Environmental Governance Update March 2018

Biodiversity and Nature’s Contributions Continue Dangerous Decline, Scientists Warn

Five landmark assessment reports launched at the 6th plenary of The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services last week find that biodiversity continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being.

Smart Governance for a Healthy Planet and People

This update is designed to inform you about the work UN Environment 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:

(i) UN bodies and international organizations integrate environmental policy issues from UN Environment policy advice.

(ii) Uptake of approaches for the coherent implementation of multiple agreements or other multilateral institutional mechanisms.

(iii) Concerted policy action is taken by countries on environmental issues of international concern.

(iv) Countries with enhanced institutional capacity and legal frameworks fully implement international environmental objectives.

(v) Increased integration of the environment in sustainable development planning, including as part of achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

(vi) Increased partnerships between UN Environment and stakeholders to promote the achievement of internationally agreed environmental goals, including Sustainable Development Goals.

Environmental Rights

More than 100 countries incorporate constitutional rights to a healthy environment. When states fail to recognize these environmental obligations, the ensuing environmental degradation impacts on the enjoyment of human rights across the world. UN Environment is supporting efforts to assist countries to implement these rights and to address their violations. UN Environment is also contributing to research and analyses on legal definitions to make environmental rights real for the people they are designed to protect, including environmental defenders.

UN Environment calls on Governments and Businesses to Promote, Protect and Respect Environmental Rights

UN Environment launched its Environmental Rights Initiative in Geneva on March 6th at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, committing itself to the advancement of environmental rights and calling for greater protections for environmental defenders around the world. The initiative will bring environmental protection nearer to the people by helping them to better understand their rights and how to defend them, and by assisting governments to better safeguard environmental rights. Read more...

UN Environment urges Iran to respect Environmental Workers

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, has called for the safe release of several environmental workers recently detained by Iranian authorities, reminding the Iranian government that "environmental rights are human rights, and we all have an obligation to protect them." Read more...

Head of UN Environment denounces accusations of terrorism against UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

"These charges must be dropped immediately, and support provided for the legitimate activities of these individuals who have UN mandates, and the civil society organizations with which they work," said Erik Solheim in a statement issued last week. Read more...

Kenya's 'Erin Brockovich' Defies Harassment to Bring an Anti-Pollution Case to Court

Phyllis Omido, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Justice Governance and Environmental Action, has faced threats and intimidation as she fights for justice for a community decimated by the dire affects of lead poisoning. As reported by The Guardian, eight years after the poisoning of her son, the anti-pollution campaigner is set to finally get her day in court, in a case that the United Nations hopes will prove a landmark for environmental defenders across Africa. Read more...

Environmental Defenders at UNEA3

UN Environment held a media talk at UNEA3 to discuss the escalating threats facing environmental defenders today. The panelists agreed that estimations of the murders of defenders is likely underestimated. To underscore this point, members of civil society organizations in the Philippines reported that three defenders had been killed that week in their country alone. Those who kill, largely do so without fear of prosecution. Global Witness reporting that of the few cases that were opened over a 12 year period, under 1 percent had convictions. John Knox added, that for every defender killed, there are 20 to 100 others harassed, unlawfully and lawfully arrested, and sued for defamation. Read more...

UN Environment launches Environmental Defenders Policy

In 2017, UN Environment agreed on the need for a common and coherent approach to promote greater protection for environmental defenders. UN Environment’s Environmental Defenders Policy was developed over several months in close consultation with human rights experts and civil society organizations. The policy promotes greater protection for individuals and groups who are defending their environmental rights and identifies solutions to mitigate the abuse of environmental rights. Read more...

Female Environment and Human Rights Defenders Honoured

Last year, 200 women human rights and environmental defenders were killed fighting for a sustainable future. To honour their sacrifice, the UN’s Women’s Major Group held a tribute ceremony on December 5th to call for governments to ensure the safety of women and non-binary persons fighting for the environment. The event highlighted the important role these women play in achieving a pollution-fee planet. Watch the video on the event and read more....

Over 100 Non-Governmental Organizations call for greater protections for Environmental Defenders in the Philippines

The Philippines is the deadliest country for environmentalists in Asia. In a year under President Duterte, at least 18,263 people have been forcibly displaced because of their resistance to destructive projects, 42 environmental defenders have been killed, and 240 environmental defenders have been slapped with harassment lawsuits. Declaring “it is not a crime to defend the environment,” a total of 116 non-government organizations, social movements, and other environmental groups issued a statement raising concern over the worsening human rights situation faced by environmental defenders in the Philippines. Read the signed statement....


Afrique – Droit de l’environnement: bientôt un manuel de formation, approprié pour les juristes

‘Lumad’ Woman Warrior Hailed as Hero for Environment

Environmental Justice Atlas of Worldwide Ecological Conflicts

Stand up for Human Rights in Thailand: Join the Human Rights Defenders School 2018


Pollution is the cause of 16 percent of all deaths and costs over a trillion dollars yearly. UN Environment assists countries in reducing pollution by adopting cleaner policies, technologies and standards. We provide countries with the opportunity to commit to global environmental policies that will help eliminate pollution and its threats.

