Summary Report | Monday, 25 February 2013

18-22 FEBRUARY 2013

The 27th session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC27/GMEF) took place from 18-22 February 2013, at the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya. Over 1300 participants from 147 countries, including 80 ministers, representatives of UN agencies, international organizations, academia, NGOs, business and industry, and women and youth organizations attended the first Universal Session of the GC following the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to strengthen and upgrade UNEP, as called for in the Rio+20 outcome document.

During the week, delegates convened in plenary sessions, a Committee of the Whole, and several working and contact groups to consider draft decisions. From Monday to Wednesday, ministerial consultations addressed “Rio+20: from Outcome to Implementation.” Delegates adopted 13 decisions, on inter alia: the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES); coordination across the UN system, including the Environment Management Group (EMG); oceans; sustainable consumption and production; the green economy in the context of sustainable development; advancing justice, governance and law; state of the environment; and chemicals and wastes.

The GC adopted a decision on institutional arrangements that, inter alia, invites the UN General Assembly to rename UNEP’s governing body “UN Environment Assembly,” and provides that the body “will ensure” the active participation of all relevant stakeholders and explore new mechanisms to promote transparency and effective engagement of civil society in its work and that of its subsidiary bodies, inter alia, by: developing by 2014 a process for stakeholder accreditation and participation that builds on the existing rules of procedure and takes into account the inclusive modalities of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and other relevant UN bodies.

Many delegates expressed satisfaction with this historic session of the GC and its outcome, particularly on institutional arrangements and the compromise achieved regarding the integrated approach to financing chemicals and wastes. However, there were calls for UNEP to use this opportunity not only to become more robust, but to become more effective at advancing the environment agenda and to contribute towards the implementation of a post-2015 development agenda.


As a result of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the UN General Assembly, in resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 1972, established UNEP as the central UN node for global environmental cooperation and treaty making. The resolution also established the UNEP GC to provide a forum for the international community to address major and emerging environmental policy issues. The GC’s responsibilities include the promotion of international environmental cooperation and the recommendation of policies to achieve it, and the provision of policy guidance for the direction and coordination of environmental programmes in the UN system. The GC reports to the UN General Assembly, which had been responsible for electing the 58 members of the GC, taking into account the principle of equitable regional representation. Through resolution 67/213 (2012), the General Assembly established universal membership in the GC, and determined that the 2013 meeting of the Council would be its first “universal” session. The GMEF was constituted by the GC as envisaged by General Assembly resolution 53/242 (1998). The purpose of the GMEF was to institute, at a high political level, a process for reviewing important and emerging policy issues in the field of the environment.

GCSS6 /GMEF: The sixth Special Session of the GC/GMEF (GCSS6/GMEF) took place from 29-31 May 2000, in Malmö, Sweden. Ministers adopted the Malmö Ministerial Declaration, which agreed that the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) should review the requirements for a greatly strengthened institutional structure for international environmental governance (IEG).

GC21/GMEF: This meeting took place from 5-9 February 2001, in Nairobi, Kenya. Delegates established the Open-ended Intergovernmental Group of Ministers or their Representatives (IGM) to undertake a comprehensive policy-oriented assessment of existing institutional weaknesses, as well as future needs and options for strengthening IEG. They also adopted decision 21/7, which requests the UNEP Executive Director to examine the need for a strategic approach to international chemicals management (SAICM).

GCSS7/GMEF: This meeting was held from 13-15 February 2002, in Cartagena, Colombia. In its decision SS.VII/1, the GC/GMEF adopted the IGM report, which contains recommendations aimed at strengthening IEG, including through: improved coherence in international environmental policy-making; strengthening the role and financial situation of UNEP; improved coordination among, and effectiveness of, multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); and capacity building, technology transfer and country-level coordination. Delegates also adopted decisions related to, inter alia, SAICM at the global level.

WSSD: The WSSD was held from 26 August-4 September 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) sets out a framework for action to implement the commitments originally agreed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The JPOI, among other things, emphasized that the international community should fully implement the outcomes of decision SS.VII/1 on IEG.

GC22/GMEF: This meeting took place from 3-7 February 2003, in Nairobi, Kenya. Delegates adopted more than 40 decisions on issues relating to IEG, post-conflict environmental assessment, UNEP’s water policy and strategy, SAICM, a mercury programme, support to Africa, production and consumption patterns, and the environment and cultural diversity.

GCSS8/GMEF: This meeting took place from 29-31 March 2004, in Jeju, Republic of Korea. At the conclusion of the ministerial consultations, delegates adopted the “Jeju Initiative,” containing the Chair’s summary of the discussions and decisions on: small island developing states; waste management; water resource management; regional annexes; and the implementation of decision SS.VII/1 on IEG.

GC23/GMEF: This meeting took place from 21-25 February 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya. Ministers adopted decisions on, among other things: the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building; IEG; chemicals management; UNEP’s water policy and strategy; gender equality and the environment; poverty and the environment; and strengthening environmental emergency response and developing disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation and early warning systems.

GCSS9/GMEF: This meeting was held from 7-9 February 2006, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Ministerial consultations addressed, inter alia, policy issues relating to energy and the environment, chemicals management, and tourism and the environment. The plenary discussions on environmental governance and GC universal membership did not produce an agreed outcome, and delegates decided that the report of the meeting should reflect the divergence of views expressed.

GC24/GMEF: This meeting convened from 5-9 February 2007, in Nairobi, Kenya. Delegates adopted 15 decisions on issues relating to, inter alia: chemicals, including a provision to establish the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group to Review and Assess Measures to Address the Global Issue of Mercury; the world environment situation; IEG; South-South cooperation; waste management; 2010-2020 UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification; UNEP’s updated water policy and strategy; and support to Africa in environmental management and protection.

GCSS10/GMEF: Convening in Monaco from 20-22 February 2008, ministerial consultations addressed the emerging policy issues of mobilizing finance to meet the climate challenge, and IEG and UN reform. The GC/GMEF adopted five decisions on: the UNEP Medium-term Strategy 2010-2013; chemicals management, including mercury and waste management; the Global Environment Outlook; sustainable development of the Arctic region; and the International Decade for Combating Climate Change.

GC25/GMEF: GC25/GMEF convened from 16-20 February 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya. The GC/GMEF adopted 17 decisions on issues relating to, inter alia: chemicals management, including mercury; the world environment situation; environmental law; and an intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES). Decision 25/4 on IEG established a regionally representative, consultative group of ministers or high-level representatives. The decision requested the group to present a set of options for improving IEG to GCSS11/GMEF with a view to providing input to the UN General Assembly.

GCSS11/GMEF: GCSS11/GMEF convened from 24-26 February 2010 in Bali, Indonesia, and adopted eight decisions on: IEG; enhanced coordination across the UN, including the Environment Management Group; a follow-up report on the environmental situation in Gaza; IPBES; strengthening the environmental response in Haiti; oceans; a consultative process on financing options for chemicals and wastes; and environmental law.

GC26/GMEF: This meeting took place from 21-24 February 2011 at the UN Office at Nairobi, Kenya. Seventeen decisions were adopted on issues relating to, inter alia: chemicals and waste management; the world environment situation; IEG; IPBES; South-South cooperation; and strengthening international cooperation for environmental crisis response.

GCSS12/GMEF: Convening from 20-22 February 2012, in Nairobi, Kenya, this meeting marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of UNEP. Eight decisions were adopted, including on: “UNEP at 40;” IEG; the world environment situation; sustainable consumption and production; and the consultative process on financing options for chemicals and wastes.


