Vol. 16 No. 60
SUMMARY OF THE 24TH
SESSION OF THE UNEP GOVERNING COUNCIL/GLOBAL MINISTERIAL ENVIRONMENT
The 24th session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC-24/GMEF) took place from 5-9 February 2007, at the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenya. Over 1000 participants, including delegates from 141 countries, as well as representatives of UN agencies, international organizations, academia, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), business and industry, and women and youth organizations, attended the week-long gathering. Fifty-seven of the 58 members of the Governing Council were represented.
During the week, delegates convened in plenary sessions, a Committee of the Whole, a budget working group, a drafting group and several contact groups to consider draft decisions. From Monday to Wednesday, ministerial consultations addressed the themes of globalization and the environment, and UN reform. The GC/GMEF concluded its work by adopting 15 decisions on issues relating, inter alia, to: the world environmental situation; international environmental governance (IEG); chemicals; South-South cooperation; waste management; 2010-2020 UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification; UNEP’s updated water policy and strategy; and support to Africa in environmental management and protection. The GC/GMEF also approved the budget and work programme for the 2008-2009 biennium.
As delegates left the UN complex in Gigiri on Friday evening, they expressed satisfaction with the outcomes of GC-24/GMEF, in particular the decision on chemicals management, which paves the way for a structured process to address issues related to mercury, including the establishment of an ad hoc open-ended working group. The GC/GMEF also welcomed the new format of ministerial consultations and gave a ringing endorsement to the recently appointed UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNEP GC/GMEF
Upon the recommendation of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 1972, established UNEP as the central UN node for global environmental cooperation and treaty making. The resolution also established the UNEP GC to provide a forum for the international community to address major and emerging environmental policy issues. The GC’s responsibilities include the promotion of international environmental cooperation and the recommendation of policies to achieve this, and the provision of policy guidance for the direction and coordination of environmental programmes in the UN system. The GC reports to the UN General Assembly, which also elects the GC’s 58 members for four-year terms, taking into account the principle of equitable regional representation. The GMEF is constituted by the GC, as envisaged in UN General Assembly resolution 53/242. The purpose of the GMEF is to institute, at a high political level, a process for reviewing important and emerging policy issues in the field of the environment.
GC-19: The nineteenth session of the GC convened in two segments from 27 January - 7 February 1997, and from 3-4 April 1997, in Nairobi, Kenya. Delegates adopted the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP, which expanded the mandate to include: analyzing the state of the global environment; assessing global and regional environmental trends; providing policy advice and early warning information on environmental threats; and catalyzing and promoting international cooperation and action, based on the best scientific and technical capabilities available.
GC-20: GC-20 took place from 1-5 February 1999, in Nairobi, and adopted over 30 decisions on a range of topics, including: the Environment Fund, administrative and budgetary matters; linkages among and support to environmental and environment-related conventions; and policy issues, including the state of the environment, coordination and cooperation within and outside the UN, UNEP governance and emerging policy issues.
GCSS-6 /GMEF: The sixth Special Session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GCSS-6/GMEF) took place from 29-31 May 2000, in Malmö, Sweden. Ministers adopted the Malmö Ministerial Declaration, which agreed that the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) should review the requirements for a greatly strengthened institutional structure for international environmental governance (IEG).
GC-21/GMEF: GC-21/GMEF took place from 5-9 February 2001, in Nairobi. Delegates established the Open-ended Intergovernmental Group of Ministers or Their Representatives (IGM) to undertake a comprehensive policy-oriented assessment of existing institutional weaknesses, as well as future needs and options for strengthening IEG. They also adopted decision 21/7, which requests the UNEP Executive Director to examine the need for a strategic approach to international chemicals management (SAICM).
GCSS-7/GMEF: GCSS-7/GMEF was held from 13-15 February 2002, in Cartagena, Colombia. In its decision SS.VII/1, GC/GMEF adopted the IGM report, which contains recommendations aimed at strengthening IEG, including through: improved coherence in international environmental policy-making; strengthening the role and financial situation of UNEP; improved coordination among and effectiveness of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); and capacity building, technology transfer and country-level coordination. Delegates also adopted decisions related to, inter alia, SAICM at the global level.
WSSD: The World Summit on Sustainable Development was held from 26 August - 4 September 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) sets out a framework or action to implement the commitments originally agreed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The JPOI, among other things, emphasizes that the international community should fully implement the outcomes of decision SS.VII/1 on IEG.
GC-22/GMEF: GC-22/GMEF took place from 3-7 February 2003, in Nairobi. Delegates adopted more than 40 decisions on issues relating to IEG, post-conflict environmental assessment, UNEP’s water policy and strategy, SAICM, a mercury programme, support to Africa, production and consumption patterns, and the environment and cultural diversity.
GCSS-8/GMEF: GCSS-8/GMEF took place from 29-31 March 2004, in Jeju, Republic of Korea. At the conclusion of the ministerial consultations, delegates adopted the “Jeju Initiative,” containing the Chair’s summary of the discussions and decisions on: SIDS; waste management; regional annexes; and the implementation of decision SS.VII/1 on IEG.
GC-23/GMEF: GC-23/GMEF took place from 21-25 February 2005, in Nairobi. Ministers considered the implementation of internationally agreed development goals, and adopted decisions on, among other things: the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building; IEG; chemicals management; UNEP’s water policy and strategy; gender equality and the environment; poverty and the environment; and strengthening environmental emergency response and developing disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation and early warning systems.
2005 WORLD SUMMIT: The 2005 World Summit was held at UN headquarters in New York from 14-16 September. Delegates recognized the need for more efficient environmental activities in the UN system, through, inter alia, enhanced coordination, improved policy advice and guidance, and strengthened scientific knowledge. They further agreed to explore the possibility of a more coherent institutional framework, including a more integrated structure, building on existing institutions and internationally agreed instruments, as well as treaty bodies and UN specialized agencies.
ICCM: The International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) was held from 4-6 February 2006, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, immediately prior to GCSS-9/GMEF. At the ICCM, delegates completed negotiations and adopted the SAICM, including a high-level declaration, overarching policy strategy and global plan of action.
GCSS-9/GMEF: GCSS-9/GMEF was held from 7-9 February 2006, in Dubai. Ministerial consultations addressed, inter alia, policy issues relating to energy and environment, chemicals management, and tourism and the environment. The plenary discussion on environmental governance, outcome of the 2005 World Summit, and GC universal membership did not produce an agreed outcome and delegates decided that the report of the meeting should reflect the divergent views expressed.
REPORT OF THE MEETING
Eric Falt, Director of Communications and Public Information, UNEP, welcomed participants to Nairobi, highlighting that for the first time, heads of six UN agencies were attending the GC.
Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s State Minister for the Environment and outgoing GC/GMEF President, welcomed Achim Steiner as UNEP’s fifth Executive Director. He stressed the need to maintain the new strategic focus of UNEP in the context of UN reform following the 2005 World Summit. Highlighting globalization as one of GC-24/GMEF’s two themes, he encouraged delegates to consider ways in which globalization can contribute to environmental protection.
In his message to GC-24/GMEF, delivered by UNEP Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world has reached a critical stage for exercising responsible environmental stewardship, stressing that action on climate change will be one of his priorities. Highlighting the crucial link between environmental and economic policies, he said UNEP has a key role to play in addressing environmental challenges through closer cooperation with UN partners.
Anna Tibaijuka, UN-HABITAT Executive Director, noted that globalization has led to accelerated urbanization, stressing the relevance and complementarity of UNEP and UN-HABITAT’s mandates.
Moody Awori, Vice-President of Kenya, highlighted Africa’s environmental challenges against the backdrop of globalization. He called for a strengthened, more focused and results-oriented UNEP, and for empowering the UNEP Executive Director to implement GC/GMEF decisions.
