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North American MGS Consultation Develops Key Messages for UNEP GC/GMEF

UNEP13 December 2012: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for North America (RONA) organized the North American Major Groups and Stakeholders (MGS) Consultation, in preparation for the 14th UNEP Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) and the 27th Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF).

This consultation was one of a series of regional consultations that UNEP's regional offices organize in preparation for the annual meeting. The North American consultation took place on 12-13 December 2012, in Washington, DC, US. Participants discussed the outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), including on the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the adoption of the ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns (10YFP on SCP), and developed key messages to forward to the GC/GMEF.

Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), delivered a keynote address by video conference. He noted that there currently are two tracks for defining the post-2015 development agenda: one regarding the follow-up to the MDGs and one regarding the SDGs. He expressed hope that these two processes will come together quickly, and supported an approach that would view the SDGs as an overarching framework. He said the Rio Conventions have failed to achieve their objectives, and the goals approach, through the setting of SDGs and MDGs, is being pursued in an effort to capture the public interest and to motivate actors around specific themes. He suggested that the themes should include: ending extreme poverty; green growth; stabilizing population; decarbonizing the economy; agriculture issues; smart cities; and new corporate governance. He stressed the importance of four pillars:  economic and social development, environmental protection, and governance issues. He emphasized the need to encourage first movers, and said the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) seeks to foster a global network of problem solving, empower universities, promote public-private solution initiatives, and encourage bold first movers. Sachs directs the SDSN, in his capacity as director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, which serves as the Network's Secretariat.

Key messages that were identified and discussed during the two-day consultation, and will be transmitted to UNEP's Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF), include that: UNEP should facilitate the development a new narrative that captures the urgency of the environmental challenges we face as opportunities for collaboration, inspires stakeholders to take action, creates new communal identities around environmental responsibility, and provides accessible terminology to the general public; the link between environment and development needs to be better articulated and communicated to stakeholders and decision-makers; and a new concept of sustainable development is needed that acknowledges planetary limits and provides a truly integrated, systemic approach to development, which focuses on sustainable living systems and well-being.

Regarding the post-Rio+20 and post-2015 agenda, the key messages suggest that more effective engagement of civil society is needed in the implementation of important post Rio+20 processes, the development of SDGs is an opportunity to address urgent environmental issues, such as oceans, urbanization, consumption and production, water and agriculture, and the SDGs should be integrated with the formulation of post-2015 development goals, with ultimately one set of global goals that have sustainability as a core tenet for each goal.

The key messages also suggest that: the SDGs should incorporate a process goal, such as a goal pertaining to sustainability indicators or environmental safeguards; policy frameworks and SDG's focusing on poverty alleviation should incorporate goals applicable to poverty within all nations; UNEP should seek to broaden its stakeholder engagement beyond Major Groups; UNEP should support efforts to build capacity for robust environmental governance systems at the national level and help countries comply with and implement international environmental laws, and support the delivery of the Bali Strategic Plan; UNEP should seek to better integrate its Green Economy program with related programs such as SCP and climate change, among other actions; UNEP should look beyond national state boundaries and address High Seas governance as a priority issue; and gender balance must be inclusive and universally applied as a key component in policy-making, environmental governance, and economic growth.

The North American consultation was the sixth and final regional consultation organized by UNEP in the lead up to the 16-17 February 2013 GMGSF-14. [IISD RS Sources] [UNEP Regional Consultations webpage]