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Getting to know the UN

Here you will find an article that aims at explaining what are the relevant stakeholders within the United Nations linked with Environment and Sustainable Development with whom UIC collaborates.

What is the United Nations?

The United Nations was created on the 24 October, 1945, when the Charter was ratified. The aim of the San Francisco conference was to set up an organization which would preserve peace and help build a better world. Since then, they have founded many programs and agencies dealing with environment and sustainability. In the field of environment and sustainable development, the UN has tried to find global solutions to many issues, and in many cases has succeeded, for example gaining agreement to phase out chemicals that deplete the Ozone layer. The UN has also led global efforts to tackle the immensely challenging topics of climate change and sustainability development strategies. It is on these topics that the UIC Sustainability Unit interacts with the UN to highlight the ways in which the railways can contribute to a low-carbon transport and sustainable development more generally.

Main UN Bodies

The UN is composed of various main bodies: The General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social council, and various special agencies. These are explained briefly in the section below.

The General Assembly is formed by 193 states members. It is the main deliberative organ of the UN, where each country has one vote. It is a forum for international discussion and it addresses issues through specific funds and programs such as the UNEP– United Nations Environment Programme.
To learn more, please visit: http://www.un.org/en/ga/.

The ECOSOC is an important council of the UN where social and economic issues are discussed and debated, and policy recommendations issued, please see for more information . The Commission for Sustainable Development which UIC has worked together with depends from the ECOSOC.

Commission for Sustainable Development

The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) is a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and has 53 member States (about one third of the members are elected on a yearly basis). Each yearly session of the CSD elects a Bureau, comprised of a Chair and four vice-Chairs.
Some of these sessions are well-known.

The CSD was created in Rio, in 1992, during the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCDE,) known as the first Earth Summit. During the UNCDE, important documents such as Agenda 21 (a comprehensive plan of action), and the Rio Declaration Principles, were produced. They set a series of objectives to achieve sustainable development. Follow this link for more information.

To follow-up the progress made by relevant stakeholders, the CSD has been holding a conference every year since 1992, and held a special World Summit on Sustainable Development in the year 2000; here the governments adopted the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, where they have a plan of implementation to achieve sustainable development. More information here.

In 2012 the CSD held the 2nd Earth Summit, in Rio in June 2012, also called “Rio+20” or officially entitled “ United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development “, to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit and the 20th session of the CSD. Rio+20 was an historic opportunity to define pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all. To learn more please visit : http://www.uncsd2012.org/about.html.
UIC has cooperated with the CSD for years, as you can see here.

UNFCCC : United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The UNFCCC is neither a programme nor a fund, but a Secretariat of Convention administrated under United Nations Rules and Regulations that supports cooperative action by States to combat climate change. Its main missions are to monitor the implementation of the commitments under the Convention and the Protocol of Kyoto through collection, analysis and review of information and data provided by Parties, assist Parties in implementing their commitments and support negotiations. These negotiations are held every year during the COP ( Conferences of the Parties). More information here.

The UNFCCC, though linked with the Kyoto Protocol launched in 1997, aiming at making the state mitigate their GHG emissions, is different from the Protocol in the sense that, while the Convention encourages industrialized countries to stabilize GHG emissions, the Protocol commits them to do so. The Protocol is the result of the negotiations that took place in the Framework Convention for Climate Change.
With this section, you can see how UIC has worked with UNFCCC during the ten past years.

The UNEP : United Nations Environment Program

The UNEP main mission is to “provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.” To do so, it has 6 regional offices and develops a lot of partnerships with UN entities, NGO’s, civil society, national governments and the private sector. The UNEP reports directly to the General Assembly. To learn more about UNEP, go to : http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=43&ArticleID=3301&l=en .

To learn more about UIC relationship with UNEP please see this article.