On the first day of the year 2016, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. Over the next fifteen years, member countries have pledged to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. At the opening of the seventy-first Plenary session, the newly elected president of the UN General Assembly emphasized ensuring the implementation of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals were agreed to by the members of the UNGA during its seventieth session in 2015. During the UNGA debate, the SDGs were mentioned by 181 members in their statements. Delegations stressed the importance of implementing the SDGs. Climate change was the second-most discussed topic and was mentioned by 164 member states, representing a 16 percent increase from the previous general debate. The UNGA also commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development during the plenary session. Parallels were drawn between the declaration and the SDGs by underlining the focus on equality, participation, empowerment, and ensuring that no one was left behind. It was reiterated that the importance of the 1986 declaration lies in the fact that it laid down the groundwork for other key documents, from the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to the Paris Agreement. Apart from the meetings of the plenary, the various committees of the UNGA continued their work separately. (1) First Committee (Disarmament and Internal Security) Among various other resolutions relating to disarmament, prohibition of nuclear weapons, arms trade, and so on, the following report relevant to the environment was adopted. The report of the secretary-general entitled Observance of Environmental Norms in the Drafting and Implementation of Agreements on Disarmament and Arms Control was adopted on 8 July. In this report, communications received from countries such as Cuba, Lebanon, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine were submitted by the secretary-general to this committee. (2) Second Committee (Economic and Financial) The Second Committee was the most important one to discuss a variety of issues relating to the environment. Discussing the items on sustainable development, the Second Committee of the UNGA considered the report of the secretary-general on Mainstreaming of the Three Dimensions of Sustainable Development throughout the United Nations System on 29 March (Doc. A/71/76-E/2016/55). The report highlights efforts made by the UN to mainstream the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development throughout its work. For instance, the High-Level Committee on Programmes held consultations on a shared framework of action to support member states in reducing inequalities as a core driver for achieving the SDGs. To strengthen coherence and coordination in the UN, the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination has focused on water and smart and sustainable cities for integrating various bodies’ work. In accordance with UNGA Resolution 68/208, a report was submitted by the secretary-general to the UNGA entitled Cooperative Measures to Assess and Increase Awareness of Environmental Effects Related to Waste Originating from Chemical Munitions Dumped at Sea on 25 July (Doc. A/71/190). This report highlights the efforts of Lithuania, Germany, Guatemala, the European Commission, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the Regional Seas Program of the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Maritime Organization, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, the governing bodies of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter and its Protocol, and the Commission of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic to prepare a database on marine pollution related to waste originating from chemical munitions. It lauded the United Nations World Ocean Assessment that was launched in 2015, which included a specific chapter on waste. Lithuania has also created a database for waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea. A draft resolution was adopted in the Second Committee of the UNGA on oil slick on Lebanese shores on 27 September (Doc. A/C.2/71/L.2). The UNGA acknowledged the conclusions of the secretary-general made in his report that the value of the damage to Lebanon amounted to US $856.4 million in 2014. It reiterated its request in this regard to the government of Israel to assume responsibility for prompt and adequate compensation to the government of Lebanon for the aforementioned damage and to other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as the Syrian Arab Republic. This draft resolution was introduced by the representative of Thailand on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and was adopted by a record vote of 156 to eight, with six abstentions. (A) Agenda Item 19: Eight Important Documents The Second Committee held a substantive debate on the first part of Agenda Item 19 entitled Sustainable Development: Implementation of Agenda 21, the Program for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development and submitted its report to the UNGA (Doc. A/71/5463/Add.1). The committee recommended to the UNGA the adoption of the following draft resolutions: (1) International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development,’ 2018–28, which highlights the importance of promoting efficient water usage at all levels for the achievement of social, economic, and environmental objectives in order to achieve internationally agreed, water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and (2) the implementation of Agenda 21, the Program for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which takes note of the report of the secretary-general on the implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. It also emphasizes that regional and sub-regional organizations have a role to play in promoting sustainable development in their respective regions by, inter alia, promoting peer learning and cooperation, including South–South and triangular cooperation, as well as effective linkages among global, regional, sub-regional and national processes. These draft resolutions would be included in the provisional agenda of the seventy-second session of the UNGA in 2017. The second item of Agenda 19, entitled Follow-up to and Implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, was also debated (Doc. A/71/463/Add.2). After the debate, the Second Committee recommended to the UNGA the adoption of the following draft resolutions: (1) Towards the Sustainable Development of the Caribbean Sea for Present and Future Generations, which calls upon the UN system and the international community to assist Caribbean countries and their regional organizations, as appropriate, in their efforts to ensure the protection of the Caribbean Sea from degradation as a result of pollution from ships and (2) the Follow-Up to and Implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States,’ which urges all partners to integrate the Samoa Pathway into their respective cooperation frameworks, programs, and activities to ensure its effective follow-up and implementation and decides to review progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing states through the implementation of the Samoa Pathway and to convene a one-day high-level review in September 2019 at its seventy-fourth session to agree on a political declaration. These two draft resolutions would be included in the provisional agenda of the UNGA’s seventy-second session in 2017. In regard to the third item of Agenda 19 entitled Disaster Risk Reduction, the Second Committee recommended to the UNGA the adoption of a draft resolution entitled Disaster Risk Reduction on 12 December (Doc. A/71/463/Add.3). The committee decided to include the draft resolution in the provisional agenda of the UNGA in its seventy-second session in 2017. Through this draft resolution, the effective implementation of the Sendai Declaration and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–30 is urged. It further reiterates its call for the prevention of new and the reduction of existing disaster risk through the implementation of integrated and inclusive economic, structural, legal, social, health, cultural, educational, environmental, technological, political, and institutional measures that prevent and reduce hazard exposure and vulnerability to disaster, increase preparedness for response and recovery, and thus strengthen resilience. It welcomes the updated United Nations Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience: Towards a Risk-informed and Integrated Approach to Sustainable Development, in line with the Sendai Framework. Another substantive debate was held on combating desertification and the Second Committee recommended to the UNGA the adoption of a resolution entitled Implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa on 21 November (Doc. A/71/463/Add.5). The committee decided to include this draft resolution in the provisional agenda of the UNGA’s seventy-second session in 2017. This draft resolution encourages developed countries that are party to the 1994 Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa to actively support the efforts of developing countries that are party to the convention in promoting sustainable land management practices and in seeking to achieve land degradation neutrality by providing substantial financial resources, facilitated access to appropriate technology, and other forms of support, including through capacity-building measures. It also invites member states to take action towards achieving the SDGs and reaching voluntary targets on land degradation neutrality in accordance with specific national circumstances and development priorities. It further reiterates full and equal participation and leadership of women in all areas of sustainable development, including in combating desertification. The Second Committee also debated another agenda item in the broad category of sustainable development and recommended to the General Assembly the adoption of a draft resolution entitled Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Its Contribution to Sustainable Development on 12 December (Doc. A/71/463/Add.6). This draft resolution recognizes the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity on 12 October 2014. It also recognizes the Gangwon Declaration on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, which was adopted at the high-level segment of the twelfth Conference of the Parties to the convention. It urges the parties to the convention to facilitate the transfer of technology for the effective implementation of this convention in accordance with Article 16 and other relevant provisions. It further urges parties to promote the mainstreaming of gender considerations, taking into account the 2015–20 Gender Plan of Action under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The committee decided to include this draft resolution in the provisional agenda of its seventy-second session, unless otherwise agreed. The agenda item of sustainable development also included a substantive debate on the United Nations Environmental Programme. The Second Committee recommended to the UNGA the adoption of a resolution entitled Report of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme on 12 December (Doc.A/71/463/Add.7). The committee decided to include this draft resolution in the provisional agenda of its seventy-third session in 2018. The