Strengthening international environmental governance

Despite the many conventions and institutions in the area of the environment, policymakers still lack the institutional framework required to be able to guarantee global environmental protection. For this reason, the FOEN advocates the strengthening of international environmental governance in order to achieve a comprehensive, cohesive, effective and efficient international environmental regime.

Compared to other areas of international policy, the environment is a relatively recent concern; however this sector has experienced extremely dynamic development in recent decades. Numerous institutions, conventions and processes exist today, both within and outside the UN system, that are concerned with the environment. Although these developments should be welcomed, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that the plethora of instruments and actors concerned with environmental protection gives rise to governance problems, and that there is a need to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the environmental regime. Switzerland is very active in this issue and attaches great importance to it.

Switzerland's goal

As a relatively small country that is committed to the well-being of its population and the conservation of a healthy environment, Switzerland is interested in a strong international legal system and a more comprehensive, coherent, effective and efficient international environmental regime. Thus, Switzerland advocates for institutional reform measures that contribute to a more effective implementation of international regulations and processes in the area of the environment and their further development, where necessary.

Switzerland supports strengthening environmental governance

In 2002, ministers of the environment decided to strengthen the role of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as a central environmental organisation and improve the coherence of the various UNEP processes and conventions.

In recent years, UNEP has held discussions on reforming the international environment regime. The results of these discussions were incorporated into the preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Conference). At this conference, it was decided to further strengthen UNEP, inter alia through the introduction of universal membership and the development of environmental strategies for the UN system.

Since 2014, a general assembly known as the United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP has met every two years. As UNEP's highest body, it makes political, substantive and administrative decisions, establishes the work programme and the budget and oversees the activities of the Secretariat. It provides countries an opportunity to take stock of the state of the environment, offers advice on strategies for international protection and sustainable use of natural resources and decides on environmental policy measures. In addition, the United Nations Environment Assembly allows the ministers to make important strategic decisions at a global level.

Switzerland advocates the implementation of the resolutions and the facilitation of UNEP in the effective fulfilment of its coordinating function within the UN system through the formulation of environmental policy goals and strategies.

Switzerland supports synergies

Switzerland supports the exploitation of synergies as an effective and pragmatic way of dealing with the fragmentation of the international environmental governance system. Multilateral environmental conventions which deal with the same topics and areas should cooperate more and exploit potential synergies. Switzerland therefore initiated the process to strengthen synergies in the chemicals and waste sector as early as 2006. Switzerland has subsequently been able to apply the experience gained from this successful process in other areas, such as biodiversity. For example, it launched and is shaping the so-called Bern Process for stronger cooperation between Parties to biodiversity-relevant conventions in the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework.

Switzerland supports global environmental goals and Sustainable Development Goals

Global environmental goals can increase the visibility and commitment to international environmental issues. For that reason, Switzerland initiated the publication by UNEP of a compilation of internationally agreed environmental goals (or Global Environmental Goals, GEG) that were drawn from the goals in existing multilateral environmental agreements, resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the results of UN summits.

This tool provides the first ever overview of the international environmental objectives decided on by the international community. At the same time, these environmental objectives allow for better guidance and focus on essential goals in the area of the environment.

In addition, these environmental objectives made an important contribution to the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), one of the resolutions adopted at the Rio+20 conference. Since 2015, 17 SDGs and 169 targets have formed the core of the adopted “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” of the UN. Environmental issues are prominently represented in it and Switzerland’s environmentally relevant priorities are firmly established in these goals.

The “UNEP Live” data portal shows how the internationally adopted environmental goals relate to each of the SDGs.

At the second UNEP Environment Assembly in 2016, UNEP was tasked with ensuring that a contribution is made to the implementation of all environmentally-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To achieve these goals, existing products and processes should be used and synergies should be exploited.

Further information

Last modification 21.04.2023

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