Guidelines for Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Date Signed

In response to the growing challenges facing environmental protection and sustainable development, Member States of the United Nations have negotiated several Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) to address these challenges collectively amongst the countries of the world. A multilateral environmental agreement is a treaty, convention, protocol or other binding instrument, set up between three or more countries with the purpose of reaching an environmental goal. 

Using this definition, there would potentially be a very large list of MEAs, including for example some of the various Transfrontier Conservation agreements or River Basin Management agreements established by SADC Member States (SADC MS). It is thus important to differentiate amongst MEAs which require a common regional approach or a common position by SADC and those that do not. For the purposes of this paper, MEAs to which only SADC MS belong are not considered to require such a common regional approach or a common position by SADC and are not further discussed. 

All MEAs have legally binding provisions and most have transboundary dimensions which require a regional approach to be followed by a regional bloc such as SADC, but there has been no formal process of prioritization within SADC of which MEAs to focus on specifically. Amongst the substantial list of MEAs that SADC MS have to implement, the following four MEAs are considered to be the most topical or contentious: 

i. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system; 

ii. United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to preserve and conserve species; use biodiversity in sustainable ways; and share the benefits of genetic resources. In addition, CDB has the following associated Protocols: a . the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to govern the movements from one country to another of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology; and b. the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, to share the benefits arising from utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way; 

iii. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought; and 

iv. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to protect wildlife against over-exploitation, and to prevent international trade from threatening species with extinction.