[Perspectives on RIO+20 > Sylvestre Manga ]


International Environmental Governance Reform Within The United Nations

Industrialisation and intensive production have brought wealth to populations on earth and to peoples in many ways and in many lands since the industrial revolution. However, the human race has shown throughout the last centuries its lack of balancing wealth achievements and natural and genetic resources conservation. We are today facing one of the most trying and crucial ages of history on earth as scientists are shedding more and more light on the negative consequences of our failure to conduct a sustainable behaviour for sustainable development in exploiting resources around us. It is more than due time to rethink our ways of exploiting natural and genetic resources on our lands and to revisit our policies and laws implementing the guidelines of the United Nations Commission on sustainable development (CSD).

The CSD was established by the United Nations General assembly in December 1992 to ensure an effective follow-up to the United Nations Conference on environment and development (UNCED), also known as the Earth summit. The CSD is the high-level forum for sustainable development within the United Nations system. The main current goals of the CSD are mainly the integration of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in policy-making at international, regional and national levels, the widespread adoption of an integrated, cross-sectional and broadly participatory approach to sustainable development and the measurable progress in the implementation of the goals and targets of the Johannesburg plan of implementation.

It was at the 1972 United Nations conference on the human environment where a structure of an international environmental regime was first adopted with clear objectives and functions. Such an achievement led later that same year to the creation of the United Nations environmental programme (UNEP). Since then and through multilateral negotiations, many International environmental agreements (IEAs) have been adopted along with secretariats to run them. At the 1992 Rio Earth summit two environmental conventions were adopted on biodiversity and on climate change along with a third convention on desertification negotiated to be finally adopted in 1994. It was also at the Rio Earth summit where the financial component of IEG was achieved with the creation of the Global environment funds (GEF) as well as the CSD.

It has not been long after these early smoothly coordinated achievements that IEG started to become a heavy and complex mechanism with the creation of a multitude of environmental agencies, programmes, initiatives and entities all connected to UNEP with different funding sources. Environment being itself a cross-cutting area, inter-agency approaches became an important aspect of IEG. This situation has brought huge challenges to the administration of environmental activities within the UN system at a point where there is an obvious need for reform.

It is in such a context that we should understand the creation of the Consultative group of ministers or high-level representatives on IEG established by a decision of the 2009 UNEP governing council. After three years of work, the Consultative group of ministers seems to take a common stand towards the creation of a World environment organization (WEO) within the UN system with a main focus on solving the administration problems to bring more efficiency and accountability in environmental issues management.

This paper aims to further the work of the Consultative group of ministers by encouraging a suitable institutional reform able to ensure more sustainability in IEG. It does not consist of another argumentation in the current literature on the necessity of a WEO since the Consultative group of ministers is now working on diplomatic procedures toward a UN General assembly resolution to create the WEO. Rather, this contribution is a proposal of a set of key institutional reform elements to ensure more sustainability through the main coming reform aspects of IEG expected on efficiency and accountability for the purpose of strengthening administration within the UN system.

It is expected that the WEO constitutive declaration not only provides a suitable organizational chart with classical organs such as a secretariat for administration or a plenary body in which member states will be represented, but also adopts clear mandates on how negotiation should be carried out to establish each one of those bodies. Therefore, this research will not develop administrative issues. Likewise, issues related to competency for a WEO or analysis on compliance between the WEO and any other UN organization will not be addressed in this present research. This procedure will allow us to reach our goal of proposing a couple of institutions able to guarantee more sustainability within the administrative reform expected, namely a WEO scientific body and a WEO disputes settlement body.

Our modest knowledge on procedures in multilateral negotiations allows us to say that such bodies will be first adopted in the charter of the WEO within the constitutive declaration. However, it is through multilateral negotiations that special working-groups will be constituted and be given a mandate to negotiate specific missions for those bodies. Such negotiations can easily take several years and will be adopted by the plenary body of the WEO.

This contribution will be carried out in three parts. The first part will support the importance of administrative efficiency and accountability in the expected reform as addressed by the Consultative group of ministers in the current literature on the topic and in international relations trends. The second is a call for more sustainability towards and beyond the Rio+20 Earth summit. The third is a suggestion of two potential options on the timing and schedule for multilateral negotiations in view of the WEO establishment after the Rio+20 summit. More....

This article was first published the 23.2 edition of the Quebec Journal of International Law


The opinions expressed in these articles are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of UNEP

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Sylvestre José Tidiane Manga is a law specialist and a bio-scientist with a vast experience in bio-industrial innovation and the green economy. He has a doctorate in Agricultural Biotechnology Law, a doctorate in Hydro-Agricultural Planning and Economics / Mathematical modelling and a Masters in International Law.


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