Model Approach to Environmental and Social Standards in UN Programming


Robust social and environmental standards and related accountability mechanisms are increasingly applied as best practice in a broad range of international programming and investments for sustainable development. In practical terms such standards aim to ensure that development and humanitarian actors are held to the principles they proclaim, and that interventions do not result in inadvertent harm to people and the environment.

Building on the Framework for Environmental and Social Sustainability in the UN System, the inter-agency Consultative Process on Advancing the Environmental and Social Sustainability in the UN System under the UN Environment Management Group has, since 2016, worked on moving towards a common approach to environmental and social standards for programmes/projects in the United Nations. The resulting document, Moving Towards a Common Approach to Environmental and Social Standards for UN Programming outlines a set of key requirements and processes that are typically addressed by entity-level safeguard policies.

The Model Approach outlined in the document is intended to serve as a reference and benchmark for UN entities to use on a voluntary basis when they adopt or revise their own environmental and social standards and safeguards. The aim of the Model Approach is to provide a first step in moving towards a common approach, strengthening policy alignment and shared learning. It builds on lessons learned and the wide range of normative and operational expertise within the UN system.

UN entities are already using the Model Approach as part of an initial phase of voluntary application.

The Model Approach was available for comments by all interested parties in November 2018 and January 2019. The comments received have been compiled into a response matrix that indicates how comments have been considered.

For any questions on the Model Approach, please contact the UN Environment Management Group Secretariat (