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Environmental Multilateralism: UN Science-Policy-Business Forum reflects #UNEA5

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Kuntala Bandyopadhyay

The Third Global Session of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum took place from 18 to 20 February 2021 with the theme: Integrated Solutions #ForNature. The forum aimed to strengthen collaboration among key sectors and stakeholders in support of UNEP’s new Medium-Term Strategy and Programme of Work. Discussions ranged from e-waste, big data and frontier tech, marine litter and microplastics mitigation and prevention to the urban environment and nature-positive food systems. In the closing session, a distinguished, diverse, and high-level panel of speakers from industry, finance, science, government, and civil society discussed the future of environmental multilateralism. Axel Threlfall, Editor-at-Large at Reuters, moderated the dynamic conversation. Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, set the tone for the discussion by explaining the vision for the Science-Policy-Business Forum as “a multi-sectoral, multi-dimensional platform that brings together all these voices” from the business, technology, and finance sectors, as well as government ministers, public policy experts, policymakers, leading scientists, civil society and the media. She noted that UNEP’s work requires collaboration. Throughout the session, the call for concerted and collaborative action was echoed by other speakers as well. H. E. Sveinung Rotevatn, President of UNEA5 and Minister of Environment and Climate of Norway referred to Prof. Ivanova’s book on UNEP’s Untold Story while pointing out that multilateral collaboration is the starting point of UNEP. The Norwegian Minister also emphasized the need for businesses to actively and productively contribute to sustainability and the role of youth as a driving force. Other government representatives on the panel included H. E. Jeanne D Arc Mujawamariya, Minister of Environment of Rwanda; H. E. Dr. Yasmine Fouad, Minister of Environment of Egypt; H. E. Fernando Coimbra, Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives and Ambassador of Brazil to Kenya; and H. E. Mohamed Mubarak Bin Daina, Chief Executive at Supreme Council for Environment of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Jim Whitehurst, President at IBM, and Harry Verhaar of Signify, as the representatives of the private sector, pointed out how business could stimulate behaviour changes through innovation and expressed willingness to work with governments and civil society. Sir Bob Watson, Environmental Scientist and former Chair of IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) and Yugratna Srivastava; Global Coordinator for the major group of children & youth to UNEP noted the urgency of the work at hand and the need to mobilize political will. The speakers agreed that transformative shifts are necessary to address the three interconnected planetary crises identified by UNEP’s Medium-Term Strategy: the crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Prof. Maria Ivanova emphasized that connectivity is key for effective environmental governance and action. Pointing out the original vision for UNEP as a smart, small, and nimble organization, Prof. Ivanova suggested that UNEP now must focus on its role as a connector. It must be and must be seen as, a resource that makes other agencies more effective. All participants echoed the need for solidarity and connectivity as they work toward integrated solutions for nature. Rwanda’s Minister of the Environment Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya underscored the importance of solidarity and connectivity by including multiple perspectives. She stated, “the new UNEP strategy should endeavor to bring different actors and communities together to nurture and inspire each other as well as to create sustainable solutions.” Earlier in the week, on February 17, 2021, UNEP hosted a virtual book launch for Prof. Maria Ivanova’s newest book, The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty. Prominent Kenyan environmental journalist Joe Ageyo moderated the discussion, which included Inger Andersen, Sveinung Rotevatn, and former director of UNEP Division of Environmental Conventions, Donald Kaniaru. Check out the book website and share your UNEP story. #UNEA5 #ForNature #PeaceWithNature #SciencePolicyBusiness


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