There are currently over 500 Multilateral Environment Agreements

Submitted by ETC Staff on 2012-07-04

Since the Stockholm Conference of 1972, there has been a proliferation of treaties, agreements and institutions, but the money hasn’t matched the meetings and the decisions haven’t been matched with democratic participation. The multilateral system’s environmental response has been incongruously ad hoc and also ad nauseum. Among the indicators…

Democratic deficit: Post-Stockholm (1972), UNEP says there are at least 500 international environment- related conventions - of which 70% are regional. Forty-five of these global deals have 72 members or more. In the 15 years between the Earth Summit and 2007, just 18 of the 45 major environmental agreements convened 540 meetings reaching 5,084 decisions. Extrapolating roughly – and assuming that the other 27 conventions were less active – South governments have been under-resourced to participate in, probably, 1000 major conferences at which, perhaps, 10,000 decisions, important to their national sovereignty, were reached.

Financial deficit: The total funding available for international environmental governance is unknown. Five years ago, UNEP worked with $136.5 million and the UN had another $301 million to manage MEA’s (multilateral environmental agencies) for which it is responsible—a total of $437.5 million out of the UN’s then budget of $1.65 billion – roughly 25%. About the same time, according to the OECD, much less than 2% --$1.85 billion of the $ 111.2 billion bilateral ODA (official development assistance) spending was on identifiable environmental activities. Importantly, UN managed conventions are less expensive than other non-UN “partnership” arrangements. Costs for UN MEAs have risen (roughly) by a factor of 1.2 since the Earth Summit whereas costs for non-UN MEAs has jumped by a factor of 4.7. This is important for governments to remember as they discuss new environmental umbrellas or institutions.