Alliances between international organizations

Janos Pasztor

Janos Pasztor, Director, EMG Secretariat, Geneva

Janos Pasztor, a Hungarian national, was appointed Chief of the Environment Management Group (EMG) Secretariat in 2007. He joined the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1990, and since 1993 has held senior positions with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Environment Management Group (EMG)

One environment - toward 'one UN'

A new approach to managing environmental efforts has already charted new ground since 2003 and is planning a relaunch to engage more issues.

While the different agencies, funds and programs of the United Nations are all working on solutions to environmental problems, one of them, UNEP, is solely dedicated to such efforts. UNEP, however, cannot resolve these on its own - irrespective of its size or budget. Rather, it must work effectively with the rest of the UN to ensure that work on the environment - while based on authoritative assessments - is implemented in a consistent manner, maximizing the use of limited resources.

In 1998, the UN General Assembly - conscious of the need for improved cooperation and better coordinated action on the environment, and having considered past experience with environment-related coordinating mechanisms - decided to launch the Environment Management Group (EMG). All UN agencies, funds and programs, as well as multilateral environmental conventions, are members, and the chair is the Executive Director of UNEP. The essence of the EMG is to focus on issue-, or theme-based cooperation between relevant organizations, instead of relying on traditional coordination. The objective is not coordination as such, but rather the cooperative resolution of issues. Improved coordination would therefore be the result.

The EMG secretariat was set up by UNEP in Geneva in 2003. A number of issue management exercises were launched, and some successfully completed - such as, for example, streamlining reporting requirements between biodiversity-related conventions, or on UN-wide cooperation on chemicals management. Others are works-in-progress, such as making the UN carbon-neutral, or developing guidelines for environmentally sound procurement by the UN system. The EMG is presently undertaking a major stock-taking on who-is-doing-what-on-the-environment in the UN system.

The Environment Management Group is creating a strong networking platform on the environment.

The EMG has already charted new ground. However, it still needs to live up to its full potential: to address and resolve more issues, and to encourage its members to increasingly engage in issue management for the environment. A confluence of events is now setting the stage for a re-launch of the EMG, including:

The EMG can and will make a difference. In order to do so, it must be seen as a valuable tool by its members in achieving their own agency objectives better through the value added by cooperative action rather than simply on their own. Key to this will be the creation of a strong networking platform, and related information exchange system - one that is able to keep the members up to date, but also one that is turned outward to communicate with, and to engage other stakeholders, going beyond the UN family.

The EMG must be able to identify strategic issues that are of concern to its members, and where cooperative action is required, At the same time, it must also be practical, to solve issues in a timebound fashion, to deliver results - e.g., a carbon-neutral UN for the near future. Finally, all this must end up in coherent action by the different UN agencies at the country-level.