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Sunday, February 14, 2010

What are institutional arrangements for protection of environment: National and Global ?

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Modern development has caused a number of environmental problems at local, regional, national and international levels. Global Climate Change, depletion of ozone layer, increasing inequality, reduction in the means of livelihood for poor, scarcity of food, increasing number of disasters, extinction of species, falling underground water table etc. are some of the major environmental problems created by modern unsustainable development. These problems are challenging the existence of human race on this planet. In view of these dangerous conditions efforts have been started on all levels to save the planet and to adopt strategies of sustainable development. The increasing inequality through modern unsustainable development has been specially emphasized by UNDP’s Human Development Report of the year 2007-2008.According to the Fourth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is 95 percent probability that “…..human activities have exerted a substantial net warming influences on climate since 1750 (IPCC 2007). These activities include industrial processes, power plants, transportation, and agricultural production –the development of a global market place for goods and services – that have increased the green house gas components of the planet’s atmosphere to the point of causing climate change.” Various national and global agencies including a number of non-government organizations have started many different programmes for averting the environmental crisis and ensuring sustainable development.
 In response to the problems and challenges faced by the World Community; a number of National and International organizations were established for the cause of Environmental Protection. Some of the important organizations that have been playing key roles for sustainable development as well as for the formulation and implementation of Environmental Policy, are introduced below –


On June 26, 1945 fifty one; nations representing 80% of the world’s population approved and signed a charter for the establishment of a world body of nations – the United Nations Organisation (UNO) ; at Sanfrancisco. UNO is a global Organisation consisting of 185 states organised to serve as a platform for discussion and resolution of all types of problems of its member states. The council of Economic and Social Affairs is a body of UNO which is directly concerned with environmental matters. A number of autonomous bodies are administratively
attached to its secretariat, for making and implementing environmental policies. These semiautonomous bodies are –

1. UNITAR or United Nations Institute for Training and Research, established in 1963.
2. UNCTAD or U N Conference on Trade and Development, established in 1963.
3. UNIDO or U N Industrial Development Organisation, established in 1965. It became the specialized Agency of U N in 1986.
4. UNDP or UN Development Programme, established in 1965.
5. UNEP or UN Environment Programme, established in 1972.

Some International Bodies of strictly economic character are also attached to this group. These bodies include GATT or General Agreement on Tariff and Trade; International Council of Justice which adjudicates cases submitted to it by member states of United Nations.

GEF or the Global Environmental Facility is an independent financial organisation, which provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihood among local communities. It was established in 1991 with its secretariat at Washington DC, USA. UNDP, UNEP, and the World Bank are GEF --Coordination Units of the implementing agency. GEF funded projects amounted to approximately US $7.47 billion, representing over 560 full and medium sized projects as well as more than 530 enabling activities. Since 1991, GEF has provided grants for more than 1,300 projects in 140 countries.

UNITAR or the United Nations Office for Training and Research is an autonomous body within the United Nations which was established in 1965 to enhance the effectiveness of the UN through appropriate training and research. UNITAR is governed by a Board of Trustees and is headed by an Executive Director. It has two main offices: the Headquarters at Geneva, and a Liaison Office at New York. The Institute is supported by voluntary contributions from governments, inter-governmental organizations, foundations and other non-governmental sources.

UNCTAD or United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was established in 1964, in view of promoting development-friendly integration of Developing Countries into the World Economy. It has three basic functions –

  • Acting as a forum for Intergovernmental deliberations in order to build up some consensus.
  • Undertaking – research, policy analysis, and data collection for the debates among government representatives and experts.
  • Providing Technical Assistance to least developed countries and to those having their economies in transition. It cooperates with other organizations and donor countries in the delivery of technical assistance.
How does UNCTAD function? Well, the secretariat of UNCTAD works together with member Governments, and interacts with organizations of the United Nations system, regional commissions, governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, the private sector including trade and industry associations, research institutes and universities across the world. Now, UNCTAD is a knowledge based institution which aims to help shape current policy debates and thinking on development, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development.

UNIDO or the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation was established as a UN programme in 1966 with headquarters in Vienna and became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1985. According to UNIDO - the competitive and environmentally sustainable industry has a crucial role to play in accelerating economic growth, reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Hence, UNIDO works towards improving the quality of life of the world's poor by drawing on its combined global resources and expertise in the following three interrelated thematic areas: (i). Poverty reduction through productive activities; (ii).Building up of Trade-Capacity along sustainable lines for sustainable development; (iii).Energy and Environment.
The UNEP is one of the most important institutions which shape the Global Environmental Policy and its implementation. It was created by United Nations General Assembly in 1972 following a decision at the UN Conference on Human Environment at Stockholm in 1972. UNEP has been designed to be the environmental conscience of the UN system which plays a catalytic role in coordinating the activities of other UN Agencies and prompting them to integrate Environmental Considerations into their activities. The Head Quarter of UNEP is located at Nairobi, Kenya.
UNEP provides
      An agency established by the General Assembly of the United Nations or by any sub- division of the UN System which is concerned with Environment and sustainable development is called as a UN Specialized agency. Some of such agencies are – Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) etc. Out of a total of 16 specialized agencies of United Nations, about 8 agencies are directly involved in the works pertaining to the protection of Environment and Sustainable Development. These agencies are listed below-

