This article presents an historical retrospective of the efforts of the United Nations to deal, rather unsuccessfully, with the global environment.
Today, as in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s, the success of transnational environmental programs cannot be measured within an isolated prism; but, rather, with a realization of resource interdependence. There is no over-arching principle of shared responsibility among the states which acknowledges an obligation for them to compromise sovereignty in the name of promoting the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The UN’s global protection plan, as it emerged from the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment and was amplified in the 1982 Nairobi Environmental Conference, remains largely aspirational rather than fully operational.
No definitive solution exists to resolve the on-going environmental dilemma of conserving natural resources while promoting growth. Rather than being burdened with complex regulatory processes promoted by the UNEP, a more informed position would curtail the outreach and work of the UNEP and return to the member states of the United Nations, the inherent responsibility for determining, on their own initiative, both the nature of environmental issues within their respective jurisdictions, and the extent to which action will be pursued in order to meet those concerns. In the final analysis, economic realities, rather than Geopolitics, shape ultimate responses to issues of environmental protection.
George P. Smith II, The United Nations and the Environment: Sometimes a Great Notion?, 19 U. TEX. INT’L L. J. 335 (1984).