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UNEP adopted a High-Level Political Declaration

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UNEP adopted a High-Level Political Declaration

On 30 August 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted resolution 73/33, which “noted with satisfaction the work of the working group” and “agreed with all its recommendations”. The UNGA forwarded these recommendations to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) for its consideration for it to “prepare, at its fifth session, 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 UNEP by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.”

On 8 May 2020, the President of the UNEA and the Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives nominated two co-facilitators to lead the negotiations process (Saqlain Syedah and Ado Lohmus). 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. The second consultation took place in November 2021. The third and final session took place on the 27th February 2022, 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.

The United States and Russia were particularly vocal in their opposition to a right to a healthy environment. In the face of this opposition, a consensus was reached by lowering the ambition of the declaration.

In particular, the article recognizing the right to a healthy environment was downgraded. The final text no longer refers to a right to a healthy environment, it only mentions the right in its preamble: “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.”

The procedural rights of information, participation, and access to justice are mentioned in paragraph 14 of the declaration. These rights are also recognized by the 1998 Aarhus Convention and the 2018 Escazu Agreement.