On 1 March 2019 in New York City, the Center for Governance and Sustainability launched a new report 'International Environment Governance – Accomplishments and Way Forward', which was commissioned and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The event was organized in preparation for the 4th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), which will convene 11-15 March, 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, and other relevant upcoming intergovernmental meetings.
Mr. Jussi Tanner, Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN opened the event and emphasized the importance of science-policy dialogue for effective environmental policy-making. To foster such interaction, the event was hosted at the Permanent Mission Finland to the UN, which helped to bring together 40 participants from different spheres working with global sustainability issues, including governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organization and academia.
Where is UNEP heading?
Prof. Maria Ivanova from the University of Massachusetts Boston highlighted that UNEP’s reform, as outlined in paragraph 88 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, has focused on restructuring UNEP’s governance. The establishment of universal membership through creation of UNEA has resulted in increased visibility of UNEP and greater legitimacy of decision-making. Consequently, the sessions of UNEA are attracting participation from more governments and UN bodies, but also the number of accredited stakeholders has almost doubled since the reforms were taken. Reforms concerning the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR), which acts as the intersessional body, has led to better involvement of capital-based representatives, which helps to fill the void of permanent missions present in Nairobi. However, the new CPR bodies are still seeking their place.
Prof. Ivanova further highlighted that funding followed the Rio+20 Conference, but emphasis is given increasingly to earmarked projects rather than supporting UNEP's mission through the Environment Fund. This is jeopardizing the coherent delivery of many of UNEP’s core functions, such as stakeholder engagement and the science-policy interface.
How are global environmental conventions cooperating?
Senior Research Fellow Mr. Niko Urho from the University of Massachusetts Boston focused his presentation on the work done to enhance synergies among multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), which have progressed in a separate track in line with paragraph 89 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document. Two clusters - the biodiversity cluster and chemicals and waste cluster - have been in the center of reforms. Mr. Urho emphasized that the post-2020 era provides an important opportunity for enhancing further synergies for both clusters in the preparation of strategic goals and targets for biodiversity and chemicals and waste. However, the link between UNEA and MEAs is underdeveloped, and could be strengthened in various ways to address cross-cutting issues, such as the chemicals-biodiversity interface.
What does a Global Pact have to offer?
Prof. Ivanova discussed the opportunities linked to intergovernmental process concerning a Global Pact for the Environment. The process has started with screening gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments with the launch of the Secretary General’s report in December 2018. From an IEG perspective, the process provides an important moment to consider opportunities for strengthening UNEP’s role in this area, in particular through the Montevideo Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law. The initiative could also consider possibilities for anchoring international environmental law to the biophysical boundaries of the planet to ensure that human action is sustainable from a scientific standpoint.
The presentation was followed by questions from the audience. One participant emphasized the need to continue strengthening the role of stakeholders in UNEP’s work and solidifying the link between UNEA and the High-level Political Forum. Also enabling sufficient participation by developing countries to forthcoming intergovernmental meetings was considered important to ensure their concerns are addressed and all regions gain sufficient ownership to implement future decisions. In the aftermath, participants had the possibility to mingle freely and discussions emerged on various related topics, including the possible preparation of UNEP+50 Conference in 2022, in particular participants asked what could such a conference look like and what kind of topics could it address.
To access the presentation from the event, please click here