The plenary then elected Roberto Dobles Mora, Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy, as GC-24/GMEF President. Other Bureau members elected were: Rejoice Mabudafhasi (South Africa), Faisal Saleh Hayat (Pakistan) and Jan Dusík (Czech Republic) as Vice-Presidents; and Elfriede-Anna More (Austria) as Rapporteur. GC-24/GMEF President Dobles said a strong UNEP requires an adequate mandate and sustainable and predictable funding, to enable it to provide leadership and promote cooperation in the field of the environment. The plenary then adopted the draft agenda without amendment (UNEP/GC/24/1 and Add.1) and agreed on GC-24/GMEF’s organization of work.
During the week, GC-24/GMEF convened in parallel ministerial consultations and the Committee of the Whole (COW), chaired by Dusík. The COW established the drafting group, chaired by Iftikhar Arain (Pakistan), the budget working group, chaired by Jan Bauer (Netherlands), and several contact groups, which met throughout the week to consider draft decisions.
OPENING STATEMENTS: Indonesia, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), emphasized, inter alia: strengthening UNEP and its scientific base; full and immediate implementation of the Bali Strategic Plan, in particular through UN regional offices; and adoption of a decision on South-South cooperation.
Germany, on behalf of the European Union (EU), supported the Paris Conference initiative to transform UNEP into a UN Environment Organization (UNEO). He underscored legally binding, rather than voluntary, measures in support of worldwide sound chemicals management, and called for synergies among the MEAs.
The Czech Republic, speaking for the Eastern and Central European Group, highlighted recent developments in the region, and singled out GC-24/GMEF discussions on UN reform, the Bali Strategic Plan, and SAICM and mercury.
UNEP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S POLICY STATEMENT: On Monday, UNEP Executive Director Steiner delivered his policy statement (UNEP/GC/24/2). He said that environmental issues, notably climate change, have increasingly become a question of economics, security and energy. Steiner urged ministers to help overcome the current impasse in environmental negotiations and assume their collective environmental responsibility, stressing that UNEP is a product of the collective will of its member states.
Noting strategic challenges at the programmatic and managerial levels, Steiner highlighted the establishment of UNEP task teams to address: programmatic cohesion and coordination; management reform; human resources; implementation of UNEP’s Gender Plan of Action; and improvement of UNEP’s communication and internal infrastructure. He stressed the need to improve cooperation with other environmental organizations and UN institutions and build on the momentum of UN reform. He urged ministers to use the GC/GMEF platform to provide guidance on the environmental governance system necessary to achieve cohesion and synergies.
UNFCCC ADDRESS: On Wednesday, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), addressed UNFCCC’s recent developments, noting the call from the business community for ambitious policies and a clear investment perspective. Highlighting the recently completed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the science of climate change, he emphasized: the economic rationale for timely action; incentives for developing countries; industrialized country leadership; and voluntary approaches. De Boer said the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC will focus on the balance between economic growth, poverty eradication and environmental protection.
Under the chairmanship of GC-24/GMEF President Dobles, ministers and heads of delegation held panel discussions and convened in a new format consisting of six roundtables to discuss the themes of globalization and environment and UN reform from Monday to Wednesday. On Thursday, they heard a summary of the consultations and took note of the GC-24/GMEF President’s Summary of the ministerial consultations on Friday.
GLOBALIZATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT: Four panel discussions on globalization and environment were held on Monday and Tuesday, with delegates also convening in two roundtable sessions.
Opening the panel discussion on globalization and the environment in a reformed UN, UNEP Executive Director Steiner said the presence at GC-24/GMEF of key individuals active in international environmental policy reflects a commitment to addressing UN system-wide coherence.
World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy said sustainable development lies at the heart of the WTO. Urging continued support from the environmental community in bringing the WTO Doha Round of negotiations to a successful conclusion, Lamy emphasized the negotiations’ potential to facilitate a more efficient global allocation of resources.
UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Kemal Dervis noted increased partnership with UNEP, and, citing the example of climate change, highlighted the issue of uneven distribution of impacts of human activities, with the most vulnerable countries most affected.
UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Director-General Kandeh Yumkella reaffirmed UNIDO’s cooperation with UNEP in the SAICM process, such as work on biofuels.
Francesco Frangialli, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), described positive and negative aspects of the global growth in tourism.
UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka underscored the human environmental perspective, noting that global environmental objectives cannot be achieved without addressing the needs of communities at the local level.
In an overview panel, Zhou Jian, China’s Vice-Minister of the State Environment Protection Administration, emphasized China’s commitment to environmental protection while maintaining rapid economic growth. Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s Minister for the Environment, urged delegates to agree on a process to bring about measurable outcomes on globalization and the environment by GC-25/GMEF.
WTO Director-General Lamy explored the relationship between trade liberalization and environmental protection, and noted that the WTO and UNEP are driven by their respective member states.
On ways for the multilateral system to respond to country needs, UNIDO Director-General Yumkella highlighted supporting developing countries in meeting global environmental norms and standards. Emphasizing unprecedented biodiversity loss, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), said a new phase of implementation engaging all stakeholders was born at CBD COP-8.
Highlighting UNEP-UNDP collaboration, Olav Kjørven, UNDP, said that, as the cross-cutting value of all UN agencies, sustainable development is the ideal starting point for discussing strengthening environmental governance.
Ensuing debate highlighted the importance of innovative approaches and public-private partnerships in technology transfer and strengthening the capacities of small island developing states (SIDS) to deal with emerging challenges. It also addressed: SIDS’ lack of access to the benefits of globalization; ethical, technical and financial aspects of environmental efforts; and the environmental impacts of war.
During the feedback session on Tuesday, delegates heard from a wide range of speakers, representing governments, international organizations, NGOs, the private sector, local governments, and trade unions. The panelists highlighted, inter alia: the potential role of a future UNEP/UNEO to advise the WTO, the International Monetary Fund and the UN Security Council on the efficient use of resources; building a strong case for ecosystem conservation; UNEP’s role in ensuring environmental security; the creation of “green” economies and jobs; and cities’ initiatives on climate change and “environmental budgeting.”
The rapporteurs of the six ministerial roundtables on environment and globalization presented their groups’ discussions on Tuesday, focusing on opportunities, challenges, and respective roles of UNEP and governments.
Among opportunities, they highlighted: new markets for ecosystem services; innovative financial mechanisms; poverty eradication; public-private partnerships; and development and transfer of traditional knowledge and new technologies.
Among challenges, they cited: maintaining cultural diversity and indigenous knowledge; strengthening national capacities; promoting cross-sectoral coherence; addressing equity; involving all stakeholders; capacity building and technology transfer; and identifying barriers to ecosystem valuation.
They suggested that UNEP’s role involve: contributing substantially to the global trade dialogue, including through strengthened collaboration with the WTO; playing a leading role in inter-agency coordination; supporting broader-based civil society participation; creating incentives for sustainability; promoting environmentally sound financing mechanisms; and ensuring equity and sharing of costs and benefits of globalization.
They suggested environment ministers focus on: cross-sectoral integration; appropriate financing for the environment sector; identification of barriers to integration of ecosystem services; full MEA implementation; integration of globalization considerations into national development strategies; incentives for the development of clean and efficient technologies; and greater financial resources for UNEP to assume its facilitating role.
On Thursday, Marina Silva, Brazil’s Minister of Environment, presented the summary of the ministerial roundtables on globalization and the environment (UNEP/GC/24/CRP.3). Silva outlined options for activities to be undertaken by governments, UNEP and the international community.
UN REFORM: On Wednesday, Amb. Peter Maurer (Switzerland), Co-Chair of Informal Consultations on the Institutional Framework for UN Environmental Activities, briefed participants, highlighting the shared perspective of the need for UN reform and strengthening UNEP, and the divergent views regarding the institutional framework. Co-Chair Amb. Enrique Berruga (Mexico) stressed that the issue of UNEP/UNEO should not be divisive, and expressed optimism regarding a positive outcome of the consultative process.
Claudia McMurray, US Assistant Secretary of State, commended UNEP’s work and recent partnerships. She cited the African Environment Outlook and the Bali Strategic Plan among successful UNEP outputs.
On behalf of the EU, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, called for a stronger institutional framework and political leadership, and supported an upgraded UNEO in Nairobi.
