4 August 2009 ECOSOC Wraps Up With Discussion Of Environmental Governance Framework By Catherine Saez @ 11:18 am The influential United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) ended its 2009 substantive session on 31 July, after a month-long coordinating body meeting in Geneva which yielded resolutions on several topics such as public health, science and technology, human rights, environment and sustainable development issues. ECOSOC provides a “unique platform for weaving together the various strands of the development agenda for more effective implementation,” according to a member of the Council. The four-week session started with a week-long High-Level Segment during which a ministerial declaration on the implementation of internationally agreed goals and commitments regarding global public health was adopted. (IPW, United Nations, 16 July 2009) The last portion of the 2009 session was the General Segment, featuring issues such as the environment, sustainable development, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. According to an unofficial report issued by ECOSOC, a UN Joint Inspection Unit report showed that the current framework of international environmental governance might have shortcomings. “It is weakened by institutional fragmentation and specialisation,” said Tadanori Inomata from the Joint Inspection Unit and author of the report, presenting it to the Council. A holistic approach should be taken to environmental and sustainable development issues, he added. He advised member states to follow the recommendations contained in the report. In the report, written in 2008, it appears that “the duplication and fragmentation of the work of United Nations system organisations stem principally from a blurred distinction in their work programmes between environmental protection and sustainable development and the absence of a single strategic planning framework.” “Interagency bodies have failed to establish an information-sharing mechanism on the myriad of environment-related projects implemented by United Nations agencies and other organisations,” the report said. A clear separation of labour among development agencies, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the mainstream environmental agreements should be achieved, “outlining respective areas and operational capacity-building activities for environmental protection and sustainable development,” Inomata was quoted as saying. He added that joint programmes and projects should be developed by UN agencies and organisations and an inventory of environmental initiatives and actors should be available as a tool for prior consultations “on harmonisation of programmes and prioritisation of the use of resources within the United Nations system.” Munyaradzi Chenje of UNEP, introducing the report of its Governing Council, said the Geneva-based group had reaffirmed its commitment to international environment governance. Greater coherence and efficacy of the international environment institutional framework should be discussed and specific actions towards this goal should be determined, Chenje said. Global environmental degradation is “partly the result of the shortcomings of the current governance structures,” said Barbara Gonzenbach of Switzerland, adding that the strengthening of international environmental governance was an issue of utmost priority for the Swiss government. The concept of establishing an environmental strategy for the whole UN system is interesting, she said, according to the unofficial report. Guilherme Patriota of Brazil said that his country viewed the issue of environmental governance as very important and it was a major issue to be considered by ECOSOC. During the 29 July session, the transport of dangerous goods and the Globally Harmonised System of Classification of Labelling of Chemicals were also discussed and a resolution was adopted. ECOSOC asked that the Secretary-General circulates the new and amended recommendations on the transport of dangerous goods to the governments of member states, the specialised agencies, and other international organisations working on the subject. It was also asked that the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals consults concerned organisations in order to improve the implementation of the Model Regulations on the transport of dangerous goods in all countries to foster safety and remove technical barriers to international trade. Keith Morrill of Canada said his country would not block consensus on the resolution but wanted to reaffirm its position on the transport of genetically modified organisms as included in the drafting of the Model Regulations. Morrill said that genetically modified organisms were not inherently dangerous goods. Johan Sammis of the United States shared Canada’s concern, and argued that genetically modified organisms should not be included in the Model Regulation. Gonzalo Jordan of Argentina concurred and said that genetically modified organisms, as such did not present a risk in transport. Model Regulations on the transport of dangerous goods have been developed by United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. ECOSOC also decided that the eighteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development should take place from 3-14 May 2010 and the ninth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues should be held from 19-30 April 2010. The 2009 session was suspended on 31 July and Sha Zukang, undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs at ECOSOC, said the session supported recognition of the need for collective action to improve the global system and to minimise the impact of the economic crisis. Jakob Strom of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the EU, complained about the “late tabling of resolutions and the difficulty in getting them circulated in all languages for proper deliberations among members.” He said tabling of resolutions should come at the beginning of the session. The ministerial declaration “augured well for the strengthened ECOSOC, and was groundbreaking in many ways, paving the road forward for taking concerted action on many critical issues related to global public health” said Hamza Ahmed of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. However, the group was disappointed with the “resistance and reluctance of the partners to make any real progress,” Ahmed said. The group called for the political will to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com.