When more than 130 Environment Ministers from around the world gathered in Nairobi, Kenya in February for the 26th Session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UMass Boston Assistant Professor Maria Ivanova was invited to share her expertise with them.
This year, ministers discussed international environmental governance and the green economy in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that will be held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Governments stressed that a transition to a low-carbon “green economy” is crucial for sustainable development and that appropriate national and international institutions will be indispensable.
Ivanova, a faculty member of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, is a leading expert on international environmental governance and the history and performance of UNEP. Global environmental governance is the design and execution of laws and policy that take place among nations in an attempt to regulate interaction with the environment.
She came to UMass Boston in September 2010 from the College of William and Mary. She is also director of the Global Environmental Governance Project at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and co-director of the new Center for Governance and Sustainability at UMass Boston.
Ivanova has participated in UNEP's Governing Council sessions for a decade, encouraging Environment Ministers to make reforms that can strengthen the ability to create and implement effective international environmental policies.
Her extensive knowledge of UNEP’s original mandate, and the intention of its founders, provides insight that few Environment Ministers posses. For this reason, she is highly regarded and often consulted on questions of reform.
As a member of the newly created Civil Society Advisory Group on International Environmental Governance, Professor Ivanova presented at the Ministerial Plenary on International Environmental Governance along with Kerri-Ann Jones, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Henri Djombo, Minister of Forestry and Environment of Congo, and Carlos Castaño, Colombia's Vice-Minister of Environment.
Ivanova was the only participant on this panel who did not represent a national government or an international organization. She shared insights from her research on the history of the UNEP and its performance, and advised ministers to formally involve academia to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the options for reform to pave the way for informed and effective decisions.
"A good idea is not always a new idea," Ivanova said. "but an idea whose time has come."
She urged ministers to consider the original version for a global environmental authority, an anchor organization that is both "in" authority (i.e. has the necessary mandate and money) and "an" authority (i.e. has competence and a solid record of delivery).
UMass Boston master’s student Vanessa DiCarlo and visiting scholar Sara Svensson attended the Nairobi meeting with Ivanova. The UMass Boston team played an active role in discussions on universities and sustainability, chemicals and waste, youth engagement, and environmental governance in Africa.
Ivanova and DiCarlo worked with Kenyan award-winning journalist Joe Ageyo to produce a documentary on governance issues with importance for Africa. The movie will be a co-production by the Global Environmental Governance Project and the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. The two organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding that will also lead to student exchanges and common research agendas.
While in Nairobi, the UMass Boston team also took the opportunity to meet with United Nations Environment Programme officials to explore opportunities for future collaboration with the university.
The process for reform in environmental and sustainable development governance will continue in the months ahead, and the Global Environmental Governance (GEG) Project website will feature frequent updates.
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Read more about the Governing Council meeting at the UN News Center.