Mr. Topfer, the second longest-serving Minister in the current German Government, has, since November 1994, been the Federal Minister for Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development and Coordinator for the Transfer of the Bundestag (Parliament) and Federal Government to Berlin. Prior to that, beginning in May 1987, he held the position of Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
Mr. Topfer, the fourth head of the Nairobi-based UNEP in its 25-year history, will be succeeding Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell of Canada who held the post since 1 January 1993. He is well-known in UN circles from his tenure as Chairman of the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development from May 1994 to May 1995.
The professional life of Mr. Topfer has combined extensive work in government and politics with a concurrent career in academia. His government service began, in 1971, as the Head of the Department for Planning and Information in the State Chancellory of the Saarland. Subsequently, he served, from 1978 to 1985, as the State Secretary, and in 1985-1987 as Minister for Social Affairs, Health and Environment of Rhineland-Palatinate. He was elected to the German Bundestag in December 1990.
Mr. Topfer has also held various positions in a national political party -- the Christian Democratic Union -- at the local, regional and national level. He has been a member of the CDU's presiding committee since October 1992.
After graduating from the University of Munster in 1964, and obtaining his doctorate in economics in 1968, Mr. Topfer began his academic career at the same institution in the economics department, with an emphasis on regional planning and development. He has also lectured at universities in Hagen, Bielefeld, Speyer, Hanover, Mainz, and most recently, as an honorary professor at Tongji University in Shanghai, China.
Mr. Topfer is the author of numerous articles and publications on economics, development, the environment, human settlements and international affairs. In 1986 he was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany; and, in 1989, the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit, for exceptional service to his country.
Born on 29 July 1938 in Waldenburg, Silesia, Mr. Topfer is married with three children. He is fluent in English and French.
The first UNEP Executive Director was Mr. Maurice Strong of Canada, the Earth Summit Secretary-General and current UN reform coordinator, who served from 1972 to 1975. He was succeeded by Mr. Mostafa K. Tolba of Egypt who held the position for 17 years, until Ms. Dowdeswell was elected in December 1992.
UNEP was created in 1972 to be the global advocate for the environment. With its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, UNEP has leveraged a small budget into a programme of major significance and lasting influence. It assesses the state of the world's environment; helps formulate international environmental law; strengthens the environmental management capacity of developing countries; and raises environmental considerations for the social and economic policies and programmes of UN agencies.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Tore J. Brevik
Information and Public Affairs UNEP
P.O. Box 30552
Tel: +254-2-623292 Fax: +254-2-623927
Mr. Jim Sniffen
UNEP Information Officer
Regional Office for North America
New York USA
Tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210 Fax: +1-212-963-7341
UNEP News Release 1997/72