draft resolution notes the relevance of the work of the United Nations Environment Program to the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, to be held in June 2017, and encourages its Secretariat to provide the necessary inputs, as appropriate. It also urges all member states and other stakeholders in a position to do so to increase voluntary funding to the United Nations Environment Program, including to the Environment Fund, and notes the need for continued efforts to broaden the donor base and mobilize resources from all sources, including stakeholders. Another interesting debate took place in the Second Committee, after which it recommended to the UNGA the adoption of a draft resolution entitled Ensuring Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All on 12 December (Doc. A/71/463/Add.9). It was also decided to include this resolution in the provisional agenda of its seventy-second session in 2017. This draft resolution emphasizes that universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all is an integral part of poverty eradication and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also emphasizes the need to improve access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all, environmentally sound energy services and resources for sustainable development, and takes into consideration the diversity of situations, national policies, and specific needs of developing countries and countries with economies in transition. It stresses the need to increase the share of new and renewable sources of energy in the global energy mix, as well as the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, as an important contribution to achieving universal access to sustainable modern energy services. The Second Committee also recommended to the UNGA the adoption of a resolution entitled Sustainable Mountain Development on 21 November (A/71/463/Add. 10) and decided to include this resolution in the seventy-fourth session of the UNGA. This draft resolution stresses the special vulnerability of people living in mountain environments, often with limited access to health, education, and economic systems, and invites states to strengthen cooperative action with the effective involvement and sharing of knowledge and experience of all stakeholders, including traditional knowledge of indigenous people living in mountain areas and knowledge of local mountain communities. It expresses deep concern at the number and scale of natural and man-made disasters and their increasing impact in recent years, which have resulted in massive loss of life and long-term negative social, economic, and environmental consequences for societies throughout the world. It recognizes that disaster risk reduction requires a broader and more people-centred preventive approach. It encourages states to strengthen disaster risk governance in order to cope with such extreme events as rockfalls, avalanches, glacial lake outburst floods, and landslides, which can be exacerbated by climate change and deforestation, consistent with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–30. (B) Agenda Item 20 The Second Committee recommended to the UNGA the adoption of a draft resolution entitled Implementation of the Outcome of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) and Strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat) and also recommended including it for adoption at the UNGA’s seventy-second session. This draft resolution welcomes the adoption of the outcome document entitled New Urban Agenda by the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, held in Quito in October. It requests the secretary-general to report on the progress of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda every four years, with the first report to be submitted to the UNGA through the UN Economic and Social Council in 2018. Recalling paragraphs 172 and 173 of the New Urban Agenda, this resolution decides that the report from the evidence-based and independent assessment of UN Habitat should be presented in a timely manner to the high level meeting of the UNGA. Finally, it encourages member states, international and bilateral donors, and financial institutions to contribute to UN Habitat through increased voluntary financial contributions to the UN Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation. (3) Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Affairs) While discussing Agenda Item 26, the Third Committee recommended that the UNGA adopt a resolution entitled Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the Twenty-Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly on 30 November (Doc. A/71/476). This resolution, inter alia, welcomes the adoption, in its entirety, of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognizes that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. It further invites the Commission for Social Development to remain actively engaged in supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in its social dimension. (4) Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) A Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation was adopted by this committee at its sixty-third session on 27 June–1 July (Doc. A/71/46). The Scientific Committee deliberated on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 and the effects of radiation exposure. It plans to identify and systematically appraise new information on the accident and to evaluate the outcomes periodically at its annual sessions. It plans to actively engage with those responsible for formulating, implementing, and advising on major research programs in Japan in order to rapidly assimilate emerging issues and highlight questions needing further research. This committee