Eco-architecture can also be a tool for city planning
Credit: Alejandro Arigón/IPS
WANTED: An Effective Multilateral System for the Environment
By Marcela Valente
Governments and civil society groups are recognizing
the urgent need to strengthen global institutions to confront the
challenges of climate change.
NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Mar 1 (Tierramérica).- The echoes of failure still sounding from the
Copenhagen summit on climate change in December are
spurring efforts to reform the international legal framework.
Civil society groups are demanding a new, more agile system
that is both influential and effective.
A consultative group of ministers, created a year ago to explore
changes to the multilateral system, met in late February in the
Indonesian tourist destination Nusa Dua, on Bali, and proposed
a series of initiatives with hopes that countries can reach an
agreement in the medium term.
Some governments and organizations are leaning towards an
umbrella group of United Nations agencies, while others are
proposing the creation of new institutions altogether.
"We need a stronger environmental governance, with more
power and a bigger budget," Alida Spadafora, director of the
Panamanian National Association of the Conservation of Nature,
told Tierramérica at the conclusion of the Civil Society Forum
"We don't know if it should be a UN body or program, but it
should have greater influence and financing, because it is
increasingly evident that we are not achieving results," she said.
The Forum met ahead of the simultaneous conferences of
parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions on
chemicals and toxic substances, and the 11th Special Session of
the United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) Governing
Council and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum
(GC/GMEF), Feb. 22-26 in Bali.
Spadafora said, "there is solid evidence that we are not achieving
results in reversing the serious environmental problems we
have, like climate change, biodiversity loss, and so many other
issues where we are losing."
Maria Ivanova, director of the Global Environmental Governance
project, described this concept as the inclusion of civil society
organizations in the design and execution of policies.
Ivanova, who also took part in the Forum, said that few issues
are as intrinsically global as the environment, but that the
institutions created "have proven incapable of resolving the
problems." Which is why there is a need for change, she said.
According to the U.S. expert, there are two narratives when it
comes to environmental governance. There are those who say
the system is successful and open to non-governmental
organizations, and others who believe it is dysfunctional and
fragmented, with internal competition for limited resources.
The need for reform "is an issue on which governments as
dissimilar as the United States and Iran can agree," said Ivanova,
noting that they have both expressed concern about continued
environmental destruction and agreed that multilateral
institutions should be improved.
Ministers, civil society representatives and UNEP itself agree that
the international community needs effective institutions with
funding, and especially, coordination among them.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a letter to the
conference that environmental questions cannot be resolved by
weak institutions. He called upon the participants to be "creative
and productive" in considering alternatives.
There is also recognitions that the changes will not be decided
before the next climate change summit, to take place in
November in Mexico, but the process will have begun with
sights on the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, to
take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 - already known as Rio+20.
UNEP chief Achim Steiner told Tierramérica that if governments
want a successful agreement in Rio, they must start sending
clear signals now about the desired reforms and strategies.
As an example of synergies for greater efficiency, Steiner
pointed to the first simultaneous meeting of the Basel,
Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
The executives and experts of the three Conventions'
secretariats began coordinating their work so that the regulatory
instruments that they offer the party states would be more
effective in preventing toxins from harming human health or
Civil society is demanding a new global structure, especially
because greater empowerment will subsequently be reflected in
government policies. Many countries do not even have
government agencies to handle environmental matters, and
resources tend to be scant.
The Civil Society Forum issued a document in which it states
that it is "essential to accelerate the implementation of reforms"
of the international environmental system.
The Forum says reforms should improve the environmental
scope of other institutions in the multilateral system, such as
the World Trade Organization, the Commission on Sustainable
Development, the World Bank and the International Monetary