IEG options: multi-institutional networking

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Sharing here some relevant excerpts from my organization's (ETC Group) briefing paper on Rio+20, to start off the discussions...

There is logic to upgrading UNEP and giving it the resources and authority necessary to harmonize the multilateral community’s environmental efforts. All UN member states would have an equal role in the new UNEP and nothing would prevent UNEP from structuring whatever formal or informal arrangements governments wish in order to bring in the voice of non-UN actors (as has been done recently with the UN Committee on World Food Security, discussed later). The only reason, then, to introduce a new Environmental Empire (a.k.a. World Environment Organization) would be to weaken the influence of governments by “Rio-engineering” the kind of informal compact that inevitably benefits those with wealth and power. Still, it will be difficult (impossible?) to get agreement on a UNEP-upgrade before Rio. iPlanet’s tweaks and twitters are eminently more doable…and, perhaps, safer.  
 
Rio-engineering of the environmental infrastructure should: 
1. Assure the universal participation of all member states of the United Nations on the basis of one country - one vote;
2. Strengthen the UN’s capacity to support regional and national action;
3. Recognize the expertise and special relationship of social movements – especially indigenous, farming and local communities – and other civil society organizations with the environment through new arrangements supporting their full participation;
4. Facilitate effective participation by synchronizing and streamlining the number of intergovernmental meetings needed to oversee treaties and agreements;
5. Force and facilitate rationalized treaty secretariats – including global and regional offices and operations – to improve coherence and optimize financial management.
 
Governments and civil society organizations could unite to propose a constructive iPlanet that meets these criteria – a multi-institutional network that combines the best-practices established through the three UN chemicals and wastes conventions (Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm) and the template of the four agricultural agencies within the reformed Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the proposals for civil society participation (accepted, in 2004, by Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan). These three initiatives together could lead to a very creative, more coordinated – but still responsive and flexible – environmental network.  
 

Thomas Jacob's picture

Re Institutional Options

 Thanks Neth.  As you may recall, I picked up on your suggestion of comparing the options for Institutional change given us by UNEP against the recommendations of the Green Economy Report, for topic 5.  I think the exercise if worth considering in the context of this topic, as well.  I wanted to enclose that analysis, but don't see how.  It is in topic #5, however.  
Re your conclusions, I tend to agree.  I am on the side of "we begin with reality," as I implied with my note to the group overall earlier today.  I think the items you list are doable and would advance the ball.  I am sympathetic to the comments offered by the Ambassador, as well.  There are no guarantees simply designating a WEO would end up changing anything.  
I personally believe the challenges are more fundamental, and require the environmental dimension of sustainability to be more fully integrated into the work of the ecomic and social institutions.  I believe accomplishing a WEA (or even a consolidation of functions under UNEP) would end up stiffling the evolution of such programs already under way.  This would only further isolate the environmental dimension from the mainstream, I suspect.
Thanks for all the "seeding" you did when the site was first put up...  Tom

Institutional options

See Tom Jacob's full comment "Institutional Framework for Sustainability" of 26.08.11 under Forum 6, that is also relevant to this topic.

Comment by Amb. John McDonald

First of all, I would like to congratulate Neth Dano for her very perceptive recommendations. I agree with most of them.
I would like to comment specifically on the idea of creating a World Environment Organization. I am totally opposed to a new WEO which would have to be a specialized agency of the UN system. In my opinion there are no advantages to going down this path. Almost all UN specialized agencies were created between 1944 and 1956. UNICEF, UNDP, World Food Programme, UN Fund for Population Activities, UNHCR, UNCTAD, etc. were all created by UN resolutions just like UNEP.
Specialized agency status does not automatically mean more money as the UN membership expanded over the decades the 20 poorest countries in the world only paid $20,000 for a vote in the General Assembly. The second 20 poorest countries in the world only pay $40,000 for a vote in the General Assembly equal to the United States which pays the most money out of their budget.
To go down this path will require far too much time, money and energy for no particular purpose. All of the agencies founded by UN resolution at first were because they offered services that member states wanted.
The basic problem with UNEP is that in the last few decades they have become less important to member states. The top 15 contributors to UNEP are basically the top contributors to the United Nations itself.
UNEP has to be more responsive to member states needs and must strengthen that outreach considerably.
The most recent UNEP report on the Niger Delta in Nigeria is a dramatic example of the positive things UNEP can do. We need more projects like that.
The terms of reference set forth in UNEPs’ founding UN resolutions provide the authority necessary. This authority however, needs to be exercised to improve UNEPs’ role in the world.
 
Ambassador John W. McDonald (ret)
Chairman and CEO
Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy
North American representative on the AG