First substantive session of the working group on the Pact in Nairobi

From 14th to 18th of January 2019, the ad hoc working group, created by the resolution of the UN General Assembly of May 10th, 2018, gathered in Nairobi, state capital of Kenya and headquarters of the UN Environment, to analyze the conclusions of the UN Secretary-General’s report.

For the record, pursuant to May 10th, 2018 resolution ‘Towards a Global Pact for the Environment(Res.A/72/277), the UN Secretary-General draw a report assessing the gaps and deficiencies of international environmental law to serve as a basis for the discussion between States about the Global Pact for the Environment. The report revealed that international environmental law is fragmented. Indeed, there are more than 500 sector-specific agreements. However, they are often incomplete and partially implemented. The report hence concluded that a single instrument gathering the guiding principles could clarify, harmonize and strengthen international environmental law.

In Nairobi, the working group, opened to States Members, members of specialized agencies and NGOs enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, discussed the findings of the report.

Multiple remarks and statements have been made.

The idea of a Pact has been greeted several times. it has been underscored that the Pact could be a useful instrument to coordinate and unify international environmental law. In particular, it could improve the implementation of existing multilateral agreements and offer a universal legal framework.

A plea to enshrine additional principles such as the recognition of the planetary boundaries, intergenerational equity, environmental democracy and the role of traditional knowledge and indigenous people has been made, by NGOs in particular. The need to reinforce coordination and governance structures has also been mentioned.

Fragmentation of international environmental law has also been one of the points of the discussion. The participants have broadly debated its sources and causes. Many remarks have been made about the gaps, how “gap” should be defined and studied, and how they could be addressed while taking into consideration the multiplicity of national situations

The importance of maintaining the scope of obligations contained in existing Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) has been highlighted. However, it has been highlighted that the Pact precisely aims to strengthen international environmental law through recognition of universal principles.

A detailed summary of the Session published by IISD Reporting services is available here:  ‘Summary of the First Substantive Session of the Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group towards a Global Pact for the Environment : 14 – 18 January 2019’.

On Friday 18th, the delegates agreed on the agenda for the second substantive session, including an item on ‘discussion on possible options to address possible gaps in international environmental law and environment related instrument, as appropriate’.

The next session will take place from 18th to 20th of March 2019. A third session is planned from 20th of May.


Cover photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis