UNEP: conspicuous absences and inconspicuous newbies
February 17, 2013 3 Comments
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has been the promulgator of scary stories since 1972 and facilitator of hundreds of confabs, committees, commissions, panels (High Level … and presumably some low level?) and platforms.
It has also been the very proud parent of countless acronymic offspring; not the least of which – at least until fairly recently – has been the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its “main client”, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which gave birth to the remarkably unsuccessful Kyoto Protocol (now a dead horse).
One of the UNEP’s major “accomplishments” has been the ongoing (and highly sustainable) increase in the level of participation by duly “accredited” Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), known in UN-speak as representatives of “civil society”.
Scarcely a week goes by when there isn’t a meeting of some group or other under the auspices of the UNEP (or one of its offspring, or its offspring’s offspring). Last week was no exception. Ever heard of TUNZA?
No? Well, neither had I – although I’m not sure how I could have missed this “Major UN Youth Conference“.
Here’s the “advance billing” for this “Major UN Youth Conference”:
The [TUNZA] conference provides a platform for over 300 young people from 100 countries who will come together to exchange information, best practices and most importantly; learn from each other.
The objectives of the conference are to provide a forum for young people to discuss the role that youth play in Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Consumption and Production, Forests, Food Waste, Water as well as the State of the Environment. Additionally, UNEP shall launch the Tunza Acting for a Better World: GEO-5 for Youth; a youth oriented publication that explains the latest environmental trends and how youth can play their part in working towards better future.
Young people will also have a chance to discuss the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference and the Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals.
The conference will also see the selection of the new Tunza Youth Advisory Council.
The TUNZA conference sessions will be held at the United Nations Complex in Gigiri, with regional breakout sessions to be held at the Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi.
I would have thought that at this stage of their lives, the youth of the world would be far more concerned with getting an adequate education than with their “role” in Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Consumption etc. And one can certainly hope that they did not succeed in making “Food Waste and Food Loss” into sustainable development goals, as advertised! But that’s just me.
Oh, but this wasn’t the only UNEP sponsored Nairobi confab last week. As a further prelude to the first meeting of the new, improved UNEP (which I had written about in my previous post), there was a gathering of the:
fourteenth Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF-14), which will take place from 16-17 February. The forum aims to facilitate the preparations of major groups and stakeholders towards GC27/GMEF. The forum will also consist of a multi-stakeholders dialogue, as part of the implementation of the Rio+20 Outcome document, on new models and mechanisms to promote transparency and effective engagement of civil society in the work of UNEP; the role and opportunities for involvement of civil society in the post-Rio+20 processes and the post-2015 development agenda. [emphasis added -hro]
Sorry, but I haven’t succeeded in tracking down the outcome of these particular deliberations, yet. No doubt they will surface in the fullness of time (if not within the context of the BIG meeting that began today in Nairobi).
According to the quasi-official rapporteur at many (if not most) of these UNEP confabs, the BIG meeting – in effect – just became BIGGER! Here’s the meeting banner:
Quite the maze, isn’t it?! Although personally, I think that Josh’s maze is a far more accurate representation than this bunch of scrunched up flags, don’t you?! But I digress …
We were given advance warning of an “upgrade” to the status of the UNEP. I’m not sure whose brilliant idea it might have been, but it was certainly mentioned in several of the run-up to Rio+20 docs, including that which emanated from one of Ban Ki-Moon’s “high level panels”
The key to this “upgrade” evidently lies in Paragraph 88 (pp. 15-16) of the Rio+20 “Outcome” document (aka The Future We [don't need or] Want):
We are committed to strengthening the role of the United Nations 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 United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. [...] In this regard, we invite the General Assembly, at its sixty-seventh session, to adopt a resolution strengthening and upgrading UNEP in the following manner:
(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 [...]
(c) Enhance the voice of UNEP and its ability to fulfil its coordination mandate [...] empowering UNEP to lead efforts to formulate United Nations 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 Environment Outlook, [...]
(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.
Needless to say, the “invitation” to the UN’s General Assembly was evidently an offer the members could not refuse. According to this (undated pdf):
Report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme on its twelfth special session and on the implementation of section IV.C, entitled “Environmental pillar in the context of sustainable development”, of the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
The General Assembly,
[two pages of pre-amble which includes:
"Taking into account Agenda 21 and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg Plan of Implementation)," ... eventually followed by inter alia]
4. Decides to:
(a) Strengthen and upgrade the United Nations Environment Programme in the manner set out in subparagraphs (a) to (h) of paragraph 88 of the outcome document, entitled “The future we want”, of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, as endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 66/288 of 27 July 2012;
(b) Establish universal membership in the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme, and mandates it, as from its first universal session to be held in Nairobi in February 2013, using its applicable rules of procedure and applicable rules and practices of the General Assembly, pending the adoption of its new rules of procedure, to expeditiously initiate the implementation of the provisions contained in paragraph 88 of the outcome document in its entirety; make a recommendation on its designation to reflect its universal character; and decide on future arrangements for the Global Ministerial Environment Forum; [...] (emphasis mine -hro)
Any bets on how many at the General Assembly actually read and/or comprehended the “provisions contained in paragraph 88 of the outcome document in its entirety” before they “adopted resolution 67/213″ on December 21, 2012?! But I digress …
I’m sure you must be sitting on the edge of your chair wondering what the bottom-line of this “strengthening” and “upgrade” to the status of the UNEP might be – well, apart from a bigger budget, of course!
Seems that prior to this “historic” moment in UN-time, the UNEP’s “Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum” (GC/GMEF) consisted of a mere 58 members who were elected by the UN General Assembly to “four-year terms, taking into account the principle of equitable regional representation.”