Opening the first universal session of the Governing Council, Federico Ramos de Armas, Spain, outgoing GC President, called for urgent action to change unsustainable consumption and production patterns, and move beyond gross domestic product as a measure of prosperity.

Reading a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General, UN Office at Nairobi, inter alia, underscored investment in the environment and in the green economy as a “sound insurance policy” for the future we want, and highlighted UN General Assembly discussions on financial resources for UNEP from the regular UN budget.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner noted that delegates have the task of promptly implementing the Rio+20 outcome regarding the functioning of UNEP and the design of the international agenda for cooperation on the environment pillar of sustainable development.

Describing the first universal session of the GC as “historic,” Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya, noted that the Rio+20 outcome had reaffirmed UNEP as the leading global environmental authority by adopting several decisions to strengthen and upgrade UNEP.

The plenary elected Hassan Abdel Hilal, Minister of Environment, Forests and Physical Development, Sudan, as GC27/GMEF President. Ryutaro Yatsu (Japan), Antonio Otávio Sá Ricarte (Brazil) and Idunn Eidheim (Norway) were elected Vice-Presidents, and Beata Jaczewska (Poland) was elected Rapporteur.

GC27/GMEF President Hilal highlighted the need to agree on the future participation of ministers, and on the institutional arrangements and capacity within UNEP, and to discuss UNEP’s contribution to the post-2015 development agenda.

GC President Hilal informed delegates that the first universal session will follow the GC applicable rules of procedure and the applicable rules and practice of the General Assembly. The provisional agenda (UNEP/GC.27/1) was adopted. On the organization of work (UNEP/GC.27/1/Add.1), GC President Hilal outlined the Executive Director’s recommendations, including the establishment of a Committee of the Whole (COW), a drafting group, and a working group on institutional arrangements and rules of procedure. A COW was established with Idunn Eidheim (Norway) as Chair. Luis Campuzano (Mexico) and Farrukh Iqbal Khan (Pakistan) were appointed Co-Chairs of the working group on institutional arrangements and rules of procedure. Delegates then adopted the GC27/GMEF’s organization of work.

POLICY STATEMENT BY THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: UNEP Executive Director Steiner highlighted the need to articulate an environmental agenda that addresses issues such as energy, employment and poverty. Stressing that the Rio+20 outcome had moved that agenda forward, he noted that delegates had a clear mandate from the UN General Assembly to implement the outcome’s paragraph 88 provisions on strengthening and upgrading UNEP and decide how the newly mandated governing body of UNEP will function. He outlined UNEP’s contributions over the years, including the Rio+20 discussions on green economy, its work on black carbon as a complement to climate action, the finalization of a mercury treaty, and improved synergies in the chemicals and wastes cluster. He emphasized UNEP’s increased efficiency and improved “value proposition,” noting the programme of work entails a modest budget increase.

STATEMENT BY THE CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE OF PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVES: H.E. Geert Aagaard Andersen (Denmark), Chair of the UNEP Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR), submitted 12 CPR draft decisions for consideration, noting that bracketed text remained, including on the Consultative Process on Financing Options for Chemicals and Wastes, which is bracketed in its entirety. He said the draft decision on the green economy was bracketed because of insufficient time for its consideration.

Reiterating its support for a stronger more effective UNEP, the US stressed the need to resolve structural governance issues pertaining to universal membership. She called for, inter alia: a review of UNEP’s Strategic Framework; a clear and more defined role for the CPR; a mechanism for enhancing stakeholder participation; and addressing the frequency and effectiveness of meetings to avoid overloading UNEP’s agenda. With Canada, the US also expressed concern regarding the president of the session, noting that Sudan is currently subject to UN Security Council sanctions and therefore is not an “appropriate choice for leadership.”

Malaysia introduced a draft decision (UNEP/GC.27/L.2) on the IPBES Secretariat.


From Monday to Wednesday, under the chairmanship of GC27/GMEF President Hilal, ministers and heads of delegation held consultations, panel discussions and a dialogue. On Tuesday morning three parallel roundtable discussions addressed: responsiveness to country needs; promoting a strong science-policy interface; providing secure, stable, adequate and increased financial resource to fulfill UNEP’s mandate; stakeholder participation; and future ministerial engagement and institutional arrangements. Tuesday afternoon parallel ministerial roundtable discussions addressed: environmental challenges within sustainable development and UNEP’s potential contribution to developing sustainable development goals (SDGs); and promoting sustainable consumption and production (SCP). For detailed coverage of the consultations see:;; and

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CONSULTATIONS: On Wednesday morning, Executive Director Steiner conducted consultations on aspirations for the GC. In his opening remarks, he urged ministers to view the new UNEP GC with universal membership as the principal body for articulating the environmental dimension of sustainable development.

The European Union (EU), Norway and Peru called on ministers to play an active role in priority setting and decision making in the newly reformed GC. Peru, France and Germany supported a name that would reflect the international importance of the new body, such as “world” or “global” assembly. The US supported a “UNEP Assembly,” with meetings every two years. She also noted that UNEP should serve as a “repository” for scientific assessments, rather than conduct these assessments. Japan emphasized the usefulness of a high-level segment to provide guidance to the new body.

France, Norway, Germany and Nigeria emphasized the importance of stakeholder participation in a strengthened UNEP. NGOs called for an open-ended, time-limited working group to discuss the issue.

The Maldives, Fiji, and Children and Youth requested building UNEP’s regional capacity. The Gambia proposed creating regional programme frameworks for improved coherence and delivery. Nigeria requested UNEP to collaborate with the UN Statistics Division in order to strengthen the relationship between science and policy. Pakistan proposed two initiatives: establishing a global level environmental technology incubation and dissemination center; and establishing UNEP resident offices in One UN reform programme pilot countries.

In response, Steiner highlighted the return on investment from countries’ contributions to UNEP, noting that contributions even at the minimum level give a signal of political support for the Programme. On regional strengthening, he said that regional structures should correspond to the volume of activities and financing available. He expressed hope that the strengthened UNEP would be a place for countries to prepare input and share approaches, principles and ideas on the SDGs, pledging that UNEP is ready to bring together expert groups to support this.

PLENARY CONSULTATIONS: On Wednesday afternoon, GC President Hilal introduced his summary of the GMEF discussions (UNEP/GC.27/L.4). Switzerland expressed concern that the summary had been prepared in a “closed” Friends of the President Group and, with Brazil, Pakistan and the US, said that since it was a non-consensus summary prepared by the President, it did not need to be adopted.

Summarizing the ministerial consultations, Executive Director Steiner highlighted, inter alia: a clear signal from ministers of their desire to be involved in decision-making at meetings of a strengthened UNEP; calls for UNEP to strengthen its regional presence and respond to regional and national needs; and the need to support environment ministers in providing input to the SDG process. He thanked ministers for their participation, and expressed hope that by the time of their next meeting, “a re-engineered UNEP will be in full swing.” President Hilal declared the GMEF closed at 5:35 pm.

 President’s Summary: The President’s summary of the GMEF (UNEP/GC.27/L.4) brings together key messages from the ministerial consultations.

On Rio+20 From Outcome to Implementation, and the implementation of paragraph 88 of “The Future We Want,” ministers recognized the need to advance towards a participatory and effective UNEP focused on implementation. Ministers stressed the importance of focusing on deepening impact and ensuring better processes and systems. Ministers called for:

On green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, ministers urged overcoming the mentality that economic growth can only come at the expense of the environment, and vice versa. In achieving a green economy, ministers noted the need to, among other things:

On environmental challenges within sustainable development and UNEP’s contribution to the SDG process and promoting SCP, ministers recognized the opportunity to integrate the post-2015 development agenda with the yet to be developed SDGs. In particular, ministers underscored the need for:

On implementation of paragraph 88 of “The Future We Want,” ministers called for strengthening the regional presence of UNEP and expressed strong support for reinforcing the role of UNEP in science-policy linkages, particularly through the role played by the Global Environment Outlook (GEO).


