International Joint Commission

views updated

International Joint Commission

The International Joint Commission (IJC) is a permanent, independent organization of the United States and Canada formed to resolve trans-boundary ecological concerns. Founded in 1912 as a result of provisions under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, the IJC was patterned after an earlier organization, the Joint Commission, which was formed by the United States and Britain.

The IJC consists of six commissioners, with three appointed by the President of the United States, and three by the Governor-in-Council of Canada, plus support personnel. The commissioners and their organizations generally operate freed from direct influence or instruction from their national governments. The IJC is frequently cited as an excellent model for international dispute resolution because of its history of successfully and objectively dealing with natural resources and environmental disputes between friendly countries.

The major activities of the IJC have dealt with apportioning, developing, conserving, and protecting the binational water resources of the United States and Canada. Some other issues, including transboundary air pollution , have also been addressed by the Commission.

The power of the IJC comes from its authority to initiate scientific and socio-economic investigations, conduct quasi-judicial inquiries, and arbitrate disputes.

Of special concern to the IJC have been issues related to the Great Lakes . Since the early 1970s, IJC activities have been substantially guided by provisions under the 1972 and 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement plus updated protocols. For example, it is widely acknowledged, and well documented, that environmental quality and ecosystem health have been substantially degraded in the Great Lakes. In 1985, the Water Quality Board of the IJC recommended that states and provinces with Great Lakes boundaries make a collective commitment to address this communal problem, especially with respect to pollution . These governments agreed to develop and implement remedial action plans (RAPs) towards the restoration of environmental health within their political jurisdictions. Forty-three areas of concern have been identified on the basis of environmental pollution, and each of these will be the focus of a remedial action plan.

An important aspect of the design and intent of the overall program, and of the individual RAPs, will be developing a process of integrated ecosystem management . Ecosystem management involves systematic, comprehensive approaches toward the restoration and protection of environmental quality. The ecosystem approach involves consideration of interrelationships among land, air, and water, as well as those between the inorganic environment and the biota, including humans. The ecosystem approach would replace the separate, more linear approaches that have traditionally been used to manage environmental problems. These conventional attempts have included directed programs to deal with particular resources such as fisheries, migratory birds, land use , or point sources and area sources of toxic emissions. Although these non-integrated methods have been useful, they have been limited because they have failed to account for important inter-relationships among environmental management programs, and among components of the ecosystem.

[Bill Freedman Ph.D. ]



International Joint Commission, 1250 23rd Street, NW, Suite 100, Washington, D.C. USA 20440 (202) 736-9000, Fax: (202) 735-9015, , <>

About this article

International Joint Commission

Updated About content Print Article


International Joint Commission