Why is International Environmental Governance (IEG) of interest to developing countries? Can we articulate clearly the outcomes relevant to developing nations?
By Ernest Rukangira
Despite numerous international and regional initiatives launched since the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development, sustainable development has remained unachievable for many developing countries due to internal and external factors that hinder DCs’ efforts to achieve sustainable development. These factors include poverty, weak institutions, poor governance, debt, lack of access to markets, trade barriers and poor international environment governance that is capable to responds DCs’ environmental priorities as identified by Agenda 21.
Developing countries’ socio-economically and ecologically disadvantaged people directly depend on land resources, hunting and fisheries for their livelihoods and are most likely to be the first victims and the greatest sufferers of local and global environmental degradation. Because they depend on their natural resources for their survival, they have to make difficult choices between conserving the environment and meeting their basic needs. Hunger and poverty often compel the poor to over-exploit and thus degrade the natural resource base on which their own livelihoods depend. The international community has increasingly realised that poverty reduction can only be successful if sustainable use of the environment is achieved on the local, national, regional and global levels. Based on this insight, debates related to the implementation of the conventions now focus on all issues that are relevant to sustainable livelihood systems.
Incidence of natural disasters in DCs has increased and resulted in significant human, social and economic losses, thereby posing a major obstacle to the DCs’ efforts to achieve sustainable development. Some DCs are still suspicious of the possible anti-growth of environmentalism. Others believe that the environmental matters are a luxury because they have to prioritise the needs to be addressed by their own resources and external support.
DCs are aware that the world is currently facing pressing global problems, far beyond the ability of any nation state, singly or with its neighbours, to resolve. Achieving progress in all these areas—such as properly managing forests, preserving endangered species or preventing soil erosion, fighting global warming, drought and desertification, environmental diseases and environmental pollution—requires actions coordinated across sectors and among the various stakeholders. The current poverty debate tends to overlook the environmental problems that exacerbate poverty in many developing countries.
DCs benefit more in having an IEG that that addresses the needs and constraints of developing countries and promotes close North-South and South- South cooperation between governments and strong global institutions to tackle global environmental problems. Global sustainability requires that all countries work together to pursue long-term paths to tackle transnational environmental problems, without jeopardizing the development aspirations of poor countries. Coordination at the international level and actions at the national level are important to pursue synergies among trade and other internationally negotiated policies that can affect poverty, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and other global environmental spillovers such as infectious diseases that can reach beyond national borders
Another key element of IEG process in relation to DCs and global environmental problems is that neglecting the global dimension of SD (e.g. unmanaged and unsustainable use of world’s resources, species extinction, desertification and drought, biodiversity and water resources, impacts of global warming) can lead to actions that increase poverty, instability, environmental damage and conflict elsewhere in the world which in turn may also harm people in other countries and globally. The IEG should work to the global citizenship in relation to the role of individuals by increasing confidence that global environmental inequalities, environmental degradation, global warming and poverty can be acted upon ; and that inaction can result in events that have repercussions on the UK and globally.
Taking into account Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Nairobi Declaration on the role and mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (“Johannesburg Plan of Implementation”), the need for more efficient environmental activities in the United Nations system, with enhanced coordination, improved policy advice and guidance, strengthened scientific knowledge, assessment and cooperation, better treaty compliance, while respecting the legal autonomy of the treaties, and better integration of environmental activities in the broader sustainable development framework at the operational level, including through capacity-building. Ignorance and lack of sustainable livelihoods and opportunities for rural communities is at the root of poor environmental management that leads to environmental degradation, including desertification and land degradation.
Education and information dissemination on environmental issues including the use of local languages are major priorities in ensuring improvements in the quality of life, the eradication of poverty and placing the DCs on a path of sustainable development and growth.
Capacity Building and Technology Support
Many of the environmental problems including water pollution, clean water availability and distribution, and sustainable agriculture in DCs are caused by underdeveloped Science and technology. Poverty, disease and environmental degradation hamper development in many countries and science and technology (S&T) can contribute towards addressing these problems. However, many developing countries have limited capacity to identify where and how S&T can help to tackle their problems. The Improved IEG would have the capacity, the mandate and the power to assist developing countries to build their S&T capacity as part of tackling environmental challenges. There is a significant body of evidence that call for more action to improve the understanding of DCs’ environmental systems, especially the climate system; and that governments should promote understanding and awareness of the poverty-environment nexus in order to achieve environmental sustainability and poverty reduction goals.
