Environmental Law

Law & Conventions


As the principal environmental body in the United Nations system, UNEP has a lead role in promoting the actions adopted in Chapter 15 of Agenda 21 on the Conservation of Biological Diversity, as well as those adopted in other relevant chapters. UNEP has initiated negotiations for many international environmental conventions. UNEP has initiated and facilitated the negotiation and adoption of many international legal instruments which address major environmental issues of the day.

In Europe it has recently developed legal capacity within its Regional Office for Europe (ROE). One of its priorities is coordination and liaison with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This priority requires the ability to understand and respond to the legal and related institutional needs of the CIS as well as to the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Europe and Central Asia is a region that contributes to global environmental problems, but it also achieves global environmental solutions. Europe has demonstrated the will to implement and enforce global Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), while at the same time bearing responsibility for a large measure of pollution and encountering difficulties reconciling environment and development.

On a regional level, concern for the environment has led to the establishment of new regional groupings based on shared natural resources, including the Baltic Sea, Danube Basin, Rhine, and more recently the Black and Caspian Seas. Affected countries have made use of regional MEAs to create protection regimes. These regional MEAs have varied greatly in their level of implementation and effectiveness. Differences result in part from the re-emergence of divergent forces shaping national priorities with respect to MEAs among the states that were formerly part of the Eastern Bloc.

As MEAs are based in part on baseline pollution levels, large economic and recent social shifts may have unforeseen consequences. Disruptions and the collapse of economies create problems in finding resources for the implementation of MEAs, while at the same time presenting opportunities for more flexibility in solutions. Young countries, moreover, such as those emerging from the breakup of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia, have shown a tendency to rely on MEAs as a point of reference in international relations. Interest in environmental protection has re-emerged as a priority with the result that some transition countries are again able to self-finance their involvement in international environmental protection regimes.

Based on government requests, ROE works increasingly with several partners, including, among others, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the European Environment Agency (EEA), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Regional Environmental Centre (REC) for Central and Eastern Europe, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank to assist in strengthening legal and institutional capacity in the region.