Bard News & Events

Press Release


Emily Darrow
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.-The Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) at Bard College announces the inauguration of the Open Forum, a series of public dialogues with world renowned experts in various environmental fields. The forums, free and open to the public, explore controversial and timely environmental issues and will be held in the multi-purpose room of the Bertelsmann Campus Center.

"It's critical for the general public, as consumers and custodians of the planet's resources, to understand the tremendous potential of new scientific developments as well as their implications." says Joanne Fox-Przeworski, director of the CEP continuing, "We are committed, through the open forums, to help improve the quality of public policies by making the best available knowledge on critical environmental issues accessible to a wider audience."

The first open forum of the series"Environment at the World Scale: Why States Do and Don't Comply with Global Environmental Agreements?" will be held on Thursday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m. The forum will be introduced by Dr. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College. Panelists include JoAnne Disano, director of Sustainable Development at the United Nations; George Downs, chair of the political science department at New York University; Paul Szasz, international legal consultant; and moderator Sanjib Baruah, professor of political science at Bard College. Following the forum there will be a reception. Call 914-758-7071 or e-mail: for reservations.

This forum will bring together a legal expert on international treaties, a senior official at the United Nations, and a distinguished political scientist. Using examples ranging from ozone to climate change, forests to biodiversity, the experts will debate what is possible to accomplish within the international negotiating arena, the factors that influence how decisions are made, and what determines whether states comply with international obligations.

The environment first emerged on the world's consciousness as a major issue in the 1960's with the publication such as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and the Club of Rome's Small is Beautiful. Events with tragic consequences also created more public awareness of the fragility of the environment, for example the mercury contamination in Minamata, Japan; leaking industrial waste in Love Canal, New York; and the pesticide release in Bhopal, India.

In 1992 the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Prior to the Earth Summit, some 150 international environmental agreements of the more than 900 international legal instruments with important environmental provisions had been formulated. Since then many more agreements, including several global ones, have been concluded.

The global agreements show good intentions, but do they work? How effective are they in improving the state of the planet and conserving natural resources? If there are no sanctions for noncompliance, why would states comply?

About the Panelists:

JoAnne Disano is the Director for Sustainable Development at the United Nations, responsible for monitoring and implementation of the agreements signed by some one hundred and twenty governments at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, including Agenda 21, the Action Plan for the next century. Disano oversees international negotiations on forest management; technology transfer; financing for environmentally sound development; sustainable tourism; and energy and water resource management. Prior to this senior appointment at the United Nations, she served as Deputy Head of the Department of the Environment, Sport, and Territories in Australia and in this capacity headed her delegation to many international negotiating sessions.

George Downs is the chair of the political science department at New York University. For the past decade his research has focused on international cooperation and the design and performance of international institutions. Downs's work was among the first to challenge the prevalent assumption that a high level of compliance with international agreements is indicative of effective international cooperation. In Optimal Imperfections?: Domestic Uncertainty and Institutions in International Relations (1995), he examines how uncertainty and domestic politics have shaped the international regulatory institutions, such as the World Trade Organization and the Montreal Protocol, which covers ozone depleting substances.

Paul Szasz is the author of more than 120 legal studies, on environmental law, control of nuclear energy, outer space, and the settlement of international disputes. Among his many assignments as a legal consultant, he provided advice to the UN on Namibia and the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia, as well as to the World Health Organization and the International Civil Service Commission. At the UN, where he served for eighteen years, Szasz headed the General Legal Division, after previous appointments with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the World Bank, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has been a visiting professor at the following law schools, Cornell, New York, and Pace Universities, the University of California at Berekely, and the University of Georgia.

Sanjib Baruah, moderator, is professor of political science at Bard College and the author of the forthcoming book India Against Itself.

The second in the Open Forum series, "Biotechnology: Is It the Wave of the Future?" will be on Thursday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. The panel of experts will examine the complex subject of genetic modification and substitution, with special attention to the food industry. The third in the series, "Ethics, Justice, Democracy and the Environment: What Do We Owe Future Generations?" will be on Thursday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. Outstanding scholars will address some of the most pressing questions in a democracy about political order, social policy, obligations to future generations, and the environment. These forums will be held in the multi-purpose room of the Bertelsmann Campus Center and are free and open to the public. Reservations are requested, call 914-758-7071 or e-mail for further information.

The Open Forum Series is sponsored by the Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) at Bard College, as part of its commitment to make current and important environmental issues more accessible for widespread public discussion. Through education, research, and public service, the newly created CEP addresses local and global policy issues pertaining to the natural and built environments. At the core of CEP's activities is a two-year program leading to Master of Science in Environmental Policy, beginning Autumn 2001.

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This event was last updated on 01-09-2004