The COW convened from Monday to Friday to consider agenda items on: policy issues; international environmental governance (IEG); coordination and cooperation within the UN system on environmental matters; coordination and cooperation with major groups; environment and development; follow-up to and implementation of outcomes of the UN summits and major intergovernmental meetings, including the GC decisions; budget and programme of work for the biennium 2014-2015; provisional agenda, date and venue of future GC/GMEF sessions; and other matters. The COW considered draft decisions prepared by the CPR, as well as draft decisions proposed during the session. The COW approved 13 decisions, which were forwarded to the plenary for adoption.

Climate change and reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation: Bolivia introduced a draft decision on climate change and reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) (UNEP/GC.27/CW/CRP.5) on Wednesday. He noted that the term “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and forest conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks” (REDD+) was “unofficial” UN language and should not be used in formal documents or in UNEP programmes. He proposed using UN Programme on Forests and Climate as an alternative. The US, noting prior and ongoing discussions on this issue in other fora, opposed discussing the draft decision. Chile said that the acronym “REDD” is more commonly accepted. Guatemala, Colombia, the EU and Croatia, Japan, New Zealand, the US and others said they could not support the proposal, stressing that while the term REDD+ is not an official UN name, it is widely used in the UN system. Bolivia said it would not withdraw its proposal, and agreed to consult informally with interested delegations to revise and seek support for the draft decision.

During the final meeting of the COW on Friday, Bolivia sought to present a revised version of the draft decision on climate change and forests. Norway, Japan, the EU and Croatia, Colombia, South Africa, the US and others noted that due to the late introduction of the draft decision and the revised version to the COW they would not be in a position to discuss the document at the meeting. Norway underscored their difficulty in changing a name that has been used for five years since the establishment of the UN-REDD programme.

Noting concerns, COW Chair Eidheim ruled that the decision would not be discussed during the current GC session. Bolivia said UNEP recognizes REDD+ in its work programme on climate change, even though it is not an official name; its own proposal needs to be accorded equal attention. He noted that the Papersmart process of the GC was to blame for delays in updating the revised decision, adding that they would, in the spirit of flexibility, defer the revised decision to the next session.

Corporate Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) between UNEP and other Bodies: On Wednesday, the Secretariat introduced a document on corporate MoUs (UNEP/GC.27/15/INF/9) between UNEP and other bodies and a note on concluded progress in UNEP collaboration with the UN Human Settlements Programme (UNEP/GC.27/15/INF/18). There was no further discussion on this item.

COORDINATION AND COOPERATION WITH MAJOR GROUPS: The Secretariat introduced the document on coordination and cooperation with Major Groups (UNEP/GC.27/INF/5) on Wednesday in the COW. There was no further discussion this item.

IEG:  The Secretariat introduced documents on IEG (UNEP/GC.27/6, 15 and Add.1, and UNEP/GC.27/INF/20) on Wednesday. There was no further discussion on this item.


Draft GC27/GMEF decisions, submitted by the CPR and directly by governments at the GC27/GMEF, were considered from Monday to Friday in the COW and several working and contract groups. Unless otherwise noted, all decisions were adopted in plenary on Friday evening.

State of the Environment: This item was introduced on Wednesday, and forwarded to a contact group. The group met on Wednesday and Thursday and forwarded a draft decision (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.3) to the COW on Friday.

Final Decision: The final decision on state of the environment and contribution of UNEP to meeting substantive environmental challenges (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.3) contains sections on assessments, GEO, strengthening sustainable development, UNEP-Live, the Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA), the Global Environment Monitoring System/Water Programme, climate change, and biodiversity and ecosystem services.

In the decision, the GC, inter alia, recognizing knowledge gaps in the state of the environment and the urgent need for governments to take action to bridge such gaps through capacity building, strengthening existing mechanisms for environmental assessments and monitoring:

 Sustainable consumption and production (SCP): Delegates considered this agenda item in plenary on Tuesday, and in a contact group from Tuesday to Thursday afternoon. On Tuesday, the Secretariat introduced documents on SCP (UNEP/GC.27/5 and INF/13), and delegates made general comments on the 10-year Framework of Programmes on SCP (10YFP) referenced in the documents. The EU and Croatia pointed to sufficient expertise, knowledge and initiatives for achieving SCP and called for a bottom-up approach in the implementation of the 10YFP. India said countries should implement the 10YFP taking into account their national circumstances, and stressed the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Brazil emphasized the need to build on lessons learned from the Marrakech Process, and to support regional and national initiatives.

Indonesia stressed that as SCP is a “prerequisite for sustainable development,” it should be embedded in the post-2015 development agenda. The US urged delegates not to renegotiate the balanced outcomes agreed on during CSD meetings and at Rio+20.

Japan underscored the importance of environmental awareness targeting consumers and producers and the promotion of “reduce, reuse, recycle” campaigns to reduce waste. Major Groups called on governments to foster innovation in industry, noting that intra-industry efforts in SCP already exist, and encouraged the GC to, inter alia, include sustainable food and agricultural systems in the programmes under the 10YFP and enhance synergies between SCP, green economy and chemicals and wastes efforts.

Addressing the work of the working group, delegates agreed to delete “global” in relation to changing patterns of consumption and production. Opposed by South Africa, the EU and Croatia, and Switzerland supported a US proposal to reflect the “initial” and “non-exhaustive” nature of the list of possible areas of the 10YFP. Armenia, opposed by the EU and Croatia and the US, asked to add “environmental mentality” to this indicative list. The US agreed to text on mobilizing voluntary contributions from multiple sources in relation to the Trust Fund.

Final Decision: The final decision on SCP (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.2) recalls that the framework includes an indicative, initial and non-exhaustive list of possible areas of the 10YFP programme development that builds on previous experience, including, inter alia, consumer information, sustainable lifestyles and education, sustainable public procurement, sustainable buildings and construction, and sustainable tourism, including ecotourism. The GC, inter alia:

Chemicals and wastes management and enhancing cooperation and coordination within the chemicals and wastes cluster: This agenda item was considered by the COW on Tuesday and Friday, and taken up by a contact group on chemicals and wastes chaired by Alf Wills (South Africa). The contact group met from Tuesday through Friday to finalize a draft decision on chemicals management, working through the night on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Tuesday in the COW, the Secretariat introduced documents on: chemicals and wastes management (UNEP/GC.27/4), an integrated approach to chemicals and wastes financing (UNEP/GC.27/7), enhancing cooperation and coordination within the chemicals and wastes cluster (UNEP/GC.27/8); and 2013 Global Assessment Mercury report (UNEP/GC.27/INF/14). A draft decision on chemicals and wastes prepared by the CPR was also introduced (UNEP/GC.27/L.1), with sections on lead and cadmium, mercury, implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), waste management, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and enhancing cooperation within the chemicals and wastes cluster.

The US introduced a draft decision on chemicals and waste management (UNEP/GC.27/CRP.2), stating that it incorporated and streamlined the proposed decisions on chemicals management. Switzerland, Norway and others supported using the US proposal as a basis for discussion, while Kenya, Brazil and others opposed, stressing that key elements of the original decisions were not reflected in the US draft.

On lead and cadmium, Tanzania stressed the need to address the issue of cadmium by strengthening the legal framework of chemicals management, and called for support for countries in their efforts in this area. With Kenya, Tanzania said that there had not been much success in dealing with cadmium. Switzerland said UNEP should provide support for SAICM-related activities on cadmium and lead.

