United Nations Environment Program

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United Nations Environment Program
United Nations Environment Program

Organization type United Nations program
Abbreviation UNEP
management Inger Andersen since 2019 Denmark
status active
Founded 5th June 1972
Headquarters Nairobi Kenya
Upper organization United NationsU.N. United Nations

The United Nations Environment Program ( English United Nations Environment Program , UNEP , French Program des Nations Unies pour l'environnement , UNEP ), headquartered in Kenya's capital Nairobi .

The environmental program was launched in 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment  (UNCHE) with UN resolution 27/2997 of December 15, 1972. As he sees himself, the program is the “voice of the environment” at the UN. UNEP acts as a trigger, advocate, teacher and mediator for the careful use of the environment and sustainable development . It works with various partners, including other UN agencies, other international organizations , governments, non-governmental organizations and companies .

The highest decision-making and steering body of the program is the United Nations Environment Assembly .

Duties and mandate

  • Collect and evaluate global, regional and national environmental data. The focus here is on climate change , pollution of the earth's atmosphere, problems with drinking water , damage to the coastal region and oceans, soil degradation and desertification , species extinction , hazardous waste and toxic chemicals.
  • Developing political instruments for environmental protection: most of the international environmental agreements that are valid today were developed and brought into being within the framework of UNEP . Many of these agreements are now independent.
  • Strengthening institutions in the careful use of the environment.
  • Enable the sharing of knowledge and technology for sustainable development.
  • Encourage civil society and private companies to work together.

UNEP participates in the Global Compact and in the organization of World Environment Day .

Political control

The main decision-making body of the environmental program is the United Nations Environment Assembly , in which all UN member states are represented. With its decisions it defines the priorities for the work of UNEP. The UN Environment Assembly has met every two years since June 2014. It replaces the UNEP Administrative Council and the former Global Environment Ministers Forum. This reform was decided in 2012 at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and implemented by a decision of the UNEP Administrative Council in February 2013.

Before 2014, UNEP was  controlled by a Governing Council (GC), in which representatives from 58 countries sat for three years each. The distribution of the seats followed a regional key. The GC has been the main steering body of UNEP since 1972, it develops guidelines for UN environmental work and at the same time formed a forum for international cooperation in environmental protection. Like non-governmental organizations, non-members were admitted to the Council's meetings as observers. The GC met regularly every two years.

In 1999 the Global Ministerial Environment Forum ( GMEF ) was founded and met once a year. At the same time, a special meeting of the Governing Council was held, which thus de facto also followed an annual meeting rhythm.


UNEP receives its funding from a total of three sources: the Environment Fund , the regular budget and earmarked grants. For 2017, the organization had revenues of $ 668 million and expenses of $ 562 million.

When UNEP was founded in 1972, the General Assembly decided to pay the direct costs of the Secretariat from the regular UN budget. This contribution covers only a small part of the expenses of the UN environmental program. For 2006 and 2007, US $ 13.4 million was allocated on this basis, or 5.1 percent of the total budget.

In order to carry out activities going beyond this, the states set up the Environment Fund at the same time as UNEP . For a long time, this accounted for the largest share of the UNEP budget, but has been overtaken by earmarked grants in recent years. The Environment Fund is funded through voluntary donations from UN member states. From 2004 to 2006, grants were nearly $ 60 million annually, increasing to nearly $ 70 million in 2007 and nearly $ 90 million in 2008.

The specific grants ( earmarked contributions ) and funds through Trust Fund ( Trust Fund ) are now the most important sources of funding for UNEP activities. They are provided by states, international organizations or private actors. In 2006 and 2007 these sources combined provided $ 156.1 million, and the 2008-2009 budget was expected to total over $ 200 million. The largest single item within the earmarked grants is taken by the Multilateral Fund , which finances measures under the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer .


The Nairobi skyline , seat of the UNEP Secretariat

The UNEP Secretariat is located in Nairobi, Kenya. This makes the environmental program the only subsidiary body of the United Nations with its seat in a developing country . This decision was and is not without controversy, above all because of the difficult on-site networking with other organizations and the difficulties of being able to recruit top-class staff. At the same time, however, the decision in favor of Nairobi was a major reason for the African states to even consent to the establishment of UNEP.

On March 15, 2006, Achim Steiner , former chairman of the IUCN , was nominated in Nairobi by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as successor to Klaus Töpfer for the office of Executive Director of UNEP and elected one day later by the UN General Assembly. He took office on June 15, 2006.

The secretariat employs 890 people. Around 500 of them are international employees of the United Nations, the remaining 300 are local employees.

