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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