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Landmark 27th session of the Governing Council of UNEP is first session with universal membership

22.02.2013, 17:00 GMT


Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Phil Hogan T.D., welcomed the decisions taken by environment ministers meeting at the 27th Session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme/Global Ministerial Environment Forum held in Nairobi from 18-22 February 2013.

The 27th session of the Governing Council of UNEP was a landmark event, not least because it was the first session with universal membership and marked the first major restructuring of UNEP since its foundation forty years ago. The Minster particularly welcomed the establishment of a United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA).

The Irish delegation which was headed by Minister Hogan and the Irish Presidency team represented the EU and co-ordinated EU positions as discussions developed.

During this session, ministers took decisions aimed at implementing the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference with a particular focus on strengthening and upgrading of UNEP as decided in Rio and subsequently reaffirmed by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. Minsters also adopted a range of other decisions to ensure that UNEP will function as the global platform for environmental policy-making and action into the future.

“This will contribute to strong and inclusive decisions by UNEP, which will reinforce the environment dimension within the UN system and beyond”

The governing body has been renamed as the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme, subject to agreement by the UN General Assembly, to reflect its upgraded status and universal nature.

Ministers will now have a much stronger role in strategic decision making, setting the global environmental agenda, and providing policy guidance through the creation of a High Level Segment of the Governing Council to be held every two years.  Crucially, the governing body will ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders and new mechanisms will be explored to promote transparency and the effective involvement of civil society in its work and that of its subsidiary bodies. “This will contribute to strong and inclusive decisions by UNEP, which will reinforce the environment dimension within the UN system and beyond” Minister Hogan said.

New arrangements were also agreed for intersessional work which will better support the preparatory work for the governing body in which the Committee of Permanent Representatives and capitals will play an important role.  

Minister Hogan, who attended the session in his capacity as President of the Council of Ministers, said that “the new governance structures will greatly strengthen the decision making process and allow for input from capitals and stakeholders. They will also lead to greater political leadership, improved efficiency and accountability in the operation of UNEP”.

ENDS

Note to Editors

The outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference (June 2012) – The Future We Want - committed, in paragraph 88, to strengthen the role of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as the authoritative advocate for the global environment. This was subsequently reaffirmed by resolution of the UN General Assembly in December 2012.

The 27th Session of UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum took place in Nairobi from 18 to 22 February. This was an historic event as it was the first under universal membership as agreed in Rio+20.

Ministers attending the conference backed decisions, including the first major overhaul of UNEP structures in 40 years that will ensure a strengthened and upgraded institution that will be able to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

  • The name of the Governing Council has been changed to the United Nations Environment Assembly to reflect its universal character.
  • Ministers have been given a greater role in strategic policy making and decision taking. There is now a stronger link between UNEP’s science-based Global Environment Outlook and its ministerial meetings thereby implementing the Rio+20 objective to strengthen the science-policy interface.
  • The arrangements for intersessional work, based on the Committee of Permanent Representatives, have been strengthened including provision for input from capitals for those countries not based in Nairobi.
  • The governing body will take specific measures to ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders and civil society in its work and that of its subsidiary bodies.

Other decisions taken to implement paragraph 88 of The Future We Want include:

  • Consolidation of UNEP headquarters functions in Nairobi on a progressive basis, strengthening of UNEP’s regional presence in order to assist countries in the implementation of their national environmental programmes, requested the Executive Director to establish a written access to information policy, backed more predictable, stable and increased funding for UNEP from the UN Regular Budget by 2016.

Among the wide range of other decisions taken at the first Universal Membership Session of the UNEP Governing Council were decisions on:

  1. State of the Environment and contribution of UNEP to meeting substantive environmental challenges;
  2. Consultative process on financing options for chemicals and wastes;
  3. Work by the UNEP on sustainable consumption and production;
  4. Enhancing co-operation and co-ordination within the chemicals and wastes cluster;
  5. Advancing EU  Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability;
  6. Proposed medium-term strategy for the period 2014-2017 and biennial programme of work and budget for 2014-2015;
  7. International Water Quality Guidelines;
  8. Climate Technology Centre and Network;
  9. Co-ordination across the UN system, including the Environment Management Group;

10. Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

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