UN Environment Programme may play more important role

The General Assembly of the United Nations has agreed to ‘strengthen and upgrade’ the UN Environment Programme and to provide for universal membership of its governing body. Previously UNEP membership had been extended to only 58 member states. The General Assembly motion is seen as a step forward in helping UNEP to meet the objectives established for it during the Rio+20 meeting last June. The resolution concerning UNEP sets the following objectives:

(a) Establish universal membership in the Governing Council of UNEP, as well as other measures to strengthen its governance as well its responsiveness and accountability to Member States;

(b) Have secure, stable, adequate and increased financial resources from the regular budget of the UN and voluntary contributions to fulfill its mandate;

(c) Enhance UNEP’s voice and ability to fulfill its coordination mandate within the UN system by strengthening UNEP engagement in key UN coordination bodies and empowering UNEP to lead efforts to formulate UN system-wide strategies on the environment;

(d) Promote a strong science-policy interface, building on existing international instruments, assessments, panels and information networks, including the Global Environmental Outlook, as one of the processes aimed at bringing together information and assessment to support informed decision-making;

(e) Disseminate and share evidence-based environmental information and raise public awareness on critical as well as emerging environmental issues;

(f) Provide capacity building to countries as well as support and facilitate access to technology;

(g) Progressively consolidate headquarters functions in Nairobi, as well as strengthen its regional presence, in order to assist countries, upon request, in the implementation of their national environmental policies, collaborating closely with other relevant entities of the UN system;

(h) Ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders drawing on best practices and models from relevant multilateral institutions and exploring new mechanisms to promote transparency and the effective engagement of civil society.

A review conducted last year indicated that UNEP had only made progress on four of the 90 environmental goals agreed by the international community. A meeting of the new Governing Board, scheduled for mid-February, is likely to begin the process of setting priorities for the expanded organization. Among likely areas of UNEP activity in the years ahead are:

  • Climate Change
  • Stratospheric Ozone
  • Lead in Gasoline
  • Outdoor Air Pollution
  • Indoor Air Pollution
  • Extinction Risk of Species
  • Natural Habitats
  • Invasive Alien Species
  • Traditional Knowledge
  • Access & Benefit Sharing
  • Protected Areas
  • Sustainably Managed Production Areas
  • Species Harvested for Food and Medicine
  • Fish Stocks
  • Sound Chemicals Management
  • Heavy Metals
  • Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Sound Waste Management
  • Radioactive Waste
  • Access to Food
  • Desertification & Drought
  • Deforestation
  • Wetlands
  • Ecosystem Services
  • Drinking Water
  • Sanitation
  • Groundwater Depletion
  • Water Use Efficiency
  • Freshwater Pollution
  • Marine Pollution
  • Corals
  • Extreme Events
  • Environmental Policies
  • Sustainable Development in Country Policies/Programmes

From a business perspective the strengthening of UNEP will likely increase the need for engagement between business organizations and UNEP and a greater opportunity, or need, for engagement at the international environmental policy level. UNEP plans to consolidate more of its activities at its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

The announcement of the expansion of UNEP can be found at http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=2700&ArticleID=9363&l=en

The UNEP Global Environment Outlook report, an annual assessment last released in draft form in July 2012 and recently updated to a final version, is at http://www.unep.org/geo/geo5.asp

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