UNEA-2 concludes with decisions on environment and the 2030 Agenda
May 31, 2016  //  By:   //  Blog Post  //  No Comment

The second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) concluded in Nairobi, Kenya on May 27, 2016.

Bringing together representatives from 174 countries, and over 2,500 delegates representing international organizations, civil socierty and other major groups, the Assembly discussed the overarching topic of delivery on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. After four previous days on meetings of the Science Policy Forum (May19-20) and the Global Major Groups & Stakeholders Forum (May 21-22), UNEA-2 met for a week in which delegates negotiated resolutions and held a High-Level Ministerial Segment (May 26-27) to discuss, among other key issues, the draft report on “Healthy Environment, Healthy People”.

Acknowledged by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as truly the world’s “Environment Assembly”, UNEA-2 focused on its role and leadership in the implementation of key international agreements as the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement, and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements in key policy areas such as chemicals & waste and biodiversity.

Disagreement on the resolution about the “Field-based environment assessment of the Gaza strip”  – that remained standing – delayed the closing plenary session and raised concerns about the debate procedures during the Assembly. However, most delegates agreed that these discussions evidence how UNEA is a true space for deliberation. At the end, negotiations resulted in the adoption of 25 resolutions on multiple topics besides the environmental dimension of sustainable development, including the implementation of ocean-related SDG’s targets, sustainable consumption and production, illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products, mainstreaming biodiversity for well-being, the science-policy interface, the implementation of international chemicals and waste strategic frameworks and objetives, marine litter and microplastics, air quality, ecosystem-based adaptation, the sustainable management of natural capital for sustainable development and poverty eradication, the synergies among biodiversity conventions, and the implementation of the Montevideo Programme on Environmental Law.

In terms of the central theme of the Assembly, approved resolutions succeeded in setting a more clear role for UNEA’s work with the High Level Political Forum and other UN agencies in the implementation of sustainable development, but these roles still seem to be focused on the provision of information and scientific data. Other emerging issues included the need for investment in human capacity for sustainable development through environmental education and training, and an increased stakeholders engagement. Additional symposia also took place on the topics of investment for sustainable development and environment and displacement. A Sustainable Innovation Expo was also met parallel to UNEA to discuss the role of private sector actors and tools in sustainable development.

UNEA-2 also took important strategic decisions regarding UNEP Medium-Term Strategy, Programme of Work (PoW) and budget, and changes to the UNEA cycle, so that future meetings take place in odd, not even years, with the next meeting taking place in late 2017.

At the closing plenary, final country and regional groups statements recognized the work of outgoing UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, and his leadership in strengthening UNEP and in addressing important environmental challenges, and expressed the need for the new Executive Director to focus on implementation and the strengthening of multi-stakeholder mechanisms. Steiner thanked delegates for their continued support and stressed his confidence on UNEA’s pivotal role, visibility and contribution to the policy agenda. UNEA-2’s President Edgar Gutiérrez Espeleta, concluded the meeting with the presentations of the meeting’s reports that were adopted by the delegates. However no ministerial outcome document was approved.

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About the Author :

Natalia Escobar-Pemberthy joined the GEG team in September 2011as a research assistant for the UMass Center of Governance and Sustainability. Natalia graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2005 and its currently a PhD Student in the Global Governance and Human Security program at UMass Boston

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