About 300 delegates from various member states, international organisations, specialized agencies and civil society convened for the formal commencement of the third and the final substantive session of the Ad hoc open ended working group (OEGW) established by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 72/277 (“towards global pact for the environment”) on Monday 20th May 2019.
I had the honor of representing CYNESA within the NGOs caucus in this high level meeting. The original objective of the Global pact for the environment initiative was to codify updated and improved environmental principles in a single binding document so as to strengthen their implementation leading to adoption of a universal right to ecologically sound environment. After a couple of substantive sessions on this subject, the process was seen to take a transition from examination of the state of the art in international environmental law and environmental related instruments to formulation of responses and possible design options for recommendations to the UNGA so as to renovate the international environmental law system and the environmental related instruments. For the working group to ensure adoption of the recommendations to the UNGA, the co-chairs presented to the OEWG elements for draft recommendations with 3 sections that would form the basis of work for the final session.
These sections included;
- Elements related to the objectives informing the recommendations.
- Elements related to the substantive recommendations.
- Elements related to the process.
The draft recommendations were presented as a zero draft and delegates were given an opportunity to give their suggestions for editing the recommendations. In the sidelines of the plenary, I also participated in an informal session on the Montevideo Programme facilitated by the UNEP and sponsored by USA and Urugay. Montevideo programme is an initiative of the UNEP on environmental law which provides a platform on which institutions, policies, compliance and enforcement regimes at different levels can be built in a bid to regulate all human uses and interactions with the environment. The session chaired by the head of law Division, Andy Raine, provided pragmatic approaches on how the environmental law is a constantly changing legal field to adapt the changing governance and use of the environment.
There was relatively a small team of participants in at the NGO’s caucus which worked very cooperatively under the leadership of Leida Rijnhout from the Stakeholder Forum. We would convene for coordination meetings every morning to plan the day’s work and allocate duties for instance, of drafting statements and lobbying for NGOs interests to particular individuals. The team worked through lobbying the member states delegations to advance the NGOs’ interests in their statements, a tactic that was agreed upon after the meeting appeared to be a closed member states affair with very little involvement of the NGOs towards the end of sessions. Thanks to that idea since the tactic worked very effectively.
The co-chairs applauded the input and participation of NGOs terming their statements strong and effective in his concluding remarks. This apparently became the most involving of all the sessions as the antagonists of the process which included few but powerful states like USA, Russia, Brazil and Argentina were out succinctly using all possible means to detonate it whereas at the other end the proponents tried their level best to make it successful. At one point the NGOs expressed their frustration in an intervention that the biggest planet’s polluters appeared to be the firm killers of this process. This back and forth of discussions consistently forced the co-chairs to call for breaks for private negotiations a process that pushed the meeting to past 1am on the final day with the plenary accepting the final proposal without any objection. They pointed out that much as the outcome was of the process was weak and unsatisfying, it formed the basis for further discussions. It would have been saddening if everything could have ended at that level but fortunate enough, proponents are still optimistic that the result gives another chance to make a positive difference on the environment.
It is apparent that we are faced with real challenges as a planet. Humanity is threatening it’s life supporting system and it is startling that these have failed to take consciousness on face of some States since the lynchpin for all lifeforms is largely unprotected by law and threatened by human greed. We are called to assist the earth heal her wounds and in the process, heal our own, indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder.
Alphonce Munyao Muia,
Core Team Member, CYNESA Kenya.