UN Environment promotes pollution controls through a Rights-Based Approach

Human Rights are encroached on by all forms of pollution. An event on human rights and pollution was held at UNEA 3 to promote effective action to prevent and remedy pollution-related human rights violations. According to Elizabeth Mrema, Law Division Director at UN Environment, there is an urgent need to improve the way we engage businesses to understand the impacts of their operations on people and the environment. Read more...

World Commits to Pollution-Free Planet at UNEA 3

Under the theme #BeatPollution, over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities gathered at the Third UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi and made almost 2.5 million pledges to reduce pollution and its threats. Member States adopted 11 resolutions and a Ministerial Declaration that will address concerns of air pollution, land and soil, freshwater, and oceans. This was the first time a declaration was made at the UN Environment Assembly. Read more...

Biodiversity & Wildlife

UN Environment 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.

Putting Women at the heart of National Efforts to protect Biodiversity

In developing countries, women make up nearly half of the labour force in agriculture yet their role as users, custodians and managers of food and biodiversity resources is often overlooked. A new project launched by UN Environment and its partners aims to put women at the front and center of national biodiversity action plans in Lao PDR and Myanmar. This project will ensure that gender concerns are incorporated into the two countries’ National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and promote gender responsive implementation and monitoring. Read more...

UN Environment strengthens capacities of West African Nations to implement the Nagoya Protocol

Between the 13th to the 16th of November 2017, UN Environment facilitated a capacity-building session for Francophone West African to help several countries to move from ratification to implementation of the Nagoya Protocol. Read more..

Promoting the ratification of the Nagoya and Kuala Lumpur Protocols in Africa

The UN Environment Liaison Office to the Government of Ethiopia, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union Commission recently joined efforts to promote the ratification of the Nagoya Protocol and the Kuala Lumpur Protocol. The Nagoya Protocol is an instrument for the fair and equitable access and benefit sharing of genetic resources whereas the Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol (which will enter into force in March 2018) serves as a redress and liability framework for bio-safety. Read more...

The African Elephant Fund re-affirms its commitment to conserve elephants in African Range States

Elephants face a multitude of very serious threats, including illegal killing for ivory and other products, conflict with humans, local overabundance and loss and fragmentation of habitat. At the 10th African Elephant Fund Steering Committee meeting held in Kasane, Botswana, stakeholders of the African Elephant Fund programme discussed and agreed on better ways of enhancing implementation of the programme’s objectives, including better implementation strategies of the programme. Read more..

Implementing the Nagoya Protocol Course for Lawyers and Policy Officers

UN Environment, in collaboration with the International Development Law Organization, has launched a region-sensitive course for lawyers and policy officers actively involved in designing and implementing domestic frameworks and advising on national processes to implement the Nagoya Protocol. It is hoped that through the course, the capacities of institutions will be strengthened to meet the core requirements of the Nagoya Protocol, including the key considerations for the design and implementation of Access and Benefit Sharing frameworks. Read more...

UN Environment and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services successfully collaborate to enhance Environmental Protection

UN Environment has a successful partnership with the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that fosters growth in countries to meet international environmental commitments to biodiversity protection. UN Environment has been tasked to provide legal advice for IPBES Plenaries and will continue to collaborate with the IPBES Secretariat on a regular basis in relation to matters arising from IPBES. Read more...

Making Modern Biotechnology Safe

Undoubtedly, genetically modified organisms have provided massive benefits to society. Nevertheless, these organisms present potential risks to biodiversity. Realizing this need UN Environment held several worldwide webinars on the Cartagena Protocol and trained those responsible for biosafety at national and regional levels in implementing this Protocol. Read more...

Training Customs Officers in Suriname in Pesticide Inspection

In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries in Suriname, the programme on capacity building related to Multilateral Environment Agreements in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries (the ACP MEAs Programme),  led a training workshop on Pesticides Inspection and Customs Issues in the Caribbean, with the aim of enhancing the capacity of pesticides inspectors and customs officers. Read more...


Getting Ready for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service's 6th Plenary!

Capacity Development for Biodiversity by The Convention on Biological Diversity

Governments Agree on the Contribution of Traditional Knowledge to Global Biodiversity Policy

Climate Change

For effective implementation of the Paris Agreement, climate law-making is essential. UN Environment supports the review and reform of existing laws to enable countries to consider climate change proactively and address climate risks. We help ensure that this work involves all stakeholders, as all sectors of the economy and society are at risk from climate change.

UN Environment introduces Climate Change Training to Commonwealth Parliamentarians

In partnership with UN Environment, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will offer training on climate change to its parliamentarians with the objective of enhancing the capacities of legislators in jurisdictions across the Commonwealth in handling climate change concerns. This follows the 63rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where UN Environment encouraged countries to reinforce policies, strengthen institutions, and mobilize resources towards combating climate change. Read more...

UN Environment and Member States negotiate way forward in implementing the Paris Agreement

The 23rd UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties was held from 6th to 18th November in Bonn, Germany, with the aim of developing ‘Modalities, Procedures and Guidelines’ for implementing the Paris Agreement. The conference brought together over 16,000 participants. UN Environment is actively engaged in supporting the work of the conference by providing substantive contributions to initiatives and processes linked to key negotiating streams, and by supporting the Global Climate Action Agenda. Read more...