also examined the radiation effects of power generation from nuclear and thermal power stations, especially long-lived radio-nuclides. It came to the conclusion that the total collective dose per unit of electricity generated in the coal cycle was larger than that found in the nuclear fuel cycle. (5) Sixth Committee (Legal Affairs) and the International Law Commission (ILC) Apart from the Second Committee, the ILC, in its sixty-eighth session, considered the second report of the special rapporteur, which examined the existing rules of armed conflict directly relevant to the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict (Doc. A/71/10). The report contained five draft principles and three draft preambular paragraphs. Those draft principles are: (1) parties to a conflict are encouraged to settle matters relating to the restoration and protection of the environment damaged by the armed conflict in their peace agreements; (2) to carry out post-conflict environmental assessments and recovery measures; (3) all minefields, mined areas, mines, booby-traps, explosive ordnance, and other remnants of war should cleared, removed, destroyed, or maintained in accordance with obligations under international law; (4) states and international organizations shall cooperate to ensure that remnants of war do not constitute a danger to the environment, public health, or safety of seafarers; and (5) states and international organizations shall grant access to, and share, information in order to enhance the protection of the environment in accordance with their obligations under international law. The ILC decided to refer these principles to the Drafting Committee of the commission. The ILC also considered the third report of the special rapporteur, which examines the issue of protection of atmosphere. The special rapporteur analysed several key issues relevant to the topic, namely the obligations of states to prevent atmospheric pollution and mitigate atmospheric degradation and the requirement of due diligence and environmental impact assessment. He also explored questions concerning sustainable and equitable utilization of the atmosphere as well as the legal limits on certain activities aimed at intentional modification of the atmosphere. The Sixth Committee recommended to the UNGA that governments should submit their views by 31 January 2017 (Doc. A/71/509). The Sixth Committee further recommended to the UNGA the adoption of a resolution on Consideration of Prevention of Transboundary Harm from Hazardous Activities and Allocation of Loss in the Case of Such Harm on 10 November as well as including it for adoption at the seventy-fourth session of the UNGA (Doc. A/71/511). This draft resolution commends the ILC articles on prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities (GA Resolution 62/68) and on the principles on the allocation of loss in the case of transboundary harm arising out of hazardous activities (GA Resolution 61/36). It invites governments to submit further comments on any future action, in particular on the form of the respective articles and principles, bearing in mind the recommendations made by the commission in that regard. It also requests that the secretary-general submit a compilation of decisions of international courts, tribunals, and other bodies referring to the articles and the principles. (6) United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) One of the subsidiary organs of the UNGA is the UNEA. The second session of the UNEA took place in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016. UNEA adopted a resolution entitled Delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on 3 August (Doc. UNEP/EA.2/Res.5). According to this resolution, UNEP is committed to contributing to the effective implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in an integrated manner, through setting the global environmental agenda, providing overarching policy guidance and defining policy responses to address emerging environmental challenges, undertaking policy review, dialogue, and exchange of experiences, and fostering partnerships for achieving environmental goals and resource mobilization. It is also committed to conveying the main messages of its sessions to the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development to support its function in the follow-up to and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On the same day, UNEA adopted another resolution entitled Supporting the Paris Agreement (Doc. UNEP/EA.2/Res.6), according to which it requested that the executive director contribute to the implementation of pre-2020 global efforts to address the challenge of climate change by: (1) strengthening efforts in the areas of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and cooperation; (2) reinforcing and stepping up UNEP participation in partnership programs and initiatives; (3) strengthening collaboration between UNEP, relevant UN bodies, and other relevant stakeholders on work related to adaptation, mitigation, and transition to a sustainable future in am manner that reinforces synergies, avoids duplication, and maximizes efficiency and effectiveness; (4) accelerating support to countries, especially developing countries, for building national readiness capacity to implement the Paris Agreement, implementation capacity, and capacity to access finance and technology; (5) strengthening UNEP support to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and (6) strengthening UNEP support for, and contributions to, global climate change-related assessments. © The Author 2017. 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Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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