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UMass Boston

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University of Massachusetts Boston
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New Report on International Environmental Governance Reform Published

Updated: Mar 15, 2019


In an era of rapid global environmental decline, new remedies are needed on all fronts to reverse negative trends. From an international environmental governance (IEG) perspective, it is fundamental to consider how the United Nations system can scale up collaboration among states, better engage civil society, anchor policy formulation firmly in science and best support the countries with least capacities.


Against this backdrop, in 2012, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) concluded the systematic reform of IEG. These efforts centered on enhancing the form, funding and functions of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and clustering multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). The purpose of reform was to increase coherence of the IEG system and grant UNEP the authority to catalyze action to respond to escalating global environmental problems.


A team of experts in the Center for governance and Sustainability at UMass Boston has finalized a new report, International Environmental Governance - Accomplishments and Way Forward that provides and analysis of IEG reforms taken to date and outlines possibilities to gear up implementation. The preparation of the report has involved numerous experts through interviews and an online survey. In addition, an expert workshop was organized in New York City in November 29-30, 2018 to seek input to the draft report and identify options for action.


The report concludes that the goals of bringing the environmental agenda to the attention of all governments around the world, increasing awareness, and generating political momentum and action have been achieved most importantly through establishment of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) with universal membership. As a result, participation of member states and international institutions and stakeholders in the UNEA has increased significantly, thus enhancing UNEP’s visibility and legitimacy of decision-making.

Despite progress, the report finds that the full potential of UNEA, however, remains untapped, and integrated solutions across themes as well as links with broader realms, including trade, labor and human rights, remain underdeveloped. Synergies among MEAs have evolved in the chemicals and waste and biodiversity clusters, but UNEP’s bridging role across themes and convention clusters needs reconsideration through innovative governance solutions and other means.

The report aims to provide information for all interested experts in governments, academia and civil society, also in preparation for relevant international environmental meetings, including the 4th session of the UN Environment Assembly scheduled to convene in Nairobi, Kenya on March 11-15, 2019.


The preparation of the report was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

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