Environmental Governance Update - May 2020

Smart Governance for Healthy Planet and People


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stands in solidarity with the billions of people around the world who are suffering from the impacts of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a reminder that public and planetary health, as well as peoples’ economic and social well-being, are intimately connected. This global health emergency requires a sound environmental response, which UNEP is working to enable. UNEP additionally has a duty to help nations build back better after the pandemic, to increase our resilience to future crises. To achieve these goals, UNEP remains deeply committed to our mandate to facilitate and advance environmental governance.

Ultimately, sound environmental governance is critical for safeguarding human health and responding to COVID-19. Under this work, UNEP is currently developing policy and legislation guidance on a nuanced approach to the regulation of live animal markets and trade in wildlife, as well as legal and institutional guidance to allow countries to better respond to waste management emergencies. Our efforts additionally include steps to modernize and move environmental governance and multilateralism towards virtual- and thus lower environmental footprint- meeting platforms.

This update is designed to inform you of the work that UNEP and our partners are doing to advance sound environmental governance. Each story in this update contributes to the advancement of sound environmental governance in one of the following ways:

  1. Uptake by United Nations entities, international organizations and forums of environmental policy issues or approaches emerging from UNEP policy advice;
  2. Uptake of approaches for the coherent implementation of multilateral environmental agreements or other multilateral institutional mechanisms as a result of UNEP support;
  3. Concerted policy action taken by countries on environmental issues of international concern as a result of UNEP support;
  4. Enhanced institutional capacity and legal frameworks to fully implement the MEAs and to achieve internationally agreed environmental goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a result of UNEP support;
  5. Integration of the environment into sustainable development planning, including as part of achieving the SDGs as a result of UNEP support;
  6. Partnerships between UNEP and major groups and stakeholders for promoting the achievement of internationally agreed environmental goals, including the SDGs.

Learn more about UNEP's response to COVID -19 through the following links:

Working with the environment to protect people: UNEP’s Covid-19 response

COVID-19 updates from UNEP

Environmental Rights

More than 100 countries incorporate constitutional rights to a healthy environment. When environmental rights are violated, people and the planet suffer from reduced health and well-being. UNEP works to advance the inclusive and effective implementation of environmental rights law through, protecting environmental defenders, strengthening legal frameworks, building capacities of relevant stakeholders and advancing universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment.

Responding to the needs of environmental defenders and civil society

Fatima Babu, an environmental defender, in Tamil Nadu, India

United Nations programmes, environmental defenders, NGOs and academic institutions came together in February 2020, to discuss how to mobilize the international community towards supporting environmental defenders. Participants mapped out various initiatives and approaches focused on protecting Environmental and Human Rights Defenders. Read more...

Incorporating human rights into the world’s biodiversity agenda

Photo credit: Hpuji Nawng, AIPP, Myanmar

Ultimately, the post- 2020 global biodiversity framework can assist as we build back better in the post-COVID world. Healthy, functioning ecosystems are central to a post-COVID world. However, to build back better, the post- 2020 global biodiversity framework must deal effectively with governance, human rights and equitable sharing of benefits and costs. Read more...

The universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment

UNEP supports the call, by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, for the universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment. Watch the video above and learn more about UNEP's position from our Executive Director, Inger Anderson.

To kick-start discussions at the UN, on universal recognition of the right to a healthy environment, UNEP supported the Council core group of member States in convening an expert seminar on 6 February 2020. We supported this event alongside Universal Rights Group, the Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva, the Geneva Academy, UNICEF, and OHCHR.

UNEP additionally supported a side event at the Convention on Rights of the Child committee, sitting in Samoa in March 2020. UNEP's environmental rights materials were used to support and promote children's rights to a healthy environment, alongside the high level intergovernmental forum.

More stories

Human Rights and COVID-19 Response and Recovery: Message from the Secretary-General António Guterres

Peru: Land and environmental defenders are at risk, says UN expert

Human Rights Council discusses the right to safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and foreign debt

Biodiversity & Wildlife

2020 is a “super year” for the environment; a make or break year in which UNEP will be highlighting updates from around the United Nations System, from partners and from other institutions helping to call to attention the fact that the future of humanity depends on actions and decisions of today. UNEP works closely with governments, law enforcement agencies, biodiversity experts, and judiciaries, to support the design, implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations, that contribute to improved governance of natural resources.

The Gandhinagar Declaration—welcoming migratory species to the new global biodiversity framework

The Gandhinagar Declaration was adopted at the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13). It calls for migratory species and the concept of “ecological connectivity” to be integrated and prioritized in the new (zero-draft) post-2020 global biodiversity framework. It also emphasizes on the improvement of ecological connectivity as a top priority for the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Read more...

