On 10 September 2007, Member States had their first opportunity to respond to the Options Paper prepared by the Co-Chairs H.E. Mr. Claude Heller (Mexico) and H.E. Mr. Peter Maurer (Switzerland). On 26 October, a second round of responses took place in a well-attended meeting at the United Nations.
The Co-Chairs’ Options Paper identified small as well as more ambitious steps to strengthen international environmental governance (IEG), based on consultations held in the General Assembly following the 2005 World Summit.
The EU not only provided a statement today, but also distributed a report containing a more detailed reaction to the Options Paper. The EU fully endorsed the IEG process, supporting negotiations on the Building Blocks which describe specific and short-term possibilities to strengthen IEG as well as on the broader transformation of the IEG system which could include upgrading the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) into a UN Environment Organization (UNEO), which would be a UN specialized agency.
Uruguay - listing various priorities of developing countries such as capacity-building and urging that the process should create actual benefits to economic and social areas as well - indicated that it does support the creation of a UNEO.
Switzerland believed that some challenges can be met with small steps – urging that “the low hanging fruit should be picked as soon as possible” – but added that it supports formal negotiations on the broader transformation of IEG as well, preferably sooner rather than later. Switzerland noted that UNEP’s funding is stagnant while it has been given more responsibilities by the General Assembly. An increase of obligatory contributions will be necessary. Switzerland realizes that some of the proposals go beyond the purview of the General Assembly (in case of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) for instance, only their Conferences of the Parties have legislative powers).
Pakistan, on behalf of the G77 and China, will continue to review the Options Paper and is still seeking clarifications on how the Co-Chairs see the broader transformation of the IEG and how it relates to the seven Building Blocks. The G77 reiterated its position that it would favor an integrated and holistic approach by not separating discussions on the Building Blocks from the boarder transformation of the IEG system. The G77 inquired about whether there would be further consultations this year. It appears as though the G77 has not yet reached a common position. A G77 meeting on this topic scheduled for 25 October was apparently postponed.
Kenya stated that it expects agreement on these issues eventually, though it does not see consensus at present on how to move forward. More time will be needed to reach common understanding. Strengthening UNEP should be given priority as resources have been declining.
The statement of the Russian Federation was somewhat hampered by translation problems but it apparently delved into the Building Blocks with considerable detail. The Russian Federation doubted that the process of reviewing the Building Blocks could be completed by the end of the year, as proposed in the Options Paper.
Norway indicated that it supported the options overall and that the establishment of a UNEO is a desirable goal. Furthermore, Norway supported the formalization of the process but is open as to how it will be done specifically.
Cuba, though stating its support to continue the negotiations, was the only Member State during this round that indicated that it saw no need for a new “structure for the environment.” Stating that UNEP’s resources are stagnant, it expressed a wish for easier access to the GEF and that funding should be provided without conditionalities. Cuba will come back to the Building Blocks after further internal consultations.
Brazil reported on the ministerial meeting held in Rio in September. Some 22 countries participated, including Ministers of Foreign Affairs or Environmental Ministers. It was an informal meeting not intended to produce an outcome. However, a summary was prepared which has been circulated by the Secretary General as document A/62/356.
In conclusion, Co-Chair Peter Maurer summarized the meeting indicating that he felt there were two strong messages, not necessarily contradictory. Looking at the issues in an integrated manner and in a holistic way does not have to clash with looking at some issues where progress can be more easily achieved. We can look deeper into the Building Blocks while not forgetting the whole. He indicated that no further plenaries are foreseen in the near future during this period of intense activities for delegates in the GA – many delegates also have to prepare for the climate change meeting in Bali in December - but that over the next few weeks, “we will call you if you do not call us,” to talk about contents and process.
Ambassador Maurer alerted Member States to the fact that the Joint Inspection Unit will soon produce a management review of environmental activities in the UN system and that the co-chairs plan to organize a briefing on this as soon as the report becomes available.
Ambassador Heller concluded the meeting expressing his satisfaction that the Co-chairs now have a better sense of how Member States can come together on this important topic.
*This update is meant to be a summary of some of the main ideas discussed during the meetings and does not represent a complete and official account of all positions expressed by Member States.