Statement of United States on Institutional Arrangements at the First Universal Session of the Governing Council United Nations Environment Programme

Judy Garber, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Nairobi, Kenya
February 18, 2013

Thank you, Madame Chair, and congratulations on your election.

The United States has long supported a stronger, more effective UNEP, and we are pleased with the reforms reflected in paragraph 88 of the Rio+20 outcome, which it is now our responsibility to implement. We believe it is essential to UNEP’s future that the structural governance issues pertaining to universal membership be resolved at this meeting. Our deliberations on governance are complete, and ongoing governance processes will not contribute to UNEP’s essential programmatic work.

We recognize that there are some substantive issues that Member States will need to discuss over the longer-term. These include a more robust substantive agenda for UNEP, the science-policy interface, and capacity building for environment in the context of development. Conversations on these items can take place in the context of UNEPs Strategic Framework and Programme of Work discussions in future years. To ensure transparency and accountability, and to increase the voice of governments in setting UNEP’s environmental agenda, we support some key institutional reforms to be decided at this meeting.

First, we believe it vital that UNEP’s universal body approve – review and approve - UNEP’s Strategic Framework before that framework is transmitted to New York for review. The Strategic Framework is the document that sets UNEP’s strategic direction, and forms the foundation for UNEP’s Programme of Work. Historically, governments have had limited opportunity to engage in the preparation of this critical document. With a view toward responsiveness to Member States, we believe this needs to change.

Second, we support the creation of a regionally-representative working body, subsidiary to the universal body that will meet once annually to undertake performance and financial reviews and report to the main body on its findings.

This will be an audit body of sorts, which we anticipate will provide final approval for the Programme of Work and Budget before these documents are transmitted to New York in the fall. The main, universal body would also have the opportunity for a final stamp of approval on the Programme of Work, as the GC currently does.

Third, we want a clearer, more defined role for the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) based in Nairobi. The CPR should be empowered to take intersessional decisions at the request of the universal body, and should develop both UNEP’s Strategic Framework and Programme of Work and Budget for approval. The CPR’s presence in Nairobi and its ongoing work on programmatic issues are essential to inform consideration of the Strategic Framework by the main body and of the Programme of Work and Budget by the subsidiary working body.

UNEP needs to be more efficient and effective. As a part of this, we need to look at the frequency of meetings and their scheduling. To avoid overloading the agenda and increase both meeting impact and Member State input, UNEP main body meetings should take place every two years, as they are currently meant to, with less frequent ministerial sessions.

A fourth key piece is the participation of stakeholders. Their more integral participation is indispensible to increasing UNEP’s effectiveness and impact on the ground. We support a mechanism for stakeholder inclusion in UNEP meetings, as well as a portion of the ministerial segments devoted to stakeholder-government dialogue.

Regarding the Rules of Procedure, we do not believe that our efforts to update them should take significant time and effort. There is no need to reinvent this wheel, and we expect to agree any changes to UNEP’s existing Rules quickly.

This meeting is a crucial one in the history of UNEP, and we have some important decisions before us. Let’s send a strong signal from this meeting – that the environment community assembled here at UNEP is ready to be decisive and take action to enable UNEP to do even better work to safeguard the global environment.

We look forward to working with partners on these important issues at this meeting. Thank you, Madame Chair.