Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE)
  • Date submitted: 27 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
  • Name: Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Migration (1 hits),

Full Submission

Input from the Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies

For the Compilation Document in preparation for the

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (?Rio+20?)

26 October 2011

The world has seen an increase in the frequency and severity of natural and human-made disasters that severely affect lives, livelihoods and the environment. The impact of these disasters, including degradation of vital ecosystems, creates additional vulnerabilities, which in turn undermine the attainment of sustainable development.
Climate change has led to an increase in the frequency, intensity and unpredictability of extreme hydrological and meteorological events, and global challenges such as environmental degradation, extreme poverty, urbanization, water scarcity, the rising need for energy, Migration and population growth disproportionally affect the world?s most vulnerable populations. Environmental emergencies1, are on the rise due to these global challenges and the impact of industrialization. Emergency response meets additional challenges in a context of acute threats to human health and life such as through the release of toxins, radiation etc. For these cases, governance and institutional frameworks for international emergency response are inadequate and specific operational difficulties emerge. There is a lack of awareness, notification procedures, and of clear responsibilities and coordination.
As a result there is an increasing need for measures to be taken at the national level and demand for international assistance in the areas of prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and risk reduction. In order to meet these challenges, sustainable funding, improved coordination at the national and international level and inter-linkages between disaster risk reduction, pro-action2, prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response, recovery, environmental management and sustainable development efforts are necessary. In the current non-favorable global financial and economic situation, it is becoming ever more important to make wise investment decisions. Prevention, preparedness and risk reduction have shown to produce very good returns on investment, both in the context of natural disasters and in the more specific context of environmental emergencies. In order to meet development goals, risk reduction, prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery mechanisms have to also address the environmental aspects of disasters and accidents such as environmental degradation, pollution, disaster waste etc. Lessons from disaster risk management should be identified and taken into account by policy makers as an important avenue for contributing to a more sustainable development. The increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, humanitarian and environmental emergencies, and the related need for enhanced resilience, disaster prevention and preparedness have been identified as one of the emerging challenges to be discussed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June 2012 (?Rio+20?).
In the following, specific inputs on strengthening prevention, preparedness, response and risk reduction relating to environmental emergencies are given for inclusion into the Compilation Document for the Rio+20 Conference. 1. What policy measures on environmental emergencies should be incorporated into the menu of policy options?

