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Stockholm+50 Urges the World to Reinvigorate and Inspire

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

As the world celebrated 50 years of multilateral environmental action, Professor Maria Ivanova and a doctoral student in Global Governance and Human Security Olga Skaredina participated in Stockholm+50 and associated events. Professor Maria Ivanova was actively engaged in the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum (SPBF) on the Environment as a distinguished speaker and co-chaired with Dr. Sharachchandra Lele a drafting process for the official letter from scientists and scholars of the world to the Stockholm+50 Conference. Olga Skaredina represented the Children and Youth Major Group to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and advanced her research on the role of non-state actors in global environmental governance.

In 1972, the first UN environmental conference took place in Stockholm, marking the urgent need for collective environmental action. Fifty years later, over 4,000 people, including several Heads of State and Government, more than 60 ministers, and many non-state actors, gathered at Stockholm+50 on June 2-3, 2022. Stockholm again became the gathering space for thinking and action on addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.

Stockholm+50: A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All – Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity’ featured an interactive series of discussions focused on three key themes: achieving a healthy planet and prosperity for all; a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; and implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development. These three Leadership Dialogues, along with official plenary sessions and side events, resulted in a thorough reflection of achieved progress in addressing environmental concerns and a call for urgent environmental and economic transformation that would accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Professor Maria Ivanova was on the panel on ‘Reimagining Multilateralism and Bridging the Implementation Gap’ convened as a part of the UN SPBF. She shared her expertise on the role of UNEP in environmental multilateralism and suggested that there is no need for a World Environment Organization as UNEP plays the role of the champion for the Earth. The focus, instead, should be on improving UNEP’s capacity to be a small but agile institution that catalyzes environmental action and promotes collaboration: “To make things differently, we need to think differently.”

At the High-Level Leadership Dialogue on ‘Stockholm +100: Future Vision’, Professor Maria Ivanova presented “A letter to fellow citizens of Earth,” signed by a group of natural scientists, engineers, social scientists, and scholars from many disciplines and countries. The letter is built on the legacy of the Menton Message presented by 2200 scientists to the 1972 Stockholm Conference and calls upon all individuals to become good neighbors and ancestors. Professor Maria Ivanova highlighted three key messages: to redefine what we strive for – what is good and what is enough to thrive; to recognize privileges and responsibilities as individuals and society; to inspire and empower collective action.

On the last day of Stockholm+50, a panel discussion on 50 Years of Environmental Policies took place. The session became the continuation of a series of webinars on the legacy of Stockholm 1972, with the Peoples Environmental Narrative as an outcome document. Professor Maria Ivanova shared her vision and recommendation for the future, encouraging participants to take inspiration from Stockholm and raise their voices on behalf of our planet. The event followed with the signing of the book, The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty, published by MIT Press and received significant appraisal as the most profound and insightful analysis of UNEP.

While Professor Maria Ivanova remained busy serving as a speaker on different panels, Olga Skaredina engaged with the Children and Youth Major Group, observing institutional arrangements within UNEP to enable a meaningful engagement with non-state actors, especially young people. An outcome Stockholm+50 document for youth has become the Youth Policy Paper, which outlined key transformative actions: to introduce Ecocide as a crime; to establish a fossil-fuel nonproliferation treaty; to adopt inclusive decision-making processes at every level for meaningful engagement of all stakeholders.

Before coming to Stockholm, Professor Maria Ivanova gave an interview for UN Dispatch about the origin story of UNEP. She mentioned that the two-day international meeting would be “a celebration of the anniversary and a wakeup call, an urge to action to governments, but also to citizens, to companies, to campuses, universities around the world to do things that matter, to deliver on the commitments that were made in Stockholm, in Rio, and in the conferences since.” She was right, indeed.

Stockholm+50 became the bittersweet commemoration of what has been achieved and what challenges still persist. Annika Strandhäll, Sweden’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, said in her closing remarks: “Stockholm+50 has been a milestone on our path towards a healthy planet for all, leaving no one behind.” The results of Stockholm+50 and associated side events create momentum to recognize the need for strengthening collaboration between UN agencies, amplifying the voices, and promoting transformative action for the prosperity of all.

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