Current weaknesses of the IEG in relation to developing countries:
-Lack of political and financial commitment to the implementation of international obligations on the international and national levels.
-Lack of international community’s interest in environmental priorities of developing countries.
-Too much focus on symptoms of developing countries’ problems without taking into account the roots causes of these problems such as environmental diseases, air and water pollution, food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition, which may be the result of poor environmental quality and sustainable management of natural resources.
-The environmental component of projects and programmes is hard to identify and is just part of development efforts supported by the international community in DCs.
-Limited progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 in DCs, due to lack of fulfilment by the international community of its commitments made in Rio with regard to the means of implementation, thereby hampering the achievement of sustainable development in developing countries, particularly in DCs.
-developing countries are often faced with a number of basic obstacles in the area of capacity building and economic constraints, including: international negotiations in relation to MEAs, Research, Science and Technology, human resources, debt servicing, trade and market barriers, etc
-Environmental Civil society Organisations are weak due to lack of capacity, restrictive laws that weaken their operations due to poor governance in many developing countries.
Developing countries welcome the IEG reform process and its potential positive impact to increasing their presence, position and influence at world stage in the field of sustainable development governance and implementation.
A vibrant, effective and fit for the purpose IEG system is fundamental for achieving sd and for leadership in promoting international cooperation for sustainable development that meets environmental needs for all.
The IEG should be strengthened to address the environmental challenges that DCs are facing through existing environmental instruments such as the Agenda 21 , The Rio Declaration, Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Regional Platform on Sustainable Development for Asia and the Pacific, internationally agreed development goals (e.g. MDG-7), the Millennium Declaration, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
-more efficient environmental activities in the United Nations system, with enhanced coordination, improved policy advice and guidance, strengthened scientific knowledge, assessment and cooperation, better treaty compliance, while respecting the legal autonomy of the treaties, and better integration of environmental activities in the broader sustainable development framework.
Specifically, as the result of strengthening IEG based on UNEP, DCs would expect that the core functions of strengthened UNEP should be:
At the national level:
Capacity building and advice:
-implement Chapter 34 of the Agenda 21 and the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building, as a component for strengthening the international environmental governance.
Ensure the full implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, relevant sustainable development aspects of the Millennium Declaration.
To provide technical assistance as governments of DCs may request;
Play the role as institutional support at country level for the development of national environmental systems (policies, institutions and programmes)
The IEG advisory role to developing countries will increase to help government to deal with environmental governance, education, environmental impact assessment and research and technology.
Full implementation of the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building, as a component for strengthening the international environmental
A strengthened IEG would some environmental programmes and projects led by specialised agencies and international aid agencies are implemented in coordinated way and based on scientific evidence need, rather than on ad-hoc events and symptoms of environmental problems.
Enhanced mandate and better capabilities of the new IEG to build the capacities in developing countries will contribute to tackle the current environmental challenges that face developing countries.
The new IEG system should be strengthened to respond to public needs by providing public services and goods including environmental emergency support in the area of environmental disasters, implementation of projects on the grounds and the provision of grants to governments, civil society, business, research and higher educational institutions.
Developing countries would expect an IEG that combines environment and development, rather than a system that will only focus on the environment because this could be detrimental to developmental, social and equity principles
Strengthening UNEP will more power and resources to help development countries through capacity building, science and technology, advice and information provision could be beneficial to developing countries.
The IEG structure should be more open and be able to represent equitably developing countries needs, concerns and priorities through representation in international scientific, treaty advisory and negotiation bodies.
Assistance for facilitating compliance with and enforcement of obligations under multilateral environmental agreements and implementation of environmental commitments;
The principles of cooperation and common but differentiated responsibilities should be reflected in the application of this revised mandate.
Decentralisation at the regional level
Regional UNEP offices should be strengthened with own financial and human resources to support the implementation of regional strategies and plans developed by regional bodies in sustainable development priorities.
WE underlines the need to establish a more coherent regulatory framework for global environmental
governance which will drive forward the processes of standard-setting, of academic debate and of the monitoring of international conventions.
The new agency would also ensure that poverty reduction and economic development in the poor countries are integrated into global environmental policy and a fair division of burdens is established at global level.
Efforts to mainstream environment into the national development agenda including poverty reduction programmes.
