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Wednesday, 10 April 2019 00:00

A Global Pact for the Environment: Second Substantive Session

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The second Substantive Session of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) Towards a Global Pact for the Environment took place from 18-20th March 2019 at UN Environment in Nairobi, Kenya.

Three World Animal Net (WAN) representatives took part – Jessica Bridgers, Executive Director; Dr. Sabine Lennkh, Legislative Advisor; and Janice Cox, Co-Founder.

WANteamThe first substantive session, which took place in January 2019, was covered in this WAN blog (and report). At that meeting, there were so many negative comments and remarks that we were concerned for the future of the Global Pact. However, the second substantive session was slightly more positive. Over the course of the three-day meeting delegates and stakeholders came together to address the fragmentation, lack of coherence, and general inadequacy of international environmental law. Discussions were guided by four questions relating to:

  • Options to address possible gaps or challenges related to principles of International Environmental Law (IEL);
  • Options to address possible gaps related to the governance structure of IEL;
  • Options to address gaps or challenges relating to the implementation of existing rules and principles of IEL; and
  • Options to address gaps relating to specific regulatory regimes or environment-related instruments.

A full report of the meeting, including daily coverage, can be found here – courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

The Co-Chairs gave an excellent oral summary of the meeting at the end, which will be added to the meeting website in due course. The statements are also being added to this.

A Global Pact

In part, Member States of the UN were discussing options for establishing a Global Pact for the Environment, seeking to unify international environmental law principles. If adopted, the Global Pact would codify key environmental rights and duties as well as fill gaps in international environmental legislation. This work has the potential to impact various areas of animal protection law, as well as providing greater control over aspects such as biodiversity and habitats.

The Global Pact for the Environment, proposed by an international group of experts coordinated by the Club des Juristes, is not a reinvention of the wheel but rather a compilation of existing legal principles and a much-needed step towards ensuring legal certainty and predictability. Despite provisions set forth in existing instruments, which have to some extent been disseminated and implemented through the help of governments and respective legal systems, the Global Pact would provide the legal community with the necessary tools to interpret existing gaps and ambiguities in international environmental law.

Yann Aguila, one of the initiators of the Global Pact, confirmed the importance of the instrument by noting, “I can assure you that international treaties are very important to judges and legal practitioners alike. International law is taken seriously, and each day judges apply international treaties…they provide guidance for jurists all over the world.”

The general feeling of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) was that the Global Pact would be a concrete instrument that would raise environmental standards and norms and strengthen their enforcement.

Other Options for Gaps

While many delegations discussed the pros and cons of a Global Pact that would codify environmental principles and rights, others (including NGOs) widened the discussion to include a variety of means of dealing with gaps, including:

  • An instrument centred on Earth Systems and planetary boundaries;
  • Incorporating a human rights and gender approach;
  • A legally binding instrument or treaty, with provisions to safeguard or enhance environmental protection, and a list of IEL principles;
  • A high-level non-binding declaration incorporating the issues raised at the OEWG;
  • Other ways of improving IEL governance and implementation; including improving governance and strategic oversight of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), monitoring and implementation, education and awareness, and capacity building and support for developing countries.

World Animal Net (WAN) Involvement

WAN has been actively involved in this initiative since it was first formulated. We coordinated the NGO background paper for this session – on options for consideration to address gaps in international environmental legislation, governance and implementation.

We also took part in the drafting committee for this meeting, which prepared civil society positions and statements.
Statements for the session can be found here – under the Second Substantive session tab.

In addition, we made our own statements on two occasions. 

We also submitted our Suggestions for the Way Forward, on the penultimate day of the sessions (in response to a general call from the Co-Chairs).

The Way Forward

As the second substantive session closed on Wednesday, March 20th we are hopeful that momentum has been created. Many countries have spoken in favour of addressing the gaps that have come to characterise international environmental law and the options for filling these gaps.

In 2022, governments will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. This conference marked the launch of international cooperation on the environment, and established the UN Environment Programme. We believe that the successful agreement of a Global Pact for the Environment would be a fitting way to mark this anniversary and begin a new era in international environmental cooperation. Representatives of civil society expressed the hope that governments would stand united in recommending to the UN General Assembly the convening of an international conference with a view to adopting an international instrument that addresses gaps in international environmental law, and which compiles existing environmental principles into one document.

The Next Meeting

The Third Substantive Session is scheduled for 19th to 22nd May 2019: At the third Ad hoc Open-Ended Working Group Member States and stakeholders will seek to forge an agreement on the next steps in the process, including the making of recommendations to the UN General Assembly.

Previous Blogs

Blog on First Substantive Session on the Global Pact for the Environment.

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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