UCL Environmental Lawyers take to Geneva

UCL Public Policy
3 min readJan 23, 2024

Dr Allison Lindner, Lecturer in Law and Dr Pedro Schilling de Carvalho, Assistant Professor (Lecturer) of Financial and Environmental Law reflect on a recent study visit to Geneva, offered by UCL Global Engagement, UCL European Institute and UCL Public Policy.

After undergoing a selective application process, we, Dr Allison Lindner and Dr Pedro Schilling de Carvalho, undertook an international policy fellowship focused on climate change and global environmental governance from 20–23rd November in Geneva. Allison researches waste law, sustainable development and the informal economy in the Global South, which has particular relevance for UN SDG policy, and global governance of waste management and recycling. Pedro researches sustainable finance, financial regulation, and international development, all of which often involve stakeholders and inputs from actors in the UN system.

Organised by UCL and the Geneva Science-Policy Interface (GSPI), the 3-day study visit involved meetings with UN and UN ‘boundary’ organisations with a view to equipping researchers with a stronger understanding of how to inform multilateral policy on climate and environmental governance. Our group included other researchers from across UCL’s Faculties as well as colleagues from the Universities of Geneva and Zurich.

On our first full day, we arrived bright and early at the Palais des Nations for a range of meetings on how to develop knowledge exchange opportunities with colleagues in the UN eco-system. During our visit, we met policymakers from the UN archives, the World Meteorological Organisation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNEP, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Secretariats, and UNEP-GRID. We also heard presentations from boundary organisations such as International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD), the GSPI and UNEP-Geneva Environment Network, while academics based at the University of Geneva also shared with us their experiences of developing influential relationships policymakers.

It was wonderful to discover that many of the policymakers were lawyers, which reassured us that no question pertaining to the law was too technical, thus making it easier to discuss our work in a way that was readily legible. Our conversations yielded four key take aways:

· Excellent academic research can be valuable to international policymakers and lead to policy influence and knowledge exchange opportunities.

· In areas that are inherently interdisciplinary, it is increasingly useful to “speak multiple languages” in terms of expertise and be able to interact with stakeholders from from diverse backgrounds.

· Thinking creatively about, and identifying the most relevant entry points for, informing policymakers on a particular topic is essential for enhancing the impact of academic research.

· When working in an international context, developing relationships with one’s home country national contact point is one effective ‘way in’ to engaging with actors in the UN system.

On this trip, we expected to engage with policymakers doing work relevant to our academic expertise. We also expected to develop knowledge on the workings of the UN ecosystem and how to translate our research into policy-relevant outputs. On both fronts, we were not disappointed. For both of us, giving a 10-minute presentation on our international policy engagement strategy to UN and boundary organisation policymakers and other academics was very useful. An integral part of the programme, it allowed us to receive practical feedback that led to immediate connections with relevant stakeholders that will help inform our research design and dissemination strategies.

The opportunity to discuss congruencies in research with that of British policymakers working within the Geneva ecosystem at a reception held at the Residence of the UK Permanent Representative to the WTO and the UN was a definite highlight. The diversity of backgrounds, career paths, and interests, both in our group but also across the stakeholders we engaged with was another. The final session with Michel Jarraud, Secretary General Emeritus of the WMO was particularly relevant in terms of insights when it comes to maximising impact in cross-cutting themes.

Find out more about the UCL-GSPI International Policy Fellowship 2023 here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/global/news/2023/dec/navigating-un-landscape-ucl-gspi-capacity-building-visit-geneva

To explore case studies of UCL research impact and policy engagement internationally, and to access resources on international policy engagement see: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/global/news/2023/dec/navigating-un-landscape-ucl-gspi-capacity-building-visit-geneva



UCL Public Policy

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