International environmental governance (IEG) comprises the sumof organizations, policy instruments, financing mechanisms, rules, procedures and norms that regulate the processes of global environmental protection. Its inception can be dated with the creation of UNEP in 1972. Since then, the system has developed greatly with the international community creating a large number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). Today’s IEG system has more than 500 MEAs, around 25 of which are truly global in nature. The system has also seen an increasein environmental funds related to various aspects of environmental degradation, including the creation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in 1992. Due to the cross-cutting nature of the environmental sector, more than 40 United Nations bodiesdeal with elements related to the environment.
OVERVIEW OF GOVERNANCE ISSUES
While this growing attention to environmental matters is welcomed, the system as a whole has developed in severely fragmented manner, causing considerable overlaps and inefficiencies. In particular, the number of meetings called for by MEA Secretariats over the course of a year and the opaqueness of access criteria to environmental funds have created significant burdens for small and developing countries with limited resources, to the point where they are becoming disenfranchised from the system.
Moreover, the lack of human, institutional and technical capacity of developing countries has led to a dramatic gap in implementation. Coupled with the system’s weak accountability mechanisms, this has resulted in continued environmental degradation.
FOCUS OF DELC’S WORK
DELC’s efforts have focused on the reform of the IEG system, which have been ongoing for more than a decade. Key initiatives include:
- 2002 Cartagena Package, UNEP GC/GMEF decision SS.VII/1 – universal membership;
- 2005 World Summit Outcome, Paragraph 169, resulting in the UN General Assembly Informal Consultative Process on the Institutional Framework for United Nations Environment Work;
- 2008 Commonwealth Consultations on IEG;
- 2008 Joint Inspection Unit Report on the Management Review of Environmental Governance in the UN System (Executive Director’s response to be discussed by the CPR on 5 November 2009);
- 2009 and 2010 Consultative Group set up under UNEP Governing Council decisions 25/4 and SSXI/1 respectively.
DELC facilitated the two-year consultative process with governments as well as sister UN agencies and civil society, whereby member states have come up with a number of reform options for IEG that have contributed to the preparatory process for the Rio+20 Conference. Taking a ‘form follows function’ approach, member states were able to distill the process and arrive at a number of key objectives, underlying functions and broader institutional reform options.
With specific reference to the Preparatory Committee for the Rio+20 Conference, DELC facilitates the discussions on five options for broader institutional reform:
- Establishing a new umbrella organization for sustainable development;
- Establishing a specialized agency such as a world environment organization;
- Reforming the UN Economic and Social Council and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development; and
- Enhancing institutional reforms and streamlining existing structures.
As part of its ongoing work on IEG reform, DELC has also been central in facilitating the following events:
The objectives and aims of DELC’s work on reform of the IEG system have been identified as:
- Creating a strong, credible and coherent science base;
- Developing a global authoritative and responsive voice for environmental sustainability;
- Achieving coherence within the UN system;
- Securing sufficient, predictable and coherent funding; and,
- Ensuring a responsive and cohesive approach to meeting country needs.