Reporting and Information Systems in International Environmental Agreements as a Means for Dispute Prevention – The Role of "International Institutions"
Since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 the number of international environmental agreements has increased steadily. These treaties not only provide for rules concerning the environment, but also establish institutions that have the function to promote the implementation of the agreement in question. The increase in international environmental agreements raised questions concerning the implementation of and the compliance with these rules. In this context suggestions were made to elaborate mechanisms and procedures which would further implementation and compliance and thus also would prevent disputes between Parties to international environmental agreements. Reporting and information systems have become a standard element of international environmental agreements. Although there are various reasons for development it has to be acknowledged that reporting and information systems have been an important means in encouraging implementation of and compliance with international environmental agreements. But certain difficulties should not be overlooked such as the burden reporting puts on parties. In particular, the increase of reporting obligations due to the growth of international and regional environmental agreements might be a drain on a country's limited resources. Harmonisation and streamlining reporting requirements under various environmental agreements might help to overcome some of the difficulties experienced by parties. On the other hand, reporting provisions have helped to increase transparency. A broader public is informed about national measures taken in implementation of international regulations by parties as well as on their effectiveness to address environmental issues. Moreover, discussion of the reports or synthesis reports prepared by secretariats in meetings of parties, such as the Conference of the Parties, draw the attention to shortcomings in implementation and compliance.