On mercury, Switzerland introduced a draft decision on the integration of the Minamata Convention on Mercury into the chemicals and wastes cluster (UNEP/GC.27/CRP.1). She said the draft decision seeks to ensure that the diplomatic conference that will adopt the Minamata Convention will be able consider the option of using the joint Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions as its interim secretariat, in order to facilitate a smooth transition of the mercury treaty into the chemicals and wastes cluster. Norway and the EU supported the Swiss proposal, while Canada, South Africa, Turkey and others said the GC should not pre-empt the outcome of the diplomatic conference that will adopt the Minamata Convention.

On the integrated approach to chemicals and wastes financing, Canada and the US said they supported all three elements of the proposed approach, namely: mainstreaming of sound chemicals and wastes management into development planning; industry involvement; and dedicated external financing. Brazil, Indonesia, China and Argentina called for a stronger emphasis on dedicated external financing, with Brazil supporting a financial mechanism similar to the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund. Switzerland called for broadening and strengthening the role of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in chemicals management financing.

In the contact group, much of the discussion centered on the Swiss proposal on the Minamata Convention and the integrated approach to financing. On the Swiss proposal, the debate focused on whether the draft decision in any way pre-empts the outcome of the diplomatic conference that will adopt the Minamata Convention, with some delegates stressing that the decision on secretariat arrangements for the Convention, including its future location, should be “left open.” The proposal’s supporters insisted that the objective was not to pre-empt the outcome of the diplomatic conference, but to ensure that they were aware of all available options, and of the advantages of making use of the synergies and efficiencies achieved in the chemicals and wastes cluster.

Regarding the integrated approach, the debate centered on the relative weight of the three elements proposed. While several developing countries insisted external financing was the most important element of the integrated approach, with some reiterating their calls for a dedicated financial mechanism for the chemicals and wastes cluster, other delegates stressed that the three elements proposed were equally important to support chemicals and wastes implementation efforts. In the end, a compromise was reached by recognizing the three-pronged nature of the approach, while also emphasizing the importance of external financing by encouraging all countries, within their capabilities, to “further strengthen” the element of dedicated external financing, and by opening the possibility of establishing a “special programme” to support chemicals and wastes financing through voluntary contributions.

Final Decision: The omnibus decision on chemicals and wastes management (UNEP/GC.27/L.4) contains sections on: lead and cadmium, mercury, implementation of SAICM, waste management, POPs, enhancing cooperation and coordination within the chemicals cluster, and the consultative process on financing options for chemicals and wastes. The decision invites all stakeholders to support the sound management of chemicals and wastes as an important contribution to building a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and recognizes the significance of the Global Chemicals Outlook findings.

On lead and cadmium, the GC, among other things:

On mercury, the GC, inter alia:

On SAICM implementation, the GC, among other things:

On waste management, the GC, among other things:

On POPs, the GC, inter alia:

On enhancing cooperation and coordination within the chemicals and wastes cluster, the GC requests the Executive Director:

On the consultative process, the GC, among other things:

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): On Wednesday, the Secretariat introduced Malaysia’s draft decision on IPBES (UNEP/GC.27/L.2), noting it builds on the outcomes of the first plenary session of IPBES, in particular, its request to UNEP to provide the Platform’s secretariat services. Indonesia modified the draft decision and proposed for the Executive Director to establish an institutional link with the Platform in collaboration with the executive heads of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The US opposed, saying the language implied a hierarchy among organizations. This was resolved by asking the Executive Director to enter into a collaborative partnership with the organizations mentioned, for consideration by the Platform.

Final Decision: In the final decision (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.1), the GC authorizes the Executive Director to provide secretariat and administrative arrangements in response to the request by the IPBES plenary, including the secondment of a professional officer to the Platform secretariat. The decision also allows the Executive Director to finalize a host country agreement with the Government of Germany for the presence of IPBES Secretariat in Bonn and asks the Executive Director to make arrangements for a functioning secretariat by the end of the second session of the plenary.

Oceans: On Thursday, Colombia introduced a revised draft decision on oceans (UNEP/GC.27/CRP.3), noting that it sought to give greater visibility to the need for integrated management of oceans. NGOs called on delegates to include preambular text emphasizing the need to improve implementation, compliance and enforcement.

The US said the GC should be requested to “support” rather than “revitalize” the implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) at the regional level. The US also proposed, and delegates agreed, not to include details of specific support required. South Africa called for text on providing and developing necessary capacity on implementation of regional seas conventions and action plans, which the COW agreed to.

Final Decision: In its final decision on oceans (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.1), the GC, inter alia, acknowledges the need for the development and strengthening of regional seas conventions and action plans, and its decision to promote and facilitate the GPA at regional level; and welcomes sections on the oceans in the Rio+20 outcome.

The GC urges countries to take the necessary steps to implement relevant commitments, including those made at Rio+20 to protect and restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems; and invites member states of regional seas conventions and action plans to:

The GC requests the Executive Director to further encourage and promote UNEP’s work on oceans and incorporate the work of regional seas conventions and action plans into the mid-term strategy 2014-2017; and to coordinate work as contained in the regional seas strategic directions 2013-2016 and bring this work to the attention of member states through relevant forums.

International Water Quality Guidelines for Ecosystems: This item (UNEP/GC.27/L.1) was first considered on Monday and informally during the week. Some delegates emphasized the voluntary nature of the guidelines, debating on whether the guidelines should deal specifically with water quality guidelines for ecosystems, or if they should be more general.

On the preamble, delegates were able to agree to use language from paragraph 119 of the Rio+20 outcome document, which recognizes that water is at the core of sustainable development. They also agreed on additional preambular text recognizing the need for international water quality guidelines, which may be voluntarily used by governments to maintain and improve the status of ecosystems to sustain the services they provide as a possible basis for managing water pollution and water quality.

Final Decision: In the final decision (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2) the GC: recognizes that water is at the core of sustainable development and is closely linked to a number of global challenges and is essential for human life, the environment and the economy; and notes the availability of international guidelines for drinking water quality, for agriculture and drainage, for wastewater reuse and other similar matters and the absence of international water quality guidelines for ecosystems.

The GC requests the Executive Director to develop international water quality guidelines for ecosystems that may be voluntarily used to support the development of national standards, policies and frameworks with financial and technical support from governments; and to report to GC28 on the implementation of this decision.

Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction: This item was discussed on Wednesday in plenary, and in informal consultations thereafter. On Wednesday Bolivia presented a draft resolution on different approaches, visions, models and tools to achieve sustainable development (UNEP/GC.27/CW/CRP.6). He called for a greater focus on sustainable development initiatives other than the green economy. The US opposed discussing the draft, noting prior and ongoing discussions on the green economy. After informal consultations, Bolivia withdrew its proposal “in the spirit of multilateralism,” preferring to work on a non-paper tabled by China.

Brazil and others supported China’s draft, and proposed adding “in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” after “green economy” throughout the draft decision. Brazil also proposed a new paragraph inviting countries to implement green economy policies. Norway proposed a new paragraph on the significant potential contribution of the 10YFP to the concept of green economy. Delegates then discussed the suitability of the draft and, after informal consultations, a consensus text was presented to the COW as a package.

Final Decision: In the decision on green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.3), the GC, inter alia:

Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN): Delegates first considered a draft decision (UNEP/GC.27/12) on Wednesday, with discussion focusing on: language authorizing the UNEP Executive Director to make arrangements for the operation of the Centre at UNEP headquarters; an invitation to the GEF to fund the CTCN; and a call to member states to provide voluntary financial and other contributions.