The new, improved UNEP’s GC/GMEF now has “universal” membership which (according to the IISD rapporteurs) means “full participation of all 193 UN member states at the UNEP Governing Council”. Such is progress, I guess.
As I had mentioned in my previous post the “advance billing” for this “historic” gathering makes no mention of the IPCC or the UNFCCC. Both are equally conspicuous by their absence in the IISD’s Feb. 17 report.
So I wonder how IPCC’s Pachauri and UNFCCC’s Figueres might feel about the inclusion of an entire paragraph each for “Mercury Negotiations” (which I had written about here and here) and “IPBES” (which I had written about here, here, and here).
You may (or may not) recall, that when I wrote about the UNEP’s ECOSOC sponsored glossy brochure for prospective NGOs considering applying for accreditation, I had noted that one of the UN’s “Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice’s “mandated priority areas” is:
Promoting the role of criminal law in protecting the environment
I seem to recall that in the run-up to Rio+20 there were some recommendations in one or more of the docs pertaining to this “functional” commission. However common sense appeared to prevail in the 49 page “outcome” document. The closest I could find were three (perhaps deceptively innocuous) references to “rule of law” (my emphasis -hro):
8. We also reaffirm the importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights, including the right to development and the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, the rule of law, gender equality, the empowerment of women and the overall commitment to just and democratic societies for development.
10. We acknowledge that democracy, good governance and the rule of law, at the national and international levels, as well as an enabling environment, are essential for sustainable development, [...]
VI. Means of implementation
252. We reaffirm that the means of implementation identified in Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development are indispensable for achieving the full and effective translation of sustainable development commitments into tangible sustainable development outcomes [...] We acknowledge that good governance and the rule of law at the national and international levels are essential for sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger.
Just for the record, btw, in this “outcome” document (aka The Future We [don't need or] Want) there were 15 instances of “youth” and 25 of “gender”.
I mention “youth” [see TUNZA above] and “gender” because the UNEP’s website for this “historic” gathering indicates that there were “pre-session” events for these “stakeholders”. But I also noticed another “pre-session” event entitled:
UNEP, Nairobi, 17 February 2013, 9.00 – 17.00, Press Room
Draft Programme and Concept Note
On the eve of a historic Governing Council for UNEP, the High Level Meeting on the Rule of Law and the Environment will bring together eminent Ministers of the Environment and government representatives with Chief Justices, Heads of Jurisdiction, Attorneys General, Auditors General, Chief Prosecutors, and other high-ranking representatives of the judicial, legal and auditing professions as well as representatives of partner organizations to discuss important recent developments and new opportunities regarding the rule of law in the field of the environment and how the rule of law can be promoted for greater effect in the quest for environmental sustainability, sustainable development and social justice.
Through the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and UNEP’s World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, both held in June 2012, the rule of law in environmental matters has received new affirmation. Through the World Congress, for example, over 250 of the world’s Chief Justices, Attorneys General and Auditors General seized a generational opportunity to contribute to the debates on the environment and declare that any diplomatic outcomes related to the environment and sustainable development, including from Rio+20, will remain unimplemented without adherence to the rule of law, without open, just and dependable legal orders.
Similarly, the ‘Future We Want’, the outcome document of Rio+20, reaffirms the central role to be played by the rule of law on the path towards sustainable development and makes it a prerequisite for a successful transition to greener economies. The document also highlights the crucial role played by national judiciaries in ensuring fairness and equity in the implementation of policies to further sustainable development.
Wait a minute! The “UNEP’s World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability”. Did you hear about this in any of the MSM outlets?! I sure didn’t. I don’t even recall seeing any mention of it on the Rio+20 “official site” at the time. But it’s certainly there now:
Colour me somewhat, well, skeptical. But I can’t help wondering what these “new opportunities regarding the rule of law” might be – or, for that matter, how one might translate “just and dependable legal orders” from UN-speak into “plain language”.
YMMV, but my alarm bells just started ringing.
UPDATE: Hmmmm … No IPCC, no UNFCCC and now a brand new UNEP Report on the Arctic that doesn’t mention (wait for it …) Polar Bears!
UPDATE 2: And yet another UNEP report seems to be dumping the dreaded CO2 in favour of a “fertilizer crisis”. According to the U.K. Independent:
Mass application of nutrients causes pollution in some areas while under-use hampers food production in others
The world is facing a fertiliser crisis, with far too little in some places, and far too much in others, a new report from the United Nations says today.
The report calls for a major global rethink in how fertilisers are used across the world, so that more food and energy can be produced while pollution is lessened rather than increased.
It suggests that the attention long given to carbon dioxide because of its role in global warming should now be given to nitrogen and phosphorus products, because their mass use is playing its own role in substantially affecting the planet.
“While recent scientific and social debate about the environment has focused especially on CO2 in relation to climate change, we see that this is just one aspect of a much wider and more complex set of changes occurring to the world’s biogeochemical cycles,” says the report. “In particular it becomes increasingly clear that alteration of the world’s nitrogen and phosphorus cycles represents a major emerging challenge that has received too little attention.”
A question to be decided, says the report, is what body should oversee a new attempt at globally managing fertiliser use.[emphasis added -hro]
And if that isn’t scary enough, consider the following from the Foreword by the UNEP’s alarmist in chief, Achim Steiner:
Without swift and collective action, the next generation will inherit a world where many millions may suffer from food insecurity caused by too few nutrients, where the nutrient pollution threats from too much will become more extreme, and where unsustainable use of nutrients will contribute even more to biodiversity loss and accelerating climate change.
[But the (still undefined) Green Economy will save us all:]
Conversely with more sustainable management of nutrients, economies can play a role in a transition to a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
If it’s not one damn scare, it’s another!