Environmental and Social Sustainability

Environmental and Social Sustainability is the adaption and integration of precautionary environmental and social principles and considerations into decision making processes. The objective of such safeguards is to prevent and mitigate undue harm to the environment and people at the earliest possible planning stage. Safeguards can appear as a combination of minimum standards and best practice guidelines.

There is a growing awareness at both international and national levels of the need for effective environmental and social sustainability. The EMG feels that it is important to seek systematic and improved ways of taking due consideration to avoid potential environmental and social negative impacts when developing new strategies or projects to fulfill our mandates.

The EMG 15th Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), to this effect, requested the Chair of the EMG to organize a consultation process and to prepare a report on options for the development of a possible United Nations system-wide approach to environmental and social sustainability. EMG Members, the United Nations Development Group and the High-Level Committee on Management were consulted by the EMG and the outcome of these consultations is A Framework for Advancing Environmental and Social Sustainability in the UN also referred to as the Framework and a report.

The name change from Environmental and Social Safeguards to Environmental and Social Sustainability is a result of the 17th SOM. The latter was found to be more accommodating of the normative and operational dimensions of UN activities, while including traditional safeguards for application where appropriate.

The 18th SOM agreed that the Consultative Process on Environment and Social Sustainability needed to continue its work to further define the provisions of the Framework on common principles and minimum requirements as well as preparation of an implementation road map of the Framework for UN entities. This would facilitate mainstreaming of sustainable development in the work of the UN as a follow up to the Rio+20 outcome document.

From the 19th SOM, UN entities have been encouraged to move ahead in implementing the Framework. An Interim Guidance for Implementing the Framework is being finalized to help agencies in the implementation of the Framework. A Draft Options Paper on system-wide Issues in the Follow up of the Framework for Advancing Environmental and Social Sustainability in the UN system was also prepared to identify the roles and contributions of various UN bodies and mechanisms in the follow up andim plementation of the Framework.

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Environmental and Social Sustainability In Focus