Reporting back to the plenary on discussions, Kenya noted that it has agreed to delete brackets around language regarding the hosting of the CTCN on the understanding that the decision by UNEP will be based on technological capacity of the host.

Final Decision: In its decision (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.4), the GC acknowledges UNEP’s mandate set out in the General Assembly resolution 2997 (XXVII) to promote the contribution of relevant scientific and other professional experts for data acquisition, assessments and information exchange and the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity- building; and recalls the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) decision on establishing a technology mechanism in the form of a CTCN to enhance technology cooperation and transfer to developing countries. The GC welcomes the decision of the UNFCCC COP to select UNEP as the leader of the consortium of partners of the CTCN; authorizes the UNEP Executive Director to sign the MoU with the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC; and requests him to make necessary arrangements for the first meeting of the CTCN.

ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT: Justice, Governance and Law for Environment Sustainability: This agenda item was first discussed on Wednesday in the COW. The Secretariat introduced the relevant documents (UNEP/GC.27/13 and UNEP/GC.27/INF/8).The US, supported by Canada, introduced its revised draft decision on advancing justice, governance and law (UNEP/GC.27/CW/CRP.6). The EU and Croatia, Norway, Brazil and Switzerland expressed preference for the Secretariat’s draft, which delegates agreed to use as the basis for negotiations. Delegates discussed strengthening judicial and related processes to address violations of environmental law, the role of public participation in sound environmental governance, and the term “environmental crimes” in relation to sanctions for non-compliance.

Argentina, with Brazil and Egypt, opposed by the US and Norway, emphasized that the Rio+20 Declaration on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, adopted at the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability, is not a negotiated outcome and should not be referenced.

The US suggested, and the EU and Croatia and Norway opposed, deletion of text on exploring the potential value of borrowing provisions from the Aarhus Convention on access to information and participation in the implementation of principle 10 of the Rio Declaration (participation). The text remained bracketed. Chile suggested, and delegates agreed, to refer to the Latin American and Caribbean regional process to promote public access to information, participation and environmental justice.

Delegates debated a suggestion by the EU and Croatia for the establishment of an international network composed of judiciary and other stakeholders in the legal enforcement chain. The US cautioned against duplication of efforts with similar networks. Delegates agreed that UNEP would “explore the possible establishment” of such a network.

South Africa, Kenya and Angola objected to text stating that environmental crimes are “facilitated” by weak governance structures. The EU asserted that “weak governance structures” should be mentioned. South Africa proposed an alternative paragraph, “recognizing that the violation of environmental laws has the potential to undermine sustainable development,” also proposing further actions such as information exchange and experience sharing to reinforce international cooperation.

The EU and Croatia proposed referencing “environmental crimes” in the document on sanctions for non-compliance. Argentina and Brazil opposed, saying such wording is not agreed under any intergovernmental process, and proposed “criminal activities regarding the environment.” Both references remained bracketed. After consultations, Argentina proposed replacing “environmental crime” with modified phrases throughout the text. Indonesia proposed adding, “while respecting national jurisdictions” on international cooperation to combat environmental offenses. Delegates supported both changes.

The EU and Croatia, supported by Colombia, South Africa and Angola, proposed compromise text that recognizes the rule of law and effective governance on reducing violations of environmental law.

Mali asked for new text reflecting environmental damage in conflict areas and supported the subsequent language proposed by Argentina as reflecting this sentiment.

Final Decision: In the preamble (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.3), the GC recalls, inter alia, principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on participation and notes: that democracy, good governance and the rule of law are essential for sustainable development; that offenses against the environment are increasingly committed by organized criminal groups; and takes note of the Rio+20 outcome and Executive Director’s report on the outcome of the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability.

The GC further:

COORDINATION AND COOPERATION WITHIN THE UN SYSTEM ON ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS: On Wednesday the Secretariat introduced the relevant document (UNEP/GC.27/15/Add.1). Discussions focused on the mandate to develop UN system-wide strategies. The EU preferred to invite the Secretary-General and the Chief Executives Board, while Switzerland preferred asking the Environment Management Group (EMG), through the Executive Director. A compromise was found to actively involve the Secretary-General and the Chief Executives Board. The Swiss proposal to strengthen the EMG Secretariat by an adequate allocation of resources was deferred to the budget group. Asking for greater support for the development of drylands, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) observed that “since half of the world’s livestock and 44% of agriculture systems are located in drylands, those lands hold the key for future food security.”

Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.1), the GC supports the EMG’s efforts to mainstream environmental considerations at various levels within the UN system and urges the group to strengthen collaboration between the resident coordinator and non-resident agencies in the follow-up of General Assembly resolution 67/226 on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review in line with “Delivering as One.”

The decision asks the EMG to support the drylands agenda by, inter alia, the preparation of a UN system-wide action plan on drylands for the period of 2012-2018, as requested by the UNCCD. The GC mandates the Executive Director to, inter alia: develop system-wide strategies on the environment with active involvement of the UN Secretary-General and the Chief Executives Board for broad ownership; and report to the GC on the EMG’s work at its 13th special session.

FOLLOW-UP AND IMPLEMENTATION OF UN SUMMIT OUTCOMES: This issue was considered in the COW on Monday and Friday, and taken up by the working group on institutional arrangements and rules of procedure, which was chaired by Luis Campuzano (Mexico) and Farrukh Iqbal Khan (Pakistan), from Tuesday to Friday.

On Monday, the Secretariat introduced information documents on the work of the CPR (UNEP/GC.27/INF/4), and on resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly of relevance to UNEP (UNEP/GC.27/INF/3 and Add.1), noting particular attention had been paid to those resolutions that contain provisions for strengthening and upgrading UNEP.

In the subsequent discussion, Tanzania, for the African Group, urged delegates to consider, inter alia: strengthening existing bodies rather than creating new ones; a clear roadmap for moving UNEP headquarters functions and offices to Nairobi, as called for in the Rio+20 outcome; and establishing sub-regional offices in Africa. India, the Russian Federation, the US and Indonesia favored strengthening the CPR.

On stakeholder involvement, Major Groups said they would table comprehensive principles for stakeholder participation, including the right to participate at all sessions, and to submit proposals. Ireland, for the EU and Croatia, Australia, the US, Canada, Norway and others stressed the importance of enhancing stakeholder involvement in UNEP’s work.

On strengthening and upgrading UNEP, Argentina expressed support for strengthening UNEP, but said upgrading the Programme was beyond the GC’s mandate. Brazil and others called for a thorough consideration of the rules of procedure, including the need to address gaps on issues such as the mechanism for NGO participation at GC meetings. New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Iran, Egypt and Indonesia called for a stronger UNEP regional presence. The Russian Federation added that structural changes should neither increase bureaucracy nor place a greater financial burden on member states.

In the contact group, discussions focused on: a new designation for the GC to reflect its universal character; frequency of meetings and the role of ministers; intersessional arrangements; bureaus; enhanced participation of stakeholders; enhancing UNEP’s voice in the UN system; promoting a strong science-policy interface; and consolidation of UNEP headquarters functions in Nairobi.

On the new designation of UNEP’s governing body, delegates said that the term “Council” conveyed a limited membership and therefore needed to be changed. Many supported “UN Environment Assembly,” while others said a reference to UNEP was needed. “Environment Assembly” was also proposed.

Regarding frequency of meetings, many delegates supported holding annual meetings of the new governing body, with ministerial segments held at those sessions every two years. Several supported ministerial consultations with stakeholders to set the international environmental agenda. Based on the views expressed, the Co-Chairs drafted text proposing that the governing body hold biennial meetings, while leaving open the option of convening special ministerial sessions to address “important and pressing environmental challenges.” One delegate urged deleting the reference to special sessions, which she said could lead to annual meetings. Many delegates insisted on holding annual meetings to enable UNEP’s governing body to continue to make decisions on an annual basis. Others said they could support biennial meetings, provided intersessional work was robust.