Tree planting to promote environmental conservation and improve livelihoods in Burkina Faso

Low levels of awareness and sensitization of the advantages of land restoration, combined with poor regulation of resources and lack of consideration for the interests of local communities, often leads to poor public support and participation towards conservation of natural resources. UNEP and the Korea Forest Service collaborated with the Government of Burkina Faso to implement a project to help the country to restore its degraded lands, combat land degradation, and mitigate climate change. Read more..

Celebrating milestones in the ratification and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing

UNEP in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility supports ten countries of the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) to carry out activities that promote the ratification, accession and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). Synergy among the COMIFAC members has successfully led to the ratification and the accession of the Nagoya Protocol, strengthening of capacity building activities and awareness raising, and exchange of knowledge and experiences for sustainable ideas, in the sub-region. Read more...

Enhancing cooperation, synergy, and gender mainstreaming among biodiversity related conventions in the ASEAN region

Women’s contribution to biodiversity conservation is crucial. UNEP collaborated with the Government of Cambodia and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, to train and enhance the understanding of government officials from the ASEAN Member States, on tools and methodologies that can increase synergies and cooperation among biodiversity-related conventions, including gender mainstreaming, into the global biodiversity framework. Read more..

Promoting the engagement of MEAs in the negotiation process of the zero draft of the Post 2020 global biodiversity framework

The second meeting of the Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework held in Rome, Italy, in February 2020, promoted global discussions on National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). UNEP offered its support to the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and encouraged the strengthening of their engagement in the negotiation process of the draft text (Zero draft) of the Post 2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), with the hope to lead to its adoption at the next CBD, COP 15. Read more...

Update on the UN EMG consultative process on biodiversity: the post 2020 global biodiversity framework

Work is already well underway to prepare for the 15th Conference of the Parties to the CBD, when the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework (the post-2020 GBF), currently under development, will likely be adopted. The Environment Management Group Senior Officials established a Consultative Process to provide a UN system contribution to the development and implementation of the post-2020 GBF. Read more...

Democratic Republic of Congo: Strengthening the adoption and implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing

UNEP has been working closely with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to help the country to effectively implement access and benefit sharing (ABS) mechanism/framework. At a workshop held in March 2020, in Kinshasa, DRC, on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and to further debate on whether regulations or a new law would be the most appropriate instrument to regulate ABS in the country, UNEP offered expert advice on an effective ABS framework. Read more...

Environmental Security

Environmental crime has become the world's fourth largest crime sector, growing at 2-3 times the rate of the global economy. According to INTERPOL, environmental crime is not only an economic or conservation issue, but also an international security challenge as it undermines good governance and rule of law. Apart from poaching, trafficking, pollution, illegal logging or illegal fishing, environmental crime also includes fraud, document falsification, money laundering and corruption. INTERPOL and UNEP estimate that natural resources worth up to US$258 billion are being stolen by criminal syndicates, depriving countries of their resources, revenues, and development opportunities. UNEP is working with judges, prosecutors, and enforcement agencies to strengthen national capacities to respond to environmental crimes.

Three ways the United Nations Environment Programme works to address illegal trade in wildlife

Illegal wildlife trade continues to pose a real danger to biodiversity, ecosystems and human health, as a number of emerging diseases stem from animal products, both domestic and wild. One of the ways in which UNEP is working to help curb the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products is by supporting the legal and sustainable management and trade of wildlife, in compliance with national and international law. Read more...

The Sultanate of Oman strengthens its capacity to combat illegal trade of Ozone Depleting Substances

Illegal trade in substances that deplete the Ozone layer violates national laws, and supports other forms of illegal environmental activities. UNEP OzonAction in West Asia, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change of the Sultanate of Oman, and the Directorate General-Customs Authority, trained Customs Officers and enforcement officials from the different ports of the Sultanate of Oman on how to effectively implement the country's updated regulations and policies on Ozone depleting Substances. Read more...

East African countries build their capacity and strengthen cooperation to combat illegal trade in Ozone Depleting Substances

UNEP supports countries to implement the Montreal Protocol objectives. UNEP and the governments of the Anglophone Network held a forum with National Ozone Officers and Customs officials to deliberate on the overall challenges in the region and good practices on ODS trade controls, including facilitation of legal trade, and combating illegal trade of environmentally sensitive commodities. Read more...

Exhibition of Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards winners at UNEP Headquarters, Nairobi

Customs, parks and law enforcement officials from China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, and Singapore were recipients of the 4th Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards, which was held in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2019. An exhibition of the winners was also held in the UNEP headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya, to promote the recognition and celebration of excellence in enforcement by government officials and institutions or teams combating transboundary environmental crime. Read more...

