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United Nations Environment


Nairobi, Kenya



Description: The United Nations Environment is 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 an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

UN Environment is a leading player in environmental policy. Although its work does not include animal welfare per se, it does include biodiversity/wildlife and sustainable consumption and production (which include aspects relevant to animal protection). The latter includes education for sustainable consumption.

The UN Environment mission is:

"To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations."

UN Environment's environmental work encompasses:

  • Assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends
  • Developing international and national environmental instruments
  • Strengthening institutions for the wise management of the environment

UN Environment is an Implementing Agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and is the only Global Environmental Facility Agency whose core business is the environment.

Organization Type: International Inter-Governmental Organization
Issue areas covered:

Climate change, disasters and conflicts, ecosystems management, environmental governance, chemicals and waste, and resource efficiency.

UN Environment is heavily involved in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but not in farming aspects because of potential overlap with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Key areas where UN Environment’s work intersects with animal protection interests include wildlife trade, biodiversity and ecosystems, climate change and the environmental impact of animal production/consumption, seas and oceans, pollution and environmental legislation.

A 2010 UN Environment report assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production includes food. Section 6.4. of the report, which deals with consumption clusters that contribute substantially to total environmental pressures, begins with food – outlining some environmental and resource implications of fisheries and animal products. The conclusions include: “A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

In regards to wildlife, it has developed a “Wild for Life” campaign against wildlife crime. Countries around the world, the United Nations, many other international and national organizations, businesses, governments and key opinion leaders are working together to raise awareness, enact and enforce stronger laws, and step up support to local communities’ efforts to stop the illegal trade in wildlife.

The Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) does include some animal welfare-related aspects. However, UN Environment is considering taking this into their general wildlife work.

Key opportunities and dates for input: 
  • UN Environment’s most important meeting is the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which takes place every two years. For more information, see here.
  • There are also a number of scheduled events where civil society can participate. These are listed on the UN Environment website.

Requirements for participation: 

UN Environment is open to meeting with civil society to discuss matter of mutual interest. However, to be engaged in decision-making processes, it is necessary to be accredited.

There are currently only a few animal protection organizations with accreditation at UNEP. Yet applying for accreditation with UN Environment is a far simpler process than applying for status with ECOSOC, and can be completed on a rolling basis (with no annual deadline).

There is more about civil society engagement here.

For more detailed information on engaging at UNEA, see WAN’s Guidance Document on Engaging at the UN Environment Assembly.

Advocacy Opportunities:
  • •There are considerable opportunities for advocacy through the UNEAs. This includes influencing official proceedings (such as resolutions) and the positions of stakeholder groups. For more information, see WAN’s Guidance Document on Engaging at the UN Environment Assembly.

  • If more animal protection organizations became accredited at UN Environment, there would be a better opportunity to influence the development of more animal welfare considerations and coverage within its remit.

  • There is an opportunity for APOs to join the Wild for Life campaign as collaborators.

  • There are advocacy opportunities through climate change and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

  • There is scope for advocacy and collaboration in the field of biodiversity/wildlife.

  • There is also a possibility to influence UN positions on the SDGs through UN Environment, including sustainable consumption and production (for example, they are more sympathetic on meat consumption reduction than other UN agencies, due to their environmental focus).

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