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Before UNEP: who was in charge of the global environment? The struggle for institutional responsibility 1968–72

  • Iris Borowy (a1)
Abstract

Many of the international technical agencies formed after 1945 addressed environmental topics within their specific fields of work. By the late 1960s, a growing awareness of pollution and an emerging environmental movement in Western countries led to a perceived need for more coordinated and institutionalized international cooperation on the environment. Before the landmark United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, and the subsequent creation of the UN Environment Programme, several organizations competed for recognition as principal reference organizations for environmental matters. This article analyses the combination of cooperation and rivalry, involving in particular the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). Among other initiatives, the OECD became the first international organization to establish a permanent committee specifically dedicated to environmental issues and the ECE organized a Conference on Environmental Problems, held in Prague in 1971. Both called for a critical review of the dominant growth-centred economic model. Their analysis adds a neglected dimension to the origins of today’s international structure of environmental cooperation as well as to the long-term evolution of economic environmental thinking.

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*Corresponding author. E-mail: borowyiris@i.shu.edu.cn
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I would like to thank three anonymous reviewers and the editors of this Journal for very helpful comments on an earlier version of the article.

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References
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2 Manulak, Michael, ‘Developing world environmental cooperation: the Founex Seminar and the Stockholm Conference’, in Wolfram Kaiser and Jan-Henrik Meyer, eds., International organizations and environmental protection, New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017, pp. 103127 ; Tolba, Mostafaand El-Kholy, Osama, The world environment 1972–1992, London: Chapman & Hall, 1992, pp. 741745 ; Borowy, Iris, Defining sustainable development for our common future: a history of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission), London: Routledge, 2014, pp. 26236 ; Ivanova, Maria, ‘Designing the United Nations Environment Programme: a story of compromise and confrontation’, International Environmental Agreements, 7, 2007, pp. 337361 ; Bernstein, Steven, The compromise of liberal environmentalism, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002, pp. 3247 .

3 Schulz-Walden, Thorsten, Anfänge globaler Umweltpolitik, Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2013, pp. 149183 ; Hünemörder, Kai, ‘Environmental crisis and soft politics: détente and the global environment, 1968–1975’, in John McNeill and Corinna Unger, eds., Environmental histories of the Cold War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 257276 .

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12 McNeill, Something new, pp. 336–7.

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14 Long, Bill, International environmental issues and the OECD, 1950–2000, Paris: OECD, 2000, p. 13 ; Haw, Gary and Paul, Alistair, Environmentalism since 1945, London: Routledge 2012, pp. 38 .

15 Osborn, Fairfield, Our plundered planet, Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1948 ; Daly, Herman, Toward a steady-state economy, San Francisco, CA: W. H. Freeman, 1973 .

16 Archives of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (henceforth OECDA), ENV (70)3, Ad Hoc Preparatory Committee on the Activities of the Organisation on Environmental Problems Related to Economic Growth, ‘Note on the work of other international organisations on environmental problems’, 27 February 1970.

17 Grieves, Forest, ‘Regional efforts at international environmental protection’, International Lawyer, 12, 2, 1978, p. 310 .

18 Hünemörder, ‘Environmental crisis’.

19 Berthelot, Yves and Rayment, Paul, ‘The ECE: a bridge between East and West’, in Yves Berthelot, ed., Unity and diversity in development ideas, Bloomington, IN, and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004, pp. 51131 .

20 Grieves, ‘Regional efforts’, p. 323; Berthelot, Yves and Rayment, Paul, Looking back and peering forward: a short history of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, 1947–2007, New York and Geneva: UN, 2007, p. 80 ; United Nations Office at Geneva Archives (hereafter UNOGA), G 34/1, J.2, Revised text of relevant part of document E/4553 concerning ECE environmental activities, April 1969.

