World Commission on Environmental Law

Global Pact for the Environment

WCEL is leading IUCN's contributions toward establishing a Global Pact for the Environment. Since participating in the initial preparation and promotion of the draft set of internationally recognized principles of environmental law, the Commission has worked alongside partners to build momentum that has now resulted in the United Nations General Assembly adopting a resolution on 10 May 2018 setting in motion a process to discuss and potentially reach agreement on an international instrument.

The Global Pact for the Environment was launched in 2017 as an initiative to conclude a legally binding international instrument under the United Nations that synthesizes the principles outlined in the Stockholm Declaration, the World Charter for Nature, the Rio Declaration, the IUCN World Declaration on the Environmental Rule of Law, and other instruments to solidify the environmental rule of law around the world and to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 72/277 “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” on 10 May 2018. Therein, the Member States decided to:

  • Establish an ad hoc open-ended working group (AHWG) to consider a technical and evidence-based report to be submitted by the UN Secretary-General during 2018 at the onset of the Assembly’s 73rd session;
  • Have the AHWG further discuss options to address gaps in international environmental law and related instruments.
  • If necessary, consider the scope, parameters, and feasibility of an international instrument and make resulting recommendations that may include convening an intergovernmental conference that could adopt an international instrument during the first half of 2019;
  • Open all organizational, initial, and negotiating sessions of the AHWG to UN Members States and relevant non-governmental organizations
  • Appoint two co-chairs of the AHWG – one from a developing State and the other from a developed State – to oversee consultations
  • Meet the costs of the group through voluntary contributions and request the Secretary-General to establish a special voluntary trust fund to support the process, and an additional voluntary trust fund to assist developing countries to attend the sessions of the AHWG.

Through targeted contributions, WCEL and partners will continue to support the process in the coming months and years to reach agreement on a Global Pact to act as a third international Covenant, codifying the principles enshrined in the Rio Declaration just as the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both ratified in 1966, did for the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1949. Such a Pact achieves three main objectives:

  1. Establish the universal right to an ecologically sound environment as a human right at the international level, able to be invoked in international, regional, and national courts of law;
  2. Unify the guiding principles of international environmental law in one internally coherent legal document, thereby clarifying points of tension in international environmental law that have arisen given the existing sectoral approach to governance; and
  3. Empower citizens to hold home and neighbor governments accountable for their environmental policies.

A Global Pact for the Environment will greatly expand the rights of those suffering from environmental harms, allow and incent states and civil society to better hold polluters accountable, and lay the foundation for the incorporation of environmental concerns in all international governance, as is done for other human rights.

The Draft Global Pact for the Environment was launched on Saturday, 24 June during an event at the Sorbonne in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron was the closing speaker vowing to personally act, on the basis of the preliminary draft, to lay the foundations for its adoption as a new global covenant for the conservation of the environment by the United Nations General Assembly.

Go to top