Athens, 15 May 2014 - European Ministers of Environment met in Greece at an informal Council Meeting where UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, delivered a presentation entitled "UNEP's Role as the Leading Global Environmental Authority in Post-2015 Processes in Light of the Upcoming First UNEA".
In his address, Mr. Steiner briefed the EU ministers about the upcoming UN Environment Assembly, given the EU's long-standing support for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and its advocacy for the inclusion of environmental aspects in the Post-2015 development agenda.
Environment Ministers and Government representatives from 193 UN Member States will gather from 23 to 27 June, 2014 for the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) - a new body designed to place environmental issues at the heart of the global agenda.
UNEA strikes new ground. It is the only UN General Assembly subsidiary assembly of a United Nations fund or programme and is intended to give green issues a similar status to those of peace, security, finance, health and trade. Mandated to determine policy and catalyze international action, the new body represents the new political arm for the protection of the environment and aims to ensure environmental sustainability is recognized as a global priority.
The universal membership assembly, which replaced UNEP's Governing Council, reflects the commitment of world leaders at Rio +20 to strengthen and upgrade UNEP as "the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, that promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and that serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment."
UNEA will tackle diverse environmental challenges and emerging issues of global, regional and national significance. Such challenges will impact the extent to which governments and other stakeholders can successfully implement sustainable development at different levels.
At its first session, UNEA is expected to declare a common vision and determine future global environmental policy; a mandate first conferred upon UNEP's Governing Council by the 1972 United Nations General Assembly resolution 2997 and subsequently enhanced through the Rio +20 outcome - The Future We Want.
UNEA represents a historic event that is set to define, not only the future of UNEP for the next few decades, but also strengthen environment as an instrumental pillar of integrated sustainable development.
The Ministers and Heads of delegation will discuss the theme of "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, including sustainable consumption and production" from 26 to 27 June 2014 which will contribute to the on-going global and regional processes of developing sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda.
The ministerial dialogue on "Illegal Trade in Wildlife" will take place on Thursday, 26 June with a Chair's summary supported by a decision on its outcome to respond to this crucial issue.
Sustainable development in the Post-2015 era
In light of the evolving SDGs - which are currently being drawn up by an Open Working Group of UN Member States - Mr. Steiner emphasized UNEP's priorities for the Post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Environmental, social, and economic opportunities, when combined, can have mutually reinforcing outcomes for sustainable development. Only through integration of the three dimensions would it be possible to achieve the transformative change required to secure long-term human and environmental well-being, including poverty eradication.
The Post-2015 development agenda and SDGs will need to address universal concerns with a universal ambition through a differentiated approach, recognizing that each country starts with a different baseline of challenges, needs, priorities, and response capabilities.
The Goals should cover a number of specific environmental issues, including: sustainable economies ("green jobs"); prosperity without degrading the environment; inter-generational equity and harmony with nature; tools and policies for a sustainable future; and sustainable eco-agricultural food systems.
In his address Mr. Steiner also addressed the international fight against the illegal trade in wildlife.
UNEP's collaborative action to strengthen the response to the illegal trade in wildlife spans a diverse portfolio at the national, regional and global scales.
The theft of natural resources - which includes activities such as elephant poaching, great ape theft and the illegal transport of timber - is rapidly emerging as a new challenge to poverty eradication, sustainable development and a transition towards an inclusive Green Economy. It jeopardizes the lives of law enforcement officials involved and the livelihoods of those who make a legal living from the Earth's natural resources.
Major priorities to tackle these growing challenges include: maintaining political momentum to support international cooperation and further strengthen political will to fight wildlife crime at the national level; providing support to legal, judicial and enforcement measures; and targeting approaches to awareness-raising, while demanding reduction for illegally-sourced wildlife products.
The first session of UNEA will focus on "Illegal Trade in Wildlife". Deliberations are intended to build upon the increasing international momentum to tackle illegal trade in wildlife. It is another important step in the recognition of biodiversity as the bedrock of a global green economy and human well-being.