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First Global Meeting of National Focal Points for the Fifth Montevideo Programme

Happening now: First Global Meeting of National Focal Points for the Fifth Montevideo Programme of the UN Environment Programme, 6-9 June, at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Aim of the meeting is to guide national governments and the international community in developing science-based environmental law and standards of conduct. The Montevideo Programme has helped conceive several multilateral environment agreements. The main topics on the agenda this time are: – Legal responses to address the air pollution, climate, and biodiversity crises (the work on air pollution has started already and will now be continued); – Legal responses to strengthen frameworks on environmental crime and environmental liability; – Environmental law and the three pillars of the United Nations Charter; – Arrangements for a partnership and stakeholder engagement strategy under the Programme. Read more about the programme by clicking on the button underneath. If you would like to receive a detailed summary of the meetings, please mention so when subscribing to Dr2 free news updates. 

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Business Guide – Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis

How can the private sector help battle the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine?

United Nations Global Compact and the United Nations OCHA have now updated their business guide on Ukraine with the latest information.

The guide contains suggestions for practical actions companies can take either in partnership with  and other initiatives or individually.

Read the document to find out which steps you can take ??

U.N. Document

March Digest: A historic UN Plastic Treaty, IPCC controversy, and stopping the next pandemic

Plastic Waste: The UN Environment Assembly in March became a defining moment as leaders of the world adopted a resolution to start negotiations on the UN treaty on plastic pollution, to be concluded by the end of 2024. The negotiation process will offer ample room for input and collaboration from knowledge institutions and the private sector to road-test what works, analyze data gaps, and to help rapidly shape a legally binding global agreement to end single-use plastics.

Sustainable Finance: UN Global Compact has launched the CFO Coalition for the SDGs – a group of 70 CFOs who have pledged to collectively invest more than $500 billion in support of the SDGs. The aim of the group is to grow to 100 members this year, to direct trillions of corporate investments towards the SDGs and create a $10 trillion market for SDG-directed finance by 2030.

Water Management: This year’s edition of the UN World Water Day focused on groundwater as a critical natural resource to achieve the SDGs. Based upon the latest UN World Water Development Report, a groundwater conference was announced for the end of this year, which aims to urge policy makers to unlock the enormous potential of groundwater. Next to providing input on strengthening environmental regulations, the private sector will be involved to acquire data and information, and to reinforce human, material, and financial resources.

Gender Equality: The Commission of Women of the UN concluded its two week negotiations end of March with a focus on empowering women and girls in the context of climate action. The Commission offers a range of observations and recommendations for government action, such as enhancing education curricula, expanding gender-responsive finance, and creating accessible and inclusive health-care services.

Gender Equality: The International Labour Organization – a specialized agency of the United Nations – has released a report on investing in care leave and services for a more gender-equal world of work. The report gives a global overview of national laws and practices on care policies, including maternity, paternity, child and long-term care. It presents findings from 185 countries about protection and legal gaps, and makes the case for greater investment in the care sector.

Climate Action: This weekend scientists and government representatives were locked in marathon talks in a race to complete the last installment of climate report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The landmark UN report is published every 6-8 years, is based on thousands of studies by hundred of scientists, and the summary is a document of dozens of pages intended to guide policymakers. The most contented issue this weekend is the fundamental, underlying declaration that the world has to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible – a recommendation that is being contented by countries with economic interests in coal, oil, and gas.

Climate Action: Continuing the aim of getting below national government partners more involved in achieving the SDGs, last week UN Chief Mr. Guterres urged private investors, businesses, cities, states and regions to do more to cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions. He launched a new group of experts coming from these entities around the world to make recommendations for a roadmap to translate standards and criteria for net-zero commitments into international and national level regulations. Their work will be finished by the end of this year.

Health: The UN’s health agency, the World Health Organization, has launched an ambitious plan to prevent a new impending pandemic. Common, mosquito-borne diseases (“arboviruses”) threaten more than half the world’s population. The WHO calls upon health care organizations and pharmaceutical partners to work together to build the capacity to deal with arboviral pathogens at front-line health-centers, as well as at the regional and global level.

This is a summary of our ongoing policy monitoring activities. To request a proposal for tailor-made monitoring service or to receive a free copy of our in-depth United Nations and Global Policy newsletter each month, please send an email to: s.ros@dr2consultants.eu

Three trends in human rights and business you should know about

The United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) for business and human rights celebrated their first 10 years of existence last week. During the UN Business and Human Rights forum – which partly was a wake for the memory of the late UNGP author Professor John Ruggie – a roadmap was presented for the next 10 years to raise the pace and scale of the principles’ implementation.

The main conclusion of the forum: Human rights do not only matter to production-heavy companies that have supply chains to manage. They are an issue to be considered for all companies, no matter how and where they operate. To illustrate, environmental rights and digital rights are now also very clearly seen as human rights.

“Swift implementation of the UNGP is especially important in the post-COVID situation and in rapid digital markets pushed forward by the pandemic.”

