The initiative to reach agreement on a Global Pact for the Environment at the United Nations was discussed on two different occasions during the 8th World Water Forum under the auspices of WCEL and partners. Launched in 2017, the initiative was started by the Republic of France with contributions from judges and scholars from around the world and aims to create a legally binding “umbrella text" to solidify the environmental rule of law around the world and to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
To discuss the rationale, scope, and foundations for adoption of a new global covenant for the conservation of nature, two special sessions were held by WCEL and partners during the 8th World Water Forum to enhance understanding and promotion of the Global Pact for the Environment.
Session during the 1st Meeting of the Interim Governing Committee of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment
On 18 March 2018, an inclusive session of the Interim Governing Committee of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment invited senior judges, diplomats and experts to engage in broader discussions on the need to, and process for, codifying a set of agreed environmental law principles under the United Nations. In introductory remarks, WCEL Chair Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin expressed his appreciation for having served as Vice-Chair, along with Professor Nicholas Robinson (WCEL Chair Emeritus), of the negotiating and drafting committee for the preliminary draft.
The IGC session was chaired by Ambassador Michel Miraillet (Ambassador of France to Brazil). He noted the extraordinary leadership of French President Emmanuel Macron and Laurent Fabius (President of the Constitutional Council of the French Republic and former President of the Paris Climate Conference) in this ambitious effort. He also acknowledged the formative contributions of GJIE and WCEL representatives to the original draft launched on 24 June 2017, and expressed France’s commitment to driving international action to adopt the Pact at the United Nations. Special Guest Ambassador Xavier Sticker (Ambassador for the Environment, France) recalled that the Global Pact Is an idea offered to the world, and there is an opportunity and urgency to act and protect the human right to an ecologically sound environment. Yann Aguila (President, Environment Commission of the Club des Juristes, France) detailed the evolution of the Pact as a collective story of legal developments that create ideal conditions for the Pact to unify guiding principles of environmental law for effective access to justice, and to achieve the right to an ecologically sound environment as a human right at international level.
Session during the Conference of Judges and Prosecutors on Water Justice
A special session of the 8th World Water Forum was held on 21 March as a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the Global Pact. The session was chaired by Brazilian diplomat, Minister Reinaldo Salgado (Coordinator, 8th World Water Forum Political Process and Director, Department for Environmental Sustainability, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brazil). He acknowledged Brazil’s longstanding commitment to sustainable development, and its support for the Global Pact.
Opening addresses were then given by:
- Yann Aguila recounted the path leading to the Global Pact from 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. He admitted that the Global Pact will not change everything at one time, but that the legal principles within the text express our common values and the foundations of society, or like stars you cannot touch but show you the direction.
- Minister Izabella Teixeira (Former Minister of the Environment of Brazil, 2010-2016) drew connections between the principles and water as a human right therein. She spoke to the fact that a clean and healthy environment is also a right and society cannot move forward without confronting the issues that require the Global Pact. The strong participation of women and addressing equity was highlighted as a way for addressing the need and urgency to achieve environmental justice.
- Ambassador Xavier Sticker (Ambassador for the Environment, France) described the progression of developments at political levels to move forward on the Global Pact. A procedural resolution to formally begin discussions at the UN General assembly has garnered the support of 60 countries. The next step is to achieve consensus on a preparatory process and move toward effective negotiations in the face of a very tight deadline set for 2020. He closed by saying that the Global Pact is not business as usual and it takes us out of a prevailing comfort zone. Compromise will be necessary in negotiations, but the lowest common denominator will not address the urgency and opportunity we now have to adopt the Global Pact.
A panel of experts then added their additional views on the prospects for the Global Pact:
- Scott Fulton (President, Environmental Law Institute, USA) pointed to the political momentum building for the Global Pact as a dam against fragmentation of environmental law. He raised the importance of engaging the business community in support. Although defragmentation may worry some countries due to the potential overhaul of existing systems, the time has come for the Global Pact.
- Ricardo Piquet (President, Museum of Tomorrow, Brazil) emphasized the general sense of urgency raised by participants at the 8th World Water Forum, and that the business as usual approach will not deliver the future we want for our children. The Global Pact seeks to find a balance with high ambitions and absolute pragmatism that something must be done.
- Jorge Viñuales (Professor, Cambridge University, UK) highlighted the highest level of expertise and unique contributions of judges to the preliminary draft of the Global Pact. He detailed the progression of international law, and the evident development that the environmental rule of law is now vital to implementing solutions for ecologically sustainable development. The Global Pact is now a consequence and necessary natural step in the development in international law.
In conclusion, all participants in the session were urged to take ownership of the initiative, to relay these messages back home, and to inform others about this exciting initiative toward achieving the Global Pact for the Environment to continue to move society forward.