UN gives governments equal voice in a newly created fully-representative platform
Warning that global challenges – from diminishing water resources to changing climatic conditions – have gained urgency since the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was established at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, a UN news release has revealed that this year, the UN has decided to give UNEP a bigger role to play in the global environmental arena.
Having chosen UNEP to be the new “voice of the environment”, the UN has apparently put the onus on it to assist in developing the environmental policy consensus and authorised it to conduct continuous and ongoing review of the global environment. UNEP, said the UN, is also responsible for notifying governments and the international community about any new environment-related issues.
The General Assembly is said to have earmarked funds for the project from the UN’s regular budget to facilitate UNEP to carry out its new responsibilities. An appeal has also reportedly gone out to other UNEP donors to increase their voluntary funding.
Prior to the action initiated by the General Assembly, UNEP’s Governing Council consisted of 58 members, but effective February 2013, the Assembly has decided to permit all 193 UN member states full participation at the UNEP Governing Council. The first meeting of the enlarged Council was reportedly held at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi from February 18 to 22.
The Global Ministerial Environment Forum created by the then UNEP decided to bring the world’s environment ministers under one roof for high-level meetings with the Governing Council.
It has been revealed that the newly included member states have begun handling their new responsibilities in right earnest and have already implemented a few of the provisions to this resolution. One, in particular, included the necessary arrangements for the future of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum. The first practical initiative taken by the UN General Assembly, implementing the commitment made by world leaders at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio+20 last June to improve the institutional framework for sustainable development, was part of the other provisions.
Speaking in the context of the new initiative being kick-started, UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner and UN Under-Secretary-General said: “Universal membership of UNEP’s Governing Council establishes a new, fully representative platform to strengthen the environmental dimension of sustainable development, and provides all governments with an equal voice on the decisions and action needed to support the global environment, and ensure a fairer share of the world’s resources for all.”
The new initiative with its attendant major decisions by the General Assembly, appears to be a step forward in the direction of enhancing global cooperation, promoting the integration of the social, economic and environmental building blocks of sustainable development and, in the process, has given a boost to coordination within the global body.
“The resolution reaffirms UNEP’s role as the UN’s authority on the environment, and provides the mandate to enhance our ongoing work on bringing the latest science to policy-makers, directly supporting national and regional environmental efforts, improving access to technology, and other key areas. For UNEP and the environmental community,” Steiner added, “this is a truly historic day.”