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An Animal Welfare Nexus Resolution for sustainable development adopted in March at UNEA 5.2

Posted by Patricia Lumba on 27 May 2022 8:20 AM CAT
Patricia Lumba photo

By Catherine Chumo, Senior Information Officer
Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW)

Animal Welfare Nests at the United Nations

Years of stakeholder collaboration with animal welfare organizations culminated in a monumental achievement this last week at the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya. For the first time in history, a resolution that exclusively refers to animal welfare was adopted on March 2, 2022.

The Resumed Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) adopted the Animal Welfare, Environment and Sustainable Development Nexus Resolution which was sponsored by seven (7) Member States, namely Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The draft resolution was discussed, negotiated, and was agreed upon at a referendum and was passed by Open Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) ahead of UNEA 5.2.

The international multilateral groups aligned with the resolution’s call on the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to produce a report in close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the One-Health High-Level Expert Panel and other stakeholders.

Coordinated global lobbying efforts and activities that preceded this ground-breaking achievement stemmed from indigenous animal welfare groups in Africa in partnership with global like-minded organizations. The achievement was a huge milestone following years of work undertaken by the civil society organizations to protect animals, their habitat and the communities that live with and adjacent to them. The resolution will seek to affirm the important role their work plays in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Today, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment acknowledged the strong body of science supporting animal welfare and its contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We have taken a bigger step forward to protect humans, animals, and the planet. And we showed how we are better together” said Josphat Ngonyo, the Founder and Executive Director for Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW).

The actions taken which aimed to derive support from Member States was coordinated by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the World Federation for Animals (WFA). The organizations collaborated with their partners and member organizations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and USA.

“We are proud of this watershed moment for the animal protection movement. It is a massive collective success for our members and partners and proves the impact of a worldwide coalition of animal NGOs. A holistic understanding of the links between animal suffering and environmental harm and greater inter-agency collaboration with shared aims are critical stepping stones for improving the well-being of animals across the globe.” James Yeates, the Chief Executive Officer for World Federation for Animals (WFA).

The effort was indeed collective as it was generously supported financially and in kind by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), Four Paws, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Animal People, Animal Welfare Trust, Africa Network for Animal Welfare-USA, American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), Animals Australia, The Donkey Sanctuary, World Horse Welfare, and WellBeing International at a regional and global.

This great stride follows the endorsement of the resolution by the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) in December 2021 of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Heads of States and Government of African Union during the 35th African Union Summit in February 2022.

“An enabling policy and legal framework is a key institutional arrangement for sustainable development of animal resources upon which to anchor the development strategies, programs and projects. A clear understanding of the fundamental issues that need to be addressed and the generation of the necessary evidence for the formulation of polices and legal frameworks to guide the components of development is crucial. AU-IBAR welcomes the adoption of the Resolution by UNEA; which is envisaged to lead to a clear understanding of the nexus between animal welfare, the environment and sustainable development, and recognizes the resolution as a critical milestone in addressing its mandate to spearhead the sustainable development of the Animal Resources Sector in Africa.” Stated the Acting Director of AU-IBAR, Dr. Nick Nwankpa.

This major achievement had been long forthcoming for the animal welfare stakeholders and partners as the process of attaining it was focused, adept and efficient.

“It is indeed an historic moment in the United Nations Environment Assembly accepting this resolution which gives official recognition to the vital role of animal welfare in achieving a sustainable planet for us all. Huge thanks to everyone involved in making this trailblazing resolution happen.” Stated the Global Chief Executive Officer of Compassion in World Farming International, Philip Lymbery.


Tracking the Resolution Process

Africa Animal Welfare Conference - Action 2019

It was on a warm day at the halls of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) that the discussions on the conference resolutions took place, after an engaging and exhausting few days at the Africa Animal Welfare Conference - Action 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Having convened for three days, African leaders, researchers, academics, conservationists, legal professionals, law enforcers, and animal welfare practitioners, from different parts of the African continent and the world agreed upon final recommendations in the East African capital.

Among the fifteen (15) resolutions that had been determined and put together to address the gaps flagged and to solve the challenges highlighted in the presentations, was a highly ambitious one that seemed to be almost unattainable.

Under the ‘Engagement with UN Environment’ clause, Resolution No. 8 instructed the conference to table a resolution to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) through a Member State that recognizes and affirms the contribution and significance of welfare of animals to environmental protection, social justice, and sustainable development of society.

The meeting further resolved that the conference organizers, UNEP, AU-IBAR and ANAW to work together with other animal welfare organizations to actualize the resolution.

Upon the creation of the joint secretariat, ANAW was tasked to lead and coordinate the process and mobilize the resources in order to actualize the animal welfare resolution.

