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UNEA-6: Stepping Stones Laid, But Hurdles Remain for Global Animal Welfare




The recent sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 6), held in Nairobi, Kenya between February 26, 2024 - March 1, 2024, presented a significant opportunity for advancing animal welfare on a global scale. Asia for Animals Coalition’s (AfA) Lead Coordinator of the AfA Policy Coalition (APC) - Ngoc Anh Nguyen had the privilege of attending UNEA 6, witnessing firsthand the international discussions on environmental issues with implications for animal wellbeing.


Given APC’s dedication to animal policy advocacy, UNEA 6 offered a compelling platform to engage with critical environmental issues and their connection to animal welfare. In this blog post, we’re delving into the significance of UNEA, exploring the outcomes of UNEA 6 for animal welfare, and charting a path forward for continued advocacy efforts at UNEA 7 and beyond.




  • Demystifying the UN and Animal Welfare


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), founded in 1972, is the principal global environmental authority, setting the world's environmental agenda and advocating for sustainable development. UNEP leads the development of international environmental agreements, advances environmental science, and supports nations in achieving environmental objectives. As part of the United Nations Development Group, UNEP's efforts contribute towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hosting secretariats for key environmental agreements and research bodies, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UNEP plays a central role in global environmental governance.


Central to UNEP’s governance is the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the top decision-making body on global environmental issues, meeting biennially. With universal membership encompassing all 193 UN Member States and significant engagement from major groups and stakeholders, UNEA convenes environment ministers and experts in Nairobi, Kenya, every two years. This assembly is pivotal in shaping international environmental policy through its resolutions and discussions, directly impacting the global approach to pressing environmental challenges. Notably, on March 1, 2024, during its sixth session (UNEA-6), UNEA adopted 15 resolutions critical to the future of animals, humans, and the planet, with consensus from over 190 countries, most represented by their environment ministers.


The Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) acts as a critical intersessional subsidiary body to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), facilitating the preparation of the UNEA agenda. The OECPR's role includes pre-negotiating and deliberating on the content and wording of proposed resolutions, declarations, and decisions, setting them up for endorsement and approval by the Assembly. Participation in the OECPR is open to all accredited representatives of the Committee of Permanent Representatives and UNEP-accredited Major Groups and Stakeholders, ensuring a broad and inclusive platform for preliminary discussions that shape the foundation of UNEA's consequential decisions, including those pertaining to animal welfare. 


The adoption of the above-mentioned resolutions was the culmination of intense negotiations conducted by Permanent Representatives to UNEP during the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) meeting the preceding week, which extended into UNEA week itself. Engaging in exhaustive discussions from early morning until late evening, the OECPR meticulously examined the language of the 19 draft resolutions proposed by UN Member States, reflecting the assembly's dedication to thorough and inclusive deliberation.




Accessing information about UNEA’s sessions and draft resolutions is crucial for those aiming to influence environmental policies, including those impacting animal welfare. Official UNEP and UNEA websites provide extensive resources, offering insights into the assembly's processes and outcomes.


Understanding UNEP and UNEA’s structures and processes enables advocates to more effectively champion animal welfare within international environmental policy. This knowledge is key to leveraging global policy mechanisms for the betterment of animal welfare worldwide.


For additional details about the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), explore their official site at www.unep.org. To review the resolutions from the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), please visit www.unep.org/environmentassembly/unea6/outcomes.  


For comprehensive daily summaries covering the events of both the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR-6) and UNEA-6, refer to https://enb.iisd.org/unea6-oecpr6


  • AfA Policy Coalition at UNEA-6


This assembly, a crucible for pivotal discussions on animal welfare and the One Health approach, brought together an array of stakeholders—from governments and international organizations to scientists and UN officers—fostering an atmosphere ripe for holistic environmental dialogues.


UNEA-6 served as a remarkable platform for advocacy, allowing organizations to underscore the significance of animal welfare on a global scale. Through strategic networking, APC formed invaluable alliances, enhancing our collaborative efforts towards animal protection. The sessions not only offered a window into the latest research and policies but also a chance to shape these discussions, ensuring animal welfare was integrally considered in environmental policies.




Utilizing the UNEA-6 app, attendees like ourselves could navigate the extensive agenda, from negotiation sessions to side events and networking opportunities. These engagements were instrumental in deepening our understanding of environmental challenges from a global perspective, crucial for honing our policy advocacy strategies for UNEA-7 and beyond.


Participation in UNEA-6 was invaluable for capacity building, offering insights into effective advocacy and international environmental governance. It raised our organization's profile and opened doors to new support and collaboration opportunities. Importantly, it allowed us to advocate for Asia-specific issues and promote a One Health approach, emphasizing the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health.


