GMGSF 16 & UNEA- 2

The second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEA2) took place from 23-27 May 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The meeting brought together over 2500 delegates ranging from current and former heads of states, Environment Ministers from 174 countries, heads of UN organizations, representatives of the private sector and participants from Major Groups and Stakeholders.

The Assembly was preceded by the Science and Policy Forum which convened more than 250 representatives from the science and policy-making communities in over a 100 countries. For two days, current and frontier issues of human interaction with the environment were discussed, with sessions covering the SDGs, the GEO-6 assessments, a range of frontier and merging issues with a series of thematic discussions – all from the perspective of strengthening the science-policy interface.

This was followed by the 16th Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum that took place on 21-22 May 2016 ahead of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), organized by the Major Groups Facilitating Committee with the support of UNEP. It brought together 300 participants from all six UNEP regions, representing all nine Major Groups.

GMGSF-16 aimed at mobilizing MGS to engage in a multi-stakeholders setting in order to learn from each other, develop partnerships and develop and discuss inputs into UNEA-2. The sessions were divided into interactive plenary and parallel panel discussions addressing topics such as: the status of negotiations and expected outcome of UNEA; the main UNEA themes and the role of MG&S in multi-stakeholder partnerships, policy making and the application of the rule of law in implementing the SDGs; and how to transform the GMGSF into a true and unique global multi-stakeholder forum in line with UNEA’s strengthened mandate.

Participants also had the opportunity to hold an open dialogue with UNEP’s Executive Director, Mr. Achim Steiner which mainly highlighted UNEP’s legacy in international environmental governance and the SDG process, with Steiner calling for the environmental community to celebrate the successes achieved over the last decade in bringing the environmental issues to an international level of attention and understanding in the context of the agenda of sustainable development. He also highlighted the important role of the private sector in mobilizing resources for the 2030 Agenda.

UNEA-2 kicked off on 23 May with the plenary electing Edgar Gutierrez Espeleta (Costa Rica)as the President and Amina J. Mohamed (Nigeria), Emmanuel Ngondet (Gabon), Jassim Humadi (Iraq), Ramon Paje (the Phillipines), Vladislav Smrz (Czech Republic), Nebojsa Kaluderovic( Montenegro), Dennis Lowe (Barbados) and John Matuszak(US) as Vice –Presidents.

During the week-long meeting, delegates negotiated resolutions in the Committee of the Whole (COW), which led to the approval of 25 resolutions with the exception of proposed resolution on the environmental assessment of Gaza. The High-level segment on 26-27 May was opened by H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya. Ministers endorsed the draft Global Thematic Report on “Healthy Environment, Healthy People” and took part in several roundtables and a first time ever multi-stakeholder dialogue with civil society leaders on ‘Restoring and Sustaining Healthy Ecosystems for People and Planet: Partnerships to jointly Deliver on the Environmental Dimension of Agenda 2030” which was moderated by Sharon Dijksma (Minster of Infrastructure and the Environment of THE Netherlands) and Andrew Steer (CEO of the World Resources Institute). The dialogue provided an opportunity to participants to discuss how multi-stakeholder partnerships for restoring and sustaining health ecosystems can contribute to successfully deliver on the environmental dimension of the 2030 agenda and the role of UNEA in catalyzing such partnerships. The lively exchange resulted inter alia into the following main findings:

  • UNEA and UNEP should be the place where new and unconventional multi- stakeholder partnerships should be brokered and nurtured. In doing so, UNEA can build on the considerable experience that UNEP has already in this field.
  • Such partnerships often work best when organisations that normally do not work together are brought together to work for a common objective.
  • Major Groups and Stakeholders, including the business community, play a crucial role in implementing political decisions, taken in intergovernmental processes. Without them on board, it will be impossible to achieve the SDGs and the 2030 agenda.
  • Partnerships should however not replace or water down more robust regulatory frameworks.
  • For restoring and sustaining healthy ecosystems, long term partnerships are required that include local and indigenous communities on equal footing.

The Sustainable Innovation Expo (SIE), held prior to the High Level Segment brought together business leaders to discuss resource-efficient and cleaner solutions and technologies and engage with Governments and other stakeholders. Greenroom events and official side events provided opportunities for dialogue and awareness raising on various topics such as illegal trade in wildlife, marine litter, sustainable events, gender, healthy ecosystems among many others.

UNEP’s new Stakeholder Engagement Policy (SEP) – long awaited – was not endorsed by member states during UNEA-2. While during the plenary session on Monday, Major Groups and Stakeholders, in their opening statement accepted the UNEA-1 President’s proposal on the SEP it as a viable compromise, member states were not able to agree on this proposal. Discussion on the policy will continue under the leadership of the UNEA- 2 President. In the meantime, UNEP will continue to apply its current Stakeholder Engagement Policy.

Outgoing Executive Director Mr. Achim Steiner was appreciated effusively for his excellent leadership over the last ten years at the helm of an ever stronger, more visible UNEP and driving UNEP’s major contribution to the substantive policy agenda.

The assembly also adopted the resolution to review the cycle of UNEA as previous meetings were not aligned with broader UN budgeting process. Therefore, UNEA 3 will be held from 4 to 6 December 2017, GMGSF on 2 and 3 December 2017 and OECPR 3 on 29 October - 1 November 2017.

Draft report of the UNEA proceedings