Last 4-6 December, environmental authorities, NGOs and other stakeholders have gathered at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, for the third meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly – UNEA 3. The session was held under the theme “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet”, resulting in the adoption of thematic resolutions and a Ministerial declaration, which recognized the importance of working with local authorities on the topic.
The Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD) participated actively in the UNEA, facilitating the involvement of member regional governments as Catalonia, Flanders, Saint-Louis and the Council of Governors of Kenya. At UNEA and parallel meetings, nrg4SD presented the position paper “Regional Governments Towards a Pollution-Free Planet”, emphasizing the role of regions in tackling pollutions, especially when it comes to licensing and controlling pollutant activities and sectors, or in terms of monitoring quality and raising-awareness.
Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum
Other events important events occurred previous and in parallel to UNEA 3. The Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) took place on the 27-28 November, and brought together representatives of the different constituencies to exchange practices to fight pollution in all its dimensions, as well as to agree on key messages to be conveyed at UNEA.
nrg4SD in its role at the Local Authorities Major Group (LAMG), engaged and helped organize the meeting. Particularly represented by Catalonia, nrg4SD chairs the Major Group Facilitating Committee.
Also during the Forum, Governor Wilber Ottichilo, of the Vihiga County and the Council of Governors of Kenya, highlighted the need for local, regional and national governments to make use of innovative technologies, especially to monitor land degradation and marine pollution. The Council of Governors was engaged during the whole UNEA and parallel meeting, and shared key messages on the issue of pollution.
Besides, president of the Regional Council Saint-Louis, Senegal, Mr. Moustapha Mbaye, shared efforts on improving waste management, particularly through a multi-level and coherent approach among local and regional governments.
The GMGSF resulted in an agreed outcome, presenting key messages and recommendations to target the different sources and challenges of pollution. The document will be shortly posted at UNEA website. Among other, the document:
- Highlighted the importance of working at the local and subnational levels, including in collaboration with city and regional governments, as well as local communities, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders;
- Regretted the exclusion of the stakeholder engagement policy (SEP) from the table of negotiations at UNEA3. The SEP derives from the mandate of the UNEA, which was established by the Rio+20 decisions. Major Groups and other Stakeholder have watched two previous editions of UNEA and the Committee of Permanent Representatives unable to reach an agreement over the SEP, only to have the discussions discontinued during UNEA 3. Hopefully on a temporarily basis.
- On the topic of pollution, the document brings several concrete suggestions, as for example it calls for a global zero-plastic vision, in response to the amount of plastic and litter that end up in seas and oceans. Moreover, on land, soil and water pollution, the meeting highlighted the impact of extractive industries as mining, and the use of pesticides in agriculture. Rather, it calls for the use of knowledge and practices of local communities and indigenous peoples.
“Pollution is not an accident. It is a manifestation of a political and economic system that prioritizes economic growth, the socialization of negative impacts, privatization, and profit for the few.”
UN Environment Assembly and Resolutions
This year UNEA had a shorter duration compared to previous editions, which was allowed by making progress with the negotiations in advance to the meeting, and especially at the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives, held on 29 November to 1 December.
The agreed resolutions and outcomes of UNEA can be found online in all UN languages.
The resolutions of UNEA specially highlight commitments and priority actions for Member-States and stakeholders to pursue, as to address different sources and dimensions of pollution. It should also be highlighted that many of the resolutions recognize and stress the importance of partnerships with stakeholders.
Among these decisions, it also includes inputs of the UNEA to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), envisaging to ensure the role of UNEP in deliver the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda.
During UNEA, nrg4SD was specially represented by its Co-President for the North, Ms. Joke Schauvliege, Minister of Environment of the Flemish Government. Building on nrg4SD position at the event, the Minister delivered a statement for the Local Authorities Major Group. Moreover, the Minister also attended the Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue session, under the title “People and Pollution”, and presented a statement on behalf of nrg4SD.
nrg4SD inputs and contributions through its Co-President were especially highlighting the urgency in taking action on air pollution. With a particular with view to the situation in cities, regional governments are well positioned to support clean policies on transport and other sectors.
The resolution Preventing and reducing air pollution to improve air quality globally especially emphasizes the need to take action at the local and subnational levels. The text also encourages local governments to join the BreatheLife campaign – an initiative nrg4SD is formally supporting by means of facilitating the adhesion of regions.