Paul Garnier

Paul Garnier, Swiss mission in Geneva

Paul Garnier is coordinator of the «Partnerships for the Planet» project and Diplomatic Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations Office at Geneva and the other international organizations in Geneva


Environmental linkages with the economy and social issues

Environment has now become a major part of the political agenda. Thus we have the Director-General of the World Trade Organization emphasizing the importance of the environment, a pioneer of eco-efficiency in business talking about the social conditions needed for sustainable development, the former head of WWF-International pointing to the basic conditions for responsible consumerism, and UNEP focusing on payments for ecosystem services.

Similarly, we find the WHO working with UNEP on chemicals safety issues and with UNECE on the Water and Health Convention, WMO focusing on the societal benefits of its meteorological work, and international relief agencies establishing themselves in Geneva to be in touch with the disaster prevention, humanitarian aid and development agencies in the region. The recognition of interdependence between public sectors, business and civil society is only likely to grow as synergies between these groups show themselves to be essential and pay dividends in multiplying the effects of coordinated action.

By exploring the links between the environmental pillar and the two other pillars of sustainable development that are economy and social development, one can see both the variety of activities taking place and the potential. New examples include the nexus, increasingly promoted, between environment and poverty reduction as well as between environmental law and human rights law. This capacity to bring together different worlds is the value-added and the strength of Geneva. It also makes Geneva an ideal place to foster public participation and global governance, the «new» pillars of a solid sustainable development, as represented in the sustainable development «pyramid» of Professor Andràs November of IUED.

However, the challenge for organizations is to resist cosmetic work demanded to please stakeholders or memorandums of understanding whose only objective is to keep out of each other's way. Instead, they must concentrate on the practical work that will enable their partnerships to achieve clear objectives. There is obviously still scope for improvement, but Geneva is a good laboratory to test and implement coherence and cooperation among institutions.