Major Groups and Stakeholders Call for UNEP to “Build Forward Better” | News | SDG Knowledge Hub

Major Groups and Stakeholders held a virtual meeting to collect input for upcoming meetings of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5). The consultations underscored the opportunity for UNEA to chart a transformative path towards a more sustainable and inclusive recovery from COVID-19. Discussions also addressed the upcoming Stockholm+50 conference and related processes.

The first UNEP Global Civil Society Forum – later rebranded as the GMGSF – took place in Malmo, Sweden, in 2000. An associated meeting to UNEA, the Forum serves as a convening platform for exchange between UNEA-accredited Major Groups and Stakeholders and other interested observers.

The 2021 GMGSF convened from 9-11 February, with an estimated 250 online attendees. Participants adopted a joint global statement titled, ‘Building Forward Better: Action is Urgently Needed,’ to be presented to the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) beginning 15 February 2021 and UNEA-5, which will convene for an online segment from 22-23 February 2021. The document addresses the proposed Medium-Term Strategy for the period 2022-2025 and the related Programme of Work for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The statement welcomes the work programme’s focus on three interrelated, existential crises: climate, biodiversity, and pollution. However, participants expressed concerns about several aspects, cautioning that the four-year strategy:

  • does not allow for diverse sources of knowledge, including citizen science, in UNEP’s science-policy processes;
  • lacks references to UNEP’s commitment to protect the human right to a healthy environment, and the critical role of environmental defenders and indigenous communities;
  • insufficiently addresses the interface between human and planetary health, and especially the need to leverage the COVID-19 pandemic to “build forward better”;
  • risks backtracking on agreed environmental governance targets with UNEP’s “pro-business” partnership approach; and 
  • fails to acknowledge the contribution of MGS in programme implementation.

Looking ahead to the resumed session of UNEA-5 in February 2022, participants at the GMGSF called upon governments to maintain the momentum toward:

  • launching negotiations for a legally binding instrument to tackle plastic pollution;
  • adopting an ambitious post-2020 global framework on biodiversity;
  • adopting a global legal mechanism to phase out highly hazardous pesticides by 2030;
  • reaching agreement on a global framework for SDG 14 (life below water) at the next UN Ocean Conference; and
  • pushing for transformational changes to the food system at the UN Food Systems Summit, scheduled for October 2021.

Also during the Forum, MGS provided their views on the process and expected outcomes of the planned conferences commemorating the 50th anniversaries of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm+50) and subsequent establishment of UNEP (UNEP@50). Participants said the commemorations should demonstrate the same  spirit of multilateralism that inspired the 1972 Stockholm Conference, and the vision and courage to secure our common future in the next 50 years. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin meeting coverage] [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of OECPR-5 and UNEA-5]

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