NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
ORIGINS AND BACKGROUND
The mission of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP was the most tangible result of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Its blueprint was the Stockholm Action Plan. The idea behind its establishment was to provide coherence and strengthen the varied environmental activities taking place throughout the United Nations system.
UNEP was conceived as a catalyzing agency for the entire United Nations family to help focus on environmental issues, monitor trends and facilitate coordinated international action to safeguard the environment. It has been described as the environmental conscience of the United Nations system given its mandate to motivate and inspire, raise environmental awareness and increase action, and to coordinate the environmental work of all the UN organizations and agencies.
UNEPs objectives are to:
-- provide, through interdisciplinary study of natural and human-made ecological systems, improved knowledge for an integrated and rational management of the resources of the biosphere, and for safeguarding human well-being as well as ecosystems;
-- encourage and support an integrated approach to planning and management of development, including that of natural resources, so as to take account of environmental consequences to achieve maximum social, economic and environmental benefits; and
-- assist all countries, especially developing countries, to deal with environmental problems and help mobilize additional resources to provide the required technical assistance, education, training and free flow of information and exchange of experience, with a view to promoting the full participation of developing countries in national and international efforts for the preservation and enhancement of the environment.
In the 20 years between the Stockholm Conference and the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), much has happened both in changes to the environment and in the way these changes are viewed. UNEP took an active part in preparing for UNCED. As a result, UNEPs mandate was reinforced and the programme emerged better able to help implement many of the conferences decisions. UNEP is not an institution. It is a cross-cutting programme made up of all the activities undertaken within the UN system that deal with the environment. It is made up of four entities.
-- The Governing Council, with 58 nations, is elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term. Among its many functions, the council promotes international cooperation, provides general policy guidance for programmes within the UN system, and keeps both the world situation and the implementation of UN programmes under review. It meets regularly every two years and in special sessions whenever necessary.
-- A secretariat, based in Nairobi (Kenya), provides a focal point for environmental action and coordination within the United Nations system.
-- A voluntary Environment Fund helps new environmental initiatives, including those suggested by the Stockholm Action Plan.
-- A High Level Committee of Ministers and Officials (HLCOMO) has the following mandate:
consider the international environmental agenda and make policy recommendations to the Governing Council;
provide guidance and advice to the Executive Director on emerging environmental issues between sessions of the Governing Council to enable the United Nations Environment Programme to make a timely response;
enhance the collaboration and cooperation of the United Nations Environment Programme with other relevant multilateral bodies as well as with the environmental conventions and their secretariats; and
support the Executive Director in mobilizing adequate and predictable financial resources for implementation of the global environmental agenda approved by the Governing Council.
UNEP was the first UN body to be located in a developing country. It has regional and liaison offices in Bangkok (Thailand), Cairo (Egypt), Manama (Bahrain), Mexico City (Mexico), Osaka (Japan) and Nairobi, Geneva, New York and Washington DC. Other outposts include the Offices of the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC) in Geneva, the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics in Paris, the coordinating units for the Mediterranean Action Plan in Athens (Greece), the Caribbean Action Plan in Kingston (Jamaica), the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva, the secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in Bonn (Germany), the secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal based in Geneva, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat in Montreal (Canada), and the Global Programme of Action (GPA) in the Hague (Netherlands).
In February 1998, UNEPs new Executive Director, Klaus Tφpfer, took office in Nairobi, succeeding Elizabeth Dowdeswell who had served for the previous five years.
The main vehicle for coordinating UN action is the System-wide Medium-term Environment Programme--a six-year plan for action right across the board of United Nations activities. This interagency plan is coordinated through the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) and through regular meetings of those responsible for environmental issues within their agency.
UNEPs activities and programmes are financed by several sources. There are funds from the regular budget of the United Nations, voluntary contributions to UNEPs Environment Fund, funds from various trust funds, and counterpart contributions from governments, cooperating agencies or supporting organizations to cover specific services and facilities for a particular project.
UNEP employs about 300 professional and 350 general service staff worldwide. It has an annual budget of about US$70 million.
The programme focus is based on the decisions of the Governing Council and the Nairobi Declaration, which was agreed by ministers of the environment and heads of delegation attending the 19th session of the Governing Council held during January and February 1997.
In brief the activities cover, inter alia, the following areas of concentration.
-- Environmental Information, Assessment and Research including environmental emergency response capacity and strengthening of early warning and assessment functions
strengthening the information, monitoring and assessment capability of UNEP; and
establishing an early warning mechanism and emergency response capacity to deal with environmental disasters and emergencies.
-- Enhanced Coordination of Environmental Conventions and Development of Environmental Policy Instruments
support to environmental conventions to promote linkages between conventions and link scientific processes underpinning conventions;
developing synergies among the work programmes of biodiversity-related conventions;
negotiation of an internationally legally binding instrument on persistent organic pollutants; and
economic instruments for the implementation of international environmental agreements.
information, assessment and monitoring of global water resources;
development of a global action programme on the environmental aspects of freshwater management; and
strengthening legal agreements for cooperative management and use of transboundary water resources.