   1. FAO or Food and Agricultural Organisation, established in 1945, member countries 136.
2. ILO or International Labour Organisation, established in 1919, member countries 140.
3. IMO or International Maritime Organisation, established in 1958, member countries 101.
4. UNESCO or United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, established in 1945, member countries 141.
5. WHO or World Health Organisation, established in 1948, member countries 145.
6. WMO or World Meteorological Organisation, established in 1950, member countries 145.
7. IBRD or International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, established in 1946, member countries 128.
    8. UNIDO or United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, established in 1965(as a special body and specialized agency of UN), member countries 151(up to the year 1988).

A Number of International Political Alliances and Associations deal with the matters pertaining to the environment and sustainable development. In fact these organizations had been created originally for the purpose entirely different from sustainable Development and the Environment. But now these organizations are participating in many of the major activities of environment and sustainable development. Some of these organizations are listed below –

1. NATO or North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, created in 1949 for the purpose of common defence. However it is also concerned with economic, cultural, and environmental matters. NATO established a committee entitled Challenges of Modern Society (December 1969) which has sponsored many studies and programmes related to environmental protection and restoration.

2. CMEA or the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, a Soviet Sponsored Council, established on 25 January 1949. Its accomplishments included the organization of Eastern Europe's railroad grid, the creation of the International Bank for Economic Cooperation, and the construction of the "Friendship" oil pipeline. After the political upheavals in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, it largely lost its purpose and power. In 1991 it was renamed the Organization for International Economic Cooperation. Currently it has adopted an expanded programme of environmental cooperation with the economic commission of Europe in different areas like Transboundary air pollution, waste reduction technology, conservation and rational management of water resources, protection of flora and fauna, and conservation of natural resources. Presently, it has a number of wings that are working in the fields of environment.

3. EC or the European Community, was initiated at the congress of Europe which met at Hague in 1948.It is doing commendable works in different fields of environment through its Action Programmes. In 1973 its council of ministers declared that - improvement in the quality of life and protection of the natural environment are some of the fundamental tasks of the community.
4. OAU or the Organisation of African Unity, was created  on 25 May 1963 - to Ensure that all Africans enjoyed human rights; -to  raise the living standards of all Africans; - and  to settle arguments and disputes between members – not through fighting but rather peaceful and diplomatic negotiation. Its Lagos Plan of Action (1980 -2000) brings the environmental concern directly into the socio-economic of many countries of Africa.

5. OAS or the Organisation of American States was created on April 30, 1948 by the union of 21 nations who met in Colombia at Bogotá, to adopt the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), which affirmed their commitment to common goals and respect for each nation’s sovereignty. The OAS is credited for the First International Expression of Human Rights Principles through signing an OAS Charter and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The Organisation sponsored a convention on Protection of Nature and Wildlife in the Western Hemisphere in 1940, when it was known as the Pan American Union. It has assisted various scientific and technical meetings on the matters pertaining to environment. It also undertakes Environmental Impact Assessment of the River Development Project in South American Countries in the collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme.

6. OECD or the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development was established in 1961 in Paris (France). It was initially created for the Development and Reconstruction of Europe during the Post World War II. It has about 30 countries as its members. The OECD also shares expertise and views with more than 100 other countries and Economies from Brazil, China, and Russia to the least developed countries in Africa. The OECD has been one of the world’s largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistics, and economic and social data for more than 40 years. It also monitors trends, analyses and forecast economic developments, and researches social changes or evolving pattern in trade, environment, agriculture, and more.

 7. SACEP or South Asia Cooperative Environmental Programme South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) is an inter-governmental organization, established in 1982 by the governments of South Asia to promote and support protection, management and enhancement of the environment in the region. It consists of nine member countries incorporating seven member countries of SAARC and, Afghanistan and Iran. The SACEP was created to fulfill a vision based on the three assumptions:
  • Recognition of environmental degradation caused by factors like poverty, over population, over consumption and wasteful production threatening economic development and human survival
  • Integration of environment and development as essential prerequisites to Sustainable Development, and
  • Importance of co-operative action in the South Asian region where many ecological and development problems transcend national and administrative boundaries.

According to a SACEP statement-
"The Mission of SACEP is to promote regional co-operation in South Asia in the field of environment, both natural and human in the context of sustainable development and on issues of economic and social development which also impinge on the environment and vice versa; to support conservation and management of natural resources of the region and to work closely with all national, regional, and international institutions, governmental and non governmental, as well as experts and groups engaged in such co-operation and conservation efforts”.

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