Ukraine at the UN General Assembly: Highlights on the Environmental Matters in 1992-2020

Authors: D. Ziganshina, A. Galustyan, D. Abasova

Information collection: I. Belikov

Design: A. Degtyaryova

Prepared as part of the UNECE Project “Support to the Network of Russian Speaking Water Management Organizations” financed by the Government of the Russian Federation”

© UNECE, SIC ICWC, authors

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, platform experts analyzed the statements made at the general debate of the UN General Assembly by the countries from Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) with focus on the environmental matters.

The objective of this study was to identify how frequently and in what way the EECCA countries addressed matters related to nature use, the environmental conservation and transboundary cooperation from the UN tribune.

A summary review of Ukraine’s statements on the environmental matters is given below.

Among the priority environmental matters addressed by Ukraine in its statements at UNGA were those related to nuclear pollution and liquidation of consequences of the Chernobyl accident. While emphasizing the global nature of the problem, the country appeals to the international community and the UN for assistance and initiates under the aegis of the UN a commemoration of victims of the Chernobyl plant catastrophe, a special plenary session, and a new resolution on cooperation to mitigate the consequences of the catastrophe. For its part, Ukraine implements obligations on decommissioning of the plant by 2000 and completely removes stocks of highly enriched uranium from the country by 2012.

Since 1995, country representatives have been talking about sustainable development, addressing the issue more extensively at special sessions (2010, 2013) and in 2017. For developing countries or countries in transition to successfully achieve sustainable development goals, Ukraine proposes developing “new financial incentive mechanisms”, in particular, by swapping debt for sustainable development programs.

The issues of environmental protection and rational use of natural resources are also of serious concern. Since 1997, Ukraine has promoted the idea of developing a World Ecological Constitution and, since 2008, has advocated the establishment of a permanent global environmental organization with universal membership under umbrella of the UN. Since 2010, the country has been informing on national climate actions. In 2011, it raised the question of creating effective international mechanisms to combat emerging threats, including natural or man-made disasters. Rational water use, green economy, and RES are mentioned once as priority issues for consideration. Transboundary cooperation, air and water pollution, land degradation, and the issue of domestic waste have been left uncovered.

Exchanges with Ukrainian experts helped to identify environmental matters that should be addressed by authorized representatives of Ukraine at the UNGA in the future. In particular, in opinion of Sergey Vykhrist, expert of the European ECO-Forum, the subject of Ukraine’s statements depended significantly on general context/themes of the sessions, and the particular emphasis on the problems of the Chernobyl catastrophe was quite obvious. As to future statements of Ukraine but also of all countries, the expert wishes that the countries be more proactive in tackling urgent environmental matters and make proposals with concrete effective actions to overcome them.

The following environmental challenges could be addressed in the future statements of Ukraine at UNGA: air pollution; quality of water resources and land degradation; solid waste management; biodiversity loss; human health issues associated with environmental risk factors; in addition to climate change. These were identified as key environmental challenges in the Country Environmental Analysis for Ukraine, where environmental researcher and activist Vladimir Tikhiy was involved as well. As a follow-up of this analysis, V. Tikhiy proposes to consider also how the issues proposed for consideration at UNGA were discussed in the country and to what extent the matters addressed at UNGA corresponded to domestic environmental and nature protection challenges.

Based on the assessment of the current environmental situation in Ukraine, presented by Olena Kravchenko, Executive Director of Environment People Law, a promising future direction for consideration and implementation in the field of environmental protection is the formation of a transparent, effective and operational system of environmental control, reformation of legal accountability for environmentally unlawful actions, raising environmental awareness, as well as addressing issues of waste management, water and air quality, industrial pollution, conservation of natural ecosystems, and climate change.