actions to achieve the Agreement's purpose.

The International Joint Commission (IJC)

IJC was established through the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty of the United States and Canada. The Treaty recognizes that each country may be affected by the others actions in the lake and river systems along their common border; its purpose is to prevent and resolve disputes concerning these boundary waters.

In 1972, the governments of the United States and Canada signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. This Agreement was superseded in 1978 by a new Agreement. Its purpose "is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem." IJC assesses the effectiveness of programs and progress pursuant to it.

For More Information

Additional information regarding IJC's Ninth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality can be obtained by contacting an IJC office:

Canadian Section
Fabien Lengellé
100 Metcalfe St., 18th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1
(613) 995-0088
commission@ottawa.ijc.org

United States Section
Frank Bevacqua
1250 23rd St. N.W., Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20440
(202) 736-9024
commission@washington.ijc.org

Great Lakes Regional Office
Jennifer Day
In Canada -
100 Ouellette Ave., 8th Floor
Windsor, ON N9A 6T3
(519) 257-6734
In the U.S. -
P.O. Box 32869
Detroit, MI 48232
(313) 226-2170 Ext. 6734
commission@windsor.ijc.org