UNEA4 Member States and the case of Matthew 21:28-32

The Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA4) came to a close yesterday, Friday, March 15 2019 with the adoption of 23 resolutions, a ministerial statement, and 3 decisions under the presidency of Mr. Siim Kiisler, the Minister of Environment of Estonia. This was perhaps the only UNEA that did not threaten to conclude in the middle of the night.

While this timely conclusion may be seen as a welcome gesture of consensus between the various member states, this is not the only angle to it. There were some resolutions whose language was watered down significantly and some member states had reservations with the use of terms like “commitment” in the language of the various resolutions. From the perspective of a young Catholic living in Africa, the replacement of terms like “commitment” in the ministerial statement with terms such as “dedication” comes across as an attempt to decline to take action without saying no outright.

The member states who were watering down the language of the resolutions and weakening it by refusing to commit, from my perspective, are like the proverbial son in the Bible who said he would go work in the vineyard when he as asked by his father, but he did not (Matthew 21:28-32). From this proverbial story, I equate the father to God, the vineyard to our only planet, Mother Earth, the first son to member states who refused to commit to action and the second son to the member states who showed commitment towards getting strong language and action in the various resolutions.

When the son said, “yes” to his father yet knew that he would not do what he had been asked to do, he dedicated himself to telling the father what he thought his father wanted to hear. However, he was not committed to taking action. It is this son who orchestrated and fought hard to ensure the behooving and crippling of resolutions that could have contributed significantly to saving the vineyard e.g. the EU-proposed resolution on deforestation and agricultural commodity supply chains, which was dropped after the second son cut its roots. This second son was not happy with what he called, “the use of prescriptive language,” in some of the resolutions. As a young Catholic, I understand why this second son felt that the language was prescriptive – he was not committed from the beginning.

There is still a chance for such dedicated member states to “repent” and commit to working in the vineyard like the second son who declined the father’s request, but later on went to work in the vineyard. While UNEA4 comes to a close with a sense of disappointment, there is hope that this son who was dedicated to pleasing his father momentarily will soon commit to working in the vineyard.

As a young Catholic living in Africa, I am, nonetheless, optimistic that the truth of the Gospel shall kindle a blazing fire in lukewarm and cold member states to commit to working in the vineyard during the forthcoming UNEA5 scheduled for 22 to 26 February 2021 at the global headquarters of the UN Environment in Nairobi, Kenya.

Written by:

David N. Munene,

CYNESA Programs Manager.


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