Involve cities in the negotiations on plastic pollution!

Starting discussion on a new international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution (as per resolution 5/14 adopted by the UN Environment Assembly in March 2022) is a very positive step for humanity. But this can only be achieved with the full involvement of all stakeholders, including those at “local level”, as referred to in the resolution. When it comes to dealing with plastic pollution, cities and other local and regional governments are instrumental and should be included in the debates that will develop an international convention to end plastic pollution.  

Geneva Cities Hub (GCH) spoke at a dedicated event organized by several stakeholders and coordinated by the Geneva Environment Network (GEN) on 2 November 2022. GCH expressed strong support in favor of cities’ involvement in the intergovernmental negotiation process, starting late November in Uruguay. “States will experience major difficulties to reach their objectives if they do not embrace cities as partners from the very beginning of the process. Negotiating together and implementing together is the only path to success!” stated Kamelia Kemileva, Co-Director, Geneva Cities Hub.

Multilateral negotiations on a legally binding instrument are led by States. From time to time, other stakeholders such as cities are invited to make a statement, but they are usually left on the side lines of the process, out of the negotiation area. That is for example the case with the climate change COPs, with local and regional governments being left behind closed doors!

The Geneva Cities Hub believes that the time has come for change. Cities and other local and regional governments are main actors when it comes to plastic pollution. In a similar manner to climate change and other global challenges, cities are the main contributors to plastic pollution, given people’s concentration and their dense infrastructure. However, cities are also the main driver to address plastic pollution, given their innovation potential and broad scale impact. So they have to be included as partners in the negotiation process.

Here are some concrete proposals to enable cities’ inclusion in the negotiations:

  • States could establish a procedure to consult interested cities, for instance before and after each round of negotiations, so as to brief them and create a sustainable channel of communication.
  • While States have the primary responsibility to implement the international instruments negotiated among themselves, other actors also play their part in the implementation at national level. That is the case of cities and other local and regional governments. States should thus think about provisions in the new convention that are directed at the subnational level and ensure that local and regional governments have the capacities and resources to implement them.
  • States could consider including representatives of cities and other local and regional governments within their national delegations. 
  • Further, cities and other local and regional governments could be provided with observer status in order to participate in the negotiations.
  • Finally, the Secretariat of UNEP could dedicate some space on its website where all interested cities could publish their good practices and /or recommendations about the ongoing negotiation. This could inform the process and provide evidence to the negotiators.

The Geneva Cities Hub is glad to support cities, Member States and the Secretariat for any of the endeavour above!       

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