Initiatives: Academic

Environmental diplomacy

Training Environmental Diplomacy

A new training programme leading to a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Environmental Diplomacy was launched in 2006 at the beautiful Château de Bossey near Geneva.

A Geneva-based environmental diplomacy training programme has the potential to become an important global educational and awareness-raising instrument.

Frits Schlingemann, Senior Adviser and former Director & Regional Representative, UNEP Regional Office for Europe (ROE)

During the last 20 years, the growing awareness of environmental issues worldwide has resulted in the development and adoption of many Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). These accords cover various dimensions of sustainable development and need to be translated into national and local action. Often this translation is hampered by the lack of skills at the negotiation table and decision-making level. Globalization with its increased economic interdependence brings new environmental threats and problems, requiring newly negotiated solutions, instruments or protocols. Increasingly these negotiations involve interaction with other than purely environmental institutions and disciplines. Solving environmental problems these days requires knowledge and a feeling for the political, economic and social arenas, which co-determine the world's sustainable development path.

Protecting and safeguarding our environment for present and future generations has evolved from negotiating and applying end-of-pipe solutions by the environmental community, to a discipline of environmental diplomacy which allows for, understands and speaks the language of all those domains which constitute the political, socio-economic and cultural driving forces for environmental change. The need for diplomats, environmentalists, and policy and decision makers in other related disciplines to develop and strengthen their capacity and skills in this field is manifest and growing.

A new international course in Geneva has so far taught policy-analysts from 27 countries how to deal with political, socio-economic and cultural driving forces for environmental change.

In 2005 UNEP, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the University of Geneva developed an Environmental Diplomacy Programme responding to this need, drawing on the unique concentration of institutional resources and experience in the Geneva area. A first training course, including two weeks intensive training, was held in 2006, successfully introducing and teaching 30 present and future policy and decision makers from 27 countries the practical skills and techniques necessary to:

The training provided covered the scientific understanding, political sensitivity and practical negotiating techniques relevant to the development and implementation of international legal instruments and agreements. During the entire course, the political positioning and influence of regional and sub-regional groupings were given full attention. Environmental objectives were dealt with in the broader context of sustainable development with its full range of potentially conflicting sectoral views, and linked to areas such as trade and human rights.

Locating the training programme in Geneva has been a logical choice for the institutions involved. Throughout the past, Geneva has acted as a major forum for multilateral relations and diplomacy, with an academic community to support, understand and take advantage of that role and position. Geneva hosts a vast array of international organizations and related institutions, some of which, like the environmental diplomacy programme, provide curricula and training in the field of multilateral diplomacy.

It is anticipated that the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) - resulting from the merging of the existing Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEI) and the Graduate Institute of Development Studies (IUED), due to be operational at the beginning of 2008 - will become the permanent host of the programme. The network provided by UNEP and the Institute are also expected to make it possible for the training modules to be exported and used in suitable other places in the world, developed and developing countries alike.

As such the environmental diplomacy training programme has the potential to become an important global educational and awareness-raising instrument to help encourage the exchange of environmental knowledge and experience, and to institute learning based on demonstrated negotiating skills in the field of environmental diplomacy between and among diplomats and other country representatives, academics, researchers and representatives of various kinds of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions.

Frits Schlingemann is on the programme's Scientific Committee. The course was developed in collaboration with the University for Peace and LEAD (Leadership for Environment and Development) International. It has received financial support from the Swiss Confederation, UNEP and the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)/UNEP/UNDP Environment and Security Initiative. The Caspian Environment Programme supported the participation of representatives from each of its five member countries.