First Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)
From 23 to 27 June 2014, the first session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of the United Nations Environment Programme will convene at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi with more than 1,200 participants, including Environment Ministers, Government delegates and representatives of major groups and stakeholders. The overarching theme of the first session is “Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, including sustainable consumption and production”, which is designed to inform ongoing discussions on the formulation of a set of targets and indicators that would succeed the Millennium Development Goals. Ministers will also discuss the issue of illegal trade in wildlife, an issue that is generating increasing global attention due to its adverse impact on biodiversity. Other issues on the UNEA agenda range from environmental rule of law to UNEP programme of work and budget.
UNEA is a result of the call made by world leaders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil in June 2012, to strengthen and upgrade UNEP as the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda and by establishing universal membership in its Governing Council. Subsequently, at the first universal session of the UNEP Governing Council held in February 2013, Member States recommended to the UN General Assembly that the Governing Council, the 58-member governing body of UNEP in place since 1972, be renamed the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme with universal membership. In March 2013, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/67/251, formally changing the designation of the Governing Council to the “United Nations Environment Assembly”. Now all the 193 United Nations Member States, Observer States and other stakeholders participate in discussions and decision-making on issues that affect the state of the environment and global sustainability.
As the new governing body of UNEP, UNEA has the mandate to take strategic decisions, provide political guidance in the work of UNEP and promote a strong science-policy interface. Supported by a 10-member bureau1, UNEA meets biennially starting in 2014 in Nairobi and concludes with a two-day high-level segment that would serve to replace the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, previously convened alongside the Governing Council sessions since 2000. The first UNEA session will take place from 23 to 27 June 2014, with a view to adopting an outcome that would spell out concrete actions to address the key environmental challenges discussed at UNEA. Where appropriate, UNEA can also recommend draft resolutions for adoption at the United Nations General Assembly for the United Nations system-wide implementation.
The governing body has a subsidiary inter-sessional body called an “open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives” (CPR). CPR provides policy advice to its governing body, contributes to the preparation of the agenda and decisions to be adopted by UNEA and oversees their implementation. The open-ended CPR meets for a period of five days in Nairobi, also biennially, with the participation of capital-based delegates and stakeholders.
In addition to UNEA and the open-ended CPR, UNEP’s governing structure comprises a subcommittee of CPR, which meets for a period of five days annually in Nairobi to review the medium-term strategy and programme of work and budget (it had the first annual meeting from 23 to 27 September 2013). The CPR meets on a quarterly basis to discuss the latest UNEP activities and organizes briefings and thematic debates as necessary to consider particular issues in depth. The CPR is overseen by its five-member bureau, elected biennially by the Committee. The current bureau was elected in June 2013 and consists of the following members:
Chair – to be elected from the Asia and Pacific Group Vice Chairs – Belgium, Romania and Uganda Rapporteur – Chile