The United Nations Environment Programme has accredited Union Theological Seminary through the Center for Earth Ethics. Accreditation grants Union observer status and other privileges at the United Nations Environment Assembly and its subsidiaries. The Center for Earth Ethics initiated the accreditation process and is Union’s official connection with this UN body.
The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, Union’s president, was informed of the accreditation in a letter from Jorge Laguna-Celis, UNEP’s secretary of governing bodies, on July 7. The announcement, Jones said, is “a testament to the CEE’s unique ability to engage religious and spiritual communities in ecological discussions at all levels and to establish unprecedented connections between faith-based and secular concerns in order to advance the great work of protecting life on Earth.”
“We are grateful for this honor and opportunity,” said Karenna Gore, CEE’s executive director. “The Center for Earth Ethics at Union is energized and ready to join the great efforts underway at UNEP to correct course so that people can live in balance and harmony with Earth and each other.”
Accreditation is the main entry point for groups and stakeholders into the UN’s environmental policy dialogue. Schools and other non-governmental organizations must successfully meet the requirements of UNEP’s accreditation process before being granted observer status to the UN Environment Assembly, which governs UNEP, and the Committee of Permanent Representatives, composed of all accredited permanent representatives to UNEP.
The Assembly, which will meet next in February 2022, is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, with representatives from all 193 UN member states. It sets priorities for global environmental policies and develops international environmental law. In the months leading up to Assembly sessions, accredited organizations participate in Regional Consultation Meetings, contribute to Regional Civil Society Statements, comment on working documents, and participate in public meetings. During the Assembly itself, accredited organizations attend plenary sessions, where they interact with governments, circulate written statements, and make oral presentations.
CEE’s Director of Sustainability and Global Affairs Andrew Schwartz shepherded Union and CEE through the accreditation process; he will serve as Union’s point of contact with UNEP.
“Observer status helps us advance faith-based and other underrepresented groups as full participants in the UN’s ongoing dialogues on the environment, climate, and other defining issues,” Schwartz said. “We’re looking forward to amplifying these voices at the next meeting of the Assembly.”