World Federation of UN Associations Suggests a Specialized Agency for the Global Environment
On January 4th, 2012, Bonian Golmohammadi, Secretary General of the World Federation of United Nations Association, and thirteen of his colleagues co-signed an editorial in the Huffington Post calling for a comprehensive, global framework for environmental governance. It has been 20 years since the landmark 1992 Rio Earth Summit. However, the task of implementing the goals of the various multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and other commitments continues to elude the international community.
The authors argue that a global legal framework for the environment would oversee and centralize research advancements, international transfers of technologies, and implementation of relevant country-specific policy measures. In effect, this would do away with the logistical difficulties associated with having multiple MEA secretariats. The reduction in cost, authors suggest, would benefit developing countries the most by enabling them to transfer more of the administrative cost into implementation of the treaties.
The editorial argues that UNEP could be capable of taking on the role of a centralized environmental agency. Currently a U.N. programme, UNEP has a considerably smaller budget than it would have if it were a Specialized Agency. As a U.N. programme, UNEP has to seek programatic approval from the U.N. General Assembly. If it were a Specialized Agency, UNEP would not be subject to the approval of the General Assembly; it would have its own authoritative governing council that could approve decisions without having to refer to an outside body. Specialized Agencies, such as the WHO and the FAO, possess greater independence from the General Assembly than do the U.N. programmes. Such a change to UNEP would give all participating member-states an equal seat at the governing table.
Environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, separate from economic and social issues. Many of the tenants of MEAs affect all aspects of society, not just the environmental ones. The editorial explains that, if UNEP became a Specialized Agency, with greater independence and a increased budget, it “could close the gap between ambition and [implementation] reality”.
The authors, however, do not discuss the concrete causal mechanisms that would lead to such results.
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