Manjeev Puri, India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said that UNEP’s mandate and activities must reflect the interests of the majority of its member states. He highlighted UNEP’s role in assisting developing countries through capacity building and strengthening IEG.
In the ensuing debate, France reported on the outcomes of the Paris Conference, which was held from 2-3 February 2007, noting that some 50 states and many NGOs supported the creation of a UNEO, and reiterated France’s support to maintaining UNEP/UNEO headquarters in Nairobi. Japan supported streamlining UNEP and said it remained open to the creation of a UNEO. The Republic of Korea supported the establishment of a UNEO. Indonesia inquired about the implications of transforming UNEP into a UNEO. China acknowledged UNEP’s leading role in relation to the environment, but urged the involvement of other international organizations in the context of UN reform. Namibia said UN reform should take into consideration the status and views of traditional leaders in Africa and Asia.
In the feedback panel session on Wednesday, delegates heard statements from a number of panelists including ministers from Norway and the UK, as well as from WWF International and the Third World Network. Speakers highlighted emerging consensus that the urgency and magnitude of environmental challenges have outgrown the ability of the current IEG system to address them. They also stressed the unique opportunity presented by the ongoing UN reform process, noting that the question of the appropriate institutional framework remains open. Many called for the message from Nairobi regarding a strengthened UNEP resonate in New York and capitals around the globe.
On Wednesday, facilitators of the six ministerial roundtables on UN reform reported on their groups’ discussions. On UN reform in general, they highlighted a call for strong political leadership, a sense of direction, efforts to limit bureaucracy, and increased government commitment. They noted a general preference for transforming UNEP into a UNEO and called for: stronger UNEP regional presence; stable, adequate and predictable funding; improved civil society participation; assessment of UNEP programme impact; greater cooperation and synergy between UNEP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and implementation of the Bali Strategic Plan.
On Thursday, Minister Gabriel presented the summary of the ministerial roundtables on UN reform (UNEP/GC/24/CRP.4). He highlighted emerging consensus on the need to reform the institutional framework for UN environmental activities, also stressing strengthening UNEP and ensuring that the future UN body provides leadership in the field of the environment.
Discussing the President’s Summary of the ministerial consultations on Thursday afternoon, many delegations expressed satisfaction with progress and the format of the ministerial roundtables. Delegates highlighted the need to understand market mechanisms, and cautioned against bringing complicated trade issues, such as intellectual property rights, into UNEP discussions and excessive centralization and bureaucratization of UNEP. Referring to delegates as the custodians of their countries’ environment and to GC/GMEF as the global environmental custodian, UNEP Executive Director Steiner said sound environmental governance requires an understanding of the driving forces in other arenas, including trade, and identified the WTO’s presence as a highlight of GC-24/GMEF.
President’s Summary: On Friday morning, GC-24/GMEF President Dobles tabled the President’s Summary of ministerial discussions on globalization and UN reform (UNEP/GC/24/L.5). Delegates took note of this Summary.
The President’s Summary outlines the outcomes of the ministerial consultations. On globalization and environment, ministers identify:
On UN reform, ministers identify:
On IEG, ministers highlight:
The COW convened from Monday to Friday and addressed: policy issues, implementation of UNEP’s programme of work; WSSD follow-up; and the budget and programme of work for the biennium 2008-2009. In addition, presentations were made by MEA secretariats, financial institutions, and the IPCC. The COW approved 15 decisions, which were forwarded for adoption to plenary. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin’s coverage of these discussions is available online at: http://www.iisd.ca/unepgc/24unepgc/
STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT: On Tuesday, the COW addressed a report on the state of the environment (UNEP/GC/24/10) and related documents (UNEP/GC/24/5 and UNEP/GC/24/INF/2-8). While many delegations expressed appreciation and support for UNEP’s assessment activities, debate centered on the strategic approach to assessment activities and their scope and scale. Delegates approved the report; the draft decisions contained therein (on the world environmental situation and on the Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured GEF) were adopted separately at a later stage.
COOPERATION AND COORDINATION WITH THE UN SYSTEM: This agenda item (UNEP/GC/24/INF/9 and UNEP/GC/24/INF/13-19) was addressed on Tuesday in the COW. Delegates called for closer collaboration with the GEF, the UN Development Group and the World Bank. The African Group highlighted the relevance of the Bali Strategic Plan in the context of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s (NEPAD) capacity-building objectives. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) identified areas for increased synergy between UNEP and UNESCO, including: scientific, technical and technological issues; disaster preparedness and mitigation; and capacity building. UNDP highlighted the scaling up of the UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative and the creation of a UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Facility to support mainstreaming of poverty environment issues in national development plans. The International Maritime Organization noted it is developing an environmental damage assessment tool and highlighted cooperation with UNEP-administered MEAs. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted joint UNEP-OCHA efforts on disaster and risk reduction, coordinated humanitarian response, and longer-term rehabilitation. No decision was adopted on this matter.
COOPERATION AND COORDINATION WITH CIVIL SOCIETY: On Tuesday, in the COW, Global Civil Society Forum (GCSF) Co-Chair Michael Koech reported on the outcomes of GCSF-8, which took place from 3-4 February 2007, noting recommendations to UNEP on globalization, gender, water, chemicals management, and war and militarism. The EU expressed satisfaction regarding UNEP’s cooperation with civil society (UNEP/GC/24/INF/10/Adds.1-6). The Women’s Environment and Development Organization urged full implementation of UNEP’s Gender Plan of Action. No decision was adopted on this matter.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UNEP PROGRAMME OF WORK: On Thursday, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Kakakhel described UNEP’s activities and achievements to date (UNEP/GC/24/6, UNEP/GC/24/INF/5 and UNEP/GC/24/INF/11). Among areas for improvement, he highlighted capacity building, training and support to developing countries. The US and the EU urged UNEP to internalize environmental considerations into its procurement policies.
IPCC REPORT: On Tuesday, IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri presented key findings of the report “Climate Change 2007, The Physical Science Basis.” He noted a significant increase in global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide as a result of human activities since 1750, stressing that the warming of the climate system is “unequivocal.” Pachauri called for translating intense media attention into specific policy actions.
PRESENTATIONS BY MEA SECRETARIATS: On Wednesday, the COW heard presentations by seven MEA Secretariats and two environmental funds. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer highlighted a significant decrease in worldwide consumption of ozone-depleting substances, and lessons learned, including: achievable goals fostering a culture of compliance and confidence; the need for global solutions; the role of industry in developing new technologies; and public awareness and mobilization.
The Basel Convention said the toxic waste dumping incident in Côte d’Ivoire illustrated difficulties faced by developing countries in enforcing MEAs, and called for integrated waste management. She further highlighted the joint working group with UNEP on mercury waste, and the establishment of an Ad Hoc Joint Working Group of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. The Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions described their ongoing work and synergies, highlighting efforts to address non-compliance.
The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) briefed participants on the upcoming COP-14. The Convention on Biological Diversity urged efforts to halt unprecedented ecosystem destruction. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification outlined key outcomes of the 2006 International Year on Deserts and Desertification. The Convention on Migratory Species highlighted how wildlife watching activities have generated revenues for reinvesting in conservation.
The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol described activities aimed at providing technical assistance and capacity building, particularly in developing countries. The GEF discussed activities in the context of the fourth replenishment and reforms.
WSSD FOLLOW-UP: On Thursday, in the COW, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Kakakhel introduced the agenda item, highlighting: cooperation with the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, UNDP, The World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Global Renewable Energy Network, and governments. Participants urged increased cooperation with UNDP, UNIDO and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
OTHER MATTERS: Atlas of Our Changing Environment: On Thursday, in the COW, Mick Wilson, UNEP, presented on the UNEP “Atlas of Our Changing Environment: One Planet, Many People,” now featured in Google Earth, noting it is a powerful tool for showcasing environmental change, and helps bridge the North-South information gap.
Occupied Palestinian territories: On Thursday, in the COW, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Kakakhel, on behalf of the UNEP Executive Director, delivered an address on UNEP activities relating to environmental protection and capacity building in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Draft GC-24/GMEF decisions, submitted by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) and directly by governments at the GC-24/GMEF, were considered from Monday to Friday in the COW, the drafting group, the budget working group and several contact groups. Unless otherwise mentioned, all decisions were adopted in plenary on Friday.
