New Delhi, 1 APRIL 1998 - At the opening ceremony of the first Assembly of the Global Environment Facility, presided over by Mr. Atal Behari Vojpayee, Prime Minister of India, the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Klaus Töpfer, delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan.
Mr. Annan underscored that "the GEF's three implementing agencies, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, have demonstrated that collaboration within the United Nations system can be effective, bridging their complementary strengths, and expertise." He recalled that "as reiterated at 'Rio plus Five', time is of the essence" and expressed "the hope that the meeting in New Delhi will be guided by the same sense of urgency."
Addressing the representatives of 164 participants to the GEF, in his capacity as the head of one of the three implementing agencies, Mr. Töpfer highlighted UNEP's priorities in the GEF, as well as UNEP's new profile in the short, medium and long term.
The coordination of the international response to the forest fires raging in South East Asia and the Amazon region as well as drawing the lessons of the El Nino phenomenon were identified among the issues requiring immediate action. He acknowledged the positive and prompt response of the GEF to UNEP's initiative to address the environmental impact of the forest fires in South East Asia.
Building complementarity among the environmental conventions as well as the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol were among the actions to be undertaken in the medium-term. He announced a new UNEP/UNCTAD initiative which aims to establish an Intergovernmental Panel on Economic Instruments in Environment Policy.
In the long term, he stated that UNEP would focus its work on environmental issues resulting from urban settlements, water issues, development of economic instruments such as those relating to the Clean Development Mechanism and the Chemicals Agenda. He invited the GEF to assist in addressing the urban environmental issue.
The Executive Director suggested that the relevant operational programs of the GEF should be broadened to address the environmental challenges related to persistent organic pollutants. He called on the GEF to assist the recipient countries to respond to the looming water crisis and offered UNEP's assistance to prepare a GEF Strategy on Fresh Water. (During his meeting with Mr. Prabhu, Minister of Environment of India, the Executive Director also discussed urban environmental challenges and megacities such as Bombay and Delhi).
Mr. Töpfer earlier addressed the 11th meeting of the GEF Council to announce the reconstitution of the new Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) for the second phase of the GEF. The Council approved five UNEP projects amounting to around 18 million US dollars.
UNEP New Release 1998/16