21 Möller, Lutz and Kammann, Eva, ‘MAB: man and the biosphere’, UNESCO today, 2, 2007, pp. 1315 .

22 Ivanova, ‘Designing’, pp. 341–5.

23 The National Archives of the United Kingdom (henceforth TNA), FCO 55/383, British embassy Washington to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (henceforth FCO), 3 April 1970.

24 TNA, FCO 55/171, Summary record of a meeting held at the FCO, 6 November 1969.

25 Train to Richardson, 17 November 1969, Foreign Relations of the United States (henceforth FRUS) 1969–76, vol. E-1, doc. 288, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve01/d288 (consulted 19 December 2017).

26 Manulak, ‘Developing’, p. 106.

27 Iris Borowy, Defining, pp. 31–4.

28 UNOGA, G 34/1, J.2, Reiner to Mishan, 28 April 1969.

29 See UNOGA, GX34/2.

30 UN Res 2398, 3 December 1968, §2, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=a/res/2398(XXIII) (consulted 20 January 2017).

31 TNA, FCO 55/422, Note by Ministry of Housing and Local Government, ECE, 25th Session, 20 March 1970.

32 UNOGA, G 34/1, J.2, de Groot van Embden, OECD, to Stanovnik, UNECE, 31 January 1969.

33 Founded as the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) in 1948, it was renamed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1961.

34 OECDA, ENV (70)4, ‘Present status of work of the Committee for Research Cooperation and other OECD bodies relating to the environment’, 4 March 1970; Long, International environmental issues, pp. 28–31; Borowy, Iris, ‘Negotiating the environment: the making of the OECD Environment Committee and the polluter pays principle, 1968–1972’, in Mathieu Leimgruber and Matthias Schmelzer, eds., The OECD and the international political economy since 1948, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2017, pp. 311334 .

35 Long, International environmental issues, pp. 30–1.

36 Angelo, Homer, ‘Protection of the human environment: first steps towards regional cooperation in Europe’, International Lawyer, 5, 3, 1971, p. 514 .

37 UNOGA, G 34/1, J.2, ‘Some notes or points for possible use in the Executive Secretary’s opening statement to the preparatory group of experts on environment’, stamped by UN Registry, 6 February 1969, p. 14.

38 OECDA, C(69)123, ‘Problems of a modern society. Note by the Secretary-General’, 18 September 1969.

39 OECDA, C(69)168, ‘Problems of a modern society. Note by the Secretary-General’, 12 December 1969.

40 Iris Borowy, ‘(Re-)thinking environment and economy: the OECD and sustainable development’, in Kaiser and Meyer, International organizations, pp. 211–39.

41 NATO Archives (henceforth NATOA), C-M(70)19(Final), Progress Report by the Chairman of the Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society, 15 May 1970.

42 Ibid.

43 Darwin Hamblin, Jacob, ‘Environmentalism for the Atlantic Alliance: NATO’s experiment with the “Challenges of modern society”’, Environmental History, 15, 2010, p. 55 .

44 Kyba, Patrick, ‘CCMS: the environmental connection’, International Journal, 29, 2, 1974, pp. 256267 .

45 Doran, Charles F., ‘Can NATO defend the environment?’, Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, 2, 4, 1973, pp. 670671 .

46 Hamblin, ‘Environmentalism’, p. 55.

47 Research Study REUS-7 prepared by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, 14 April 1970, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve01/d296 (consulted 19 December 2017).

48 TNA, FCO 55/171, Audland to Killick, Human Environment, 3 November 1969.

49 Kyba, ‘CCMS’, pp. 256–8.

50 Grieves, ‘Regional efforts’, p. 316.

51 Hamblin, ‘Environmentalism’, pp. 57, 60.

52 Train, Russell, ‘A new approach to international environmental cooperation: the NATO Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society’, Kansas Law Review, 22, 1974, pp. 174180 .

53 Department of State (DOS) to NATO Mission, 4 February 1970, FRUS 1969–76, vol. E-1, doc. 290, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve01/d290 (consulted 17 December 2017).

