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Image of the week | The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, discussing the strong messages of his report at the side event to the 54th session of the Human Rights Council “Making Peace with Our Rivers”: The Importance of the Health of Aquatic Ecosystems to the Realization of the Human Right to Water, Taking a Gender Perspective“. © Carlo Oberti, Geneva Environment Network, Palais des Nations, 15 September 2023.

Tackling Toxics @ 54th Session of the Human Rights Council

Toxic substances and waste will be a central point for discussion this week at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC54). The UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana, will be presenting his annual thematic report, in which he examines the toxic impacts of some proposed climate change solutions. As “decarbonization strategies must also pursue detoxification pathways,” the report highlights that human rights should guide the integration of decarbonization and detoxification pathways, centered on non-discrimination, transparency, participation, and accountability. An interactive dialogue on this report with the Special Rapporteur will take place on 19 September 2023.

On the sidelines of HRC54, this year’s Geneva Toxic Free Talks will take place from 20 to 22 September — three days of conferences and discussions at Palais des Nations and online, highlighting the work of the Special Rapporteur and of organizations in the struggle for the right to live in a toxic-free environment.

Advancing Other Global Environmental Challenges @ 54th Session of the Human Rights Council

Other notable environment issues will be addressed during the second week of HRC54, including:

Last week, the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation presented his annual report, “Fulfilling the human rights of those living in poverty and restoring the health of aquatic ecosystems: two converging challenges“. In the dialogue, the Special Rapporteur emphasized that as toxic contamination of aquatic ecosystems grows, protection of aquifers becomes necessary. The right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, including aquatic ecosystems in good conditions, comes into convergence with the fulfillment of human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. In the face of large-scale poisoning of water that has affected millions of people around the world, the Special Rapporteur called for beginning discussions on the inclusion of such actions as crimes against humanity and consideration of ecocide.

On 15 September, the Permanent Missions of Germany and Spain, the Special Rapporteur, and the Geneva Environment Network convened a side event to reflect on the thematic report presented, taking a gender perspective. → Revisit the outcomes of the side event and rewatch the session on YouTube.

 Our update on HRC54 provides the latest news and highlights the environmental-related activities of this session.

Children’s Rights and the Environment

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment No. 26 on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change, at its 93rd session in May 2023. The outcome highlights a remarkable global engagement and serves as authoritative guidance on how children’s rights are impacted by the environmental crisis and what governments must do to uphold these rights to ensure that children live in a clean, healthy, and sustainable world. Together with its Child Advisors and partners, the Committee will hold the launch of the general comment at its 94th session, on 18 September 2023 from 11:30 to 13:00 CEST. → Consult the program and register for the launch.

A side event to HRC54 on Children and Climate Change, co-convened by the Permanent Mission of Morocco, the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, and Child Rights Connect, will discuss the General Comment 96 recently adopted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The hybrid event will take place on 20 September 2023 from 14:00 to 15:00 CEST in Room XXVII of Palais des Nations.

Tackling Overfishing in Geneva and Beyond

WTO Members will meet this week for five days of discussions on the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. The fifth of these encounters — or “Fish Week” — will continue advancing on the content of the second wave of fisheries subsidies negotiations, focused on curbing subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, to take place in December 2023. Members are seeking to conclude an agreement at the WTO 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) scheduled for February 2024.

Discussions on fisheries featured also prominently last week at the 2023 WTO Public Forum: from the unveiling of the WTO Fish Count Map tracking the formal acceptances received for the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies to panels addressing the complexities of the negotiations and the agreement’s implementation or providing insights from affected coastal communities, civil society.

This Friday, the theme of illegal fishing will also be showcased during the Ciné-ONU screening of ‘Fish Pirate’, highlighting that up to 30% of our seafood has been caught illegally. The screening will be followed by a discussion on “illegal fishing and its impacts” with David Vivas, Chief of Section, Economic Affairs, UN Conference on Trade and Development, Peter Hammarstedt, Director of Campaigns, Sea Shepherd, and Alex Cornelissen, Chief Executive, Sea Shepherd.

→ Find out more about Global Response to Overfishing and the Role of Geneva.

