The Co-Chairs discuss amendments to the draft text.
The third and final session of the Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group completed its work in the early hours of Thursday morning, having agreed a set of recommendations to the United Nations General Assembly. In closing remarks, Co-Chair Francisco António Duarte Lopes, Portugal, conceded that the outcome was a “weak result but consensual” which can and will be built upon.
The continuing process is expected to culminate in a political declaration and a UN high level meeting in 2022, marking fifty years since the UN Conference on the Human Environment, at which UNEP was created.
Just after 1.00 am on 23 May, the OEWG agreed to recommend to the UN General Assembly:
Objectives guiding the recommendations (on: environmental protection; upholding commitments under international environmental law; strengthening international environmental law; full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, “The Future We Want”; and not undermining existing relevant instruments).
Substantive recommendations (on the role of UNEP/UNEA; international environmental law and means of implementation; principles; information sharing by the scientific, technical, and technological communities; policy coherence among multilateral environmental agreements and collaboration; implementation of environmental law at the national level; mainstreaming the environment; stakeholder engagement; Montevideo Programme V; and UN system-wide coordination).
The final day was punctuated by a series of informal consultations conducted by Co-Chairs Duarte Lopes and Mudallali.
Delegates struggled to agree on a number of key elements in the draft recommendations drawn up in a series of drafts. The difficulties emerged in a few of the substantive recommendations and in section three, on considerations of further work.
On the substance, there was significant disagreement on:
The link between efforts to enhance implementation of international environmental law and provision of means of implementation.
Recognition of the role of discussions on principles of international environmental law for enhancing implementation, and the ongoing but separate work of the International Law Commission.
Some delegates linked these issues to section three of the Co-Chairs’ draft dealing with recommendations to the United Nations General Assembly on how the OEWG’s substantive recommendations are to be taken forward.
At a late evening plenary, hours after the meeting had been scheduled to end, the Co-Chairs were forced to suspend proceedings and re-engage with delegations over differences – notably between the European Union and the United States – over the aim of next steps and the role of the United Nations Environment Assembly. The EU proposed a UN high-level meeting, to agree on a political declaration, while the US saw no need for specifying this, saying UNEA would define the next steps in the process, which could be simply making the substantive recommendations agreed tonight available to states.
On means of implementation, Egypt, supported by Argentina, Ecuador, India, El Salvador, Morocco, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Uganda, noted that this part of the Co-Chair’s recommendations no longer referred to “increasing” support and “building on” AAAA and the 2030 Agenda. Brazil noted the linkage with principles.
The final elements of agreement focused on operational recommendations to the UN General Assembly on considerations of further work:
Circulate the above-mentioned recommendations and make them available to State Members of the UN and members of Specialized Agencies and the governing bodies of MEAs for their consideration and action, as appropriate; and
Forward these recommendations to the United Nations Environment Assembly for its consideration and prepare, at its fifth session in February 2021, a political declaration for a UN high level meeting, subject to voluntary funding, in the context of the commemoration of the creation of UNEP by the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm 1972), with a view to strengthening the implementation of international environmental law and international environmental governance, in line with paragraph 88 of the “Future we Want.”
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Delegates submitted a series of proposed changes to the Co-Chairs "zero draft" issued on Tuesday.
One year on from the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of Resolution 72/277 (“Towards a Global Pact for the Environment”) and the establishment of the open-ended working group (OEWG), delegations prepared to intensify informal negotiations at the UN Office at Nairobi.
Delegations at the third substantive session of the OEWG prepared for late night informal negotiations on some of the recommendations to UNGA that will help define the pathway, the prospects and the promise of a high-level outcome.
On the second day of the OEWG session, Co-Chairs Franciso António Duarte Lopes, Portugal, and Amal Mudallali, Lebanon, presented a revised version of their non-paper (25 April 2019) on recommendations to the UNGA on objectives, substantive recommendations, and the modalities for passing them on to UNGA. The new zero draft had been posted Monday evening (20 May 2019), on the basis of that day’s deliberations and submissions to the Co-Chairs, and is organised in three sections:
Substantive recommendations; and
Recommendations to UNGA in support of taking forward the substantive recommendations.
The third and defining section on the shape of recommendations on modalities to UNGA remained in brackets. It was these options, including the adoption of an international instrument at a high-level UN conference and the establishment of a preparatory committee to make substantive recommendations to UNGA during the first half of 2020 on elements of an international instrument, which were the subject of intensive rounds of negotiations on Monday and Tuesday evenings.
Proposals on the table range from a recommendation that UNGA adopt a resolution to consider an international instrument at a UN conference at Heads of State or government level by 2021--possibly marking the historic 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment--to inviting UNGA to simply circulate recommendations to States and make them available to Secretariats of MEAs.
Co-Chairs Francisco António Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative of Portugal and Amal Mudallali, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Lebanon, and Jamil Ahmad, Director, New York Office, UNEP
Co-Chair Francisco António Duarte Lopes greets a delegate before the start of the meeting
Delegates review the draft recommendations before the start of the discussion
Working on revisions to the zero text
Akram Mirzakhani, Iran
Helge Elisabeth Zeitler, European Union
Abdullah Tawlah, Saudi Arabia, speaks to Andrew Neustaetter, US, and members of the US delegation
Fany Beatriz Ramos Quispe, Bolivia
Delegates in discussion
Ather Aljarboa, Saudi Arabia
Delegates confer during the break.
Delegates review the draft text during the discussion.
The third and final substantive session of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) established by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 72/277 (“Towards a Global Pact for the Environment”) convened in plenary in the morning and afternoon, before breaking out for informal discussions.
In plenary, delegates were invited to respond to a non-paper prepared by Co-Chairs Amal Mudallali, Lebanon, and Francisco António Duarte Lopes, Portugal, which had been circulated in April. The non-paper has three sections:
1. Elements related to the objectives informing the recommendations of the OEWG;
2. Elements related to the substantive recommendations of the OEWG; and
3. Elements related to the process.
Differences mainly emerged in response to "Elements related to the process", including references to “the adoption of an international instrument at a high-level UN conference”, establishing a “preparatory committee” ahead of the 73rd session of the UNGA in 2020, a timeline, and open “negotiations.”
In mid-afternoon, having noted the wide range of opinions, including assertions that no consensus exists on a new international instrument, whether binding or non-binding, the Co-Chairs mandated two delegates, Elizabeth Taylor, Colombia, and Solveig Crompton, Norway, to co-facilitate informal discussions on section three of the non-paper. Delegations welcomed the informal setting for discussions, with some noting that the format had come late in the process; and took the opportunity to detail the rationale behind their positions on the merits of the section.
The Co-Chairs also undertook to prepare a “zero text” for Tuesday on sections one and two.
To read the Co-Chairs’ non-paper, please click here.
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