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For Immediate Release July 30, 1997

U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission


PEERNET Established between U. S. and South Africa

Vice President Al Gore today announced the establishment of an Environmental Science Educational Initiative between the U.S. and South Africa to encourage and bring more under-represented secondary and college students into the atmospheric, hydrologic and oceanographic sciences. The Vice President made the announcement with the South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki at the close of the fourth full session of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission. Vice President Gore and Deputy President Mbeki serve as co-chairs of the Commission.

The program will build on pre-existing NOAA programs in the United States that are geared at diversifying the workforce. Assisting in this process will be the establishment of an Internet-based exchange network called Peernet. This project will also be complemented with a larger proposed student information exchange program in the U.S. with Historically Black Universities and Colleges and NOAA laboratory facilities. NOAA administrator Dr. D. James Baker in his remarks earlier today at the meeting pointed out that the principles for environmental management in the United States are also applicable to South Africa and indeed are global in nature. The exchange of information and educational materials would,therefore serve to strengthen the committement to environmental management within both countries.

By sharing these experiences with South Africa, we will provide a source of training and educational materials in environmental sciences to encourage young people from formerly underrepresented communities to consider environmental sciences as a professional career said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt who chairs a Committee with two South African Ministers, Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Kadar Asmal, and Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Pallo Jordan.

The program would also act as a clearing house for scientists and educators of both countries to provide information and exchange ideas on basic and applied research programs and operational programs, collaborate on solving problems applicable to both countries and provide mentor possibilities for majority students in South Africa.