We recognise the special opportunity and privilege afforded to us by the close association with UNEP through National Committee (NC) status. It is our commitment and intention to maintain a mutually rewarding and productive partnership through the NC system. However, the NC system represents a set of opportunities and potential as yet not fully realised. We hope that this paper, and the subsequent discussions leading to an agreed vision for the NC system, will enable the NC system and its activities to further realise that potential, and to become one of UNEP's most visible and viable assets.
Moreover, as representatives of European NCs, we strongly support the proposed strategies to enhance the engagement of Civil Society in the work of UNEP. To that end, we strongly recommend to UNEP to expand the National Committee (NC) system, in particular in the less-developed world, and among the Eastern European countries with economies in 'transition'. We cannot over-emphasize the essential role that NCs can fulfil as a tool by which to engage Civil Society in NC countries, and how that role can be a model for regions that do not currently have UNEP NC systems.
We believe that the NC system can develop into a credible, effective worldwide network, communicating information in all ways, developing concrete projects, and representing UNEP as appropriate. In particular, the NC of Spain lobbied for support to UNEP and repeatedly took the initiative in organising meetings on UNEP issues, including the launch of the GEO Report. The NC in Romania was responsible for organising the Central and Eastern European Regional PrepCom for WSSD, that of Greece for Mediterranean multi-stakeholder consultation for WSSD, and that of Kazakhstan for the Central Asia Regional PrepCom. The NCs in Hungary and Bulgaria helped in organizing workshops to establish national dialogues and coalitions on sustainable consumption. The NC in Georgia was instrumental in the preparation of the Caucasus Environment Outlook (CEO), the NC in Russian Federation in the translation and launch of the GEO Report. The NC in Kyrgyzstan assisted in the preparation of the Global Mountain Summit. The NC in Czech Republic facilitated the implementation of Article 5, paragraph 9, of the Aarhus Convention on the Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR). All NCs distribute materials, including press releases in local languages, and many undertake translation services.
Over time, some NCs have been instrumental in bringing other networks of NGOs in support of the UNEP work programme. The NC of the Netherlands was instrumental in engaging ANPED, the Northern Alliance for Sustainability, now a major UNEP NGO partner in Europe. ANPED facilitated the NGO caucus at the European & North American Regional PrepCom for WSSD, and currently led the NGO input into the joint UNEP/HCHR seminar on environment and human rights held at the beginning of the year.
However, the current NCs system has limited effectiveness, and requires further development. NCs display various levels of activity and success, and the overall system can be improved in various ways. The Policy and Operational Procedures for UNEP NCs, established in 1996, lacks an overall strategy focus and should hence be further developed and amended. This document proposes the elements of a strategic vision. Through this vision, all NCs, though acting in diverse ways specific to their situation, can execute quality activities, in co-ordination with the UNEP programmatic priorities, and in collaboration with the relevant UNEP Divisions, branches and units.
We believe, furthermore, that reforming and enhancing the UNEP NC system will be ineffectual in the context of ongoing under-funding and lack of sufficient political support of UNEP within the context of the UN system. In order to achieve a fully successful NC system, UNEP itself will need to be better funded and supported by the international community. In order for this to occur, UNEP should be better known in-country, and it has been demonstrated repeatedly that NCs play a crucial in realising that end.
This paper represents the key recommendations from the UNEP European National Committees, plus partner NGOs, who met in Geneva, Switzerland, on 25-26 November. We respectfully request a concrete response from the UNEP Senior Management Group at their next meeting. We also invite the Directors of the Divisions for Regional Co-Operation and Policy Development and Law to facilitate further negotiations, with NC representatives nominated by those attending this meeting, to finalise an overall strategy for national committees, as per the specific recommendations below. Finally, we request that this paper be taken into account during the discussion of the Strategy paper on Enhancing the Engagement of Civil Society in the Work of the United Nations Environment Programme, at the twenty-second session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, 3-7 February 2003.
We sincerely hope that our vision for a common future will be taken in the spirit of partnership, and the continuation of the mutually beneficial relationship between UNEP and its National Committees.
As Agreed by the Participants of the UNEP European National Committees and partner NGOs Meeting - 25-26 November 2002