Environmental Leaders Commit to Renewed Green Governance
Glion (Switzerland), 3 July 2009 - A group of emerging environmental leaders have pledged their personal commitment to creating a new wave of environmental action in the 21st Century.
Speaking at the close of four intense days of discussion with prominent environmentalists including all the successive Executive Directors of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the group set out their practical ideas on how to kick-start a deep change in the way the world economy works to prioritise human welfare through a long-lasting, sustainable approach to the use and preservations of our environment.
"This meeting sought to inspire and foster a new wave of leadership in global environmental governance, drawing on the knowledge of several generations of environmental leaders", said Maria Ivanova, Director of the Global Environmental Governance Project and faculty at the Government Department at the College of William and Mary.
The meeting in Switzerland drew together an unprecedented group of high-level environmental leaders spanning the last 40 years. This was the first time all five successive Executive Directors of UNEP gathered together in one meeting: Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of the first United Nations conference on the human environment and the Rio Earth Summit; Mostafa Tolba; Elizabeth Dowdeswell; Klaus Töpfer; and Achim Steiner, the current Executive Director.
Other participants included Gus Speth, Dean of the Environment School at Yale; Mohamed El-Ashry who was the CEO of the Global Environment Facility from its inception to 2003; Yolanda Kakabadse, the newly elected President of WWF International; and Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Senior diplomats who have shaped today's international environmental laws and structures, and those currently involved working to reshape that system, all took part in the debate with a key group of young environmental leaders on the rise.
"While the issues are complex and seemingly intractable, there are also many reasons for optimism", said William Ruckelshaus, the first Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. "We have made important strides on environmental issues, and need to keep moving forward with new solutions", he said.
The meeting identified lessons from the past in terms of environmental governance, and outlined the core needs and functions of a global environmental governance system. It also generated possible options for environmental governance reform and for an institutional architecture for climate change, drawing on the collective knowledge of environmental leaders from several generations.
Current challenges identified by the emerging environmental leaders included the need to secure greater accountability on environment-related commitments, and advocating for a more central place for environmental issues in decision making and structures.
"We need to be making investments in the right places - investing in skills, in young people from all fields, and in our leaders", the young leaders said. "We will need to be as radical in our thinking as the first generation of doers were, and take action through our networks, using new media and all the tools we have at our disposal."
The historic gathering in Glion came on the heels of the first meeting of the Consultative Group on International Environment Governance (IEG) that took place in Belgrade (Serbia) on 27-28 June. In Belgrade, ministers and high level government representatives kick-started consultations on options for improving IEG which will be presented at the next Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council in early 2010.
The participants at the meeting - who included 8 ministers and participants from 30 other countries - agreed that IEG reform should be based on 'form follows function'; forms could range from incremental changes to broader institutional reforms; the work of the group is political in nature; debate should be addressed in the broader context of environmental sustainability and sustainable development; and options to be developed should follow from a fresh examination of challenges and emerging opportunities.
The historic Glion meeting was convened by the Global Environmental Governance Project, a joint initiative of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the College of William and Mary in collaboration with the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center, the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and the governments of Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
For more information please visit www.environmentalgovernance.org or contact Maria Ivanova, Director of the Global Environmental Governance Project, firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: +1 203 606 4640
Or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, on Tel: +254 20 7623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, or when traveling: +41 795965737, or e-mail: email@example.com