UNEP – Perspectives Series

Hmong woman © UNPhoto/Kibae Park
Major Groups and Stakeholders of Civil Society are key partners for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in our efforts to improve the global environment. To ensure that their voice is better heard in the ongoing discussions on environment and sustainable development, starting with a discussion paper from Jacob Werksman and Joseph Foti, UNEP is launching a new publication series called "Perspectives". This publication series will present views from Major Groups and Stakeholders of Civil Society on global environmental issues and themes that are relevant to them and UNEP. During 2012 under the “Perspectives” Series, UNEP will present discussion papers, opinion pieces, reports etc. focussing mainly on the topics relevant to Rio + 20 and its follow up.

For 2012 up to 10 publications are planned, to be followed by a minimum of six further publications in the following year. The series is coordinated by UNEP's Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch, Division of Regional Cooperation. The views represented in the publications do not necessarily reflect those of UNEP.

“Perspectives” will be widely distributed among Major Groups, Governments and Media in electronic format and if possible also in print. Readers are invited to send their comments and feedback to the authors and UNEP. Proposals for new publications are welcome and are to be sent to UNEP’s Major Groups and Stakeholders Branch.

We are pleased to share with you the first issues of the "Perspectives": 

Issue No. 1: Jacob Werksman and Joseph Foti: Improving Public Participation in Environmental Governance, December 2011


This discussion paper 1) briefly explores the rationale and principles for “public participation” in IEG; 2) reviews exemplary practice and options of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) with regard to implementing these principles and suggests a number of changes to IEG that could enable more transparent, participatory, and accountable governance; and 3) suggests that Rio +20 provides an opportunity to improve the  quality of civil society participation by enabling civil society organizations not merely to observe, but also to inform, shape, and engage decisionmaking processes.
Issue No. 2: Susanne Salz, ICLEI: Models for Local Government Organisations (LGOs) involvement in a strengthened UNEP, January 2012

Rio+20 in June 2012 provided the rare opportunity to address sustainable development issues in a unique global setting. In order to address the complex, severe and interconnected challenges that the world is facing, all actors must work together. This paper makes concrete proposals how to involve Local Government Organizations (LGOs) in a strengthened UNEP. LGOs have significant power in environmental matters and thus can help to implement global agreements, shape policy, and ultimately contribute to safeguarding global common goods. 
Issue No. 3: Uchita de Zoysa: Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties for Rio+20February 2012


The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD2012) or Rio+20 is now just four months away, yet we have only very few ideas on what results it will bring to the world. The process has so far displayed a lack of vision; participation of stakeholders has been low and engagement has been difficult; and political will seems to be missing sometimes. The world is in a worse place now than it was then, and sustainability has become a much more distant dream. Can civil society, which has been the frontier and guardian of the sustainability agenda, provide the vision and leadership to Rio+20 and beyond?
Issue No. 4: Thomas R. Jacob, T. R. Jacob & Associate: Environmental and Sustainability Governance – Thoughts from an Industry Perspective, March 2012

Expectations for a more sustainable future that were kindled in the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio have not been met.  It is generally accepted that governance and the global institutions governments create must change to better advance sustainable development.  That is why the topics of an Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD) and the related International Environmental Governance (IEG) will be primary themes to be dealt with at the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20).
Issue No. 5: Patrick Binns, Westbrook Associates LLC: Opportunities and Challenges Facing Farmers in Transitioning to a Green Economy Agriculture Practice, April 2012

This paper has been prepared to highlight the key opportunities and challenges confronting farmers throughout the world as they consider and adopt practices that contribute to green economic development, poverty eradication and improved food security.  It focuses on the role of farmers in green economic development and how a transition to a green economy could benefit farmers. It also describes the primary means to accomplish sustainable farming and discusses key policies and public/private investments that would advance a ‘green agriculture’ transition.   
Issue No. 6: Catherine Pearce, World Future Council: Ombudspersons for Future Generations: A proposal for Rio+20, May 2012 

The proposal for an international Ombudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations is included in the first draft of the zero draft, “The Future We Want”. The proposal has broad support and interest is growing. Many Governments and UN institutions are considering the need for this role, and the potential it can offer. In this article we explore why this institution at the international, regional and national levels is relevant as a solution for Rio, the nature of its role and mandate and what we should learn from similar institutions elsewhere.
Issue No. 7: Lalanath de Silva, World Resources Institute & Jeremy Wates, European Environmental Bureau: Globalizing Environmental Democracy: A Call for International Action, May 2012