We Are Better Together

It has been proven, time and again, that all should work in unity to achieve a common goal effectively at the highest level. Individuals, organizations, and institutions work hand in hand to address environmental crises experienced and to make an impact in the world today. This was the mindset and approach adopted when the organizers and the secretariat set out to fulfil the assigned task – they were better together.

Following the conference, the secretariat sought support and partnership from animal welfare organizations across the world to form a steering committee and a technical committee. The appointed committees comprised of Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), Animal People, African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), Brooke International, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), Eurogroup for Animals, Four Paws, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), The Donkey Sanctuary, UNEP as an advisor, World Horse Welfare, World Federation for Animals (WFA) and World Animal Protection.

During the process, the team also joined hands with the Red Latinoamericana de Protección Animal (Red-LAPA), Mercy for Animals, Proveg, Catholic Concern, and many other animal welfare, wildlife, and environmental conservation NGOs to support the sponsoring states in raising awareness of and garnering support for the resolution.

The group undertook to jointly support and inform the member states on the resolution, hoping to there would be support from at least ninety-seven (97) United Nations Member States required to support the resolution at UNEA-5.2 in February 2022, for it to be to be passed and adopted. This is 50% plus 1 (one) member states minimum number required to pass a resolution.


Member States Own the Animal Welfare Resolution

Civil society organizations supported Member States through their appointed joint secretariat who visited ministers and officials in different countries in an effort to discuss and provide information on the animal welfare resolution. The Member States agreed and aligned with the aims and objectives of the resolution and committed to sponsor and support it. The states appointed two focal point persons one in Nairobi and the capital.

The efforts were further aided when strategic meetings were organized to take place in ongoing global high-level conferences. A side meeting was planned during the 5th Africa Animal Welfare Conference (AAWC) in Ghana for the Ministers of Environment as a preparation of moving the resolution forward to UNEA and to reach out to other Member States to support the resolution.

The meetings were successful and achieved a common purpose which is to engage and inform Member States on the pioneering resolution.

The Animal Welfare Resolution at the Resumed Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2)  

After the resolution was tabled and discussed by Member States during the Committee of Permanent Representatives and the Sub - Committee meetings, it underwent refinement to address the concerns raised.

Unanimous Support from Global Civil Society Organizations

The civil society organizations representing different countries across the world that were accredited to UN Environment as Major Groups and Stakeholders (MGS) expressed their support for the resolution in a well elaborated document to UNEA. They submitted their recommendations of the Animal Welfare-Environment-Sustainable Development Nexus Resolution highlighting their thoughts and views on the document. The recommendations contextualized animal welfare in the three pillars that UN Environment addressed – Biodiversity Loss, Pollution and Climate Change.

The Major Groups and Stakeholders expressed their full support of the resolution which requested UNEP’s Executive Director to carry out an analysis and report on the interlinkages between animal welfare, the environment and sustainable development. The MGS statement explained that the resolution would aid UNEP and Member States to assess how improving animal welfare could support them in delivering on their mandate of protecting the environment and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The statement established that food production systems that have a negative impact on animal health and welfare are the dominant drivers of biodiversity loss and zoonotic disease emergence and contribute significantly to climate change and environmental pollution. Major Groups and Stakeholders gave a clear recommendation that the draft resolution should stay as a stand-alone measure and should not be merged with any other resolution as it is short, targeted and deals with an issue which is new to the UN system.


A Resolution Adopted!

On March 2, 2022, the UNEA President Espen Barth Eide, announced the adoption of the resolution.

“The first draft resolution is entitled, ‘Animal Welfare, Environment and Sustainable Development Nexus’ (UNEA/EA5/L10 Revision1). May I take it that the assembly wishes to adopt this draft resolution?... I see no objections; it is so decided.” The president announced as he brought down the gavel.

The historic news was met with deafening shouts, claps and ululations that reverberated across the conference hall at the United Nations. An insurmountable feat had been accomplished! The resolution was finally adopted!


The Advocacy Task to Fulfil the Resolution

The magnitude of the implication of a resolution adopted by the highest-level decision-making environmental organ calls for an equally monumental convening task to fulfil it. The inference of this decision creates a massive expectation to provide evidence on the role of animal welfare as a key interlink to the global environmental challenges, as a vital pillar of One Health and as an objective to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A supporting task to the UN Environment Executive Director and the multilateral groups cited falls squarely on the unified shoulder of animal welfare advocates and practitioners.

It is crucial to perceive the move to distinguish animal welfare at the world’s highest policy making assembly as only but the beginning of a journey to attain a humane world that cares for and protects its animals.

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