Currently, countries and international organizations have a patchwork of agreements, institutions and guidelines to arrange environmental emergency response. While one country might be covered by an agreement for industrial accidents or wildfires, it might not be covered in case of a nuclear emergency or an oil spill. As there is no mechanism to connect these specialised systems with each other, fragmentation, gaps and limited coordination result. Fragmentation needs to be overcome in order to make the multilateral system more robust and effective. As mandated by UNEP Governing Council decision UNEP /GC.26/15 of February 2011, UNEP, in cooperation with OCHA, is mapping the different roles and responsibilities of international organizations in environmental emergency response and outlines where there are gaps and possible overlaps in their activities. Ngo/IRIN)
There is a need to raise awareness of and promote cooperation on the environmental dimensions of natural and human-made disasters and of the environmental implications of humanitarian and other international response. Linkages and coordination between emergency response, early recovery and development need to be improved from the onset of an emergency. Regular expert meetings on environmental emergencies to promote the application of voluntary guidelines for environmental emergencies among member states, for example through regional platforms, are encouraged.
Recognizing the inherent link between humanitarian and environmental emergencies and their negative impact on sustainable development, environmental emergency aspects should be an integral part of planning and implementation in development, risk reduction, prevention, preparedness, humanitarian response and recovery. Reducing disaster risk should be made a high priority and efforts should be redoubled to fully address environmental aspects within the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action. The impact of natural and human-made disasters on industrial and nuclear facilities should be incorporated into risk reduction strategies and multi-hazard contingency planning. Guidance for such planning should be adapted accordingly. The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in its Third Session in May 2011 formulated as a critical next step to identify and prepare for emerging risks, including those associated with technological hazards and pandemics, through scientifically-informed multi-hazard risk assessments and scenario development.
More awareness needs to be created for the inter-linkages between the impact that humanitarian emergencies and response efforts can have on the environment, and of increased vulnerability of affected communities due to the resulting environmental degradation. Awareness needs to be raised within the private sector for the consequences of environmental emergencies and the responsibility of potential polluters for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery in relation to environmental emergencies caused by them. Private sector companies in hazardous industries, insurance companies etc. should actively engage in pro-active, preventive and preparatory action. Also, governments should inventorise polluted sites that pose a threat to public health and social and economic development and ensure and monitor clean up by the responsible parties.
Properly maintained / protected ecosystems and environmental services / natural infrastructure, are contributing to cost-effective disaster risk reduction and local resilience. For instance, efficient management and protection of stable vegetation cover against degradation will reduce the risk of erosion, land and mud slides, rockfall, and surface runoff with subsequent flooding.
The general public should be well informed and awareness should be raised on environmental aspects of disasters. To this end, a closer and more systematic cooperation with the education system, mass media and other multipliers is required.
Existing evaluation mechanisms such as environmental impact assessments should be reviewed and improved to include environmental aspects in emergencies in order to be able to identify lessons and measurable proposals for prevention. The identified lessons should feed into policy making and therewith contribute to sustainable development. Cross-sectoral cooperation that makes best use of available information and technology is encouraged.
There is a need for a more equally distributed worldwide network of actors on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery related to environment and emergencies.
2. What good practices in addressing environmental emergencies should be included in the implementation of the outcomes of the Conference?
At the national level, specific capacities for environmental emergency response should be available, drawing on public and private sector resources. Countries need safety nets, in particular with bordering countries sharing common economic and environmental interests. Regional response is often more cost-effective, faster, and better preserves the environment. Pursuing a better distribution of environmental emergency service providers globally, through outreach and capacity development at national and regional levels, a regional approach for capacity building should be pursued with interested regional organizations and member states. The ASEAN member states have voiced interest to be the first regional organization to pilot a regional approach.
In needs and damage assessments, as well as in strategic planning and appeals processes, environmental aspects should systematically be included. In this regard, existing networks (such as the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative (GHD), the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), as well as the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) mechanism, the Military, Civil Defense and Civil Protection Assets (MCDA) network, the Framework Convention on Civil Defence Assistance and others) should consider integrating environmental concerns. Environmental aspects should also be raised during humanitarian aid and international development cooperation conferences as well as be included in multilateral and bilateral training courses for response, preparedness, prevention and development actors.
In order to strengthen coordination and accountability in risk reduction, preparedness and response related to environmental emergencies, governance and the institutional framework need to be improved. Taking into account the possible trans-boundary effects of environmental emergencies, awareness needs to be built and notification and early warning procedures be established. Responsibilities in environmental emergency response and preparedness need to be clarified, coordination be improved and operational difficulties such as customs clearance for equipment and samples of hazardous material be overcome.
Scenarios established for the purposes of Contingency Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction need to include environmental impacts and secondary effects of disasters e.g. on industrial facilities. Strategic approaches addressing sustainable management / protection of ecosystems and ecosystem services with regards to disaster impact and disaster risk reduction should be included in pro-active national and multilateral policies.
3. How would Member States conduct reviews of their response to environmental emergencies, if they agree on peer review or voluntary review?
The prevention of and preparedness for environmental emergencies should be integrated as permanent criteria of the OECD?Development Assistance Committee (DAC) peer review process as a model. Donors and development agencies providing multilateral and bilateral development assistance should be guided by the criteria of the review process in their funding decisions.
A voluntary global certification procedure should be established and supported to reflect adequate prevention and preparedness in relation to environmental emergencies. A learning community should be established to enable the exchange of experiences, and lessons identified on environmental emergencies in response, preparedness, prevention and recovery.
These lessons should adequately feed into further prevention and preparedness activities and should serve as a basis for decision-makers.
4. If Member States agree on the idea of sustainable development goals, what kind of goals on environmental emergencies could be included, while bearing in mind the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities?

