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Delegates hold talks in Nairobi, set agenda for UN assembly

By Editor
05 April 2015   |   1:59 am
The first-ever UNEA was attended by a record number of high-level delegations from 160 UN Member and Observer States and stakeholders, and provided fresh impetus to a number of priority environmental issues.

Dignitaries at the High-Level ECA/UN-Habitat/AUC dialogue, including the UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director, Dr Aisa Kacyira (third right), Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN-Habitat Mr. Akin Oyateru (fourth right), Director UN-Habitat Regional Office for Africa, Axumite Gebre-Egziabher (first left) and Head, Partners and Interagency Coordination Branch, Mariam Lady Yunusa (first right) … last week.            PHOTO: UN-Habitat

OVER 25 delegates from 10 countries, including six Ministers and Deputy Ministers of the Environment, are meeting in Nairobi to discuss political priorities and set a course for the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) taking place in May 2016.

This meeting of the UNEA Bureau is also expected to brainstorm on the theme for the high-level segment of UNEA-2. Convened for the first time in June last year, UNEA became the highest UN platform for environmental decision-making and ushered in a coming of age for the environment as a world issue, placing environmental concerns on the same footing with those of peace, security, finance, health and trade for the first time.

The first-ever UNEA was attended by a record number of high-level delegations from 160 UN Member and Observer States and stakeholders, and provided fresh impetus to a number of priority environmental issues.

UNEA is the governing body of UNEP and the principal body of the UN in the field of the environment. It enjoys universal membership of all 193 UN member states. A large number of stakeholder groups also attend the sessions. With this wide reach into the legislative, financial and development arena, UNEA presents a universal platform for leadership on global environmental policy. UNEA boasts over 1200 participants, 170 national delegations, 80 ministers and 40 events during the five-day event from June 23 to 27, 2014 at UNEP’s HQ in Nairobi, Kenya.

Over the five days of deliberations in Nairobi last June, 16 decisions and resolutions were reached that encourage international action on major environmental issues ranging from air pollution and the illegal trade in wildlife, to plastic debris in the oceans, chemicals and waste.

UNEA’s President, Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren, Mongolia’s former Minister of Environment and Green Development and current member of the Mongolian Parliament presided over the sessions that led to these breakthrough resolutions.

“UNEA-2 will be a significant event for the international environmental governance community, reflecting the latest global, regional and national developments and providing the platform for guiding environmental community towards further concrete actions and their implementation to tackle the challenges of environmental sustainability,” said Dr. Sanjaasuren.

At UNEA-1, resolutions were adopted on the following issues:

ONE: Air pollution a priority

Air pollution, responsible for seven million deaths annually, according to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), was identified as a top issue that requires immediate action by the international community.

The delegates unanimously agreed to encourage governments to set standards and policies across multiple sectors to reduce emissions and manage the negative impacts of air pollution on health, the economy, and overall sustainable development.

TWO: The illegal trade in wildlife

UNEA called for reinforced actions and enhanced international coordination to counter the illegal trade in wildlife, which poses threats to the environment and sustainable development. The resolution strongly encourages governments to implement their commitments to fight the illegal trade through, among other things, targeted actions to eradicate supply, transit and demand for illegal wildlife products. It promotes zero-tolerance policies and the development of sustainable and alternative livelihoods for communities adversely affected by the illegal trade.

THREE: Marine plastic debris and microplastics

A resolution on marine plastic debris and microplastics noted with concern the impacts of such materials on the marine environment, fisheries, tourism and development, calling for addressing such materials at the source. The resolution called for the strengthening of information exchange mechanisms, requesting UNEP to present scientific assessments on microplastics for consideration by the next session of the Assembly. Governments were urged to collaborate through relevant Regional Seas Conventions and River Commissions with a view to adopting action plans in their regions.

FOUR: Integrated management of chemicals and waste

The UN Environment Assembly emphasized the sound management of chemicals and waste as an essential and integral cross-cutting element of sustainable development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Chemicals are an integral part of everyday life, with over 100,000 different substances in use.

UNEA welcomed an integrated approach to address the financing of the sound management of chemicals and waste, underscoring that the three components of an integrated approach – mainstreaming, industry involvement and external finance are mutually reinforcing and essential.
FIVE: The sustainable development agenda

UNEA reaffirmed the commitment of Member States to the full implementation of the Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want, in particular the section on the environmental pillar in the context of sustainable development and paragraph 88 on strengthening and upgrading UNEP.

The Assembly also called on Member States to accelerate and support efforts for the promotion of sustainable production and consumption patterns, including through resource efficiency and sustainable lifestyles.
Other decisions focus on a wide range of topics related to the environment and sustainable development.

Other resolutions focused on the following issues:

The need to accelerate and support the promotion of sustainable consumption and production patterns, including through resource efficiency and more sustainable lifestyles; Urgent action to address climate change through the full cooperation of all countries, including through the full implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.