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Posted on on February 25th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The 12th Special Session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GCSS-12/GMEF) took place at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), Kenya, from 20-22 February 2012. The ministerial consultations during the 12th Special Session focused on emerging policy issues under the overall theme of “The environmental agenda in the changing world: From Stockholm (1972) to Rio (2012).”

Close to 1000 people participated – representing more than 100 governments, as well as intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, and Major Groups and other stakeholders, attended the meeting.

The GCSS-12/GMEF concluded its work by adopting eight decisions on: “UNEP at 40; ” international environmental governance (IEG); world environmental situation; sustainable consumption and production (SCP); consultative process on financing options for chemicals and wastes; enhancing cooperation and coordination with the chemicals and wastes cluster; budget and programme of work including financial and administrative arrangements between UNEP and the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); and enhanced coordination across the UN system, including the Environment Management Group (EMG).

As a result of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment (1972), the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 1972, established the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi – UNEP –  as the central UN node for global environmental cooperation and treaty making. The resolution also established the UNEP GC  (Governing Council) 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 UNEP GC reports to the UN General Assembly, which also elects the GC’s 58 members for four-year terms, taking into account the principle of equitable regional representation.

The Global Ministerial Environment Forum – GMEF –  is constituted by the GC as envisaged in UN General Assembly resolution 53/242. The purpose of the GMEF is to institute, at a high political level, a process for reviewing important and emerging policy issues in the field of the environment.

The UNEP GC/GMEF met 20-22 FEBRUARY 2012 at the UNEP Gigiri Center near Nairobi in order to review the 40 years of UN environmental activities since Stockholm 1972 and the establishing of the UNEP, and to evaluate the road to the upcoming Rio 2012 meeting that will be viewed as the official review of 40 years of UN involvement in environment policy decision making. The meeting  that just ended at Gigiri gives us as well the best preview of what to expect at Rio 2012.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin, an IISD Reporting Service that is the lifeblood of UN information needed to keep the intergovernmental system running when discussing environmental and development issues reports:

Many delegates leaving the plenary hall in Gigiri felt that the meeting had taken an important step in clarifying the GC/GMEF’s position in the run up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20), while others expressed disappointment that concrete guidance for the environmental pillar of the sustainable development agenda was not achieved. The session also highlighted prevailing divergence among delegations on elements of both the main UNCSD themes: elevating the status of UNEP to a specialized agency and the concept of the green economy.

Sustainable Development as defined in OUR COMMON WORLD of the Brundtland Commission of 1987 – or if you wish Stockholm+15 was a tripod with three legs = An Environment leg, A Social Development leg, and an Economic Development leg. The feeling now at the UNEP meeting was that in effect the environment is being left out of the Rio 2012 meeting and that it will not follow in the steps of the Rio 1992 meeting or if you wish the Stockholm+20 event – the half life of UNEP.

Further, it is expected that the present UN Environment Programme will be pushed up and out by replacing it with a full fledged UN agency that will hence look at the Environment as something separate from UN activities rather then as an integral part of all UN activities as understood by the meaning of Programme. Up to now, the main difficulty with UNEP was that it was located away from the UN financial centers in New York and Geneva. That problem clearly will not be addressed by moving the new Environment UN agency to one of those centers instead. We do not believe that a suggestion can be made to take it away from Kenya or Africa, so here you have instead of an upgrade, in effect a further distancing effect of the Environment from the UN.

The other expected outcome from what the UN calls the UNCSD – or the conference on Sustainable Development is the design of hope for a future GREEN ECONOMY loaded with Social Development targets of fighting poverty.That in itself is in our opinion a laudable target, but in many aspects it is rather a Brudtland+25, or a re-inventing the wheel, concept as in effect all of what is being suggested was already part of the forgoten product of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 – THE AGENDA 21.

For a full review of the Girgiri meeting please see:

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