The Governing Council of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on February 22, 2013 agreed to create an access to information policy and increase participation of stakeholders and civil society.
The draft decision was adopted by the Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya after encouragement by an information group of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) known as the Environmental Democracy Group.
The group of NGOs includes: The Access Initiative (World Resources Institute), the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Article 19, Friends of the Earth, World Futures Council European Environment Bureau and Youth Constituency at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The movement follows up on paragraph 88 of the Rio+20 outcome document concerning transparency. The document resulted from the meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) held from June 20 – 22, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
At the UNEP meeting, the Governing Council made decisions on a variety of structural and procedural matters.
Paragraph 17 of the document states that the Governing Council has decided “to enhance transparency and openness in its work and in this regard request the Executive Director to establish a written access-to-information policy.”
Other conclusions at the meeting required that the governing body “ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders, particularly those from developing countries, drawing on best practices and models from relevant multilateral institutions” and will explore “new mechanisms to promote transparency and the effective engagement of civil society in its work and that of its subsidiary bodies”.
The Governing Council noted that the process to achieve this will include developing by 2014 a process for stakeholder accreditation and participation that builds on the existing rules of procedure, takes into account inclusive modalities of the Commission of Sustainable Development and other relevant United Nations bodies.
It will also establish by 2014 mechanisms and rules for stakeholders expert input and advice and also enhance by the same year working methods and processes for informed discussions and contributions by all relevant stakeholders towards the intergovernmental decision making process.
Before the meeting, the NGOs had submitted proposals to the Governing Council for implementing paragraph 88(h) on transparency and stakeholder engagement in UNEP. Their proposal asked for the following text to be included as appropriate, in the decisions of the Governing Council relating to UNEP Institutional Issues:
Noting the mandate deriving from the Rio+20 Outcome document for a new and strengthened UNEP to take a leadership role in improving transparency and public participation;
Noting in particular paragraph 88h of the Rio+20 Outcome Document, which seeks to ensure the active participation of all relevant stakeholders, drawing on best practices and models from relevant multilateral institutions and exploring new mechanisms to promote transparency and the effective engagement of civil society;
Taking further note of the “Principles on Stakeholder Participation in UNEP” adopted at the 14th Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum held on February 16-17, 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, and the report of the Expert Group meeting on “Models and Mechanisms of Civil Society Participation in UNEP: Building on The Experiences of Multilateral Organisations” held from January 22-23, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Decides on the following initial steps to implement paragraph 88(h) of the Rio Outcome document:
- To set up a working group tasked with reviewing and developing proposals for strengthening the existing mechanisms for public participation in all UNEP meetings, processes and bodies (including through the final stages of decision-making) at all levels, in accordance with the “Principles on Stakeholder Participation in UNEP” referred to above, and taking into account the analysis referred to in paragraph 3 below. This group will operate with the full participation of all stakeholders, and will prepare its conclusions and proposals with a view to adoption at the next meeting of the Governing Council;
- To mandate the Executive Director of UNEP to issue a public disclosure and access to information policy, produced with the full participation of all stakeholders, which should be in place by the time of the next meeting of the Governing Council;
- To mandate the Executive Director of UNEP to conduct a detailed analysis of other mechanisms and models of participation, including best practices in other fora, with the full participation of stakeholders and seeking the cooperation of relevant inter-governmental organizations;
- To request the Executive Director of UNEP to take all possible steps to improve practices and guidelines regarding public participation in the planning and implementation of programmatic activities and to report to the next Governing Council on the steps taken in this regard;
- To mandate the Executive Director of UNEP to ensure the full participation of all stakeholders through the UNEP Major Groups and Stakeholder Branch and to provide adequate resources for this purpose.