2010-2020 UN DECADE FOR DESERTS AND DESERTIFICATION: This draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.2) was introduced in the COW on Monday by Algeria. The US, the EU and Australia initially opposed the draft, questioning the added value of such a Decade after the 2006 UN Year of Deserts and Desertification, while pledging their support to ongoing activities under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The G-77/China and the Russian Federation supported the draft decision, arguing that a UN Decade would increase international attention. The matter was referred to a contact group, where opposition to the decision was withdrawn and the decision was later adopted.
Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3/Add.1), the GC/GMEF recalls UN General Assembly resolution 58/211 declaring 2006 as the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, takes into account the programmatic and financial commitment of the GEF to desertification control, and recommends to the UN General Assembly that it declare, during its 62nd session, the decade 2010-2020 as the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification.
SOUTH-SOUTH COOPERATION: This draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.1) was discussed in the COW on Wednesday, and forwarded to the drafting group with minor comments. On Friday in the COW, Indonesia reported that agreement had been reached to retain language on the provision of a clearing-house mechanism, adding reference to support through extra-budgetary funding. Delegates approved the draft decision.
Final Decision: The decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3/Add.1), inter alia:
SUPPORT TO AFRICA IN ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT AND PROTECTION: The African Group presented this draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.1) in the COW on Wednesday. Debate centered on strengthening UNEP regional offices, and acknowledging ongoing regional processes, while avoiding duplication with the NEPAD environmental initiatives in addition to financial implications for UNEP. This decision was referred to a drafting group where debate focused on UNEP’s role with additional text inserted on collaboration with UN and other institutions. The final text was approved in the COW with minor amendments on Friday.
Final Decision: The preamble of the final decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.4) notes that NEPAD will be implemented largely through national mechanisms and subregional economic communities in Africa, and the commencement of the implementation of the NEPAD Action Plan for the Environment under the guidance of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).
In the operative text, the GC/GMEF: calls upon African countries to take primary action for sustainable development; requests the UNEP Executive Director to work closely with partners, especially subregional economic communities in Africa, the African Development Bank and other UN organizations to support African countries in implementing NEPAD; and invites the UNEP Executive Director to work closely with the AU Commission, AMCEN, African Ministers’ Council on Water, the Forum for African Ministers on Energy and others and NEPAD to undertake a policy-oriented assessment using available means.
WASTE MANAGEMENT: On Wednesday, in the COW, Morocco presented the draft decision on municipal solid waste treatment (UNEP/GC/24/L.1), supported by the G-77/China. Canada, the EU, the US and New Zealand opposed the draft, arguing that waste management is sufficiently addressed under the Basel Convention, and, being a local issue, does not warrant international action. Many developing countries urged UNEP to address this issue, questioning whether the Basel Convention is equipped to address municipal waste. The matter was referred to the drafting group, which met on Wednesday and Thursday.
In the drafting group, delegates agreed that while there is some overlap with the Basel Convention, there are distinct areas of difference, such as the emphasis on integrated waste management. They also agreed to change the title of the draft decision from “Municipal solid waste treatment” to “Waste management.” There was considerable discussion on preambular references to relevant processes and initiatives, as well as the scope and content of an overview report on the issue to be prepared by UNEP for future GC/GMEF meetings. A small group convened in informal discussions and, in the absence of a breakthrough on the operative part of the draft decision, a group of developed countries proposed introducing a compromise text. Deliberations on the revised draft decision continued late into the night on Thursday, before agreement was reached. The COW approved the amended draft decision on Friday.
Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.4), the GC/GMEF retains preambular reference to previous GC decisions, the JPOI, and the work related to waste management under: the Basel Convention; UNEP, including through the Bali Strategic Plan; the Marrakech Process on sustainable consumption and production patterns; SAICM; and the Group of Eight (G-8) 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) initiative.
The operative paragraph requests the UNEP Executive Director, within the availability of extra-budgetary resources, to prepare, in consultation with the Basel Convention, UN-HABITAT, UNDP and other relevant UN bodies, international institutions, forums and processes, for consideration at GCSS-10/GMEF, a report outlining:
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE: This agenda item (UNEP/GC/24/3 and Adds.1-2; UNEP/GC/24/INF/12; UNEP/GC/24/INF/22; UNEP/GC/24/INF/23; and UNEP/GC/24/L.1) was discussed in the COW on Wednesday, when it was referred to the drafting group. The draft decision was considered by the drafting group from Wednesday to Friday, with small break-out groups sometimes working late into the night and completing negotiations on the draft in the early hours of Friday morning. The COW approved the draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.4) without amendment on Friday.
Preambular references to the ongoing UN reform process, in particular the 2005 World Summit Outcome on the need for strengthened environmental governance (paragraph 169) and the report of the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence were the subject of lengthy debate in the drafting group, with some delegations stressing that the latter cannot be acknowledged in the decision as it has not yet been formally considered by the UN General Assembly. Discussions also focused on the divisive issue of the GC’s universal membership, which was supported by the EU, Canada and Mexico, and opposed by Japan, Nigeria and Kenya.
Other contentious issues included UNEP’s role in promoting enhanced coordination of environmental activities across the UN system, particularly through the Environment Management Group (EMG), with many developing countries arguing that the EMG is outside the mandate of the GC, and that enhanced coordination remains a matter for the UN General Assembly, pending consideration of the results of the Informal Consultations on the Institutional Framework for UN Environmental Activities. The EU and some other developed countries maintained that UNEP is the appropriate forum for such coordination.
On strengthening the scientific base of UNEP, the drafting group debated the draft Environment Watch Strategy Vision 2020, which some delegations believed had considerable financial and other implications. On the issue of synergies, delegates discussed synergies between UNEP and the chemicals MEA cluster, particularly the Ad Hoc Joint Working Group of the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions. One developed country stressed that the Ad Hoc Joint Working Group’s establishment should be welcomed as a step forward.
Final Decision: The final omnibus decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.4) on implementation of decision SS.VII/1 on IEG contains six sections on: universal membership of the GC/GMEF; the Bali Strategic Plan; strengthening the scientific base and the financing of UNEP; issues related to MEAs; and enhanced coordination across the UN system, including the EMG.
The preamble recalls, inter alia, the JPOI, the Bali Strategic Plan and paragraph 169 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, and notes ongoing consideration of IEG through the UN General Assembly Informal Consultations on the Institutional Framework for the UN Environmental Activities. On the issue of universal membership, the GC notes the differences in views and consideration of the issue at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.
On the Bali Strategic Plan, the GC/GMEF:
On strengthening the scientific base of UNEP, the GC/GMEF:
On strengthening UNEP’s financing, the GC/GMEF:
On MEAs, the GC/GMEF:
On enhanced coordination across the UN system, including the EMG, the GC/GMEF recognizes UNEP’s role in helping achieve greater coherence in environmental activities, and requests the UNEP Executive Director to continue to promote such coordination through the work of the EMG.
CHEMICALS MANAGEMENT: This item (UNEP/GC/24/L.2; UNEP/GC/24/CRP.1; UNEP/GC/24/CRP.2 and Rev.1; UNEP/GC/24/CRP.5; and UNEP/GC/24/CRP.7) was introduced in the COW on Monday. Delegates addressed the issues of: mercury, on which alternative draft decisions were tabled; lead and cadmium; international traffic in hazardous chemicals; SAICM; and UNEP’s cooperation with relevant chemicals-related conventions. The COW discussed the item on Monday and Tuesday, and established a chemicals contact group co-chaired by Donald Hannah (New Zealand) and Abiola Olanipekun (Nigeria). The contact group met from Tuesday afternoon until Friday, with small break-out drafting groups often taking discussion late into the night. The contact group worked on the basis of a compromise text offered by the Co-Chairs. It completed its work, after a full-night session, on Friday afternoon, with the Co-Chairs reporting directly to the plenary. The plenary adopted the final omnibus decision on chemicals management without amendment.