-- Technology Transfer and Industry
promoting implementation of cleaner production activities;
strengthening and developing activities on sustainable consumption patterns;
further developing the sustainable tourism programme;
negotiating a legally binding global treaty on persistent organic pollutants in 2000;
supporting governments in their efforts to implement on a voluntary basis the 1998 Rotterdam Convention on trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides;
promoting the use of environmental management practices in the context of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer;
promoting the use of good energy technology choices by the private sector; and
strengthening UNEPs contribution to the trade and environment debate.
-- Support to Africa
assisting African States in implementing their environmental programmes and obligations under environmental agreements.
The major thrusts of the functional programmes and their objectives are listed below.
-- Environmental Assessment and Early Warning
promoting availability of, and enhancing access to, the scientific information needed by decision makers for better environmental management;
assessing environmental conditions and threats to alert policy makers, and to facilitate the development of impact reduction strategies;
devising strategies and contributing to early warning to better cope with environmental threats; and
identifying emerging issues.
-- Policy Development and Law
analysis, review and development of environment-related policies, and articulation of policy positions in response to emerging environmental issues and events;
development of new and strengthening of existing legal, economic and other policy instruments and institutional frameworks to make environmental policy more effective;
enhancing environmental policy coordination and information exchange within and outside the United Nations system;
promoting the involvement of the private sector, NGOs, and major interest groups in environmental policy dialogue and development; and
-- Policy Implementation
support the implementation of activities (such as advisory services, pilot projects, education/training and other capacity-building support) undertaken by other programmes;
coordinate implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities;
obtain regular feedback from a monitoring and evaluating process which should improve future policy development/ implementations; and
mobilize and coordinate international responses to environmental emergencies.
-- Technology, Industry and Economics
contribute to improving the understanding and knowledge of environmental issues related to industrial and urban development, use of natural resources (particularly energy and freshwater) and chemicals, trade and the economy, and consumption patterns;
encourage decision makers in government, local authorities and industry to develop and adopt policies, strategies and practices that
make efficient use of mutual resources
have sound management of chemicals
incorporate environmental costs and
reduce pollution and risks for humans and the environment;
assist in the preparation of international agreements, guidelines and in particular the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs);
facilitate widespread information exchange, technology transfer and capacity building, with particular focus on supporting the effective and coherent implementation of multilateral environmental agreements, especially conventions that are hosted by UNEP and the Rotterdam Convention hosted jointly by UNEP and FAO; and
demonstrate, in association with other partners active at the local level, effectiveness of polices and tools suggested.
-- Regional Cooperation and Representation
make programme development and delivery more responsive to the needs of countries and regions;
assess and sensing of environmental trends, needs and policies in the regions;
facilitate policy dialogue and consensus among countries of the regions;
catalyze regional contributions to and involvement in programme development and implementation;
develop and implement national, subregional and regional programme activities;
provide information on and present UNEPs policies, positions and programme in the regions; and
build partnerships with national, subregional and regional institutions.
-- Cooperation with Conventions
promoting the development of complementary policies and approaches among the work programmes of related global and regional environmental conventions and processes;
supporting, in conjunction with the programme on policy development, the development of new international conventions and agreements, including protocols; and
coordination of UNEPs programmatic support to conventions and related international agreements and processes including the regional seas programmes, conventions and projects, particularly focusing on programmatic interlinkages.
-- Communications and Public Information
relations with mass media, governments, NGOs and other UN agencies;
organization of official communications and public information activities and campaigns; and
management of UNEPs publications and reports, on behalf of all the programmes.
-- The Global Environment Facility
ensuring that GEF activities will be additional to the UNEP programme of work;
ensuring synergy between UNEPs activities and its programme of work; and
integrating GEF objectives and activities with UNEPs overall management and programming.
The Process Since Stockholm
The Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment was itself the result
of an unprecedented role played by NGOs in shaping the global
environmental agenda. In Resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 15 December 1972
(paragraph IV.5), which established UNEP, the United Nations General
Assembly invited those non-governmental organizations that have an
interest in the field of the environment to lend their full support and
collaboration to the United Nations with a view to achieving the largest
possible degree of cooperation.
The Stockholm Action Plan, in Recommendation 97, stated that the
programme must provide means of stimulating active participation by the
citizens, and of eliciting interest and contributions from
non-governmental organizations for the preservation and development of the
Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit strongly advocated the need for new forms
of participation in support of common efforts for sustainable development.
