February 7, 2007

IJC's 13th Biennial Report Calls for Strong Great Lakes Accountability Framework by the two National Governments

CHICAGO. In its Thirteenth Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, released today, the International Joint Commission recommends that the governments of Canada and the United States create and apply an uncommonly strong Accountability Framework for Great Lakes restoration and protection under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

"We chose to focus this biennial report on a single theme – accountability – because accountability is absolutely indispensable if the governments are serious about their commitments to improve water quality under this Agreement," said Commissioner Allen Olson.

"Experts and concerned citizens across the Great Lakes basin have told us that accountability needs to be the cornerstone for Great Lakes' restoration and protection programs," said Commissioner Jack Blaney.

The Thirteenth Biennial Report urges the governments to present a preliminary Accountability Framework by June 2008. The report sets out the following elements for such a Framework:

  • Developing a rigorous, coordinated plan that identifies and prioritizes the actions needed to realize the goals of the Agreement, includes measurable targets and sets timelines for completion – such targets and timelines are generally not in the current agreement.
  • Whether it be an existing or a new organization, some binational entity needs to be fully and clearly charged with the responsibility to gather information that can be used to assess progress toward the Agreement's purpose and goals.
  • Providing substantive and meaningful progress reports on a triennial basis; and
  • Using the reports to review and adjust action plans.

The governments of the United States and Canada are currently leading a comprehensive review of the Agreement, for the first time since 1987. The Commission also recommended that the governments accelerate their review so that the results coincide with the release of the draft Accountability Framework.

For its part, the Commission committed to forming a task force to assist it in consulting with the governments on a practical and effective Accountability Framework as well as convening, in collaboration with governments and others, a Great Lakes Accountability Summit in summer 2008.

For additional information or a copy of the report visit the Commission's website at:

The International Joint Commission prevents and resolves disputes between the United States of America and Canada under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and pursues the common good of both countries as an independent and objective advisor to the two governments.

Bruce Brown, Windsor (Chicago), 519-257-6733
Nick Heisler, Ottawa, 613-992-8367
John Nevin, Washington, 202-256-1368


As part of its responsibilities to engage and inform the public, the Commission also convenes a Great Lakes Biennial Meeting and Conference. It will be held this year from June 6-8, 2007 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The meeting brings together scientists, policy makers and others. The public is invited to attend and participate.

The 1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, as amended, expresses the commitment of each country to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem and includes a number of objectives and guidelines to achieve these goals. The Commission assists with implementation and assesses the effectiveness of programs and other measures undertaken pursuant to the Agreement.

The Thirteenth Biennial Report follows three others issued by the Commission in the last year pursuant to the Agreement:

  • Advice to Governments on their Review of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (October 2006);
  • Report on Spills in the Great Lakes Basin with a Special Focus on the St. Clair-Detroit River Corridor (July 2006);
  • Synthesis of Public Comment on the Forthcoming Review by the Federal Governments of Canada and the United States of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: A Report to the Governments of the United States and Canada (January 2006).


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