UNEP Restructured for Universal Membership
December 24, 2012  //  By:   //  Blog Post, Featured  //  2 Comments

On December 21st, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly announced significant structural changes for the United Nations Environment Programme. The first change is that UNEP’s governing body will now have universal membership, which means that any of the 193 UN member states can hold seats in UNEP’s next Governing Council.  Additionally, UNEP will now receive a larger regular budget from the UN, and the General Assembly is urging states to increase their voluntary funds. These structural changes are the first of their kind in UNEP’s 40 year history and are largely due to the commitments made at Rio+20 this past June.

The outcome document from Rio+20, entitled “The Future We Want,” calls for a strengthened UNEP to better deal with the fragmented and insufficient global response to environmental issues. It appears, then, that at least part of “The Future We Want,” is to be realized. The General Assembly is calling on UNEP to use its new authority and funding to better engage with developing countries, businesses, NGOs, and the like in order to tackle environmental challenges. Indeed, many of these challenges are very difficult, and according to UNEP’s recent Global Environmental Outlook publication: GEO5, the international community has made significant forward progress on only four of ninety agreed-upon environmental goals.

In the coming months, there should be a lot of discussion about UNEP’s new structure and how that structure will affect its role as an international environmental actor. With universal participation, UNEP should have greater authority as the international voice of the environment. Whether this will translate into more effective policy action and international consensus building is to be seen.

About the Author :

Michael Denney is a PhD student in the Global Governance and Human Security program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is a Research Associate at the Center for Governance and Sustainability.

2 Comments to “UNEP Restructured for Universal Membership”
  • smokeghost
    December 25, 2012 -

    Oh good. Another year of planning, measuring and reporting estimates and cost benefits. Nevertheless the Environmental governing world, due to its youngness is an area that needs auditing regularly and to maintain professionalism which may happen now hopefully. Lets move on from the age of the cost benefits – futures market spin doctor, and into an age of maturity and accountability.

  • Michael Denney
    January 3, 2013 -

    I think the desire for more accountability is one of the motivators of this restructuring. Now that UNEP has universal participation, is will be subject to greater scrutiny from more international sources.
    Like you said, “another year of planning, measuring…” can be very frustrating. But if we want a transparent and accountable environmental governance organization, we have to be prepared to devote the time to analyzing it.

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