Have the power and the mandate to take Environmental challenges of DCs will be taken at the high level of international decision making including the G8 and G20 and other global environmental mechanisms coordinated by the reformed IEG system.
Leadership capacities would improve to deal with issues such trade and environment, research, science and technology and environmental rule and norms compliance and implementation.
-The ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ of states with regard to global environmental problems would be strengthened
-Strengthened and empowered IEG reinvigorate the commitment of the international community to the goals of sustainable development and give new impetus for implementation and mainstreaming environmental issues in economic, social and political programmes at the national and international level.
-capacity to participate meaningfully in international negotiations and technical assistance to help DCs understand and deal with the nexus between trade and sustainable development to help articulate their interests and concerns in trade rules that have implications on sustainable development
The developing countries wish to see the MEAs are well coordinated and are dealt by one single new IEG system, which accessible, transparent in negotiations and information access and supportive to the implementation at national level.
The New IEG should contribute to reduce transaction costs in the area of implementation, compliance, monitoring and assessment of the MEAs in local-global-local framework
Proper administration and coordination, monitoring and assessment of MEAs as DCs’s learning process for compliance and implementation which would help developing countries to measure the progress made and to take the required action for improvement.
The New IEG should support in providing information (scientific data and simple guides/tool kits), infrastructure and technical support for better coordination systems to strengthen the implementation and compliance of MEAs at the national and local level. This could be done by providing training to lawyers, civil society representatives and government officials in negotiations related issues including preparation, access to reference materials, providing financial resources
Research, Science and Technology:
The new IEG should serve as reference body for scientific, technical and legal expertise on the environment and make recommendations to national governments and all international institutions.
The New strengthen IEG would be empowered to support public environmental needs and policy making through scientific and civil society information, the provision of assessments and knowledge and early warnings data.
More independent research is needed to demonstrate that protecting the environment can contribute to poverty alleviation and economic development and that protecting the environment is not an anti-growth strategy.
Every effort should be made to build the scientific capabilities of developing countries and their capacity to develop and utilise early warning systems and data.
Scientific assessments, analysis and research should take particular account of the challenges face developing countries. Scientific activities should seek to highlight the negative environmental implications of unsustainable models of development, and therefore result in the development of more integrated and robust policy instruments.
Support to national and regional institutions in data collection, analysis and monitoring of environmental trends;
Access to scientific and technological information, including information on state-of-the-art technologies;
Facilitating access to and support for environmentally sound technologies and corresponding know-how.
Increased financial resources administered by strengthened UNEP the new IEG for financing DCs’ sustainable development, including financing the coordination, monitoring, evaluation and implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) at the national level.
Having the mandate to fundraise for more and new resources to be allocated to sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and forests and combating drought and desertification, climate change, water and sanitation and environmental disasters management, control and prediction.
Having the mandate to initiate dialogue and cooperation with international development assistance providers to ensure sufficient funding allocation for tackling environmental challenges in developing countries.
-Environmental rights and inequalities in environmental quality will be taken into account in international development assistance and other financial mechanisms for sustainable development
The Role of Civil Society in IEG Reform
With regard to the emerging environmental challenges such as climate change, desertification or water resources management, a growing number of grassroots environmental organisations have been set up all over the world, and do much to raise the awareness of members and the public at large. Through their growing expertise and their field work, these environmental groups work to combat the effects of climate change and to take specific action to protect the environment.
Harnessing the energy of these diverse voices to improve the environmental sustainability is both a challenge and an opportunity for an international organisation such as UNEP or future strengthened IEG. Civil society groups are essential for supporting the IEG processes by providing public education, raising awareness, advocacy for environmental rights, linking the local to the global and vice-versa, and acting as watchdogs for environmental law compliance and implementation. CSOs are instrumental in advocating issues of environmental sustainability promoted by UNEP and taking it to a broad audience. They perform a watchdog function in the protection of environmental quality concerns. They are also able to bring up sensitive issues that UNEP, may not be in a position to address for political reasons. This is especially true for CSOs working with an environmental justice and rights-based approaches.
By collaborating with CSOs, UNEP can ascertain the direction and content of public opinion on various sustainable development matters. This can prove invaluable when formulating programmes and provides a reality check for UNEP. CSO collaboration in policy development also strengthens the democratisation of international relations and cooperation. It makes the work of UNEP more visible and transparent and contributes towards actively building public accountability within the context of the widening UNEP mission. UNEP is committed to involving CSGs at all levels, to ensure that they have a voice in global governance structures and are actively engaged in policy application at the field level. UNEP recognizes that civil society plays a critical role in the fight against environmental damages, and in doing so, appeals to their technical expertise and support on a variety of issues related to sustainable development.