The negotiations in the contact group primarily focused on ways of addressing the issue of mercury. While many countries commended UNEP’s work, they suggested alternatives for further actions. The US stressed extension of partnerships as the effective method. Uganda, on behalf of the African Group, the EU, Norway, Switzerland, and several other countries, stressed the insufficiency of voluntary actions alone, because they fail to reduce the use of mercury, and do not affect trade. The EU and several others insisted that voluntary commitments should be supplemented by a legally binding instrument, and called for political commitment to this from GC-24/GMEF. The US, supported by Australia, Canada and Japan, highlighted the urgent need for practical action to reduce mercury use, demand, emissions and supplies. These countries objected to a “blanket” political commitment to binding regulation. This view was shared by China and India, with several countries pointing to lack of sufficient scientific information to justify a binding instrument. The Russian Federation preferred the adoption of a legally binding instrument after the development of alternative technologies, and cautioned against the adverse consequences of a total ban.
Delegates agreed, however, that a “two-track” approach could be employed to take forward actions on mercury, while keeping open the path to a binding instrument in the future. In this connection, the mandate of an ad hoc working group was discussed at length, with Brazil suggesting a mandate to address the concerns of developing countries.
Final Decision: The final omnibus decision on chemicals management (UNEP/GC/CW/L.2 and UNEP/GC/CW/CRP.11) has sections on the prevention of illegal international traffic, SAICM, cooperation between UNEP and relevant MEAs and other organizations, and heavy metals (lead and cadmium, and mercury).
On illegal international traffic, the GC/GMEF invites governments to consider ratifying the chemicals-related conventions; invites the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals to present recommendations on illegal traffic; and requests the UNEP Executive Director to present a progress report to GC-25/GMEF.
On SAICM, the GC/GMEF welcomes progress made in SAICM implementation and calls for contributions to the Quick Start Programme, and urges the UNEP Executive Director to continue collaboration with other agencies.
On cooperation with other conventions, the GC/GMEF reinforces the applicability of the relevant GC-24/GMEF decisions.
On heavy metals, the GC/GMEF urges filling information gaps regarding lead and cadmium, requests the UNEP Executive Director to compile an inventory of existing risk management measures, and encourages governments to reduce risks posed to human health and the environment. On mercury, the decision:
WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL SITUATION: On Wednesday in the COW, delegates addressed the draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.1). Debate focused on its intent, with some delegations arguing that many issues identified in the draft decision are outside UNEP’s mandate. A contact group was established to consider how to proceed with the decision. Discussion in this group focused on UNEP’s mandate and governance issues in the context of the draft decision. The group succeeded in finalizing the draft decision by making a general reference to various scientific assessments instead of their specific findings. The paragraph on the “assessment of assessments” was also removed. The draft decision was approved by the COW with minor amendments on Thursday.
Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3), the GC/GMEF:
INTENSIFIED ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION FOR ACHIEVING POLICY GOALS AND TARGETS: The draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/CRP.4) was discussed and approved in the COW on Thursday, with amendments proposed by the EU and Nigeria.
Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3), the GC/GMEF recognizes the importance of voluntary compliance in achieving environmental policy goals, objectives and targets, also recognizing the importance of a lifelong process of learning, and urges the UNEP Executive Director to continue to strive to make available resources for promoting and supporting education programmes, projects and activities, particularly in developing countries and keep governments informed of the progress achieved.
SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES: The draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/CRP.8) was introduced by Tuvalu in the COW on Thursday, and supported by New Zealand, India and Indonesia. India and the US requested deleting reference to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change in the preamble. The issue of establishing a special UNEP SIDS desk was also discussed. The draft decision was referred to a contact group, which met on Thursday afternoon to finalize the decision, which was approved without amendment in the COW on Friday.
Final Decision: In the final decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3), the GC/GMEF commends progress in response to decision 23/5 (SIDS) and efforts in carrying out regional SIDS activities under UNEP’s programme of work, and reiterates SIDS’ vulnerability to environmental degradation, especially the effects of climate change, and the need for urgent need for international cooperation.
AMENDMENT TO THE INSTRUMENT FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE RESTRUCTURED GEF: The draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.1) was approved on Wednesday in the COW. In the final decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3), the GC/GMEF adopts the amendment to the Instrument related to the location of the meetings of the GEF Council, and requests the UNEP Executive Director to transmit the decision to the GEF CEO/Chair.
COMMITTING RESOURCES TOWARD THE IMPLEMENTATION OF DECISION 23/11: This draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/CRP.9) on implementing decision 23/11 on gender equality in the field on environment was introduced in the COW by South Africa on Wednesday. After resolving language, which the US said could have resource implications for UNEP in terms of strengthening the capacity of the Global Network of Women Ministers of the Environment, the decision was approved.
Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3), the GC/GMEF: welcomes the important cooperation between UNEP and the Global Network of Women Ministers of the Environment; urges the UNEP Executive Director to continue to strongly implement the UNEP Gender Plan of Action, including the projects on gender equality and the environment referred to in the Plan of Action; and urges governments to make voluntary contributions for implementation.
UPDATED WATER POLICY AND STRATEGY: On Wednesday in the COW, delegates discussed the proposed UNEP updated water policy and strategy (UNEP/GC/24/4), expressing unanimous support, but suggesting minor amendments. The draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.1) was referred to the drafting group. On Thursday in the COW, Argentina reported on informal consultations and introduced various amendments (UNEP/GC/24/4/Add.1), notably the removal of references to payments for ecosystem services. In relation to regional and subregional cooperation mechanisms, language was added on creating or strengthening capacity to evaluate, manage and coordinate the environmental management aspects of transboundary resources. The decision was approved in the COW on Friday with these and other amendments.
Final Decision: The decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3) contains a section on freshwater, and one on oceans, coasts and islands. The updated water policy and strategy, as it relates to freshwater for the period 2007-2012, is contained in an annex to the decision.
On freshwater, the GC adopts the water policy and strategy as a framework and guidance to direct UNEP’s programme of work for the period 2007-2012, to be implemented with interested countries upon their request. The GC also requests the UNEP Executive Director to:
On oceans, coasts and islands, the GC/GMEF:
The annexed updated water policy and strategy as it relates to freshwater contains a summary, which notes that the overall goal of the UNEP water policy and strategy is to contribute substantively to environmental sustainability in the management of water resources, utilizing integrated ecosystems approaches, as a contribution to internationally agreed targets and goals relevant to water and socioeconomic development. It clarifies that UNEP’s mandates on oceans, coasts and islands and their associated strategies are provided through the GPA.
The summary also notes that the freshwater strategy is elaborated through a set of principles designed to focus UNEP’s work by outlining the conceptual considerations (ecosystems-based approaches, sound economic and social considerations, and addressing risk) and operational means (building capacity, partnerships and stakeholder participation) through which UNEP will implement its water-related activities. It identifies the key components of UNEP’s freshwater work as assessment, management and cooperation, tied together within a framework of integrated water resources management. It concludes that the six-year strategy for 2007-2012 will be operationalized through the UNEP biennial programme of work, and monitored by the GC.
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL LAW IN CAIRO: Egypt introduced the draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/CRP.3), which called for the establishment of an international center in Cairo to build judicial capacity in environmental law, on Thursday in the COW. The G-77/China supported the draft decision, but Canada and the EU opposed, noting that the draft had been tabled at a late stage. Discussion was referred to a contact group. In the evening, Egypt withdrew the draft decision, requesting that its offer to host the center be recognized in the GC-24/GMEF report.
BUDGET AND PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR THE BIENNIUM 2008-2009: These issues (UNEP/GC/24/9 and Adds.1-2; UNEP/GC/24/INF/6; UNEP/GC/24/INF/7; UNEP/GC/24/INF/22 and UNEP/GC/24/L.1) were discussed in the COW and in the budget working group, chaired by Jan Bauer (Netherlands), from Monday until Friday, together with the draft decision on management of trust funds and other earmarked contributions. The COW approved the draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.4) on Friday.
