ACHIEVING THE FUTURE - THE NEXT STEP
International Joint Commission Great Lakes Roundtable
October 31, 1997
This brief summary of the IJC's Great Lakes Roundtable provides preliminary perspectives on the
meeting highlights for presentation to the Agreement Public Forum on November 1, 1997. A full
report on the Roundtable proceedings will be prepared in the coming weeks.
The Issue ... There is increasing scientific evidence that certain persistent toxic substances (such
as DDT and PCBs) have, and continue to cause injury to humans in the Great Lakes Basin.
Recent human health studies indicate that: (1) reproductive functions may be disrupted by
exposure to PCBs and other PTSs; (2) neurobehavioral and developmental deficits occur in
newborns and continue through school-age children from in utero exposure to PCBs and other
PTSs; (3) other systemic effects, e.g. liver disease and diabetes, may be associated with elevated
serum levels of PCBs; and (4) increased cancer risks are associated with PCB exposure.
The Roundtable Purpose ... To identify and explore potential strategies to address this issue,
and provide advice to the IJC on priorities for action.
The Roundtable Participants ... Approximately 30 representatives from a broad cross-section
of sectors and perspectives, including: agriculture, communication, education, environmental
non-government, government, industry, labour, Native American/First Nations, research, social
and economic. Another 40 people observed the Roundtable discussions.
Advice to the IJC -- Priorities for Action ... Roundtable participants identified the following
priorities to address the issue of injury:
The IJC will use the advice from the Roundtable as it prepares its Ninth Biennial Report to
Governments, to be released in 1998.
- Evaluate Existing Programs - Examine existing programs (RAPs, LaMPs, etc.) to identify
strengths and weaknesses, and measure progress towards program goals taking account of
social, economic and environmental factors. The IJC should conduct these evaluations
and recommend improvements where needed.
- Establish a "Just Transition" Process - Bring stakeholders together to address the social
and economic implications of bans and phase-outs of specific PTSs, and undertake
transition planning. Mercury was identified as a possible case study to pilot a transition
planning process. The IJC should support and facilitate this initiative.
- Develop Creative Partnerships for Clean-Up - Facilitate further development of hybrid
partnerships and creative financing arrangements (e.g. Ashtabula Partnership), and
communicate success stories to other Areas of Concern. The IJC can help facilitate
partnership development and communication of successes.
- Establish a Framework for Greater Government Accountability - Such a framework could
include a tracking system for loadings, specific indicators of human health (e.g. health of
children, health of high risk populations) and environmental quality, and requirements for
the Parties to report on progress based on these indicators. The IJC should maintain its
traditional role as the lead advocate for accountability, and develop specific
recommendations for action by governments.
- Public Education and Communication - Communication campaigns are needed to inform
the public about the injury issue, its causes and effects, and provide an impetus for action.
These campaigns should feature mainstream messages (avoiding jargon and technical
terminology), and focus on the social and economic aspects of the issue.
- Put Humans Back in the Ecosystem - Enhance basin-wide understanding of human health
effects through consideration of health issues by the RAPs and LaMPs, and ensure that
adequate funding is available for-health related research. The IJC should encourage the
Parties to incorporate health issues as part of RAPs and LaMPs.
- Economic Analysis of Costs and Benefits - Demonstrate the costs of injury (e.g. costs to
communities of unhealthy people, real costs of exposure), as well as the benefits (e.g.
economic valuation of health and well-being).
- Atmospheric Deposition - The IJC should urge the Parties to ensure that measures to
address PTSs are included in international fora and agreements.