CSO functions of relevance to UNEP include:
· Action, research, outreach, education and training in community environmental issues
· Advocacy, lobbying and information sharing through existing networks and,
· building wider alliances for sustainable development goals and sharing information
· Contributions to policy dialogue and development, policy strategy research and analysis
· Monitoring and ‘watchdog’ roles and protection of environmental rights.
· Fundraising, resource mobilisation and financial contributions
General constraints for UNEP-CSO relations
· Gaps in communication and information (how to approach UNEP, including possible participation at meetings and activities of the Organization.
· There is concern that many international CSOs have their headquarters based in northern, high-income Member States and that this may lead to an under-representation of developing country interests. Thus it is important for WHO to receive information on the composition and location of the governing body and branch offices of international CSOs.
· Several members of civil society organisations in the south when they are not accredited to UN bodies, they completely forgotten while they are playing a significant role in implementing small –scale environmental projects at the local level on voluntary basis ( tree planting, water cleaning and access, fighting soil erosion, reforestation and protection of environmental livelihoods).
Strengthening the capacity and the role of CSGs:
Strengthened IEG based on UNEP should:
· Establish a roster of environmental experts that currently exist in the South, mainly in the DCs’ civil society groups and in the Diaspora which could help to establish bridges between the South and North.
· Produce regular information about its work and opportunities available in UNEP and other similar international organisations. Such information provision could range from understanding how UNEP governance works to gaining updated knowledge on specific technical issues. To prevent this information provision being seen as UNEP publicity channel, it should be run by CSO themselves and target all identify CSOs whether accredited and non-accredited. This is because some organisations may not wish to be accredited to UNEP in order to keep their independence and to be able to challenge government policies in the area of sustainable development.
· Support active ad hoc participation in UNEP meetings, events, research and consultations
· In collaboration with CS groups, produce simple educational materials that could be used by grassroots organisations and translated in local languages.
· Support CS groups be involved in campaigns and events such as the World Environment Day.
· Promote regular CSO contributions to UNEP policy, thematic and normative work.
· -Include CS groups in expert committees, policy discussion fora, development of guidelines, or standard setting Structured collaboration as defined by a formal contract, or written agreement on joint work plans.
· Create a comprehensive database of Civil Society Groups and expertise
· Support round table discussions for the preparation of international meetings.
· Work with Diaspora CS Groups as source of expertise to work on environmental issues of their own countries and regions.
· Set up advisory groups for the main MEAs to participate in ongoing policy development
· Provide additional opportunities for civil society participation outside of negotiation processes(e.g., in drafting treaties);
· Offer NGOs the opportunity to participate in preparatory processes for international
· conferences (e.g.,2012 Summit) and support parallel meetings at the venues of international meetings.
· Produce simplified guides of MEAs that are accessible by CS groups in terms of technicality and language.
· Mobilise financial resources to enable civil society stakeholders to meet and effectively discuss environmental and sustainability policy achievements and challenges, and to provide substantive inputs to support the GMGSF
· In-house capacity for negotiators to negotiate their own country’s positions;
· Regular contacts with members of the CS
· Online forums are made available to ensure that newly trained negotiators can
· keep in touch, and obtain updated information
· Support and organise workshops are organized on a regional basis, helping CV groups to identify common or similar positions from an identifiable perspective; this aids trust building and networking
· Mobilise funding to help send more than one person from each participating country.
· More regional preparatory meetings for networking, trust building and forming
· of common positions
· Provide training in negotiation skills, with in-depth knowledge of topics and knowledge of connections with other MEAs
· Established CS coalitions with and trust in negotiators from countries with similar
· interests in an issue, and with a similar economic status
· Capacity to lobby and negotiate with governments, policy and decision makers, as well as donors and private sector, at all levels including the local
· Strengthened UNEP catalyst role in bringing CSOs together and in facilitating relations with national governments and the donor community
· Promote and support environmental community initiatives relating to sustainable development through, for example, supporting local grassroots organisations or their equivalent, and by encouraging their establishment where they do not exist.
· Supporting existing NGOs networks, and not ignore them because they do not have resources or are not recognised by the governments, in most case due to political reasons.
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