" "THE STATUS QUO IS SIMPLY A ROAD TONOWHERE RATHER THAN A ROAD TO RIO 2012e live in an increasingly unequal world;the environmental services upon whichwe all depend and especially the poor, arefast hitting limits as a result of decades ofpollution, damage and degradation. Enlightened sections of the private sector can alreadysee the writing on the wall: we live on a planet whereclimate change and the loss of productive ecosystemscan and will increasingly disrupt global supply chains.Those of you who work in communities and on theground daily confront the mismatch between theambition of the Stockholm Conference of 1972 andthe Rio Earth Summit of almost 20 years ago and thereality of today. An extraordinary level of achievement has occurred insome areas, millions have been lifted out of poverty inplaces like China and India and the world's network ofprotected areas, for example, has grown substantially.But the development path of the intervening years hasby-passed far too many; brought prosperity to the fewrather than the majority and is running an ecologicalbill that is paid by the poor and the vulnerable everyday and will ultimately be picked up by the cominggeneration. The status quo is simply a road to nowhererather than a Road to Rio 2012. The Green Economy in the context of sustainabledevelopment and poverty eradication stirs strongemotions - this can only be welcomed; we need astrong and animated discourse but only so long as it ismore light than heat that is generated. For some, theGreen Economy represents the logical evolution ofsustainable development; a path to making economiesmore responsive to the needs and aspirations of allpeoples; a way of making globalisation a servant ratherthan a master. For others, it smacks of some kind ofgreen gloss conspiring to maintain the existingeconomic order but in a way that provides a feel goodfactor. Let me stress that when UNEP became involved in theGreen Economy in 2008, we were building on existingwork pioneered by NGOs and civil society. And thatfrom the outset, it has been UNEP's intention toprovide both a re-think and the supporting analysis ofhow to shape the global economy in a way thatprovides not only growth but also transformative socialand environmental outcomes. I am more than happy to discuss further the GreenEconomy. But given the time I have for this keynote, Iwould like to focus the reminder of my speech on theother key theme of Rio+20 - namely, an institutionalframework for sustainable development, and addressthe International Environment Governance (IEG)dimension. In part because of the two themes this oneis perhaps less mature in the discussions andpreparations, and in part because it requires yourengagement and leadership in order to sharpen andshape a meaningful and forward-looking outcome. Civil society was crucial to the establishment of UNEP,but almost from the outset there have been calls frommany quarters for UNEP to be strengthened. Today,and as a result of Rio+20 and our collective experienceof 40 years, those calls are re-surfacing with a vigourperhaps not witnessed since Stockholm. To date,several regions including Africa have signaled adetermination to take up this course. Why? Becausethe landscape that has emerged in terms of thestructures and institutions is simply too fragmented,time-consuming and piecemeal in its present form. And the over 500 Multilateral Environment AgreementSUSTAINABLE SOCIETIES, RESPONSIVE CITIZENS038SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENTACHIM STEINER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (UNEP) WPhoto: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT039Above: Achim Steiner(MEAs), many with their own assemblies andgoverning bodies, have become an administrativeburden for many developing countries stretchinglimited financial and human resources. A summary ofthe number of meetings and decisions taken byConferences of Parties of 18 major MEAs between theyears 1992-2007 shows that 540 meetings were heldat which 5,084 decisions were taken. If one wishes to be direct, we have been merely dealingwith symptom upon symptom, giving the impressionthat challenges have been addressed but in factmasking root causes and root solutions. This approachhas also prevented a more synergistic and effectiveapproach from emerging. So we have a managementregime that to date is failing this generation's searchfor sustainable development and will certainly shortchange the next, unless a more effective, stronger,coherent and focused governance system can beestablished. One that can provide a top to what onemight term the bottom which is represented by thepathways and promise of a transition to a low-carbon,resource efficient Green Economy. The key question engaging governments and widersociety currently is not just whether a globalorganisation for the environment is needed. Certainly,many concede that the status quo is not an option. Buthow it would be configured, and what would it do thatwould prove to be transformative? Let me share someelements under discussions and consideration. Firstly, it would require the authority to allow ministersresponsible for the environment to achieve some parityand equity with their economic and socialcounterparts. UNEP has a Governing Council thatmeets annually, but the decisions taken byenvironment ministers are referred to New York wherethey can be agreed or quite literally dismissed as partof the General Assembly process. In addition, it maysurprise some to learn that UNEP's Governing Councildoes not have provision for universal membership ofmember states to date. A body with the kind ofdecision-making authority of a World TradeOrganization or a specialised agency such as the WorldHealth Organization could remedy this disconnectbetween ambition and reality. Equally, there is a need for an anchor institution toprovide authoritative policy guidance to the MEAs inorder to address fragmentation and build a far morestrategic direction between all the distinct parts of thecurrent environment corpus. A more authoritative andstrengthened body could also get to grips with the issueof financing. Currently, decisions over how fundsallocated for the environment internationally are spentare often taken in parallel fora such as the GlobalEnvironment Facility. Meanwhile, the lack of a centraland anchoring policy framework is leading to increasedcosts, inefficient targeting of scarce financial resourcesand curtailed consequences for achieving sustainability.Another glaring gap linked with the existing governancearrangements is implementation. To put it simply, theworld invests significant time, skill and capacity innegotiating and agreeing treaties, targets and timetablesbut far less in actually making these agreements happenon the ground and where it matters. Any new structuremust therefore address this disconnect by perhapshaving a dedicated implementation arm able to supportfinancially and build the capacity of developing andleast developed countries to meet their commitmentsregionally and nationally. Other important elements include buildingaccountability into existing and future environmentalagreements and decisions, backed up by peer reviewand review mechanisms. The African Union, the WTOand the Human Rights Council offer examples. Theeffectiveness of systems of implementation andaccountability can also benefit from partnerships withcivil society and their knowledge, networks andindependent scrutiny. Finally science: sound science underpins sound policy-making, but all too often that wealth of scientificknowledge available to governments is unfiltered or unfitfor cooperative decision making. A comprehensivescience-policy interface spanning the full range ofenvironmental challenges and sectors and capable ofbuilding scientific capacity in developing countries, isanother key link in this forward-looking governancedebate. Overall, such reforms will also contribute toother goals such as those enshrined in principle 10 onimproved access to information, public participationand access to justice in environment matters.nThe above article is excerpted from Achim Steiner's remarksat the Annual Conference of French Ambassadors in Bonn on3 September 2011.