During the discussions, many called for the provision of stable, predictable and adequate funding, urging increased contributions and support to the programme of work. Many delegations also supported the Bali Strategic Plan. Norway advocated a medium-term strategy.
During working group discussions, the EU and G-77/China expressed overall satisfaction with the proposed budget and programme of work. Areas of disagreement included the voluntary indicative scale of contributions, UNEP’s medium-term strategy, and the indicative figure for Environment Fund activities under the 2010-2011 programme of work. Developing countries introduced references to South-South cooperation, poverty and environment linkages, and the Bali Strategic Plan. The group reached agreement on the draft decision on Friday morning, after references to the voluntary indicative scale of contributions were finalized in the drafting group’s negotiations on IEG.
Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.4), the GC/GMEF approves appropriations for the Environment Fund in the amount of US$152 million for the 2008-2009 biennial programme, which includes: environmental assessment and early warning; environmental law and conventions; environmental policy implementation; technology, industry and economics; regional cooperation and representation; and communications and public information. It also calls for an allocation of an appropriate share of the UN regular budget to UNEP.
The GC/GMEF further, inter alia, requests the UNEP Executive Director to:
MANAGEMENT OF TRUST FUNDS AND OTHER EARMARKED CONTRIBUTIONS: During discussions on the draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/L.1) in the budget working group on Wednesday, one delegation objected to the proposed name change of the trust fund on mercury and other metals, pending the outcome of discussions on chemicals management. The COW approved the decision on Friday.
Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.4), the GC/GMEF notes and approves the establishment, extension, name change and closure of various trust funds in support of the UNEP programme of work, as well as conventions, regional seas protocols and special funds.
PROVISIONAL AGENDAS AND DATES AND VENUES FOR GCSS-10/GMEF AND GC-25/GMEF: On Thursday, in the COW, delegates approved the draft decision (UNEP/GC/24/CRP.10) with minor amendments. The GC/GMEF decides to hold GCSS-10/GMEF in February 2008, at a location to be determined, and GC-25/GMEF in Nairobi in February 2009.
In plenary on Friday, COW Chair Dusík presented the report of the COW (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.1 and L.1/Add.1), highlighting the 14 draft decisions approved by the COW and forwarded to plenary for adoption. Delegates adopted COW decisions (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3; UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.3/Add.1 and UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.4) with minor editorial amendments. The decision forwarded by the contact group on chemicals (UNEP/GC/24/CW/L.2 and UNEP/GC/24/CW/CRP.11) was also adopted without amendment. Delegates then adopted the GC-24/GMEF report (UNEP/GC/24/L.3 and UNEP/GC/24/L.3/Add.1). The GC further approved the Bureau’s verbal report on credentials.
Colombia requested that the decision on IEG specify that in providing policy guidance to the MEAs, UNEP should ensure that the process for establishing synergies between conventions, such as under the Ad Hoc Joint Working Group for the chemicals-related conventions, is open, participatory and transparent.
On determining the dates of future sessions, China requested ensuring that these do not clash with the Chinese New Year, and UNEP Executive Director Steiner said this will be taken into account. Monaco offered to host GCSS-10/GMEF, with Steiner noting that the Bureau will convene within four weeks to decide on the meeting’s dates and location.
Reacting to the decision on chemicals, and especially mercury, the Zero Mercury Working Group lamented that “collective actions had not matched words.” He called for a legally binding agreement to protect human health and the environment and welcomed the establishment of the ad hoc working group.
In their closing statements, many delegations congratulated UNEP and its Executive Director on a successful GC-24/GMEF, highlighting the new ministerial discussions format and the substantive decisions adopted.
Germany, on behalf of the EU, pledged support to strengthening UNEP, stressing the need for a greater coordinating role for a UN environment agency in Nairobi. He also highlighted GC-24 decisions, inter alia, on: chemicals, particularly a structured process to address the issue of mercury; state of the environment; waste management; and water policy and strategy.
Indonesia, on behalf of G-77/China, said the issues of globalization and UN reform are of particular importance for developing countries, and proposed that UNEP facilitate consultations among environment and other relevant ministers at GC-25/GMEF. He cited decisions on chemicals, SIDS and support to Africa among the meeting’s successes, and urged accelerated implementation of the Bali Strategic Plan and the Gender Plan of Action, and strengthened UNEP regional presence.
The US commended the GC-24/GMEF on its significant results, notably the decisions on mercury and the world environmental situation and the incorporation of the Bali Strategic Plan in many of the decisions.
Several African countries welcomed decisions on support to Africa, updated water policy and strategy and the 2010-2020 UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification. Nigeria said that the “eyes of Africa” are upon UNEP Executive Director Steiner and acknowledged his inspiring leadership. Egypt highlighted its intention to intensify consultations with UNEP with a view to establishing a center for judicial capacity building in Cairo, and expressed appreciation of UNEP’s activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. Burkina Faso commended the debates on global environmental governance and focus on national activities, expressing hope that governments will follow up on their commitments. Morocco stressed its support to “strengthening of UNEP on African soil.”
Peru stressed the need for urgent action to save the Amazon, including through public and private initiatives. A civil society representative expressed appreciation for the facilitation of civil society involvement in GC-24/GMEF, noting that the recently established Global Civil Society Steering Committee will further promote civil society participation at UNEP governance level.
Committing to pursuing the objective of making the GC/GMEF “carbon neutral,” UNEP Executive Director Steiner highlighted some statistics, including: the need to plant 15,000 trees to offset the energy used in the meeting, and 5,200 trees to offset the carbon emissions from air travel. He urged peace-making and diplomacy and highlighted the importance of taking even the smallest of steps towards addressing environmental challenges.
Noting the innovative and historic nature of GC-24/GMEF, President Dobles said the week had identified the challenges and opportunities before GC-25/GMEF and urged intensified efforts to deliver on the decisions adopted. He thanked the Government and people of Kenya for hosting GC-24/GMEF, and gaveled the meeting to a close at 5:21 pm.
A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF GC-24/GMEF
The year 2007 marks several key milestones for the global environment, with the 35th anniversary of UNEP, the 15th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit, five years since the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and five years since the adoption of the “Cartagena package” on international environmental governance. With a heightened awareness of environmental calamities, triggered by reports of recent findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the pace of climate change, and the beginning of the new Executive Director’s term of office at UNEP, international attention was undeniably focused on his inaugural Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF). Delegates arrived in Nairobi curious to see whether the week-long gathering would signal progress in the long-standing discussions on the need for coordinated responses to the world’s growing environmental crisis through strengthened international environmental governance (IEG). The presence of some key spokesmen, both within the environmental field and beyond, brought new vigor to the discussions, lending weight to the meeting’s multifaceted agenda.
This brief analysis examines some of the discussions in the GC/GMEF against the background of UN reform, and UNEP’s practical business agenda.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
UNEP’s fifth Executive Director Achim Steiner has been at the helm for only seven months and, not surprisingly, all eyes were on him. Some predicted that GC-24/GMEF would prove to be his acid test. Will this committed environmentalist’s dynamism make an immediate impact on UNEP? Will he spearhead an ambitious push for organizational reform? To this, delegates received only part of the answers. The most obvious innovation was the new GMEF format, aimed at steering ministerial engagement away from parallel positions, allowing the political masters to interact and understand each other in a new and more direct way. This format received a ringing endorsement from many delegations, which welcomed a more provocative and interactive way of engaging ministers – which for too long was considered the GMEF’s “weak link”. The composition of the six panels and the manner of unhindered exchange has shown that the GMEF can go beyond “business as usual.” For the first time, the GMEF also saw the participation of six important international agencies, notably the WTO and UNFCCC. Their word, as well as that of some eminent stakeholders in the panel discussions on globalization and environment and UN reform, was heeded just as attentively as the ministerial statements in signaling a strong desire for “delivering as one.”