As we reflect on our UNEA-6 journey, it's clear that such platforms are essential for advancing the animal welfare agenda, offering a comprehensive framework for action. The lessons learned and connections made will undoubtedly shape APC’s strategies, as we continue to champion the welfare of animals and the environment on the global stage.




  • UNEA-6 outcomes


UNEA-6, with its focus on "Effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution," has laid down several resolutions that could shape the future for animals, humans, and the planet.  These offered both opportunities and missed chances for advancing animal welfare on a global scale.


Bright Spots:


  1. Effective and inclusive solutions for strengthening water policies: A resolution on water management encourages incorporating the One Health approach, which considers animal well-being alongside human and environmental health. This creates a valuable entry point for advocating for animal-friendly water practices.

  2. Strengthening ocean and seas governance: A resolution promoting the ratification of the UN Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty (BBNJ) could significantly benefit marine life by creating protected areas in international waters.

  3. Promoting sustainable lifestyles: A resolution promoting sustainable living opens doors for animal advocates to champion eco-centric approaches that value the intrinsic worth of all living beings, including animals. This could encourage a shift towards non-animal alternatives in various industries.


Missed Opportunities:


  1. Synergistic approaches: Despite previous acknowledgment of animal welfare's contribution to environmental health, UNEA-6 failed to fully embrace a One Health approach in its resolutions. This was a missed opportunity for a more holistic approach.

  2. Strengthening international efforts to combat desertification: Discussions around combating land degradation lacked recognition of the role unsustainable livestock production plays in this issue. Efforts to promote plant-based diets were met with resistance.


Positive Signs:


  1. A broad coalition of stakeholders, including farmers, local authorities, NGOs, workers and trade unions, women, and children and youth stakeholders released a joint statement to UNEA. They emphasized the need to transform food systems to benefit smallholders, improve animal welfare, and promote sustainable practices. Also mentioned in the statement is the need to strengthen the One Health approach to address the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health, particularly in preventing future pandemics. At the same time, the statement called for prompt implementation of existing UNEA resolutions that address the link between animal welfare, the environment, and sustainable development. This strong showing of support from a diverse group of stakeholders bodes well for future advocacy efforts on animal welfare.

  2. Leading Islamic scholars released a document emphasizing the inherent value of animals and calling for legal safeguards for their rights.


For a more detailed analysis of UNEA-6 outcomes, please visit: https://wfa.org/unea-6-resolutions-what-they-mean-for-animals/.




  • The way forward


While UNEA 6 fell short of some expectations, it's important to remember that UNEA remains a crucial platform for advocating for animal welfare policies on a global stage.  UNEA 7 is scheduled for December 2025, and it presents a new opportunity to push for stronger animal welfare considerations.


Animal protection organizations, particularly those in Asia, a region that often lacks strong representation, have a vital role to play in shaping this agenda. Here's how you can get involved:


  1. Staying informed is key:  Follow United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Asia for Animals Coalition (AfA) and other NGOs for updates on UNEA developments and animal welfare advocacy efforts. This will equip you with the knowledge needed to understand the current landscape and emerging opportunities.

  2. Join the movement and amplify your voice: Engage with leading policy advocacy groups such as the World Federation for Animals (WFA) by joining their UNEA working group. This collaboration enables you to add your voice to ongoing initiatives aimed at enhancing animal welfare considerations in the UNEA 7 resolutions. Joining forces with well-established NGOs within the working group not only amplifies your voice but also plays a crucial role in highlighting animal welfare concerns, especially for Asia, a region currently under-represented in many animal policy advocacy discussions and  forums.

  3. Forge strategic alliances for maximum impact: Build relationships with your national government. Their support is essential in advocating for the inclusion of animal welfare in resolutions and voicing Asia's concerns.

  4. Consider accreditation for direct and deeper engagement: Explore accreditation with UNEP. This grants direct participation in UNEA sessions, allowing you to engage with Member States, including your own.  With this, you can advocate for their support of animal welfare inclusion in resolutions,  contribute to discussions, and influence policy decisions.  Additionally, consider ECOSOC accreditation to participate in the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), another vital platform for animal welfare discussions within the broader sustainable development framework.

  5. Additionally, check out our previous AfA Connect session for a deeper dive into UN accreditation and how to participate in multilateral environmental agreements (like CITES, CBD, CMS) that can have a significant impact on animal welfare. To access, visit our Youtube channel at: https://youtu.be/CWJEkujdYKc?feature=shared


The AfA Policy Coalition will soon detail specific ways you can actively support this critical cause in the months ahead. Together, let's strive for a more sustainable and compassionate future for all animals.




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