Will UNEA-2 be able to deliver on the high hopes placed on it?

Marcos Orellana
By Dr. Marcos A. Orellana

Looking back at the genesis of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) could give us a leads on the answer to that pointed question.

The architects of the Rio+20 Outcome Document faced the challenge of strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development. In particular, it was recognized then that the UN Environment Program (UNEP) needed to be upgraded and improved, so that it could lead the United Nations efforts and strengthen the environmental dimension of sustainable development.  Instead of transforming UNEP into an international organization, however, UNEP acquired universal membership, increased funding, and created UNEA. In that sense, UNEA is much more than UNEP’s former Governing Council. Rather, UNEA brings the international community together to address the pressing environmental challenges confronting humanity.

The UNEA-2 agenda is dealing with crucial issues, no doubt. UNEA-2 will make decisions concerning UNEP’s governance, including its strategy and work program. UNEA-2 is also addressing the environmental dimension of the 2030 Development Agenda, including the so-called Sustainable Development Goals, which have framed sustainable development discourse and action since Rio+20. In addition, UNEA-2 is expected to adopt important resolutions to enhance environmental protection, including with respect to the Montevideo Programme on Environmental Law, the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, chemicals and waste, air pollution, and marine debris, to name a few.  UNEA-2 will also feature a Ministerial Policy-Review Session, which will gather under the overarching theme “Healthy Environment, Healthy People.” Crucially, it is expected that UNEA-2 will adopt a revised and strengthened Stakeholder Engagement Policy, codifying the good practices adopted by UNEP over the years.

CIEL will be active in UNEA-2 to strengthen the international community’s response to the deteriorating global environment. For example, CIEL is organizing a side event on Climate Change and the Right to Health, in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and another side event on Environmental and Human Rights Defenders, in collaboration with Article 19. CIEL is also speaking at side events on Principle 10 and on the Stakeholder Engagement Policy.

Friday, May 27, at the closing of UNEA-2, we will be in a position to gauge whether the UNEA is standing up to expectations. For now, the efforts are focused on making UNEA-2 a success.

Originally posted May 17, 2016