In this paper we seek to (a) provide reasons why a convention offers a good option for making future progress in implementing Principle 10, (b) suggest what the contents of such a convention might be and (c) conclude with what Rio+20 can do to further such a convention. For those who would like more information on Principle 10 and the details of the various calls for a convention, we have provided an annex.
Issue No. 8: Felix Dodds and Anita Nayar, Rio+20: A New Beginning, December 2012

All the sustainable development conferences, Stockholm, Rio, Johannesburg and now Rio+20 have happened during difficult political times. The follow-up to Stockholm took place in the shadow of the 1973 oil crisis caused by the Yom Kippur war and the OPEC oil embargo; Rio 1992 occurred took place in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and the costs of democratization of the former Soviet bloc; Johannesburg happened took place shortly after 9/11; and most recently, Rio+20 was confronted with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Issue No. 9: Building the big picture for a green Economy by the Green Economy Coalition

This is the story of building a practical vision for the future, one that is described by a common language and defined by a shared set of priorities. That vision is for a green, fair economy that helps to lift people out of poverty, reverses the destruction of our ecosystems and provides everyone with the same opportunities.

Issue No. 10: Citizens’ Advisory Councils to Enhance Civil Society Oversight of Resource Industries

Effective democratic governance depends upon informed public participation, and several international conventions and policy guidelines call for enhanced public participation in environmental management. Yet, large-scale resource development projects generally receive insufficient oversight by, and engagement with, civil society.
Issue No. 11: Strengthening UNEP’S Legitimacy: Towards Greater Stakeholder Engagement UNEP´s mandate in the international arena has been enlarged by the United NationsGeneral Assembly (UNGA) and its legitimacy increased through the establishment of a new Universal Membership body, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). It is now time to examine how UNEP can further increase its legitimacy and effectiveness by improving its engagement with civil society.  Issue No. 12: Towards A Global Agenda of Sustainability and Equity: Civil Society Engagement for The Future We Want At the Rio+20 Summit the United Nations General Assembly (GA) resolved to put in place a set of Sustainable Development Goals (§ 245-251 of “The Future We Want”). For this purpose, an Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals was established on 22nd January 2013 by decision 67/555 (see A/67/L.48/rev.1) of the GA. 
Issue No. 13: Technology and Sustainability: Changing our Perspective From the evidence of our senses to the evidence provided by our science, we know our current global society is unsustainable. We also know that technology is at least partly responsible for our predicament, just as it will be part of whatever future we face.
Neither denial nor despair is an appropriate response to the situation. At such a critical juncture, however, we cannot afford to make poor decisions about the technology we develop and use.
Issue No. 14: Illicit Wildlife Trafficking: An Environmental, Economic, And Social Issue

Sustainable use and trade of natural resources is at the interface of conservation and development, inextricably linked with the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, including the right to security, to health care and to adequate nutrition. Conversely, wildlife crime, in particular the increased involvement of organized criminal networks, undermines governance frameworks and the potential to achieve sustainable development objectives.

The following publications, planned for the coming months are focusing inter alia on:
  • Green Economy and Farmers
  • Green Economy and Indigenous Peoples
  • Green Economy and Workers and Trade Unions
  • Expectations from a Green Economy by Developing Countries
  • The perspective from Business and Industry on IEG and IFSD
  • A Global Convention for Principle 10
Issue No. 15: At The Post-2015 Sustainability Crossroads: Too Vital To Fail, Avoiding Too Complicated To Succeed: Business Perspectives and Priorities

Because businesses operate in globalized markets and look for common practices and approaches wherever possible, the private sector sees a strong case for the pursuit of sustainability through coordinated and prioritized international efforts in the UN. The UN can also provide a space for partnerships and multi-stakeholder discussions, as UNEP has already demonstrated in its Clean Air and Climate Coalition (CCAC) initative for climate change, in its Green Economy Initiative and Partnership for Action for Green Economy (GEI PAGE) and elsewhere.

Please contact civil.society(at)unep.org for comments and further information.