On intersessional work, one delegate proposed expanding the authority of the CPR to develop the strategic framework, programme of work and budget intersessionally, as well as establishing a technical subsidiary body to carefully examine finance and implementation reports. Text was proposed to establish the “open-ended” CPR as the intersessional committee of UNEP’s governing body. While this proposal received considerable support, some delegates expressed concern that, since many countries have no CPR representatives in Nairobi, it could be “very difficult” for them to participate effectively in UNEP’s intersessional work. In response to those concerns, it was suggested the CPR could convene a special open-ended five-day meeting with non-resident representatives and other stakeholders from capitals to address key issues such as preparing the agenda of meetings, and drafting decisions for consideration by UNEP’s governing body. One delegate said the proposal could lead to proliferation of special meetings, and stressed this should be avoided.

On enhancing stakeholder participation, delegates considered a series of principles proposed by Major Groups, including: full stakeholder participation in all UNEP activities, including agenda setting and decision making; full access to all meetings; and a right to submit documents. The need to ensure stakeholder participation in the new universal body was widely recognized, and many delegates supported stakeholder participation at all UNEP proceedings. However, a few delegates cautioned against proposals to enable stakeholders to comment on or submit decisions, or participate in Bureau meetings. In particular, some delegates insisted that decision making was a prerogative of governments. Others said they welcomed stakeholder input into decision making, and Major Groups clarified that they were simply seeking to participate in the deliberations that could lead to decisions adopted by governments. The need to amend UNEP’s rules of procedure to enable enhanced participation was also discussed, including through a mechanism of accreditation for non-international NGOs and other stakeholders to participate in UNEP meetings.

On enhancing UNEP’s voice, there was widespread support for a strengthened EMG, and one delegate suggested that the Executive Director represent the EMG in the UN Development Group to raise environmental issues during those discussions.

On promoting a strong science-policy interface, it was proposed that UNEP’s governing body act as a “high-level science-policy platform” and promote a strong science-policy interface by reviewing the state of the environment and building on existing assessments and networks to identify gaps and make recommendations to the governing body. A few delegates did not support referring to a platform, stressing this would duplicate existing work. Many delegates emphasized the need for a gap analysis to determine whether new bodies are necessary to improve the science-policy interface.

On consolidation of headquarters functions in Nairobi, Kenya proposed requesting the Executive Director to immediately start the process of consolidation and conclude it by 2016. Others said the terms “headquarters functions” and “consolidation” needed to be clarified first, and highlighted that the Rio+20 outcome also requires stronger UNEP regional presence. They proposed that the Executive Director could provide guidance on these issues.

The working group eventually agreed to a compromise text on all issues.

Final Decision: In the decision on institutional arrangements (UNEP/GC.27/L.6), the GC welcomes the Rio+20 outcome and reaffirms the need to strengthen international environmental governance and coordination within the UN system and, inter alia, decides:

Rules of Procedure: On Friday in plenary, the President introduced a note setting out his proposed draft new rules of procedure of the GC (UNEP/GC.27/L.5), which contained a few amendments to the GC’s rules of procedure. The rules were adopted in the closing plenary without amendment.

BUDGET AND PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR THE BIENNIUM 2014-2015: This item was considered briefly in the COW on Monday and taken up by a contact group that met throughout the week chaired by Konrad Paulsen (Chile). The Secretariat introduced documents on budget and programme of work for the biennium 2014-2015 and the Environment Fund and other budgetary matters (UNEP/GC.27/9/Add.1; UNEP/GC.27/10/Add.1 and/Add.2; UNEP/CG.27/11/Rev.1; UNEP/GC.27/14/Rev.1; UNEP/GC.27/INF/6 and/Add 1; UNEP/GC. 27/INF/7; and UNEP/GC.27/L.1).

Bolivia said the proposed programme of work is based on green economy and did not accurately reflect the balanced Rio+20 outcome. Norway said the overall 2.7% budget increase was modest. The EU and Croatia called on UNEP’s Executive Director to seek a broader donor base for UNEP.

Final Decision: The final decision (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.5) contains sections on: the medium-term strategy for the period 2014-2017 and biennial programme of work and budget for 2014-2015, and management of trust funds and earmarked contributions.

Regarding the medium-term strategy, the GC, inter alia:

Provisional agenda, date and venue of the next session of the GC of the UNEP: On Friday in plenary, the President introduced a decision on this agenda item (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.4), which was adopted without amendment.

Final Decision: In the decision (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.2/Add.4), the GC decides to hold its twenty-eighth session/second universal session at its headquarters in Nairobi.


GC/GMEF President Hilal convened the closing plenary on Friday evening. Delegates approved the verbal report on credentials. On other matters, he informed delegates that GC27/GMEF Vice-President Antonio Otávio Ricarte’s (Brazil) tenure had come to an end and Manuel Pulgar-Vidal (Peru) had been nominated as his replacement.

COW Chair Idunn Eidheim (Norway) presented the report of the COW (UNEP/GC.27/CW/L.1 Adds.1-3) approved by the COW and forwarded to plenary for adoption. She noted that common ground had been found on a number of issues, and UNEP’s implementation of the Rio+20 outcome had been enriched by such debate. Delegates adopted the draft report. The US expressed appreciation to Chair Eidheim for her hard work.

Delegates then adopted the draft proceedings of the GC/GMEF at its first Universal Session (UNEP/GC.27/L.3).

Acknowledging “challenging discussions,” Ireland, for the EU and Croatia, described the first Universal Session of the GC as a “landmark event,” which had discussed key issues such as institutional reform, green economy and UNEP’s contribution to the SDGs. He said these collective and cooperative efforts would position UNEP to act as a “global voice within the environment system.”

Describing Nairobi as the “environmental capital of the world,” Kenya said that all could take pride in the new governance and institutional arrangements agreed to at the meeting.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, observed that “strengthening UNEP is not an end in itself but a means to an end.” She called for enhancing UNEP’s ability to support governments and people on the path towards sustainability and welcomed the UNFCCC decision on the Climate Technology Centre to entrust it to an international consortium led by UNEP, which she said will accelerate understanding of, and access to, clean technology to help address global technology challenges.

NGOs called for an inclusive process in coming months to adopt modalities to ensure that stakeholders can make a contribution to implementation of paragraph 88 of the Rio+20 outcome. Noting that the process of rejuvenating UNEP was underway, Brazil expressed satisfaction with the outcome of meeting, observing that it had lived up to the expectations of the UN General Assembly mandate and the Rio+20 outcome.

GC President Hilal emphasized the need to take full advantage of the opportunities arising from universal membership of the GC, especially for a more effective and participatory UNEP focused on implementation and impact.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said delegates had delivered on something that would go down in history. He expressed thanks to the Secretariat, the Government of Kenya and others for their support and hard work.

GC/GMEF President Hilal gaveled the meeting to a close at 9:24 pm. Executive Director Achim Steiner then invited delegates to witness the “historic” signing ceremony of the MoU between UNEP and the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC on the hosting of the Climate Technology Centre.


“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

– Mother Teresa, cited by Children and Youth representative Kehkashan Basu, during the closing plenary

The First Universal Session of its Governing Council marked a “watershed moment” for UNEP. Delegates arrived in Nairobi with muted excitement and high expectations. With the dust from Rio+20 now settled, the time for implementation had now begun. While not everyone was pleased with the results in Rio in June 2012, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development did agree to potentially far-reaching actions to strengthen the environmental agenda, among them a commitment to strengthen UNEP as the leading global environmental authority. This year’s Governing Council meeting marked the first test of the international community’s resolve to follow through on this commitment. Appropriately, the meeting was organized around the theme: “Rio+20: From Outcome to Implementation.”

