In 1972, countries from around the world gathered in Stockholm for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment around the motto “Only One Earth”. 50 years on, the motto is as pertinent as ever – Earth is our only home, and humanity must protect it. This year, countries will meet again to reflect on the progress made over the last five decades and harness ambition to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. What can we expect from Stockholm+50? How is the Geneva community engaged in this major event for people and the planet? Learn more below!
Five decades after the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment made the link between environment and poverty and placed it at the forefront of the international agenda, Stockholm will welcome the world again on 2 – 3 June 2022 for “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity” (Stockholm+50). This international conference will commemorate the watershed moment that the 1972 conference represents, and reflect on the current situation we find ourselves, through addressing the intergenerational responsibility, focusing on the implementation opportunities, and recognising interconnectivity between stakeholders and between policy issues. The event will provide leaders with an opportunity to draw on 50 years of multilateral environmental action to achieve the bold and urgent action needed to secure a better future on a healthy planet.
The conference will span over two days, 2 and 3 June 2022, ahead of World Environment Day. Three leadership dialogues will help catalyze ambition and raising awareness about the importance of protecting our planet and addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, of nature and biodiversity loss, and of pollution and waste.
A one-day preparatory meeting will also be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on 28 March 2022.
Stockholm+50 and its preparatory meeting are envisioned as open and inclusive forums that will feature a diverse set of voices to help build a healthy planet for the prosperity of all. All organizations looking to participate in person (including hosting and/or attending side events) must be accredited. Organizations looking to apply for special accreditation for Stockholm+50 and its preparatory meeting must do so by 4 February 2022. Visit the official Stockholm+50 website for detailed information on who needs accreditation and how to apply.
- Reflecting on the urgent need for actions to achieve a healthy planet and prosperity of all
- Achieving a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
- Accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of Sustainable Development in the context of the Decade of Action
The organizers have issued a call for side-events, open until 1 March 2022. The call is addressed to UN Member States, UN entities and relevant stakeholders, including organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, intergovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, other interested international bodies and non-governmental organizations, including those that have an interest in the field of the environment, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples’ organizations, academic institutions, the scientific community, the private sector and philanthropic organizations.
Activities in Geneva
The Geneva Environment Network and partners will organize a series of events in support of Stockholm+50, showcasing how the Geneva communities contribute to environmental governance and the ambitions developed at this major global conference.
The 1972 Stockholm Conference was a critical milestone for environmental governance, as it was the first world conference to make the environment a major issue. It resulted in the adoption of the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, most commonly known as the Stockholm Declaration. The conference also concluded in the establishment of the UN Environment Programme, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022.
The Stockholm Declaration
Formulated jointly by industrialized and developing countries, the Stockholm declaration recognizes that humans have achieved an unprecedented power to transform their environment with major impacts on human well being and economic development. Through this document, countries acknowledge the need for a common outlook to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human environment. It contains 26 principles on the relationship between human development and the environment, which may be regarded as one of the foundation stones of the international policy that would come to be known as «sustainable development». The declaration is often seen as the first step toward the development of international environmental law, recognizing the importance of a healthy environment for people.
History made in Geneva
Geneva and its surrounding area have been active in global environmental governance for more than 50 years. Even before the Stockholm Conference and the establishment of UNEP, Geneva has played a key role in global environmental policy. In 1971, a meeting in Founex, up from Lake Geneva, became one of the most important event in preparation for the Stockholm Conference. The meeting resulted in the adoption of the Founex report which connected the dots between development and environment strategies.
Following the Stockholm Conference and the establishment of UNEP, Geneva hosted the first meeting of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme in 1973, as offices in UNEP’s headquarters Nairobi were not yet ready. Throughout the years, many more important and strategic historical meetings have taken place in the region.
Role of Geneva
Still today, Geneva and its surrounding region continue to be an important hub for international environmental governance where various international organizations, permanent governmental missions, non-governmental organizations and other environmental actors have their headquarters. The work carried out by these organizations directly supports the principles of the Stockholm Declaration.
Human Rights and the Environment
Human rights and the environment are intrinsically intertwined: a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is essential in the enjoyment of our human rights; whilst polluted, hazardous and otherwise unhealthy environments potentially violate our human rights. Geneva, as the main international hub on human rights issues, has been active in moving the agenda forward at the nexus of human rights and environment.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 1. Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.
