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A New UNEP for a New Millennium

Nairobi, 19 May 1998 - Governments, many represented at ministerial level, will meet here tomorrow, from 20 to 22 May, to discuss the future of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The meeting, a special session of UNEP's Governing Council, will consider proposals to both strengthen and restructure the organization in the context of the wider United Nations reform process.

"We need a new UNEP for a new millennium," said Mr Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director. "A UNEP that brings emerging environmental issues and problems to the attention of the global community; a UNEP that is a leader in the development of environmental law; a UNEP that strengthens the link between science, management and policy."

"Such a strong, focused organization needs a solid base, and we have this now in Nairobi," said Toepfer, who is also Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) and Acting Head of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).

It is hoped that UNON will soon be on a par with offices in Vienna and Geneva. A fact echoed earlier this month by Mr. Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General, when he visited the offices here and reaffirmed his intention that "the United Nations should maintain a strong presence in Nairobi."

Commenting on the Secretary-General's visit, Topfer said, "it underlined that Nairobi is a vital partner in the United Nations family. Any reform of UNEP and Habitat must reflect this," he said.

As a basis for its reform discussion, the Governing Council will have before it relevant sections of the Secretary-General's report, "Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform", in which he calls for, among other things, "Strengthening the environmental dimension of the United Nations's activities, particularly UNEP."

The special session, only the fifth in UNEP's history, will review the results and decisions taken at last year's United Nations General Assembly meeting on the implementation of Agenda 21 - the global action plan agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil.

Two important issues to be tackled are the delineation of UNEP's role with regard to the coordination between the various convention secretariats dealing with the environment. And, the establishment, jointly with UNCTAD, of an intergovernmental panel on economic instruments for environmental policy.

There will also be a progress report on the negotiations for a legally binding convention on international trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides - countries are expected to sign the convention later this year in Rotterdam. The issue of UNEP's work on freshwater, in particular how it relates to the United Nations Special Initiative on Africa, is also on the provisional agenda. Financial and administrative matters will also be discussed.

The meeting is timely. Last week, G8 Foreign Ministers pledged, "our support to the new Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and look forward to a revitalized role for UNEP as the leading global environment authority."


Note to editors:

The UNEP Governing Council, the members of which are elected by the United Nations General Assembly for a four year term, assesses the state of the world environment, establishes UNEP's programme priorities, and approves the budget. It is composed of 58 members selected on the following basis: 16 seats for Africa; 13 seats for Asia; 6 seats for Eastern Europe; 13 seats for Western Europe and other States; and 10 seats for Latin America. The next regular session, the 20th, will be held in May 1999.

Note to journalists:

The meeting starts at 10.00 a.m. on Wednesday 20 May. Journalists are invited to attend. For those requiring transport, a bus will leave from outside Chester House at 9.15 a.m.

Mr. Toepfer will deliver his policy statement during the opening session (copies will be made available to the press). He will then hold a press conference at 11.00 a.m. in conference room 7 (press room), Gigiri. Contact Anila Shah (tel. 623089) for accreditation information.

For more information, contact:

Tore J. Brevik
Director, Information and Public Affairs
UNEP headquarters
P.O.Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 62-3292
Fax: (254-2) 62-3927
UNEP Web Site:

UNEP News Release 1998/23

Friday 22 May 1998
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