It mentioned as Major Groups women, children and youth, indigenous
peoples, farmers, local authorities, business and industry, the scientific
and technological community, workers and trade unions, and
non-governmental organizations. It stated that formal
and informal organizations, as well as grassroots movements, should be
recognized as partners in the implementation of Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 also called on UNEP to raise general awareness and action in
the area of environmental protection through collaboration with the
general public, non-governmental entities and intergovernmental
UNEP and the Environmental Movement
The foundations of the United Nations Environment Programme are built on a heritage of service to the environment by numerous non-governmental organizations and individuals. An analysis of the issues covered by these organizations reveals a multitude of environmental and sustainable development activities--from protection of whales to slowing down of the destruction of wetlands to warning about the dangers of the depletion of the ozone layer, and bringing public attention to the effects of unsustainable consumption patterns and the effects of poverty.
Environmental movements range from multimillion member organizations operating out of offices in Washington DC to village associations in Africa, Asia and Latin America fighting to save their very livelihood. The groups tactics range from sustained lobbying in national legislatures to occasional confrontations with authorities. The overarching fundamental agreement is that saving the environment is a social, economic and scientific issue.
There is no doubt that on a whole range of issues--from Antarctica through the North Sea to the ozone layer and climate change--the quality of research and the energy of lobbying of non-governmental organizations, both in public and private, has helped mould public attitudes and influence government policy.
A Transformed Working Relationship
Successive UNEP Governing Council decisions have emphasized the need for working with the widest possible range of public organizations. Notably, decision GC 18/4 on the role of non-governmental organizations in UNEP called on the organization to develop a policy framework and appropriate mechanisms for working with NGOs.
This was reaffirmed by the Nairobi Declaration in 1997 at the 19th session of UNEPs Governing Council. UNEPs mandate to facilitate effective cooperation among all actors of society and to increase the participation of Major Groups was strengthened.
The 20th session of UNEPs Governing Council in February 1999 created a new and stronger context for UNEP-NGO relations. Consequently, the NGO cluster based at the Information and Public Affairs Branch (now the Division of Communications and Public Information) was transferred to the Division of Policy Development and Law. This new beginning is clearly a product of UNEPs reform. This will ensure a more coherent and proactive approach to involve NGOs and civil society organizations in the programmes and activities of UNEP.
The 20th session of UNEPs Governing Council brought about a number of changes in approaches and laid the basis for focusing on the different policy sources of environmental problems. The new programme of work offers several advantages. First and foremost, it will shift the primary focus to development goals and sectors that are of primary concern to people. For example--water, land, biodiversity, coastal and marine resources, and environmental health.
The programme of work approved by the UNEP Governing Council encourages approaches that are more anticipatory and preventive by requiring the environment to be taken more fully into account at the earliest possible stage of policy or development decisions.
One of the most important strategies for implementing the work programme will be the identification of strategic partnerships with Major Groups. This has been done with the realization that there are growing knowledgeable and increasingly active NGO communities, private sector and other Major Groups on environmental and natural resources management issues. The involvement of these groups will receive increasing attention.
Policy on NGOs and Civil Society
UNEP has endeavoured to enhance partnerships with NGOs by means of:
-- institutionalizing NGO/Major Groups participation in project implementation and evaluation;
-- continually reviewing mechanisms for cooperation with NGOs/Major Groups with a view to keeping abreast with global and regional trends and needs;
-- encouraging and, where feasible, supporting the participation of NGOs/Major Groups in policy development, and bringing proposals for broader participation and access to the attention of the Governing Council whenever necessary;
-- co-fundraising with individual NGO/Major Groups partners to finance agreed projects and programmes.
A crucial vehicle for cooperation with the United Nations family is the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS).
The UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize is awarded annually to leading environmentalists and recognizes the work of these individuals at the global level. The annual award of US$50,000 was increased to US$200,000 in 1990, making it one of the worlds most valuable environmental prizes.
The European Better Environment Award for Industry is a biennial award scheme under the patronage of the European Commission and co-sponsored by UNEP. A global business award for environmental achievement is being organized in 2000 by the International Chamber of Commerce, under the patronage of UNEP, to recognize and highlight outstanding environmental achievements by companies operating in the developing world and countries with economies in transition.
In 1987 UNEP launched the Global 500 Roll of Honour to encourage individuals and community action in defense of the environment. The award is granted every year to individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements in the protection and improvement of the environment. Initially planned to last five years, it has grown in prestige and attracts international public and political attention and support. Since its inception, 634 individuals and organizations worldwide have received the Global 500 award in the adult category.
UNEP launched its Global 500 Youth Environment Award during World Environment Day celebrations held during UNCED in 1992. The award is intended to recognize the contribution made by young people who have distinguished themselves in the field of environmental protection. Since 1993, 36 individuals and organizations have received the Global 500 Award in the youth category.
UNEPs Global Ozone Award is presented to individuals and organizations for activities in the four categories of science (vital for understanding the causes of ozone depletion and provides a sound basis for international action); technology (the source of viable alternatives to ozone-depleting substances); policy and implementation (leads to public support and international cooperation); and non-governmental organizations (helps to raise awareness and catalyze solutions).