[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



University of Finland and UNEP - 12th Course on Multilateral Environmental Agreements
2-12 November 2015, Shanghai, China

The Special theme of the Twelfth Course is Climate Change.

2nd UNEP-INTERPOL Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee Conference
16-17 November 2015, INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation, Singapore

At the 2nd ECEC in Singapore, INTERPOL and UNEP brought together Chief Executives from Environmental Security and Enforcement agencies from INTERPOL member countries, as well as Chief Executive Officers from international and non-governmental organizations, to design and debate strategies to tackle environmental crime and achieve sustainable development goals.

Annual Meeting UNEP- EUROCLIMA (EC Programme to support Policy Dialogue on Climate Change issues in Latin American countries)

Special session of the Commission on Environment of the PARLATINO(Latin American Parliament) on Climate Change law.

27-28 October 2015, Panama

Global Training Programme on Environmental Law and Policy for Mid-career Government Officials

05-13 October 2015, Nairobi, Kenya

Meeting of the Senior Government Officials Expert in Environmental Law on Mid-term review of the Montevideo Programme IV

7-11 September 2015, Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo Programme Environmental Law Seminar: Laws to Promote environmental sustainability of oceans and seas
9-10 July, Panama City, Panama

Montevideo Programme Environmental Law Seminar: Legal Foundation for Environmental Sustainability

13-14 July 2015, United Nations Headquarters, New York

Meeting of Eminent Legal Experts on the Midterm review of the Montevideo Programme IV

15-16 July 2015, United Nations Headquarters, New York

Regional Training on Negotiations for Multilateral Environmental Agreements Focusing on UNFCCC and CBD as they relate to Regional Seas Convention
11-13 May 2015, Jeddah Kingdom, Saudi Arabia

Meeting of Climate Change Negotiators of Latin America and the Caribbean
14-15 May 2015, Santiago de Chile 

Regional Meeting of negotiators in preparation for Climate Change multilateral negotiators (exchange of views and discussion of key topics for the region towards COP21)

International Day for Biological Diversity 2015
22 May 2015

Biodiversity for Sustainable Development

This year’s theme reflects the importance of efforts made at all levels to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda for the period of 2015-2030 and the relevance of biodiversity for the achievement of sustainable development.

Launch of The UNEP Sourcebook 

officially launched at a side event in the margins of Ramsar COP 12 - 8 June 2015, Punta del Este, Uruguay

The aim of the Sourcebook is to provide National Focal Points of the major Biodiversity-related Conventions as well as other stakeholders working on these conventions, with options to achieve enhanced implementation of the conventions through enhanced cooperation.

Preparatory Workshops for Paris UNFCCC COP for 2015 for Least Developed countries

June 2015, Bonn, Germany

Second Congress on Environmental Policy, Law and Justice Seminar on Environmental Crimes

6-10 July 2015, La Habana, Cuba

Inter-American Congress on the Environmental Rule of Law(OAS website)
30-31 March 2015, Montego Bay, Jamaica 

The Organization of American States (OAS) co-organized the First Inter-American Congress on the Environmental Rule of Law in Montego Bay, Jamaica, an event that concluded with a call to strengthen the rule of law on to address environmental challenges in the Americas.

Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development

4 May 2015, UN Headquarters, New York, Conference Room 11

Further Resources




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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