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Negotiations for a United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution

In February 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the governing body of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), adopted resolution 5/14 to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including the marine environment. The resolution led to the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) tasked with completing the draft of a legally binding instrument by the end of 2024.

The INC held its first session (INC-1) from 28 November to 2 December 2022 in Uruguay. The committee discussed the potential scope, objectives, and broad options for the structure of the future treaty. At the end of the INC-1, the INC Secretariat, in consultation with the Chair was tasked with preparing a document outlining potential options for elements that could be included in the future instrument. This document served as a basis for the second round of negotiations (INC-2).

INC-2 was held in Paris at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) headquarters from 29 May to 2 June 2023. Over 700 Member State delegates from 169 countries and over 900 observers from NGOs attended this session. The Global Pact Coalition, as a UNEP-accredited non-governmental organization, was given the opportunity to attend these negotiations.

The first two days of INC-2 were characterized by long talks on the rules of procedure. Two groups of countries stood out: one committed to discussing the substance of the treaty, the other slowing down the process, unwilling to move forward until an agreement had been reached on the rules of procedure. Finally, once procedural matters had been settled, participants considered the potential scope and objectives of the treaty, as well as substantive provisions such as core obligations or implementation measures, among other elements.

The Global Pact Coalition did not get the chance to present its statements as negotiations were running behind schedule. In particular, the guiding principles of the future treaty have not been discussed by the Member States. However, the Coalition will provide its observations in the form of a written submission concerning which principles to include in the treaty's preamble.

At the end of INC-2, it was decided that the INC Chair and Secretariat would prepare a zero draft of the agreement ahead of the third session which will be held in Nairobi at the UNEP headquarters from 13 to 19 November 2023.

After INC-3, two more sessions will take place: INC-4 in April/May 2024 in Canada and INC-5 in October/November 2024 in the Republic of Korea. The UNEP will also have to report on INC’s progress during the sixth session of UNEA that will be held in February 2024. Finally, in 2025, the UNEP should convene a conference to adopt the instrument and open it for signature.


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