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Monday, 02 April 2018 00:00

UN Environment Meetings: Strategising for an Effective UN Environment Assembly

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I have just returned from a UN Environment consultation meeting for Major Groups and Stakeholders (MGS) which took place on March 21st 2018, prior to the joint meeting of the Bureau of the United Nations Environment Assembly and the Committee of Permanent Representatives (member state representatives). It was an honour to be invited on behalf of World Animal Net (WAN), especially as one of just 15 selected MGS representatives (from a total of 423 accredited organisations)!

join us in advocating for animals at UN EnvironmentThis meeting was followed by a half-day Open Meeting between Member States and Stakeholders on 22nd March.

Major Groups and Stakeholders (MGS)

The MGS meeting was ably organised by UN Environment’s Civil Society Unit. It was broken into four sessions, at which four separate themes were considered:

  • Follow-up to the 2017 Assembly
  • The theme of the 2019 UN Assembly
  • Stakeholder Engagement in the 2019 Assembly Preparatory Process
  • Expectations for a more meaningful stakeholder engagement at the 2019 Environment Assembly

Each one of these sessions was facilitated by a MGS member, and I was asked to facilitate the last session.

A bullet point summary of the combined positions of MGS on each of these issues can be found here. Also, some further background information below.

Follow-up to the 2017 Assembly

The theme of the 2017 Environment Assembly was ‘Towards a Pollution-Free Planet’, and there were 11 resolutions adopted on this theme. These can be viewed here, along with the Ministerial Declaration. Interestingly, UN Environment is developing an implementation plan for these, not only to track the work that will be done by UN Environment, but also as a broader implementation plan on pollution. This will need to be accepted by member states; but the work was welcomed by MGS. If this initiative succeeds, it will be very positive as regards implementation of future outcomes of UN Environment Assembly meetings.

Discussion on the Theme of the 2019 UN Assembly

The MGS meeting favoured the suggested theme of “Sustainable Consumption and Production” (SCP), as it met the criteria established by UN Environment and agreed by Member States permanent representatives. It also included much scope for addressing key concerns of the Major Groups in a preventative and sustainable way. Many members expressed serious concerns about the suggested theme of “innovation”, particularly if this was viewed as high-tech/scientific solutions. UN Environment stressed that although this would be discussed by Member States, the final decision was for the UN Environment Bureau.


Stakeholder Engagement in the 2019 Assembly Preparatory Process

MGS were keen to see the progressive development of stakeholder engagement, with resources and support for civil society participation. They suggested that UN Environment explored stakeholder engagement practices in other UN agencies (the Committee on Food Security was mentioned as allowing full participation in discussion); and that good practice should also be introduced for Regional Preparatory meetings.

Interested in getting involved for animals at UN Environment?
Then download our new guide here!


Expectations for a More Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement at the 2019 Environment Assembly

This session, which I facilitated, examined good practice in stakeholder engagement, and how to maximise the impact of this engagement in terms of outcomes. It was a participatory session. MGS were seeking full consultation – including on aspects such as meeting structures, processes and agendas, so good models of participation could be built in at preparatory stages.

Open Meeting between Member States and Stakeholders

The Open Meeting between Member States and Stakeholders which took place on 22nd March provided an opportunity for MGS to have an in-depth discussion with Member States’ Ministers and Permanent Representatives. The meeting was broken into two sessions: The first covering follow-up to the third UN Environment Assembly (UNEA 3), and the second considered preparations to the fourth Environment Assembly (UNEA 4).

The two sessions were structured in “talk show” format, with a moderator and selected panellists (a small group of Member States and MGS representatives). I was selected to be one of the two MGS representatives for the second session. The bulk of discussion in this revolved around the theme of the next UN Environment Assembly; but there was also time to include some MGS points about meaningful stakeholder engagement.

Theme of the 2019 Environment Assembly

Following the meetings described above, there was a Joint Preparatory Retreat (22-23 March 2018) between the Committee of Permanent Representatives and Regional and Political Groups to further consider these questions in a closed session. There are more documents relating to this meeting here.

There was subsequently a communication from H.E Mr. Siim Valmar Kiisler, President of the UN Environment Assembly and Minister of the Environment of Estonia, which announced that following this meeting, the Bureau of the UN Environment Assembly had reached consensus on the theme of the Fourth Session of the UN Environment Assembly. This will be: “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production”.

The Secretariat has committed to circulate a summary of the Joint Preparatory Retreat of the Bureaux of the UN Environment Assembly and of the Committee of Permanent Representatives. This should appear on this web page, when ready.

Next Steps

WAN has now prepared and sent comments and suggestions for Major Groups, UN Environment and the Committee of Permanent Representatives on ways in which this theme could be approached to provide maximum benefits for the environment and sustainable consumption and production.

Animal Protection Organisations and UN Environment

The theme chosen for the 2019 UN Environment Assembly provides lots of scope for advocacy on animal protection issues, and WAN encourages animal protection organisations to secure accreditation with UN Environment (which takes less than three months for review and approval), and to plan to join us in advocacy for this important meeting.

The UN Environment Assembly was a confusing forum for civil society, with multiple (and often parallel) meeting sessions, and various outcome documents. Because of this, WAN has now produced a guidance document for animal protection organisations working at the UN Environment Assembly to help them to navigate the process for more effective advocacy in future meetings. This can be downloaded here.

Janice Cox

Janice is co-founder and a director of World Animal Net. She has held a variety of management and advocacy roles in the international animal welfare movement over the past 30 years. Janice focuses on WAN’s work on advocacy, development and education/training. Based in South Africa, she has assisted with regional strategic planning for animal welfare on the continent, including working with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)'s Southern African office for one year. Janice was the recipient of the Humane Society International 2014 award for “extroardinary commitment and achievement for animal protection”.


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