Progress on the UN Plastics Treaty

By: Helga Haass-Männle and Sr. Patty Johnson

The Congregations of Sisters of St Joseph Non-Governmental Organization attended the United Nations second Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) on Plastic Pollution in Paris from May 29 through June 2. We were represented by Helga Haass-Männle, PhD Chem., a Chambery Associate who lives in Norway, supported by Sr. Jeannette Londadjim, member of the Institute of the Sisters of St. Joseph and her community, living in Paris.

A photo of four people smiling at the camera outdoors.
Helga Haass-Männle (far left) and Sr. Jeannette Londadjim (far right) pose with two delegates from Austria at a reception.

The aim of the whole INC-process is to establish a ‘legally binding instrument’, a treaty which aims to oblige all countries to effectively combat plastic pollution.

The hope for INC-2 was to leave with a mandate to create a zero-draft treaty (UN language for the working first draft) that can be robustly negotiated at INC-3 in November in Kenya. That goal was achieved, albeit with long lasting consultations.

The INC-2 got off to a slow start spending three of five days offering statements on the rules of procedure, in particular voting on items versus consensus on decision making. It will be hard to create an effective tool against plastic pollution based on consensus. Effective treaties like the Minnamata Convention (on mercury, 2013) were based on voting (2/3 majority). Consensus will allow countries to better protect their economies from the impact of changes to address plastic pollution. On the other hand, consensus will promote the acceptance of the INC-treaty which is critical for its success.

A white woman with glasses is pictured smiling at the camera while sitting at the seat for the United States of America at the UN meeting.
Helga Haass-Männle, pictured at the United Nations second Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) on Plastic Pollution in Paris.

Substantive talks in two contact groups about the objectives revealed divergent views and ideas about what the treaty should contain. Nonetheless, it was obvious that the delegates were listening and learning from each other. Most of the delegates acknowledged the urgent necessity to move forward by finding procedural compromises and committing to make progress between now and INC-3.

Our representatives connected with many interesting attendees, making valuable connections. We have prepared a summary of our stance to submit to the INC for consideration as the zero-draft is formulated.

Read the Congregations of St. Joseph NGO’s Statement In Support of the UN Global Plastic Pollution Treaty.

[Helga Haass-Männle, PhD Chem. is a Chambery Associate who lives in Norway and Sr. Patty Johnson is an elected leader for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in the United States]