One new message to come out of Nairobi was that UNEP should act as focal point in the interface between trade and environment. WTO head Pascal Lamy spoke on the need to build strong linkages between the WTO and UNEP, a sentiment endorsed by many ministers. Proposals on positioning environment within the economic arena, moving forward the trade/environment nexus through initiatives such as carbon markets, national investments and ecosystem valuation, with one panelist referring to “the new environmental accountancy,” helped focus the discourse on UNEP’s prospective role in translating environmental issues so that economic institutions are encouraged to develop into environmentally sustainable actors. In this connection, there was much support for continued strengthening of UNEP/UNDP cooperation, in particular work on public-private partnerships such as the UNEP-UNDP Poverty Environment Initiative, with UNEP providing an “environmental lens” on development. These emerging concepts prompted delegates to seek to define UNEP’s comparative advantage and future marketplace within sustainable development. Some echoed the recommendation contained in the report of the High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence that UNEP should become the “environmental policy pillar” of the UN, while others emphasized its role in national-level implementation.
The long-standing, thorny issue of IEG was debated once again in Nairobi. What was confirmed by the meeting is that the need to strengthen UNEP is imperative. The problem lies in how to achieve this, by bolstering the existing structure, or by transforming it into a new institution altogether. Some regretted another missed opportunity at this Governing Council to issue a clear message on environmental reform. One of the Co-Chairs of the UN General Assembly Informal Consultations on the Institutional Framework for UN Environmental Activities was reportedly disappointed to leave Nairobi without a more conclusive message from the environment ministers. Many were upbeat, however, saying that the mere presence, in the ministerial consultations, of the Co-Chairs of these Informal Consultations, added momentum to the debate. Others felt that entrenched positions are and will continue to drag out in the IEG debates. Whether the recent Paris Conference, which issued yet another call for transforming UNEP into a UNEO, has contributed or detracted from this momentum is yet to be seen. Five years have passed since UNEP launched the Cartagena process, and issues such as universal membership have shown little progress beyond recognizing the fact that it is a controversial issue with no consensus in sight. Some delegates suggested that divisive issues such as these deflect UNEP from the generally agreed need to strengthen implementation. They pointed out that it is on issues of substance that UNEP can project its strength and make a difference.
In this connection, one issue repeatedly referred to was climate change. While this does not fall directly within UNEP’s purview, many at GC-24/GMEF welcomed the acceptance of the science part of the IPCC report, and with it yet another acknowledgement of the urgency of environmental issues, and the need to strengthen the international response. They also noted statements made by a new wave of UN leaders, wondering whether this “new blood” may lead to reprioritization of environment and sustainable development in the multilateral system, reflecting acceptance that environmental issues cannot be compartmentalized, and thus building the momentum for organizational change.
A LIVING AND BREATHING PROGRAMME
While the organizational debate continues both outside and inside the GC and UNEP walls, the day-to-day work goes on. The number and breadth of various recent UNEP strategies and programmes – on water, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, the world environmental situation, and mercury (the last being a significant GC-24 result) – elaborated and launched, or ready to be launched is impressive. However, again, the proof of UNEP’s effectiveness will be in their implementation, through increased country contributions and other financial injections, in particular to making the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building a full-blooded action enterprise.
The decision on mercury, reached after a long bout of heavy bargaining, is a case in point. Admittedly, for some delegates, the initial phase of discussion provoked a sense of déjà vu, a replay of GC-23, with a valiant attempt to obtain an immediate political commitment to a legally binding instrument on mercury crashing headlong into a solid wall of resistance. The drive for international regulation was spearheaded by the EU, Norway and Switzerland, and was seen by some as an attempt to impose stringent European regulations, including trade restrictions, on the rest of the world. This reaction, shared by many developing countries, was exemplified by China and India, who, according to some, regarded this as an attempt to put a cap on economic development and expose some loose environmental practices. This attitude clearly played into the hands of the US, which puts a premium on voluntary action, e.g., mercury partnerships, rather than new legally binding responsibilities negotiated at the multilateral level. At the same time, the discussions in Nairobi showed that partnerships are still regarded with a degree of suspicion, since they clearly offer more leverage to the donors, weakening the case for voluntary actions alone.
As the negotiations evolved toward a climax, the chemicals debate was crowned with success with the help of sensible suggestions for a broad-ranging list of practical actions on mercury that could be launched without delay, while leaving the door slightly ajar for a legal option. According to some, this deflated much of the steam driving the European locomotive, and put the global mercury challenge into a more practical perspective. The long night sessions of the chemicals contact group and its smaller outcrops, sometimes on the roof deck under a bright African moon, brought realization that there is room for both tracks. Though the expected tortuous process through an ad hoc working group will not produce a common judgment on the legal option before 2009, at best, the general feeling shared by delegations was that the substantive action list on mercury, as approved, was a genuine achievement of GC-24/GMEF, worthy of emulation. The debate also illustrated the opportunities UNEP provides for a level negotiating field for all parties, and, like a mirror reflected country positions, which go beyond the issue of mercury, and impact their negotiating stance in other sectors.
Many delegates left Nairobi somewhat unsure on where the debate on institutional form and substance will lead. Certainly, GC-24/GMEF was inconclusive in terms of the future of a UNEP/UNEO, with some warning against creating “another monstrous institution.” As to Executive Director Achim Steiner, he wants UNEP, in his own words, “to add up to more than the sum of its parts,” by pulling together the threads of nations’ common interest in acting together, and by defining the overarching objectives within the context of sustainable development.
New leadership often brings with it hopes of radical change, and more often than not, successes and failures of an organization are identified with its figurehead. However, at the end of the day, UNEP is as good (or bad) as its member governments, which take decisions, prioritize UNEP’s activities and determine its funding scenarios. There is no doubt, however, that GC-24/GMEF responded enthusiastically to Achim Steiner’s obviously heartfelt and powerful vision, and that the international community will be watching in anticipation for him to deliver on his promise.
