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.

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