The Secretariat is in charge of implementing UNEP's mandate and programs. This work is done by seven departments:

  • Early warning and detection ( Early Warning and Assessment )
  • Environmental Policy Implementation ( Environmental Policy Implementation )
  • Technology, Industry and Economics ( Technology, Industry and Economics )
  • Regional Cooperation ( Regional Cooperation )
  • Environmental Law and Conventions ( Environmental Law and Conventions )
  • Communications and Public Relations ( Communications and Public Information )
  • Coordination of the Global Environment Facility ( Global Environment Facility Coordination )

In order to be present in the various regions of the world, UNEP maintains a network of six regional offices covering Africa, Asia-Pacific , Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Western Asia .


UNEP is headed by an Executive Director with the rank of Under Secretary-General. So far, the following people have held this office:

photo Surname Country Term of office
Maurice Strong Maurice Strong CanadaCanada Canada 1972-1975
Mostafa Kamal Tolba Mostafa Kamal Tolba EgyptEgypt Egypt 1975-1992
Elizabeth Dowdeswell Elizabeth Dowdeswell CanadaCanada Canada 1992-1998
Klaus Töpfer Klaus Töpfer GermanyGermany Germany 1998-2006
Achim Steiner Achim Steiner GermanyGermany Germany / BrazilBrazilBrazil  2006-2016
Erik Solheim Erik Solheim NorwayNorway Norway 2016-2018
Joyce Msuya Joyce Msuya (acting) TanzaniaTanzania Tanzania November 2018 - February 2019
Inger Andersen Inger Andersen DenmarkDenmark Denmark 2019–

Downstream and supporting organizations

A number of other institutions and organizations in the individual departments are working to assist UNEP.

Reform process

Since it was founded in 1972, the UN environmental program has been accompanied by a discussion about its reform.

From the Nairobi Declaration to the Belgrade Trial

With the 1997 Nairobi Declaration, an initiative to strengthen the UN environmental program began, which continues to this day. Other important key data in this reform process were the Malmö Declaration, which was adopted in 2000 by the Global Environment Ministers' Forum, which was newly created the year before, the Cartagena Package adopted in 2002 to strengthen international environmental governance, the implementation plan laid down in 2002 at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg ( Johannesburg Plan of Implementation ) for the Cartagena package, the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building ( Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building ) established in 2004 , Paragraph 169 of the outcome document from the 2005 World Summit, the 2007 report of the informal Consultation process of the General Assembly on the institutional framework of the UN environment work ( Informal consultations of the General Assembly on the institutional framework for the United Nations' environment work ), the report of the UN Joint Inspections Unit published in December 2008, which a comprehensive The Consultative Group of Ministers or High-Level Representatives on International Environmental Governance - the so-called Belgrade Process - which began in 2009 as part of the Consultative Group of Ministers and High-Level Representatives on International Environmental Governance .

Reform plans

One possible reform effected in the discussions about the establishment of a UNEO , WEO or or otherwise called World Environment Organization recognize that could take the place of the UN Environment Program. As an international organization or the main body of the United Nations, such an organization would have a more stable financial basis and, as a subject under international law, would have its own legal personality .

In contrast to the existing environmental program, the establishment of an international organization for environmental issues is intended to unite or at least bring together the highly fragmented UN environmental architecture under one roof. There are currently over 500 multilateral environmental agreements , many of them with independent secretariats and without any links to one another. These include the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in the hands of the World Bank , the United Nations Forest Forum (UNFF) or the numerous conventions, e.g. B. the Framework Convention on Climate Change , the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification or the Biodiversity Convention . The numerous environmental agreements could be better coordinated under the umbrella of a single organization and their synergy potential could be better used. This could help to counter pressing environmental problems such as global warming or increasing desertification more effectively.

As a program, UNEP does not receive any regular payments according to a fixed key and is dependent on relatively arbitrary and voluntary contributions from UN member states and other funding organizations. The creation of a legally binding new agreement for a UN environmental organization could ensure financial planning security and significantly advance the implementation of studies and projects.

In addition, by upgrading to organization, environmental issues could play a greater role in other intergovernmental regimes. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is mentioned as an example , to which one can move more on an equal footing.

Finally, there are considerations on the (partial) merging of environmental and development work in the United Nations. A UNEO could better coordinate with the UN Development Program (UNDP) if the fragmented nature of current UN environmental work were better organized.

Web links

Commons : United Nations Environment Program  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The United Nations Environment Program. Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, accessed on March 14, 2019 .
  2. Expenditure by Agency | United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. Retrieved April 3, 2019 .
  3. ^ UNEP: Regular Budget , accessed September 9, 2009.
  4. ^ UNEP: Contributions to UNEP's Environment Fund 1973–2009 , accessed September 9, 2009.
  5. UNEP: Earmarked contributions and Trust Funds , accessed September 9, 2009.
  6. UNEP: UNEP Divisions , accessed September 8, 2009.
  7. ^ UNEP: Regional Offices , accessed September 8, 2009.
  8. ^ Joint Inspections Unit (2008): Management Review of Environmental Governance within the United Nations System. JIU / REP / 2008/3, prepared by Tadanori Inomata, United Nations, Geneva (PDF) ( Memento of the original from September 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.unjiu.org

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