On June 2017, the government of France introduced a draft of a Global Pact for the Environment as a proposal for a new legally binding instrument on the principles of international environmental law. It took less than a year after that for the United Nations General Assembly to agree to move forward on a process to develop and agree on such a Pact. This demonstrates an exceptional leadership and diplomatic skills of the French government.
On 10 May 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” (document A/72/L.51) with 143 votes in favor for the document, while just six countries voted against and six others abstained. This effort received an almost unanimous support. The resolution opens the way for the negotiation of this new Pact and establishes an ad hoc working group to identify gaps in international environmental law. The sessions of the ad hoc working group will be open for all member states and relevant NGOs.
While French representative F. Delattre, claims that it is time to take on new responsibilities, the representatives of the countries voting against the resolution believed that there are enough agreements and policies and the need is to focus on the implementation and better articulation of existing instruments.
Thus, Russia and Philippines highlighted the role of the 2030 Agenda as already existing comprehensive framework. Russian representative, S. Kononuchenko, pointed out that we already have more than 1,000 instruments to protect the environment and the focus should be on their implementation instead of creation of new ones. The representative of the United States, M. Simonoff, claimed that this initiative should not disrupt existing environment commitments and the wording of the document should not prejudice the discussions.
As stated in the Earth Charter, “In order to build a sustainable global community, the nations of the world must renew their commitment to the United Nations, fulfill their obligations under existing international agreements, and support the implementation of Earth Charter principles with an international legally binding instrument on environment and development.”
In this context, creation of the working group for the identification of gaps and challenges in current regime for the protection of the environment is a welcome development. Nevertheless, the task should combine the work under the new resolution with the aim to enhance mechanisms of implementation (and better coordination) of existing instruments.
This effort builds on the outstanding work IUCN has developed over the years in drafting the IUCN Covenant on Environment and Development, the 2004 IUCN Resolution on the Earth Charter and the 2016 IUCN World Declaration on the Environmental Rule of Law.
There is no doubt there are synergies between the Global Pact and the Earth Charter. Hopefully, the Global Pact process will adopt explicit language on ecological integrity and strong sustainability. In 2012, a study was conducted to find the links between principles of the Earth Charter and International Law instruments. This publication was the basis of a doctoral research developed by Maria Elisa Febres. This document can be found by clicking here.
Click here for more information on the UN General Assembly Resolution adopted last week.
See the resolution adopted here.
See previous article on the Global Pact for the Environment and Its Overlap with the Earth Charter.