Global Pact Talks Forward Recommendations to UNEA-5
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The substantive recommendations include the reaffirmation of the role of UNEP as the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

The OEWG recommends forwarding the recommendations to UNEA, for consideration at its fifth session in February 2021.

23 May 2019: The third and final substantive session of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) established by UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 72/277 (‘Towards a Global Pact for the Environment’) completed its mandate, and adopted recommendations to the UNGA, following its consideration of possible gaps in international environmental law (IEL) and environment-related instruments with a view to strengthening their implementation.

The final document, adopted by the OEWG in the early morning hours of 23 May 2019, has three sections, setting out:

  • Objectives, including the reinforcement of environmental protection for present and future generations and strengthening IEL and environment-related instruments;
  • Substantive recommendations; and
  • Consideration of further work.

The substantive recommendations include the reaffirmation of the role of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment, and the role of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA). Delegates also called for renewed efforts at all levels to enhance implementation of existing obligations and commitments under IEL, stressing the importance of enhanced ambition regarding means of implementation, including the provision and mobilization of all types and sources of means of implementation, consistent with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Delegates invited the scientific community to further their work on interconnected and cross-cutting issues by sharing information among the leading scientific, technical, and technological bodies that inform the work of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and environmental processes, as well as encouraging the scientific, technical, and technological bodies to strengthen cooperation among themselves.

For further work, the OEWG recommends forwarding the recommendations to UNEA for its consideration, and for UNEA to prepare, at its fifth session in February 2021, a political declaration for a UN high-level meeting, subject to voluntary funding, in the context of commemoration of the creation of UNEP by the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm from 5-16 June 1972, with a view to strengthening the implementation of IEL, and international environmental governance in line with paragraph 88 of the ‘Future we Want.’

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis of the meeting highlights that “fear played a role and ultimately shaped the outcome: fear of losing sovereignty, fear of complicating existing MEA regimes, fear of opening up established principles and their varied/contested application, and, significantly for developing countries, a fear of committing to steps that they lack the capacity to implement.” Although the resulting outcome was called “weak” during the closing session, it “keeps the doors open for the conversation initiated by the global pact proposal to survive and inform a wider global conversation and set of aspirations that may be unleashed by the landmark 50th anniversary of the UN Conference on the Human Environment,” in 2022.

During the closing plenary, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) described political will as the most important gap, and accused those countries most responsible for the planet’s ecological breakdown of attempting to “kill the process.” Co-Chair Duarte Lopes responded by thanking the NGOs for helping to steer the ambition of the process, and noted that the outcome was based on consensus, which provides a first step in a continuing process.

The third Substantive Session of the OEWG convened from 20-22 May 2019, at the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya. Some 300 participants attended the meeting. [ENB summary of OEWG third session] [Documents for OEWG Third Session]


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