Nations unies : 30 ans de développement durable
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Article Index
30 years of Sustainable Development | 1970-1990
30 years of Sustainable Development | 1991-2000
30 years of sustainable development | 2001-2008
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The environment became part of the international policy agenda in 1972. Since then, the progressive integration of environmental concerns into economic and social approaches has led to the emergence of the concept of sustainable development, based on these three pillars. The UN bears witness to this profound yet incomplete change: sustainable development has given rise to new expertise linking environmental, social, and economic issues, with a focus on political decision making. A specific financing system is slowly being put into place. Nevertheless, between political requirements and regulatory needs, the institutional debate undoubtedly remains the least advanced.

Financing

The question of financing for the environment and for sustainable development has only recently reached the UN agenda. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was only created in 1991. It has slowly expanded its scope of action and operating methods. Today, its central role is being questioned by the proliferation of ad hoc funds and the growing role of the World Bank in environmental and energy questions (see Focus 3).

Expertise

The inclusion of sustainable development on the international policy agenda is inseparable from the rise of specific expertise able to produce policy proposals on global problems. Since the publication of the Brundtland Report, the inclusion of sustainability in the United Nations system has been allied with the development of expertise targeted at overcoming traditional political oppositions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has thus become the reference point for international expertise, as signaled by the launch of a similar process for biodiversity in 2007 (see Zoom p. 65).

Governance

In the UN system, sustainable development is indivisible from the environment. Since the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972, there has been a clear goal of centralizing all environmental actions within a single body. However, the development of international environmental law has led to the creation of a multitude of ad hoc instruments including some 500 multilateral environmental agreements. The discussion about the possible creation of a United Nations for the Environment (UNE) system has been at the heart of the international agenda since the end of the 1990s.

30 years of Sustainable Development | 1970-1990

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IPCC | A scientif consensus

Since 1998, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been responsible for synthesizing work carried out around the world on climate change so as to highlight existing points of agreement, remaining doubts, and the policy options available in this context. Its reports summarize the conclusions of three working groups: the first on the physical and ecological principles of climate change; the second on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change; and the third on the means of mitigating climate change. Additionally, a special team produced methodological guides for carbon emission inventories that States must carry out under the Kyoto Protocol. 

30 years of Sustainable Development | 1991-2000

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GEF | An environmenral Fund 

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) helps developing countries by financing the additional costs of projects and programs that protect the global environment-biodiversity, climate change, international waters, ozone, soil degradation, and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). It is a financial mechanism under four conventions (biodiversity, POPs, desertification, and climate) that relies on three implementation agencies (World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and UNEP), to which seven executive agencies have been added since 1999. In addition to having had a budget of US$6.2 billion since 1994 and having financed 1,800 projects and activities, the GEF has also been recognized for the equal participation of its 178 member countries. Nevertheless, it is subject to competition from less complex private and thematic funds with lower transaction costs and shorter training periods. 

CSD | A body for monitoring progress

Created to supervise the Agenda 21 action program and the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development within the UN system, the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) is a tool that enables dialog between governments, major groups, and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). It receives reports periodically submitted by governments as well as information coming from other IGOs, NGOs, and the private sector. It evaluates progress made on technology transfers and financial support. After coming under heavy criticism, the CSD reformed its method of operation in 2004: it now organizes its work in two-year thematic cycles in which the first year is devoted to examining the progress made and obstacles encountered, and the second to developing programs and policies to strengthen implementation. 

EMG | Seeking transversality

The Environmental Management Group (EMG) brings together all UN environmental bodies, funds, and programs, as well as multilateral conventions. UNEP's executive director chairs the EMG, which facilitates the participatory resolution of problems between these actors. Among its achievements are the harmonization of reporting for bio-diversity related conventions as well as cooperation at UN level on chemical products. The EMG also manages an inventory of the competences of the various UN environmental units. 

 

30 years of sustainable development | 2001-2008

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MDG | Eight goals for 2015 

Defined in 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are intended to guide international action through 2015 in eight areas: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and implementing a global partnership for development. The quantitative progress indicators for these goals show that, despite some progress on health and education, not all of the MDGs will be achieved by 2015.

IPBES  | Expert and policy

Launched in 2005 at the International Biodiversity Conference in Paris, the idea of an international group of scientific experts on biodiversity, equivalent to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is gradually moving towards its institutional form. It first took on the name IMoSEB, and was then renamed IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) in December 2007 in Bonn. The platform should produce expertise that can be easily mobilized for policy actors in biodiversity management. Its final form should be decided in November 2008 in Malaysia. (See Zoom p. 71)