Preparing for the Third Session of Negotiations on the Plastics Treaty

Preparations for the Third Session of Negotiations of the Plastics Treaty (INC-3) have ramped up. Relevant events taking place this week, in Geneva and abroad include:

  • Launch of the WHO Health and Plastics Dialogues | The WHO Health and Plastics dialogue series will host four dialogues ahead of INC3, which aim to increase the understanding of health actors regarding the INC process and inform non-health actors about health issues and risks of plastics. → Register to attend online the first dialogue on Key issues for health in the plastics treaty on 18 September from 13:00 to 15:30 CEST.
  • Norway and the Nordic Ministers of the Environment will launch a report “Towards Ending Plastic Pollution by 2040 – 15 Global Policy Interventions for Systems Change” during the 78th UN General Assembly. The event will take place on 19 September 2023 from 22:00 to 24:00 CEST.
  • INC Secretariat Webinar | The fifth webinar of the series, entitled “Designing and producing plastic products for circularity”, will showcase existing work, existing policy frameworks, partnerships and private sector initiatives for sustainable design plastics. → Register to attend on Zoom the webinar taking place on 26 September 2023 from 15:00 – 16:30 CEST.
  • The WTO Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade (DPP) will reconvene on 21 September 2023, to further discuss elements for a potential outcome at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) and synergies with the INC process.

The co-conveners of the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues will host a Briefing on the 3rd Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Develop an International Legally Binding Instrument on Plastic Pollution (Plastic Pollution INC-3), presenting the status of preparations, taking stock of relevant documents such as the zero draft and offering stakeholders an opportunity to present perspectives on the process. → Register to attend the event on 12 October 2023 from 14:00 – 15:30 CEST.

Mobilization to Move Towards a Chemical-Safe Future

International Geneva stakeholders will be highly involved in the Fifth Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), taking take place next week in Bonn, Germany. The Conference is preceded this week by regional meetings on 21 and 22 September and the Resumed Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP4.3) on 23 to 24 September 2023. ICCM5 will mark a fundamental step in the chemicals and waste agenda, being the first decision-making meeting to take place after 2020, the year when the Strategic Approach for Intergovernmental Chemicals Management (SAICM) was supposed to have achieved its overall objective of sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle.

A preparatory briefing organized by the SAICM Secretariat and the Geneva Environment Network in August 2023 provided a platform to showcase their engagement in the process. → Find more information, and documents, and follow the conference updates on our page Towards ICCM5.

Towards the Sixth Session of the UN Environment Assembly

The Sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) will be held from 26 February to 1 March 2024 at the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, under the themeEffective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, as communicated by the Moroccan Presidency in February 2023. In a recent note, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen informed that the UNEA-6 will be held fully in person and will be preceded by the sixth meeting of the Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR-6), to be held in Nairobi in hybrid format, from 19 to 23 February 2024.

  • Registration to participate in UNEA-6 and to OECPR-6 opened on 13 September 2023 and will close on 9 February 2024. All participants will be required to register online.
  • The call for applications for side events will be open from 20 September to 24 October 2023. Official side events will be convened in person and virtually during lunch breaks and in the evenings. A total of 16 slots have been allocated for in-person side events and another 16 slots for virtual side events.

Happening Abroad

The 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) will gather Member States in New York for the High-Level Week. The session is held under the theme, “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”. Discussions featuring the environment include:

  • SDG Summit | 18 and 19 September 2023 | Heads of State and Government will review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and of SDGs, and provide high-level political guidance on transformative and accelerated actions leading up to 2030. The outcome will be a negotiated political declaration.
  • General Debate | 19 – 23,  26 September 2023 | Heads of State and Government and ministers explore solutions to the intertwined global challenges to advance peace, security, and sustainable development.
  • High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development | 20 September 2023 | The Dialogue will provide political leadership and guidance on the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (A/RES/69/313) – a UN framework for mobilizing resources to achieve the SDGs – as well as identify progress and emerging challenges and mobilize further action.
  • High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response | 20 September 2023 | The President of the General Assembly, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, will gather Heads of State and Government meeting to adopt a political declaration (A/RES/77/275) to mobilize political will at the national, regional and international levels for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
  • Climate Ambition Summit | 20 September 2023 | Convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the summit calls for stepping up climate ambition.
  • Preparatory Ministerial Meeting for the Summit of the Future | 21 September 2023 | A ministerial meeting will prepare for the September 2024 Summit of the Future, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance global cooperation to tackle critical challenges, address gaps in global governance, reaffirm existing commitments, including to the SDGs and the United Nations Charter, and make a multilateral system better positioned to positively impact people’s lives.
  • SDG Pavilion The SDG Pavilion is a unique convening space and art installation, which will be the home to a week of talks and performances.
  • SDG Media Zone | Until 22 September 2023 | The SDG Media Zone is hosted by the UN Department of Global Communications in collaboration with the PVBLIC Foundation and the UN System. It is committed to highlighting the tireless efforts of the global community and aims to reach and inspire audiences everywhere through collaborations with international media organizations.

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