Huge crowd of ice hockey fans celebrating a victory of the Czech team in Prague, Czech Republic
As the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) drew to a close in Nairobi in the small hours of Saturday morning (28 May), the EEB welcomed the high level of agreement among the world’s environment ministers on the need to strengthen the environmental dimension in the process of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, we are concerned that this understanding is not reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development deliberations in New York due to the lack of a sufficient structural connection between the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and ECOSOC where the SDG issues are discussed. Unfortunately, there were no concrete proposals agreed in Nairobi on how UNEP can ensure that the environmental dimension is indeed put at the heart of all development policies.
In a side meeting between the outgoing Executive Director of UNEP Achim Steiner and non-governmental participants, Mr Steiner expressed his support for mainstreaming the environment into the economic system.
Leida Rijnhout, EEB Director of Global Policies and Sustainability, said:
“This is a laudable strategy as long as it does not end up ‘awaystreaming’. It seems that environment ministers are crying in the wilderness, hardly being heard by those running the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda processes. In the negotiations on the SDG review process that was taking place in in New York in parallel to UNEA-2, it has become clear that development challenges are being put first. Sustainable management of natural resources, tackling climate change, and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems are the foundation for any type of development, and need to be recognised as such. UNEA does not seem to command the respect it deserves in the SD process.”
A particular disappointment of UNEA-2 was that no agreement was reached, for the second time, on a new stakeholder engagement policy. World leaders at the Rio+20 conference in 2012 charged UNEP with strengthening the role of civil society organisations in its work, drawing on best practices, but the proposals that were on the table last week actually represented a step backwards in certain key respects.
UNEA-2 saw the adoption of 24 resolutions covering topics as diverse as sustainable consumption and production, biodiversity, illegal wildlife trade, desertification and marine issues.
The meeting ended in some confusion when it emerged late on Friday night during a debate on a resolution on the environmental situation in Gaza that there was not a sufficient quorum to take a decision.
However, this should not detract from what was overall a successful meeting with an ambitious agenda and the participation of environment ministers and senior officials from most of the 193 Member States and more than 350 civil society representatives in the negotiation rooms.