This analysis examines three themes that are crucial to the future of UNEP: decision making and implementation; financing; and collaboration and public participation. It concludes with a discussion of UNEP in relation to the process of framing the post-2015 development agenda.


The Rio+20 outcome, “The Future We Want,” agreed that it was time to strengthen UNEP, specifying: universal membership of the GC; stable, adequate and increased financial resources; enhancement of UNEP’s coordination role in the UN system; a strong science-policy interface; and active participation of all relevant stakeholders. The UN General Assembly endorsed this and now it was time to make it happen.

Universal membership, say GC veterans, codifies what has already been common practice, as many country representatives other than the 58 member states participate each year. The decision to restyle the GC as the “UN Environment Assembly of UNEP,” formalizes the process and reflects the intent of delegates to enhance UNEP’s status. Similarly, the decision to discontinue the Global Ministerial Environment Forum and, instead, convene a high-level segment at the end of each assembly reflects a desire to confer higher status upon GC decisions. “What we have now is simply a ministerial talk-shop in parallel to where the substantial decisions are taken,” said one delegate. Another commented, “It doesn’t make sense for our ministers to leave the meeting, as they do now, before all the major decisions are taken.”

The conference also discussed an EU proposal for UNEP to host a high-level scientific conference every few years, tentatively called a “State of the Planet” conference. Some ministers warmly welcomed the idea and viewed it as a way to give a higher profile to the kind of issues UNEP has profiled in its GEO reports. Others suggested including such an even as part of the Environment Assembly. In the end, however, the proposal was quietly dropped from the text. “Some countries may be nervous about being seen to endorse scientific findings,” said an observer. “That’s especially the case if those findings require certain actions that have a political cost to them in the domestic arena.”

Skeptics, meanwhile, pointed out that higher status cannot be acquired solely through a name change and a new meeting, noting that even the supposedly high-level Rio+20 conference lacked the participation of certain world leaders (including the Heads of State of the US, UK and Germany) despite the urgency of advancing the sustainable development agenda. So whether UNEP’s makeover will garner increased support from the international community remains to be seen.

While UNEP’s mandate remains the same, expectations have increased. Observers noted that UNEP has evolved from having a normative to an implementation role, with higher demand for on-the-ground programmes, reflected in many countries’ calls for UNEP to have a greater regional and sub-regional presence. Discussions on the sidelines indicated that the question of UNEP’s proper role is far from settled: some delegates emphasized that UNEP should limit itself to a coordinating role, and leave implementation to governments. At the same time, while UNEP’s GEO reports and other technical or scientific assessments have been well received, some argued that UNEP should serve as “a repository” of research rather than engaging in its own research.

One of the tests of UNEP’s ability to balance these competing demands will be the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) agreed in Rio and endorsed by the GC at this meeting. This framework is intended as a way for UNEP to support implementation of policies and actions at national and regional levels. It will test UNEP’s ability to balance the competing demands of advisory and implementation roles in the first five programmes, which will be on consumer information, sustainable lifestyles, sustainable public procurement, sustainable buildings and construction, and sustainable tourism.


Many of the high expectations for UNEP are dependent on whether funding will be available to implement desired activities. UNEP traditionally has depended heavily on voluntary contributions to its Environment Fund, rather than funds from the UN system known as the “regular budget.” The UNEP Secretariat’s share of the UN’s regular budget stands at just 0.6% excluding funding for the secretariats of the multilateral environmental agreements administered by UNEP.

According to the Rio+20 mandate and the GC’s decision on this matter, UNEP will now request a larger share of funds from the UN regular budget. Many anticipate this will allow a shift in the resourcing of some staff and activities from the Environment Fund to the regular budget, which, in theory, will free up Environment Fund contributions to support more programme activities.

For this expectation to be met, however, UNEP’s larger membership and donors will need to maintain or increase their level of contributions to the Environment Fund, particularly as non-earmarked funds that would give UNEP greater leeway to allocate them to programming priorities. Insiders, however, do not anticipate a huge increase in available funds. “It is not so much an increase in the current value of contributions, but rather a shift towards much more predictable financing, and the political message this will send,” said one.

Meanwhile, some are hinting at a shift in the make-up of contributions to UNEP. Many developed countries are in economic crisis and budgets are under pressure. This raises the question of whether emerging economies will begin to play a larger role in financing of UNEP, as seen already with China contributing to interim implementation activities of the new mercury convention. Some are questioning if there are implications for the kind of work that will be supported in the future. “There was a lot of interest at this meeting in decisions on green economy and the 10YFP, but I don’t see access and transparency issues getting the same kind of widespread support,” grumbled a Major Group representative.


While Major Groups warmly welcomed the commitment of Rio+20’s paragraph 88(h) to “explore new mechanisms” to promote UNEP’s transparency and effective engagement of civil society, some developing countries expressed concern about the modalities for achieving this, and the implications for the intergovernmental character of its governing body. Participation in decision making, especially, was seen as the prerogative of states, including, for some, the ability to make written submissions on pending GC decisions.

Major Groups expressed disappointment with what they saw as a conservative GC decision. Some lamented that the decision drew on only generalities from the eleven principles of stakeholder participation that the Major Groups had agreed on at the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum that took place prior to the GC. However, the decision establishes a process, by 2014, for stakeholder accreditation and participation and processes for enhancing stakeholder contribution in the workings of the Governing Council. The exercise will also consider participation models practiced at other UN entities, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and the Commission on Sustainable Development, where stakeholders, while also organized by Major Groups, play a larger role in submitting draft decisions and deliberations during decision making. Others, however, appreciate the willingness of UNEP, as secretariat to the GC, to engage in regular consultations and other participation methods that have been inclusive but need codification.

The change to universal membership of the GC also spurred discussions among the Major Groups regarding their organization and internal governance structures. Some Major Group representatives feel that the current structure has outlived its usefulness. However, they suggest that this is a dialogue that can continue; more importantly, they are of the view that the GC should formalize stakeholder participation, access to information, and engagement in decision making.


The “watershed moment” of the first universal session of the GC was characterized by a mood of jubilation. Daytime plenaries and evening receptions together invoked UNEP’s real achievements. UNEP, in its 41st year, is able to point to some real accomplishments in bringing the international community together: the first meeting of the IPBES, a new science-policy platform; the successful conclusion of mercury negotiations; and agreement on financing options for the chemicals and wastes cluster. Despite these successes, there is clear recognition that the challenges ahead are daunting. These are twofold: the emerging landscape of sustainable development governance that UNEP must navigate; and the changes in its own institutional arrangements.

This GC session took place in the midst of the creation of new institutional arrangements for sustainable development. Rio+20 agreed to establish an Open Working Group to elaborate sustainable development goals, and a High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), eventually replacing the CSD, to follow up on sustainable development commitments made since the first Rio conference. Both of these processes are contributing to broad UN consultations towards framing the post-2015 development agenda.

In this new landscape of sustainable development governance, some believe the sustainable development agenda should remain under the purview of the newly established HLPF, while others feel that UNEP should play a more prominent role. The question is whether UNEP, in stepping up its contribution to sustainable development, would be in danger of reinterpreting its mandate. This tension was reflected in the negotiations on institutional arrangements, where some delegations opposed any reference to sustainable development

A long-time GC observer also raised the question of whether the post-2015 structures will divert scarce donor funds that will be needed to truly strengthen UNEP. “There is a danger, unless we are careful, that we will see a repetition of the situation in which the establishment of the CSD, after the first Rio summit, weakened UNEP at a crucial time, and did not do much to advance the cause of sustainable development,” he commented, suggesting that the Rio+20 agreement to establish the HLPF could result in a similar situation.

