Where are we now?


The Pact project was presented for the first time in Paris on June 24, 2017, within the framework of an international event organized in the Sorbonne University’s Grand Amphitheater with attendance from several affluent individuals in environmental conservation, including Laurent Fabius, Ban Ki-moon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mary Robinson, Anne Hidalgo, Laurence Tubiana, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal and Nicolas Hulot.

On September 19, 2017, the Pact project was presented in New York within the UN framework by the French President Emmanuel Macron, on the occasion of a world summit bringing together several Heads of States and Governments, outside of the UN General Assembly’s 72nd Session. At this occasion, the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, the President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, as well as the Executive Director of the UN Environment (UN Environment Program), Erik Solheim, manifested their support for the project.

On May 10, 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution « Towards a Global Pact for the Environment », launching negotiations among States (resolution A/72/L.51 of 10 May 2018).

Read here the text of the resolution.

The resolution was adopted by 143 votes in favour, 5 votes against (United States, Russia, Syria, Turkey and the Philipines) and 7 abstentions (Saudi-Arabia, Bielorussia, Iran, Malaisia, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Tadjikistan). It paves the way for negotiation of such a Pact by organizing the project’s terms of review by UN bodies. It includes:

  • The report presentation by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, to the General Assembly, identifying the eventual gaps in international environmental law towards the end of 2018;
  • The creation of an open-ended working group, open to all State members, in charge of examining this report and discussing the necessity of elaborating the project in terms of a new international treaty.

On September 5-7, 2018, the working group held a first organizational meeting in New York. They scheduled their next three meetings, that were held in Nairobi in January, March, and May 2019.

In December 2018, the United Nations Secretary General published his report on the Global Pact for the Environment. The report, entitled “Gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments: towards a global pact for the environment”, underlines that international environmental law and its effectiveness could be strengthened by a comprehensive and unifying international instrument that gathers all the principles of environmental law. Such an instrument “could better the harmonization, the predictability and legal security.”

In June 2019, the working group adopted recommendations that were in net retreat from the original proposals of the co-chairs. Indeed, States effectively opted for adopting a political declaration in 2022 to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Stockholm Conference. These recommendations constitute a setback to the project’s initial ambition that aimed for a legally binding international treaty that would enshrine the general principles of environmental law. [28]

On 30 August 2019, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 73/333. This resolution “noted with satisfaction the work of the working group” and “agreed with all its recommendations”.[7] It forwarded these recommendations to the United Nations Environment Assembly for its consideration for it to “prepare, at its fifth session, in February 2021, a political declaration for a United Nations high-level meeting, subject to voluntary funding, in the context of the commemoration of the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm from 5 to 16 June 1972.”[7]

On 8 May 2020, the President of the United Nations Environment Assembly and the Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives nominated two-cofacilitators to lead the negotiations process. These are Saqlain Syedah, from Pakistan, and Ado Lohmus, from Estonia. These co-facilitators leading informal consultations to prepare the work of the Environment Assembly’s fifth session in February 2021. In that context, their mandate is to supervise three consultative meetings, the first of which occurred in June 2020. The other two, which were originally scheduled for November 2020 and February 2021, were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the negotiations in Nairobi, the UN General Assembly’s resolution 73/333 launched a second round of States’ consultation, resulting in the adoption of a High-Level Political Declaration in March 2022, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of UNEP and the 1972 Stockholm Declaration. This declaration mentions the right to a healthy environment: “Recognizing that a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is important for the enjoyment of human rights, taking note of Human Rights Council resolution 48/13 entitled “The human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.”

In the wake of the Global Pact Project, a movement for international recognition of the right to a healthy environment emerged. In September 2020, a small group of states (Costa Rica, Morocco, Slovenia, Switzerland and the Maldives) began discussions to have this right recognized by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

On October 8, 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 48/13. This resolution recognizes for the first time at the international level the right to a healthy environment as a human right. It follows an international campaign led by more than a thousand NGOs and fifteen UN agencies. This resolution also invites the United Nations General Assembly in New York to examine the issue.

As of March 2022, this same small group of States (Costa Rica, Morocco, Slovenia, Switzerland and Maldives) initiated discussions so that this right could be recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

On July 28, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right for all.

The resolution follows months of mobilization by civil society organizations, including the Global Pact Coalition, and the leadership of the Special Rapporteur on environment and human rights, David R. Boyd and his predecessor, John Knox.

This is a historic victory for environmental protection and a major step towards a human rights-based approach to environmental disputes. Environmental protection is now considered an essential element of human rights protection. Such recognition gives greater weight to the right to a healthy environment on the international stage.

These resolutions could pave the way, in the long term, for the adoption of an international convention on the right to a healthy environment. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Professor David Boyd, such a treaty would constitute the extension of the Global Pact for the Environment Project.

May 2019
Third session of the working group on the Pact in Nairobi & Adoption of Recommendations for the UNGA

Negotiations on the Global Pact for the Environment Project lead to the adoption of a high-level political declaration at UNEP’s 50th anniversary celebration. Although disappointing, the declaration mentions the right to a healthy environment.

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March 2019
Second session of the working group on the pact in nairobi

On October 8, 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 48/13. This resolution recognizes for the first time at the international level the right to a healthy environment as a human right and invites the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York to consider the matter.

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January 2019
First substantive session of the working group on the Pact in Nairobi

States gather for the third and final working session on the Global Pact for the Environment in Nairobi and adopt a recommendation.

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December 2018
Report of the UN Secretary-General

The second session of the open-ended working group is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the Global Pact for the Environment.

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May 2018
Adoption of the resolution opening the negotiations towards a Global Pact for the Environment

States hold the first session of the Working Group on the Global Pact for the Environment at the UN Environment (Nairobi, Kenya).

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September 2017
Presentation of the Global Pact at a side-event of the UN General-Assembly

Release of the UN Secretary General’s report on the gaps in international environmental law to lay the foundation for state negotiations on the Pact.

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June 2017
Presentation of the Draft Global Pact of the International Group of Experts for the Pact at the Sorbonne University (Paris, France)

The UN General Assembly votes on a first procedural resolution opening negotiations among States on the Global Pact for the Environment.

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