The co-chairs of the of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on a global pact for the environment have forwarded the Working Group’s recommendations to the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The Group, established by the UNGA in 2018, held a series of meetings to consider possible gaps in international environmental law (IEL) and environment-related instruments with a view to strengthening their implementation. The resulting recommendations were agreed on 23 May 2019, and do not include the creation of a new international instrument.
UNGA resolution 72/277 (‘Towards a Global Pact for the Environment’) established the Working Group, following which three substantive sessions convened in Nairobi, Kenya, in January, March and May 2019. The outcome is contained in document A/AC.289/6/Rev.1.
Rather than calling for creation of a new IEL instrument, the Working Group recommends that the UNGA, inter alia:
- Encourage UN Member States and all members of the specialized agencies to strengthen, “where needed,” environmental laws, policies and regulatory frameworks at the national level, as well as capacities across all sectors for effective IEL implementation, including in the administrative and justice sectors, in accordance with national legal systems;
- Encourage UN Member States and all members of the specialized agencies to mainstream environment into sectoral policies and programmes at all levels, including into national development and sustainable development plans;
- Encourage the “active and meaningful engagement” of all relevant stakeholders at all levels in the different forums related to the implementation of IEL and environment-related instruments; and
- Encourage the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as chair of the Environment Management Group, to continue to strengthen system-wide inter-agency coordination on the environment, and to call for the implementation of system-wide strategies on the environment.
The Working Group’s outcome notes that upon adoption of the resolutions, many Member States made statements in explanation of position with respect to the recommendations. Egypt for the Group of 77 and China (G-77/China), the EU and the US specifically requested that their statements be reflected in the report. G-77/China expressed regret that the recommendation on means of implementation does not acknowledge “in any meaningful manner the requisite balance between action and support.” They called for increases in means of implementation from all sources, “in the name of equity.” The US emphasized that the agreed language on means of implementation does not imply a call for increased support from any particular country, and noted the need for “an expanded pool of donors beyond traditional donors.” The EU said the Working Group’s recommendations do not prejudge further discussions with regard to the provision of means of implementation and existing commitments.
On the way forward, the Working Group recommends that the UNGA forward its recommendations to the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) for consideration, and for UNEA to prepare, at its fifth session in February 2021 (UNEA-5), a political declaration for a UN high-level meeting, subject to voluntary funding, in the context of commemoration of UNEP’s creation in 1972, with a view to strengthening the implementation of IEL.
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