CSD INTERGOVERNMENTAL PREPARATORY MEETING: The fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development will be preceded by an Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting, which will take place from 26 February - 2 March 2007, at UN headquarters in New York. This is the second, or policy year, of the implementation cycle during which the Commission will continue its focus on the following areas: energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change. For more information, contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development; tel: +1-212-963-8102; fax: +1-212-963-4260; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/csd15/csd15_ipm.htm
MEETING OF THE FRIENDS OF UNEO: This meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place in Morocco, in spring 2007, and will follow up on the outcomes of the Paris Conference for Global Ecological Governance. For more information, contact: Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; tel: +212-37-76-11-23; fax: +212-37-76-55-08; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.citoyensdelaterre.fr/
6TH AMCOW: The sixth Ordinary Session of the African Ministerial Conference on Water will take place from 12-16 March, in Congo, Brazzaville. The session includes a number of events, namely the: AMCOW Technical Advisory Committee Meeting, from 13-14 March; AMCOW Executive Committee (AMCOW EXCO) Meeting, on 15 March; and the 6th AMCOW Ordinary Session, on 16 March. Additional events scheduled for the session include the Water and Media Training and Consultations from 14-16 March, and the Pan-Africa Civil Society Organisation Consultations, from 12-13 March. For more information, contact: Ja’afar Abubaker Sadeeq, Head, AMCOW Secretariat; tel: +234-9-234-2891; fax. +234-9-234-2895; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.amcow.org
CRIC-5: The fifth session of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s Committee for the Review of the Implementation (CRIC-5) will take place from 12-21 March 2007, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For more information, contact: UNCCD Secretariat; tel: +49-228-815-2800; fax: +49-228-815-2898; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.unccd.int
G8 ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS MEETING: This meeting will take place from 15-17 March 2007, in Potsdam, Germany. The meeting is expected to address sustainable use of resources and investment, with specific focus on energy efficiency and the Kyoto process. For more information, contact: internet: http://www.g-8.de/Webs/G8/EN/Homepage/home.html
OSLO CONFERENCE ON GOOD GOVERNANCE, SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY: The Oslo Conference, scheduled for 28-30 March 2007, aims to take the ongoing debate about business and sustainability beyond corporate social responsibility by providing a platform for an integrated approach comprising key players from government, business, academia, trade-unions and NGOs. The conference is hosted by the Norwegian government in cooperation with World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), UNEP, and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). For more information, contact: internet: http://www.csr-oslo.org/
TWENTY-FIRST SESSION OF THE UN-HABITAT GOVERNING COUNCIL: The UN-HABITAT Governing Council will take place from 16-20 April 2007, in Nairobi, Kenya. It is a high-level forum of governments at the ministerial level that sets UN-HABITAT’s policy and approves the agency’s work programme and budget for the next two years. For more information, contact: Rolf Wichman, Secretary to the Governing Council, tel: +254-20-7623065; fax: +254-20-7624175; e-mail: Rolf.Wichman@unhabitat.org; internet: http://www.unhabitat.org/categories.asp?catid=528
SECOND IBERO-AMERICAN CONFERENCE ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: Organized by WBCSD and its Brazilian affiliate (CEBDS) with the support of UNESCO, UN University and UNEP, the Congress will take place from 24-26 April 2007, in São Paulo, Brazil, and will bring together businesses, academia and NGOs from Latin America to share experiences on sustainable practices and the path to sustainable development in the region. For more information, contact: CEBDS; tel: +55-21-3139-1250; fax: +55-21-3139-1254; internet: http://www.sustentavel.org.br
FIFTEENTH SESSION OF THE UN COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: The fifteenth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-15) will be held from 30 April - 11 May 2007, at UN headquarters in New York. For more information, contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development; tel: +1-212-963-8102; fax: +1-212-963-4260; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/policy.htm
STOCKHOLM CONVENTION COP-3: The third meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-3) to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is scheduled to take place from 30 April - 4 May 2007, in Dakar, Senegal. For more information, contact: Stockholm Convention Secretariat; tel: +41-22-917-8191; fax: +41-22-797-3460; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.pops.int
IPCC-26: The 26th meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will take place in Bangkok, Thailand, on 4 May 2007, immediately following the 9th session of Working Group III, to be held from 30 April - 3 May 2007. Prior to this the eighth session of Working Group II will be held in Brussels, Belgium, from 2-5 April 2007. For more information, contact: Rudie Bourgeois, IPCC Secretariat; tel: +41-22-730-8208; fax: +41-22-7 30-8025; e-mail: IPCC-Sec@wmo.int; internet: http://www.ipcc.ch/
UNFCCC SBI-26 AND KYOTO PROTOCOL AD HOC WORKING GROUP: The 26th sessions of the subsidiary bodies to the UNFCCC are scheduled for 7-18 May 2007, in Bonn, Germany, along with the third session of the Kyoto Protocol’s Ad Hoc Working Group and various workshops and other events, including a third UNFCCC dialogue on long-term cooperative action. For more information, contact: UNFCCC Secretariat; tel: +49-228-815-1000; fax: +49-228-815-1999; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.unfccc.int
CITES COP-14: CITES COP-14 will be held from 3-17 June 2007, in The Hague, the Netherlands. For more information, contact: CITES Secretariat; tel: +41-22-917-8139; fax: +41-22-797-3417; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.cites.org/eng/cop/index.shtml
GEF COUNCIL MEETING: The GEF Council will meet from 4-8 June 2007, in Washington D.C., to discuss general issues regarding GEF lending and projects. For more information, contact: GEF Secretariat; tel: +1-202-473-0508; fax: +1-202-522-3240/3245; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.gefweb.org/
THIRD INTERNATIONAL MEETING ON SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION: This meeting is scheduled to take place from 26-29 June 2007, in Stockholm, Sweden, organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and UNEP. For more information, contact Alejandro Carpio, DESA, tel: +1-212-963-8102; fax: +1-212-963-4260; internet: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/sdissues/consumption/Marrakech/conprod10Ystockholm.htm
GLOBAL COMPACT LEADERS SUMMIT: The Leaders Summit will convene from 27-28 June 2007, in Geneva, to discuss the Global Compact and corporate citizenship at the highest level, and to produce strategic recommendations and action imperatives related to the future evolution of the initiative. For more information, contact: Birgit Errath, Leaders Summit Coordinator; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.unglobalcompact.org/NewsAndEvents/index.html
SBSTTA-12: The twelfth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice will take place from 2-6 July 2007, in Paris, France. For more information, contact: CBD Secretariat; tel: +1-514-288-2220; fax: +1-514-288-6588; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.biodiv.org/convention/sbstta.shtml
CBD WGRI-2: The second meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on Review of Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity will take place from 9-13 July 2007, in Paris, France. For more information, contact: CBD Secretariat; tel: +1-514-288-2220; fax: +1-514-288-6588; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.biodiv.org/wgri/
UNFCCC DIALOGUE AND KYOTO PROTOCOL AWG 4: The fourth workshop of the “Dialogue on long-term cooperative action to address climate change by enhancing implementation of the Convention” and the fourth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG), are expected to take place in September or October 2007, possibly in Bonn, Germany. For more information, contact: UNFCCC Secretariat; tel: +49-228-815-1000; fax: +49-228-815-1999; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.unfccc.int
WORLD SUMMIT ON CLIMATE CHANGE: This Summit is tentatively scheduled to take place in September 2007, at UN headquarters in New York, in conjunction with the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly. For more information, contact: UNFCCC Secretariat; tel: +49-228-815-1000; fax: +49-228-815-1999; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.unfccc.int
MONTREAL PROTOCOL MOP-19: The nineteenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol is scheduled to take place from 17-21 September 2007, in Montreal, Canada, and will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Protocol’s adoption. It is likely to be preceded by the 39th meeting of the Implementation Committee. For more information, contact: Ozone Secretariat; tel: +254-20-762-3850/1; fax: +254-20-762-4691; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://ozone.unep.org/Events/
8TH ANNUAL GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL TAXATION CONFERENCE: This meeting is scheduled to take place from 18-20 October 2007, in Munich, Germany. This meeting will focus on “Innovation, Technology and Employment: Impacts of Environmental Fiscal Reforms and Other Market-Based Instruments.” For more information, contact: Green Budget Germany; tel: +49-89-520-113-13; fax: +49-89-520-113-14; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.worldecotax.org/
UNCCD COP-8: The eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification is expected to convene in November 2007 in Spain. For more information, contact: UNCCD Secretariat; tel: +49-228-815-2800; fax: +49-228-815-2898; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.unccd.int
ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH IN THE 21ST CENTURY CONFERENCE: This conference, convened by the Pacific Basin Consortium for Environment and Health Sciences at the East-West Center, will take place from 26-29 October 2007, in Beijing, China. The conference will address issues related to pollution and human health, climate change and hazardous waste certification. For more information, contact: tel: +1-808-944-7437; fax: +1-808-944-7399; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://pbc.eastwestcenter.org/2007ConferenceHome.html
IPCC-27: Scheduled to take place from 12-16 November 2007, in Valencia, Spain, IPCC-27 will focus on the adoption of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). For more information, contact: Rudie Bourgeois, IPCC Secretariat; tel: +41-22-730-8208; fax: +41-22-7 30-8025/13; e-mail: IPCC-Sec@wmo.int; internet: http://www.ipcc.ch/
GEF COUNCIL MEETING: The GEF Council will meet from 12-16 November 2007, in Washington D.C. to discuss general issues regarding GEF lending and projects. For more information, contact: GEF Secretariat; tel: +1-202-473-0508; fax: +1-202-522-3240/3245; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.gefweb.org/
UNFCCC COP-13 AND KYOTO PROTOCOL COP/MOP-3: UNFCCC COP-13 and Kyoto Protocol COP/MOP-3 will take place from 3-14 December 2007, in a location to be determined (possibly Bangkok, Thailand). These meetings will coincide with the 27th meetings of the UNFCCCï¿½s subsidiary bodies and other events and workshops. For more information, contact: UNFCCC Secretariat: tel: +49-228-815-1000; fax: +49-228-815-1999; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.unfccc.int
GCSS-10/GMEF: The tenth Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum will convene in February 2008, at a location to be determined. For more information, contact: Beverly Miller, Secretary of the UNEP Governing Council; tel: +254-20-7623431/7623411; fax: +254-20-7623929/7623748; e-mail: email@example.com; internet: http://www.unep.org