Pollution, Chemicals and Waste
Chemicals and waste are integral to almost all sectors of society, bringing important benefits, however, they can have negative impacts on human health and on the environment. Environmentally sound management of chemicals is essential for living healthy lives and for a healthy planet. With the presence of the UNEP Chemicals and Health Branch and several MEAs on issues related to chemicals and waste, Geneva is a hotspot of expertise and mutlilateral action for a pollution-free planet.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 6. The discharge of toxic substances or other substances and the release of heat, in such quantities or concentrations as to exceed the capacity of the environment to render them harmless, must be halted.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 7. States shall take all possible steps to prevent pollution of the seas.
Nature and Biodiversity
We depend on health and productive ecosystems to meet our basic needs, but biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are expected to continue, or event accelerate. Nature conservation and protection efforts and sustainable management of ecosystems are essential for humans to thrive. Various institutions in the Geneva region place biodiversity at the heart of the action.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 2. The natural resources of the earth, including the air, water, land, flora and fauna and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 3. The capacity of the earth to produce vital renewable resources must be maintained and, wherever practicable, restored or improved
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 4. Man has a special responsibility to safeguard and wisely manage the heritage of wildlife and its habitat, which are now gravely imperiled by a combination of adverse factors.
An inclusive green economy is an alternative to today’s dominant economic model, which exacerbates inequalities, encourages waste, triggers resource scarcities, and generates widespread threats to the environment and human health. Such an economy is low carbon, efficient and clean in production, but also inclusive in consumption and outcomes, based on sharing, circularity, collaboration, solidarity, resilience, opportunity, and interdependence. Many organizations in Geneva play a key role in fostering green trade, green jobs, just transition, and circular economy.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 5. The non-renewable resources must be employed in a way as to guard against the danger of their future exhaustion and to ensure that benefits from such employment are shared by all.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 8. Economic and social development is essential for ensuring a favorable living and working environment for man and for creating conditions necessary for the improvement of the quality of life.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 11. The environmental policies should enhance and not adversely affect the present or future development potential of developing countries.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the climate commitments under the Paris Agreement will require a significant shift in financial flows toward sustainable economic activities. As a global centre for both environmental governance and finance, Geneva is one of the places where this change is underway, with several institutions fostering the mainstreaming of sustainability into financial market practices.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 9. Environmental deficiencies generated by the conditions of under-development and natural disasters can best be remedied by the transfer of substantial quantities of financial and technological assistance.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 10. For the developing countries, stability of prices and adequate earnings for primary commodities and raw materials are essential to environmental management.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 12. Resources should be made available to preserve and improve the environment.
Armed conflicts too often lead to environmental degradation or destruction, with long-lasting effects that contribute to the increased vulnerability of the affected populations. While some rules of international law provide protection to the natural environment and seek to limit the damage caused by it, armed conflicts remains an important cause of environmental damage, leading to food and water insecurity, loss of livelihoods, and biodiversity loss. Meanwhile, natural resources can also facilitate post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery. The protection of the environment and cooperation efforts in that direction can serve to build lasting and sustainable peace. Geneva plays an important role in dialogues around environmental peacebuilding. Most notably, the Second International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding will take place in Geneva in February 2022.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 26. Man and his environment must be spared the effects of nuclear weapons and all other means of mass destruction.
Science and Education
Timely, scientifically credible, policy-relevant environmental assessments, data and information is critical to support decision-making and action planning for sustainable development. Scientific organizations in Geneva monitor, analyse and report on the state of the global environment, assess policies and trends and provide early warning of emerging environmental threats. Communication, awareness and education around sustainability issues also constitute a important component of various organisations in the region.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 18. Science and technology must be applied to the identification, avoidance and control of environmental risks and the solution of environmental problems.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 19. Education in environmental matters is essential in order to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in protecting and improving the environment in its full human dimension.
Stockholm Declaration | Principle 20. Scientific research and development in the context of environmental problems must be promoted in all countries, especially the developing countries.
- Information from the Swedish government on Stockholm+50
- Stockholm+50: International meeting to accelerate action towards a healthy and prosperous planet for all | UNEP | Press release | 12 October 2021
- UNGA Agrees to Hold Stockholm+50 Meeting in 2022 | IISD | 1 June 2022
- At 50, the UN Environment Programme must lead again | Maria Ivanova | 16 February 2021