54 TNA, FCO 55/384, Lambert, British embassy Bonn, to Wheeler, FCO, 28 September 1970.

55 TNA, FCO 55/170, ‘Working Party on the Co-ordination of Environmental Pollution Control: international aspects of the problem’, note by the FCO, 29 August 1969.

56 Ibid.

57 TNA, FCO 55/170, FCO to various embassies, 28 August 1969.

58 TNA, FCO 55/170, British High Commission Canberra to FCO, 8 September 1969; British embassy Paris to FCO, 15 September 1960; British embassy Bonn to FCO, 16 September 1969; British embassy Stockholm to FCO, 17 September 1969; UK delegation to OECD, 19 September 1969; British embassy Washington, 22 September 1969; British embassy Rome to FCO, 11 September 1969.

59 US State Department to US missions at NATO, UNECE, and UNESCO, 24 February 1970, FRUS 1969–76, vol. E-1, doc. 291, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve01/d291 (consulted 19 December 2017).

60 US State Department to US mission at NATO, 6 March 1970, FRUS 1969–76, vol. E-1, doc. 292, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve01/d292 (consulted 19 Dec 2017).

61 Ibid.

62 TNA, FCO 55/383, UK delegation NATO to FCO, 17 March 1970 and 26 March 1970.

63 TNA, FCO 55/383, British embassy Washington to FCO, 3 April 1970.

64 TNA, FCO 55/422, ‘Summary record of a meeting held in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Wednesday, 1 April, 1970, at 11 a.m.’

65 TNA, FCO 55/383, UK delegation NATO to FCO, 26 March 1970.

66 TNA, FCO 55/422, ‘Summary record of a meeting held in the FCO’.

67 TNA, FCO, 55/422, ‘Section for brief no. 1’, speaking notes (n.d.) and background notes, spring 1970.

68 TNA, FCO 55/384, Council of Europe, Inventory of other International Organisations’ Activities Regarding the Environment, CM (70)130, 28 August 1970.

69 UNOGA, G 34/1, J.2, Reiner to Mishan, 28 April 1969.

70 UNOGA, G 34/1, J.2, ECE, 24th session, ‘Provisional summary record of the eleventh meeting, held 17 April 1969’, p. 3.

71 UNOGA, G 34/3, ECE news release ECE/HOU 134, ‘UN/ECE prepares for regional meeting on the environment in 1971’, 16 March 1970.

72 TNA, FCO 55/423, UNECE, ‘Report of the second meeting of the preparatory group for the meeting of governmental experts on problems relating to environment’, 20 March 1970.

73 OECDA, CE/M(70)2 (Prov.), Executive Committee, ‘Summary record of the 228th meeting held 27–28 January 1970’, 17 February 1970.

74 OECDA, ENV(70)5, Ad Hoc Preparatory Committee on the Activities of the Organisation on Environmental Problems Related to Economic Growth, annotated agenda, 26 February 1970.

75 Schmelzer, Matthias, ‘“Born in the corridors of the OECD”: the forgotten origins of the Club of Rome, transnational networks, and the 1970s in global history’, Journal of Global History, 12, 2017, pp. 2648 .

76 Ibid., p. 37.

77 TNA, FCO 55/383, Burrows to Flower, 11 March 1970.

78 TNA, FCO 55/422, UK Delegation NATO to FCO, 9 April 1970.

79 TNA, FCO 55/383, Council of Europe, Consultative Assembly, Political Affairs Committee, Minutes of the meeting held in Paris 6 and 7 April 1970.

80 TNA, FCO 55/422, Science and Technology Department, 31 March 1970.

81 Ivanova, ‘Designing’, pp. 347–9.

82 TNA, FCO 55/384, Butler, UK delegation ECE, to FCO, 26 June 1970.

83 Ibid.

84 TNA, FCO 55/423, UK Mission to Arculus, Science and Technology Dept, FCO, 20 Oct 1970.

85 FCO 55/424, D. J. Johnson, UK Mission ECE, to Wheeler, Science and Technology Dept, FCO, 24 November 1970.

86 TNA, FCO 55/423, Arculus, Science and Technology Dept, FCO, to A. H. Cottrell, F.R.S., Cabinet Office, 6 October 1970.