Nazhat Shameem Khan, Chair of the UN Human Rights Council

So how can CSR and public affairs professionals expect to interact with human rights policy on the road to 2030? From the Forum and the presented roadmap, we can distinguish three trends that will increasingly determine thinking and action revolving human rights and business:

1)     Respect for human rights by business is more and more seen as a strategic – rather than a merely operational or supply chain – issue: Frontrunners in corporate social responsibility integrate human rights due diligence into corporate governance, signifying real change in corporate culture and business models. In doing so, the UN Sustainable Development Goals take a more prominent role: The cross-cutting nature of threats like the pandemic and climate change require businesses to take a better look at how to prevent and address adverse impacts across their business activities and value chains. The growth of sustainable finance in the next ten years is a major opportunity: Investors increasingly manage human rights risks in their investment activities and show how they take action in managing those risks.

2)     This affects the conduct of public affairs as well. Responsible political engagement is ever more being viewed as a human rights issue. Business associations and internal public affairs and government affairs functions are progressively expected to apply due diligence and to create coherence between company sustainability and human rights efforts. This trend – which was started already years ago when Apple and other major companies left the US Chamber of Commerce in protest when the Chamber was still lobbying against climate policy – can be observed in CSR and public affairs teams often being merged into units with more of a ‘global impact’ focus. And its not just about mitigating negative correlations, it is also about using public affairs for good. As Nora Mardirossian of the Columbia Center told the Forum:

“Lobbying has been a taboo, with rights-holders harder to identify. But companies should be speaking out in favor of states’ right to regulate in the public interest and argue positively for the Sustainable Development Goals and the defense of human rights.”

Nora Mardirossian, Lead Food Sector and Sustainable Development Goals at Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

3)     There is momentum towards mandatory human rights due diligence. The UNGP roadmap towards 2030 propose ‘a mix of smart policy measurements’, and we see that human rights is already taking an increasingly prominent role in trade and investment agreements. Regional governments like the EU are taking legislative initiatives for mandatory human rights due diligence, and some member states – like the Netherlands, Germany and Norway, recently even drive national legislation to raise ambitions higher. Courts are riding on this trend as well: The ‘soft law’ of the UNGP is increasingly referred to by courts in ‘hard law’ judgments. 2021 was a landmark year for corporate human rights litigation. Judges on all continents addressed companies’ duty of care in court actions on human rights abuse, or deemed environmental damage to be a human rights violation. For example in May, the The Hague District Court ruled in its ruling against Royal Dutch Shell that ‘all companies, no matter size, sector, operational context, property relations or structure’ have an obligation to respect human rights, implying all must do their share against climate change.

The last few years have seen companies are taking up their place in the drivers’ seat when it comes to environmental change. Now human rights are becoming a part of that mission as well. CSR and public affairs professionals will need to closely work together to not only avoid negative legislative backlash, but especially to drive your company to make a positive impact on the systems in which it operates. Are you and your teams ready?

COP26: Forget grand gestures, the devil is in the details

In just a few days the most important climate talks since 2015 will take place in Glasgow: COP26 – The 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Held against the backdrop of new challenges like the global energy shortage, COVID-19, and recent natural disasters, this time seemingly narrow thematic discussions hold more value than ever. The real decisions for positive change will come from implementing policy decisions and questions of definition, rather than from grand commitments by country governments.

More ambitious commitments

So far, the world is not on track with the commitments made in the Paris Agreement. While most governments have made their pledges to cut carbon emissions more ambitious in the run-up to COP26, the targets are not even close to sufficient enough to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels. Adjusting these national emission reduction strategies takes months of policy coordination, so countries are not likely to make any new commitments on this during the Glasgow conference.

So how will the needle be moved during COP26? Trying to move forward from lackluster targets, green interest groups and poorer countries are pushing for commitments on measures that help countries implement their existing climate strategies. They hope this will make it easier for national governments to ambitiously upgrade these strategies in the future. The most important debates to follow during the conference will therefore focus on four issues requiring countries to step up their game in different ways:

1)     Agreeing on the rules for international carbon markets.

Major players like China and the EU face challenges in effectively managing their emission trading systems, a problem which is further worsened by lack of a global level playing field. Coming to clear agreements on how to handle for example double counting of carbon offsets would therefore be a major step forward.

2)     Commitments on the concept of ‘loss and damage’.

Those nations that suffer most from climate change like island states and poor countries are hoping to refuel the debate on compensation. The Paris Agreement lacks real commitment on this, and now that richer countries have also not lived up to the funding and lending commitments in the Agreement, poorer countries hope to set more concrete goals.

3)     Signing up to sector-level pledges. 

Promising new pacts have emerged on the push of sectorial lobby groups and certain governments. For example, the U.S. and the E.U. already back the Global Methane Pledge which calls for cutting global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels to 2030. To further speed up the energy transition, the U.N. is backing several Energy Compacts in close collaboration with civil society. It is expected that new pledges and commitments will be announced in Glasgow.

4)     The 2.0 vs. 1.5 degrees Celsius discussion.

At the G20 as well as during the Paris Agreement negotiations, governments did not reach an agreement about exactly how much global warming should be reduced. The current compromise of keeping global warming ‘well below 2.0 degrees Celsius’ is not enough for green interest groups and several governments who are now asking for a 1.5 degree Celsius goal. This will be interesting, as countries like China and India ask for climate financing then to be renegotiated, too.

Our Dr2 Consultants New York team is closely following the COP26 discussions and side events on above topics and more. If you are interested to learn more about specific themes or debates, don’t hesitate to drop me a message here or via s.ros@dr2consultants.eu