By 2015 establish an appropriate international framework that addresses fragmentation by coordinating among regional and thematic governance systems for responding to environmental emergencies.
By 2020 establish and operationalize national multi-hazard management plans in all countries for prevention, preparedness, and response that address environmental emergencies.
By 2030 national and regional response capacities are significantly reinforced to enable them to adequately respond to environmental emergencies without the need for international assistance.

5. Do you think the current inter-agency arrangement, which includes the JointUNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, is sufficient for coordinating multilateral response to environmental emergencies?

The current inter-agency arrangement could be sufficient for coordinating multilateral response to environmental emergencies if the partnership of UNEP and OCHA is reinforced. The partnership should be provided with adequate human and financial resources to be able to exercise a more prominent role in multilateral response, preparedness and prevention related to environmental emergencies, and to be able to coordinate better with important response, preparedness and prevention actors including regional economic integration organizations such as the European Union, regional organizations, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations entities, international financial institutions, the Red Cross / Red Crescent movement, non-governmental organizations etc.

6. Should the inter-agency arrangement include other UN entities, such as UN-HABITAT,UNDP, FAO, UNIDO, WHO, WMO, and other agencies?

Additional stakeholders (Governmental organizations, Intergovernmental organizations, United Nations entities, the Red Cross/Crescent movement, Non-Governmental Organizations, civil society, academia, industry, private sector) should be associated with the work of the UNEP and OCHA arrangement through partnerships. In particular, the partnership initiative ?Integrated Approach to Prevention, Preparedness for and Response to Environmental Emergencies in support of Sustainable Development? that was launched during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 should be revitalised. The partnership envisages integrated approaches to environmental emergencies to ensure that all aspects of emergency management, preparedness, prevention and risk reduction are addressed in a systematic way. Partnerships are suggested to be established with governmental agencies, United Nations entities (such as UNISDR, UNDP, UNECE, UN-HABITAT, UNITAR and its Operational Satellite Applications Programme UNOSAT, UNV, ILO, IMO, WHO), networks operating under the umbrella of the UN (such as the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR), the Global Wildland Fire Network etc.), Intergovernmental organizations (such as European Union (EU), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Civil DefenseOrganization (ICDO) etc.), major groups and non-governmental organizations, industry and professional groups and others.

7. Should there be better, improved coordination mechanisms at the global, regional and national levels, including with civil society?

Awareness, notification procedures, governance, ownership, capacities, and coordination mechanisms need to be improved in order to make the system of multilateral response and preparedness for environmental emergencies more robust. Coordination at the global, regional, national, and local levels should be strengthened. At the global level, the UNEP and OCHA partnership for environmental emergencies should be strengthened, and additional relevant stakeholder should be associated with the work of the mechanism through partnerships. Furthermore UNEP and OCHA should be strengthened in the fulfilment of their mandate for environmental emergencies. Strengthening measures could include ensuring tenure of the executive heads of at least four consecutive years.
Member states should nominate designated national focal points to an Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies that is officially mandated, bringing together environmental and disaster managers from around the world to share information, experiences and lessons learned to improve prevention, preparedness and response to environmental emergencies. At the regional level, regional bodies are essential in establishing regional capacities for response and preparedness to environmental emergencies.
Coordination systems at all levels, including at the national level, should encompass all relevant stakeholders, such as Governmental organizations, Intergovernmental organizations, United Nations entities, the Red Cross/Crescent movement, Non-Governmental Organizations, civil society, academia, industry and the private sector.

8. In the scenario that Member States agree on elevating the current Commission on Sustainable Development into a Sustainable Development Council, will the Council be mandated and equipped to review the sustainable development goals, including possibly those on environmental emergencies?
In case Member States agree on elevating the current Commission on Sustainable Development into a Sustainable Development Council, the Council should be mandated and equipped to review the sustainable development goals, including those that may relate to environmental emergencies.
Environmental emergency aspects should be included in the high level and humanitarian segments of ECOSOC or any successor Council or Committee.
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