87 Borowy, ‘Negotiating the environment’.

88 OECDA, ENV(70)11, Ad Hoc Preparatory Committee on the Activities of the OECD Related to Economic Growth, ‘Overall conclusions’, 4 April 1970 (corrected 30 April 1970).

89 Long, International environmental issues, pp. 34–8.

90 TNA, FCO 55/389, Informal meeting of Preparatory Committee for United Nations Conference, 9 November 1970.

91 TNA, FCO 55/424, Johnson, UK Mission, to Wheeler, 8 December 1970.

92 UNOGA, GX34/7J.2, Alexandrov to Bishop, 19 August 1971.

93 US mission ECE to US State Department, 4 December 1970, FRUS 1969–76, vol. E-1, doc. 304, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve01/d304 (consulted 19 December 2017).

94 Hamblin, ‘Environmentalism’, p. 63.

95 ‘UN/ECE symposium on problems relating to environment’, ECE News, 9, 7/8, July/August 1971, p. 2.

96 David Leff, ‘A meeting in Prague’, Environment, 13, 9, 1971, pp. 29–33.

97 UNOG, G 34/1, J.8, Robert Stein, ‘The ECE symposium on problems relating to the environment’, annex to Stein to Bishop, 4 August 1971.

98 ‘UN/ECE symposium’, p. 4.

99 Grieves, ‘Regional efforts’, p. 324.

100 Ivanova, ‘Designing’, p. 343; Manulak, ‘Developing’; Barbara Ward and René Dubois, Only one earth, New York: W.W. Norton, 1972.

101 Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, Berlin (henceforth PAAA), B35/333, ‘Report by Task Force III of the Committee on International Environmental Affairs’, December 1970, available at https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve01/d303 (consulted 19 December 2017).

102 OECD, C(72)128, ‘Recommendation of the Council on guiding principles concerning international economic aspects of environmental policies’, 26 May 1972, available at https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0102 (consulted 3 August 2015).

103 Borowy, ‘Negotiating the environment’, pp. 327–33.

104 Hamblin, ‘Environmentalism’, pp. 64–7.

105 See correspondence in the United Nations Archives, New York, S-0971-0004-12, especially Stanovnik to Secretary-General, 7 March 1972.

106 TNA, FCO 55/383, Thomas to Wheeler, 2 June 1970.

107 TNA, FCO 55/384, Arculus, FCO, to Davis, 6 July 1970.

108 PAAA, B35/421, ‘Vermerk: UN-Umweltkonferenz in Stockholm’, 9 May 1972.

109 PAAA, B35/421, ‘Bericht über die 2. Sitzung der Brüsseler Gruppe über Umweltfragen am 28. September 1971’, 6 October 1971.

110 Ivanova, ‘Designing’, pp. 347–9; Schrijver, Nico, Development without destruction, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010, pp. 114118 .

111 Angelo, ‘Protection’, p. 515.

112 Hamblin, ‘Environmentalism’, p. 70.

113 UNECE, ‘About the Committee on Environmental Policy’, http://www.unece.org/environmental-policy/committee-on-environmental-policy/about-the-committee-on-environmental-policy.html (consulted 6 December 2017).

114 Borowy, ‘(Re-)thinking’, pp. 222–39.

115 Long, International environmental issues, pp. 33–80.

116 Sejal Choksi, ‘The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal’, Ecology Law Quarterly, 28, 2001, pp. 509–39, available at http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/elq/vol28/iss2/13 (consulted 15 January 2018).

117 Ivanova, ‘Designing’, p. 339.

I would like to thank three anonymous reviewers and the editors of this Journal for very helpful comments on an earlier version of the article.

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