in Global Governance at UMass & Abroad


On October 24, the United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary! Created after the Second World War, in 1945, the United Nations has advanced peace and security, development, and human rights. It has championed the environment and sustainability agenda. In the 75th years since its creation, the United Nations has received the Nobel Peace Prize twelve times, including in October 2020 when the World Food Programme received the prize for its continued contribution to addressing world hunger.

Our team at the Center for Governance and Sustainability engaged in several events commemorating and advancing the work of the United Nations. Two special issues – of the journals Ethics & International Affairs and Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations – mark the 75th anniversary. Professor Maria Ivanova’s contributions provide insights into the role of the UN in tackling environmental governance.

In Ethics & International Affairs, see Ivanova’s article Fighting Fire with a Thermometer? Environmental Efforts of the United Nations. In this timely piece, she discusses the role that the United Nations Environment Programme has played in both shaping and supporting narratives and action on the environment. This article is complemented by an interview with Professor Margaret Karns of UMass Boston, the editor of the special issue, in a podcast and a video.

In Global Governance, see Ivanova’s article Coloring the UN Environmental: The Catalytic Role of the UN Environment Programme.

We also engaged in the UN75 Global Forum, which addressed the complex contemporary global challenges. Professor Ivanova participated in the Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century discussion.

It has become very clear, that the world has a problem with managing plastic! Plastic is found in disturbing quantities in our oceans, air, soil, and freshwater all across the globe. Plastic pollution poses a huge risk to our economies, especially the marine economies of many of our nations. So what are we doing about? Although technological and innovative approaches are emerging, there remains a need to enhance the global legal and policy frameworks to tackle the problem across the lifecycle of plastics. In 2017, governments agreed on a goal for the long-term elimination of all discharge of litter and microplastics into the ocean. It’s clear that although the problems are visible in the marine environment, the global governance of plastics must expand to cover land-based sources and upstream activities.

Senior Research Fellow Niko Urho has been working on addressing this problem. He is co-lead author of the report  Possible elements of a new global agreement to prevent plastic pollution funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Report highlights that a global agreement needs to focus on advancing sustainable production and consumption of plastics that will facilitate waste management and, consequently, help to achieve a significant reduction of marine litter. This could be achieved with the development of International Sustainability Criteria that apply to economic activities across the value chain of plastics helping to incentivize reusability, repairability recyclability of plastics.  In addition, the report proposes the development of National Plastic Management Plans that could be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of countries.

The Report can be found here.

To learn more about plastic pollution and the need for a new global agreement on plastics, you see this video.

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

According to a 2012 United Nations report, humans destroyed 50% of the world’s wetlands since the 1990’s ( The Oxford English Dictionary defines constitute as “giving legal or official form or shape to” and this blog entry empirically examines national constitutions. While 154 out of the world’s 202 constitutions give explicit protection to the environment, only six states give explicit protections for wetlands (Constitute Project). As of September, 2020, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Nepal, Switzerland, Uganda, and Yemen were the only six states with constitutional protections for wetlands. The Environmental Conventions Index (ECI), an empirical tool for assessing the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (environmental treaties between two or more states) (Escobar-Pemberthy and Ivanova, 2020). The ECI reveals that the six states with constitutional protections for wetlands scored 12.07% better than their regional peers on implementing the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which protects wetlands of international importance. Similarly, the six states with constitutional protections scored 12.03% better than the global implementation average according to the ECI. If Yemen is removed from the constitutional sample (due to conflict), states with constitutional protections for wetlands scored 22.62% better than regional averages and 22.46% better than the global ECI average for the Ramsar Convention.

Constitutional protections for wetlands matter because they emperically aid Ramsar wetland management amid increased development, resource depletion, and wetland destruction (due to many factors such as agriculture, movement of peoples, shrimp farming, land management policies, etc.). Several scholars, such as Farrier et. al (2000), suggest that increased empirical science on Ramsar sites could lead to better policy outcomes. In conclusion, constitutional protections for wetlands is an uncharted and fruitful new area of research that can enrich social, policy, economic, and ecological analyses of wetlands and water management internationally.

States with Constitutional Protections for Wetlands (Sept. 2020)


Escobar-Pemberthy, Natalia, and Maria Ivanova. "Implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements: Rationale and Design of the Environmental Conventions Index." Sustainability 12.17 (2020): 7098. "Constitute, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2020. Web. 26 August 2020.

Constitute Project (2020). Retrieved from:

Fan, Jinxue. "Constitutional Environmental Rights: An Investigation and Analysis Based on Constitutional Texts of All Countries." J. Hum. Rts. 16 (2017): 476.

Farrier, David, and Linda Tucker. "Wise use of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention: a challenge for meaningful implementation of international law." Journal of Environmental Law 12.1 (2000): 21-42.

Maltchik, Leonardo, et al. "Legislation for wetland conservation in Brazil: Are existing terms and definitions sufficient?." Environmental Conservation 45.3 (2018): 301-305 Half of all wetlands destroyed since 1900, report says. Retrieved from:'s,said%20the%20report%20released%20Tuesday.