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UNEP Exposes Fight Against Illegal Trade in Pesticides, Mercury

The Upcoming 2020 Asia Environmental Enforcement Awards

The Sultanate of Oman strengthens the capacity of technicians to provide services that protect environment

The Global Goals

UNEP is uniquely positioned to help countries establish and strengthen policy, legal and institutional measures, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and other global environmental goals. We provide governments with guidance, expertise, and tools on environmental laws, policy and regulation, as well as assist them to meet their environmental commitments to people and planet.

The UNEP-Georgetown Fellowship Programme - Enhancing the capacity of Public Sector Lawyers

In 2017, UNEP and the Georgetown University Law Center partnered to roll out a joint Global Environment and Sustainability Law Fellows Program, with an aim to train public sector lawyers from developing countries working on matters related to environmental law, natural resources law, or associated fields of law. Chifundo Michael Chinyama, from Malawi, was the 2018 UNEP-Georgetown Global Environmental and Sustainability Law fellow. He shared some of his experiences and reflections. Read more...

A new course on Sustainable Development Goal 16!

UNEP InforMEA is developing a new course on Sustainable Development Goal 16. The course has incorporated the recommendations of the Environmental Rule of Law report, with an emphasis on access to information, public participation, and access to justice. The first of the five course-lesson is ready, and can be accessed in the following link. The full course will be launched on 5 June for World Environment Day. Please visit the InforMEA portal to learn more about Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and access the free training courses.

InforMEA is also planning to soon launch a comprehensive new course on Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), which has been developed in close cooperation with the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. The course provides an introduction to the issues and history of the BBNJ process, a detailed synopsis of the applicable legal framework, and an overview of the current process to develop an International Legally Binding Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Please see the Lesson 1 here.

Strengthening enforcement efforts of the Montreal Protocol in the Asian region

The iPIC platform was created in 2006 and is hosted by UNEP – OzonAction. It enables countries to share details of eligible importers and exporters with other member countries, facilitates and monitors trade in controlled substances, and avoid illegal or unwanted shipments. Thailand and China partnered and used OzonAction’s iPIC system to track and prevent an illegal shipment of HCFCs to Thailand. Read more...

First Montreal Protocol-related online training during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on the world, the “Great Lockdown”. To continue delivering on its mandate through virtual means, UNEP OzonAction and the Government of Qatar recently teamed up to deliver the first Montreal Protocol-related virtual training for refrigeration trainers and customs officers on safe handling and replacement of ozone-depleting substances hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Read more...

In the Asia-Pacific region, UNEP OzonAction brought together National Ozone Officers from countries to train them on ozone depletion, the Montreal Protocol, its bodies and control measures, the roles and responsibilities Ozone Officers, and what is required of them to efficiently support the implementation of the Montreal Protocol in their countries. Read more...

Bhutan’s first batch of refrigeration and mobile air-conditioning students

Technicians who work in refrigeration and air conditioning play a major role in their country's compliance with the Montreal Protocol. UNEP and the Government of Bhutan developed and carried out a Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) curriculum, a first of its kind in the country. Participants in the training programme would be the first generation of systematically-trained technicians, who will help the country to progress with the safe adoption of hydrofluorocarbon alternatives in the country. Read more...

WhatGas? application updated and improved

The WhatGas? application is an information and identification tool for the Montreal Protocol community on refrigerant gases. It is intended to provide a number of stakeholders, including Montreal Protocol National Ozone Officers, customs officers, with a modern, easy-to-use tool that can be accessed via mobile devices when inspecting ODS and alternatives. With its upgrade, we expect a significantly larger uptake and impact. Read more...

Timor-Leste's "Ozone Week" engages the public on Montreal Protocol

Timor-Leste is one of the world’s youngest nations, having become a member of the United Nations in 2002, and also one of the most recent countries to join the Montreal Protocol. In March 2020, Timor Leste's National Ozone Action Unit of the National Directorate of Climate Change organized a public 'Ozone week' event, with the aim to raise awareness of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Read more...

Working with IUCN to strengthen the environmental rule of law

The IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL) is a network of environmental law and policy experts from all regions of the world. These experts provide specialized knowledge and assistance to international governmental organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations. This support strengthens the legal and institutional infrastructure needed for natural resource conservation for sustainable development. WCEL liaises with the UN System, with UNEP holding a position in its Steering Committee. During December 2019, Arnold Kreilhuber, UNEP's representative at WCEL and Acting Director of UNEP's Law Division, participated in the WCEL’s Steering Committee, and showcased UNEP’s work to promote environmental rule of law. UNEP and WCEL will continue to cooperate on judicial capacity building, through the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment. This includes strengthening positions to promote the integration of environmental law into the curricula of judicial training institutes in Africa and beyond.

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The new updated OzonAction GWP-ODP calculator application

Women in Refrigeration & Air-Conditioning - Stories from Colombia

Women in Refrigeration & Air-Conditioning - Stories from China


Contact Information

Yassin.Ahmed[at]un.org / Catherine.Abuto[at]un.org / Paula.Waibochi[at]un.org



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