UNEP and its backers, however, have so far proved savvy in promoting the environmental dimension of sustainable development by building up a strong interdisciplinary programme base geared towards practical outcomes. A testament to UNEP’s role as the environmental authority was the announcement of a UNEP-led consortium that will host and coordinate the Climate Technology Centre and Network that will be the implementing arm of the Technology Mechanism of the UNFCCC.

UNEP may be able to bring greater coherence to environmental sustainability discussions within the sustainable development agenda; it may, on the other hand, be more constrained by the need to coordinate with many actors in the processes towards the post-2015 development agenda. There is also a risk that it is over-burdened by contradictory demands from its own governance and stakeholder base, becoming unable to take the kind of bold and decisive actions that are needed for a global transformation, and distracting from its ability to deliver on programmes.

Realization of the commitments made at Rio+20 may indeed result in a UNEP that is strengthened – but also constrained.


CITES COP 16: The 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will meet in Bangkok.  dates: 3-14 March 2013  location: Bangkok, Thailand  contact: CITES Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40  fax: +41-22-797-3417  email:  www:

Conference on Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean: Follow-up to the development agenda beyond 2015 and Rio+20 and the Caribbean Forum: Shaping a Sustainable Development Agenda to address the Caribbean Reality in the 21st Century: These back-to-back meetings will focus on development goals, global and regional governance and the discussion, from a regional perspective, of agreements adopted in order to inform the ongoing global processes.  dates: 5-9 March 2013  location: Bogotá, Colombia  contact: UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean  email: www:

Open Working Group on SDGs: The President of the General Assembly is expected to set the dates for the first meeting of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established on 22 January 2013 at the end of February.  dates: mid-March 2013  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  email: www:

Second Open-Ended Informal Meeting on Establishing HLPF: An open-ended informal meeting on establishing the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) to follow up on the implementation of sustainable development is expected to be scheduled in March, following small group consultations to develop a negotiating text.  date: to be confirmed  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  email:  www:

High-Level Consultation on Environmental Sustainability: As part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda Global Thematic Consultations, this High-Level Leadership Meeting will discuss and define agenda recommendations on environmental sustainability for the Post-2015 Development Framework in March.  dates: 18-29 March 2013  location: San José, Costa Rica  www:

Fourth Meeting of the High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda: The fourth meeting of the UN High-Level Panel of the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP), hosted by the Government of Indonesia will focus on “Global Partnerships.”  dates: 25-27 March 2013  location: Bali, Indonesia  contact: HLP Secretariat  www:

UNFF10: The tenth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF10) will assess progress on the implementation of the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests and achievement of its four Global Objectives on Forests.  dates: 8-19 April 2013  location: Istanbul, Turkey  contact: UNFF Secretariat  phone: +1-212-963-3401  fax: +1-917-367-3186  email:  www: 

UNCCD CST and CRIC: The third Special Session of the Committee of Science and Technology (CST S3), the second International Scientific Conference and the eleventh session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC11) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification will be held back-to-back in April.  dates: 9-19 April 2013  location: Bonn, Germany  contact: UNCCD Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-2800  fax: +49-228-815-2898  email:  www:

Economic Commission for Europe 65th Meeting: As part of this meeting, there will be discussions on the development of sustainable development goals and follow-up to Rio+20. dates: 9-11 April 2013  location: Geneva, Switzerland contact: ECE Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-4444  fax: +41-22-917-0505 email: www:

Economic and Social Commission for West Asia Regional Implementation Meeting: This meeting will be convened to inform the development of sustainable development goals and follow-up to Rio+20. dates: 16-17 April 2013 (tentative)  location: Tunis, Tunisia (tentative) contact: ESCWA Secretariat www:

Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Regional Implementation Meeting: This meeting will be convened to inform the development of sustainable development goals and follow-up to Rio+20. dates: 22-24 April 2013 (tentative)  location: Bangkok, Thailand  contact: ESCAP Secretariat  email:  www:

Ordinary and Extraordinary Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions: The ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions will convene back-to-back. A high-level segment is scheduled from 9-10 May on the theme of synergies and national implementation of the three conventions. dates: 28 April – 10 May 2013  location: Geneva, Switzerland  contact: Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-8729  fax: +41-22-917-8098  email:  www:

20th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development: The 20th and final session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 20) is tentatively scheduled to take place in May.  dates: 6-10 May 2013  (to be confirmed)    location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Sustainable Development  email:  www:

GEF 44th Council Meeting: The GEF Council meets twice per year to approve new projects with global environmental benefits in the GEF’s focal areas, and provide guidance to the GEF Secretariat and Agencies.  dates: 18-20 June 2013  location: Washington, DC, USA  contact: GEF Secretariat  phone: +1-202-473-0508  fax: +1-202-522-3240  email:  www: 

OEWG33: The 33rd Meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol will take place in late June.  dates: 24-28 June 2013  location: Bangkok, Thailand  contact:  Ozone Secretariat  phone: +254-20-762-3851  fax:  +254-20-762-0335  email:  www:

IPCC WG1 Session and IPCC-36: The 12th session of Working Group 1 for endorsement of the fifth assessment report (AR5) will be held in September. The 36th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will convene to consider the WGI contribution to AR5. dates: 23-26 September 2013  location: Stockholm, Sweden  contact: IPCC Secretariat  phone: +41-22-730-8208  fax: +41-22-730-8025  email:  www:

CBD Working Group on Article 8(J): The eighth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity will convene in October. dates: 7-11 October 2013  location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada  contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  fax: +1-514-288-6588  email:  www:

Diplomatic Plenipotentiary Conference on the Global Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury: The Conference will adopt the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the final act that addresses, among other things, arrangements for the interim period between the signing of the instrument and its entry into force. dates: 7-11 October 2013  location: Kunamoto/Minamata, Japan  contact: Jacob Duer, UNEP  phone: +254-2076-24011 fax: +254-2076-24300  email:  www:

CBD SBSTTA 17: At its 17th meeting, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity will address marine and coastal biodiversity, biodiversity and climate change, and collaboration with IPBES.  dates: 14-18 October 2013  location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada  contact: CBD Secretariat  phone: +1-514-288-2220  fax: +1-514-288-6588  email:  www:

IPCC37: The 37th Session of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be meeting for adoption and acceptance of two Methodology Reports.  dates: 14-18 October 2013  location: Georgia  (to be confirmed) contact: IPCC Secretariat  phone: +41 22 730 8208  fax: +41 22 730 8025  email:  www:

POPRC9: The ninth meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee will review chlorinated naphthalene’s, hexachlorobutadiene, hexabromocyclododecane, and pentachlorophenol and its salts and esters.  dates: 14-18 October 2013  location: Rome, Italy  contact: Stockholm Convention Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-8098  email:  www:

19th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): UNFCCC COP 19 and CMP 9 and the subsidiary bodies will convene in Warsaw, Poland.  dates: 11-22 November 2013  location: Warsaw, Poland  contact: UNFCCC Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-1000  fax: +49-228-815-1999  email:  www:

IPBES-2: IPBES-2 will take place in late 2013 or early 2014, with the dates and venue to be determined.  contact: UNEP Secretariat  email:  www:

UNEP GC: The second universal session of the UNEP governing body will convene in 2014.  dates: to be determined   location: Nairobi, Kenya  contact: Secretary, Governing Bodies, UNEP  phone: +254-20-7623431  fax: +254-20-7623929  email:  www: