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Takeaways from UNEA 5.1 for the 2022 declaration

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The first part of the 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.1) was held virtually in February. The UN highest decision-making body on environmental governance started to lay the basis for the 2022 Declaration.

Takeaways from UNEA 5.1 for the 2022 declaration

UNEA’s first online session took place on 22–23 February 2021. This virtual session was dedicated to administrative matters only. It was decided that the substantive negotiations will occur in-person, during UNEA 5.2 in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28 February to 4 March 2022.

UNEA 5.1 led States to adopt three procedural decisions: “(1) the endorsement of the Medium-Term Strategy for 2022-2025, and programme of work and budget for the biennium 2022-2023; (2) the management of trust funds and earmarked contributions; and (3) the agreement to convene a resumed, in-person fifth session in 2022.” Next year’s agenda will be filled with high-level political meetings. 

The Assembly decided to hold the UNEP’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Nairobi in conjunction with the resumed session of UNEA 5. The latter will include a two-day special commemorating session. This event in March 2022 will be an opportunity to adopt a political declaration on strengthening the implementation of international environmental law and international environmental governance.

As for the expected content, the draft building blocks of a Political Declaration provide an initial outlook on what this declaration could contain. For now, it seems to focus on “strengthening international environmental governance in the context of sustainable development as well as “accelerating and facilitating action and implementation at all levels.”  The draft building blocks remain rather centralized on the implementation of existing texts. 

Alongside this event, the 50th birthday of the Stockholm Conference (Stockholm+50) is expected to be held in June 2022, using both physical and digital platforms. While Sweden will host the Stockholm +50 Conference, Kenya agreed to welcome the UNEP commemoration. Both nations agreed “to join hands to ensure that these two important events will be mutually reinforcing, contributing to a revitalized environment for multilateralism”.