Using Constitutions to advance environmental rights and achieve Climate Justice

UN Environment recently held a Judicial Colloquium on climate change in the Asia Pacific region with the objective to assist and build capacity of judges in Asia Pacific in applying environmental constitutionalism to achieve climate justice and advance human dignity. The meeting was held at the Lahore High Court in Pakistan, and assembled approximately 250 participants (30 international and 220 domestic) from the region and globally, comprised of chief justices, senior and junior judges, and other legal stakeholders. The meeting also produced a ‘Lahore Action Plan’ which will be developed as a regional roadmap of action for participating judiciaries and partner organizations regarding strengthening judiciaries with sustainable capacity to adjudicate environment and climate change cases. Read more...

Customs Officials in Bhutan get familiar with Ozone Depleting Substances

In a recent training held in Bhutan, more than 30 customs officials from regional offices were trained on enforcement of the Montreal Protocol. Read more...

Wastewater Management can assist Afforestation

Drought, desertification, and land degradation are serious problems in Africa. Around 28 percent of land is degraded and 319 million hectares are vulnerable to desertification. UN Environment, in collaboration with Korea Forest Service, has initiated a pilot project to demonstrate how wastewater can be beneficial to afforestation and rehabilitation of ecosystems. Read more...

UN Environment supports Soil Governance

Rapid development and expanding infrastructure are exerting increasing pressure on soil, leading to soil degradation. In a meeting attended by around 40 experts, including participants from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the Food and Agricultural Organization, leading global experts shared their views on the protection and sustainable management of soils and the encountered challenges. The German Federal Agency and the Konrad Adeneur Stiftung, together with UN Environment, will identify options for strengthening legislation around soil governance. Read more...


Courts in at least 44 nations have issued decisions enforcing the constitutional right to a healthy environment. UN Environment works in partnership with human rights bodies, including The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, to identify and promote good practices and policies that make a positive impact upon human rights and health.

Protecting our Children from Lead Toxins in Paint

There is no known quantity of lead that is not harmful to humans. It is particularly toxic to the developing brains of young children, reducing their cognitive function and robbing them of their intellectual birthright. The Business Case for Phasing out Lead in Paint, took place at the Third UN Environment Assembly and tackled concerns about the health and economic costs of exposure to lead in paint. 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. INTERPOL and UN Environment 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. UN Environment is working with judges, prosecutors, and enforcement agencies to strengthen national capacities to respond to environmental crimes.

Environmental Crime Curriculum for Police and Prosecutors in Africa Launched

According to a recently published joint report by UN Environment and the The International Criminal Police Organization, environmental crime is a national priority for 80 percent of countries. In Africa, most policies have not adequately embraced environmental crime as part of their administration of criminal justice. Accordingly, UN Environment has launched a training programme that will enhance and strengthen the capacity of Africa's police and prosecutors in handling environmental crimes rapidly and competently. Read more...

UN Environment enhances the capacity of customs officers in West Africa to tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade

Customs and border protection officers constitute the front line of every country's defense against trans-boundary illegal trade. In a recently held workshop organized by UN Environment in West Africa, over 40 customs and enforcement officers from environmental protection agencies in the Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone were informed on trade-related aspects of several Multilateral Environmental Agreements, as well as the work of The International Criminal Police Organization and the World Customs Organization to combat illegal trade. Read more...

Compliance and enforcement of environmental laws and policies in Fiji and Samoa

The programme on capacity building related to Multilateral Environment Agreements in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries (ACP MEAs Programme) aims to reduce the adverse effects of biodiversity loss and contribute to the sound management of chemicals, including the adequate disposal of waste and obsolete pesticides. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme held a training in Fiji and Samoa to build the capacity of managers and officers tasked with ensuring environmental compliance and enforcement. Read more...

UN Environment supports the development of a new Chemicals and Waste Tracking Tool

A new waste and chemicals inspection tool has been developed to enhance the performance of law enforcement officers and environmental inspectors. The tool will support the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions by enabling law enforcement officers and environmental inspectors to inspect illegal movement, storage and handling of chemicals and waste. Read more...


UN Environment is uniquely positioned to help countries establish and strengthen policy, legal and institutional measures, to achieve the Sustainable Development 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.

UN Environment advises on mainstreaming and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals

The fifth annual Sustainable Development Transition Forum was held in Incheon, Republic of Korea, from 30 October to 1 November 2017, under the theme, ‘eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’ and the High Level Political Forum 2018 theme, ‘transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’. Read more...

UN Environment collaborates with Commonwealth Parties to reaffirm commitment to enhance parliamentarian performance

The 63rd commonwealth parliamentary conference was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from the 1st to 8th of November 2017, where parliamentarians reaffirmed their commitment to climate change; the sustainable development goals; democratic legislatures; protecting territorial waters; and combating corruption. More than 500 parliamentarians were in attendance. Read more...

Created By
Catherine Akinyi

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