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UNEP Executive Director Announces Plans for Organization

Nairobi, 20 May 1998 - Addressing environment ministers and other senior government officials in Nairobi today, Mr. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), outlined his plans for the organization.

On the opening day of the 5th special session of UNEP's Governing Council, Toepfer told assembled delegates that his plan focuses primarily on four areas on which UNEP will concentrate in the short and medium term.

1. Development of an emergency response capacity and strengthening of early warning and assessment functions of UNEP.

"A precondition for the development of environmental policy is a strong information, monitoring and assessment capability. In this regard, we will revitalize and strengthen the information, monitoring and assessment capabilities of UNEP," said Toepfer.

"There is an urgent need for an early warning mechanism and emergency response capacity to deal with environmental disasters and emergencies... A well-coordinated United Nations system-wide response is required to ensure that manageable emergencies do not develop into major humanitarian crises," he said.

2. Co-ordination and development of environmental policy instruments.

The area, said the UNEP Executive Director, will include three sub-components - support to environmental conventions; chemicals; and development of economic instruments for the implementation of international environmental agreements.

"UNEP will streamline effective programme support to promote linkages between conventions," said Toepfer. "It will revitalize its role in linking scientific processes underpinning the conventions."

Concerning chemicals, Mr. Toepfer told the meeting that, "The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on a Prior Informed Consent Convention successfully reached agreement on the text of the draft Convention. The Convention will be adopted in September this year, and opened for signature at the Diplomatic Conference in Rotterdam," he said.

"Negotiations of a global legally binding instrument on persistent organic pollutants will commence next month at the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on a POPs instrument in Montreal," he continued.

On the subject of economic instruments, Toepfer said that, "It is a challenge and an obligation for UNEP to analyze the impacts of free-market economies linked with liberalization and globalization and their social and environmental consequences." He said UNEP has two priorities in this area.

"First, together with UNCTAD, UNEP is launching an Intergovernmental Panel on Economic Instruments for Environmental Policy. The focus of this panel is assessment of economic instruments for implementation of international environmental agreements. UNEP must contribute to the 'greening' of the tax systems," he said. "We have to include ecological components in the tax structure and we have to make sure that environmental costs are included in pricing policies of private enterprises."

The "second priority is renewal and strengthening of UNEP's work on Trade and Environment," said the UNEP Executive Director.


3. Freshwater.

"The message of the developing world - grappling with poverty, growing population, increasing urbanization and industrialization - is clear. Supply of freshwater will be a critical issue in the years to come," said Toepfer. "Information, assessment and monitoring of global water resources will be crucial," he said.

"UNEP is exploring the possibility of developing a global action programme focusing on the environmental aspects of freshwater management with a regional component." And, he continued, "UNEP is reviewing its assessment activities for establishing a system for predicting hot spots, developing early warning systems to alert governments to potential disputes on shared water resources."


4. Industry and Technology Transfer

In this area, Toepfer told the meeting that, UNEP will strengthen "the very good work" of the Industry and Environment Office in Paris and the International Environment Technology Centre in Japan on cleaner production activities and transfer of environmentally sound technology. He announced that, "In cooperation with the private sector and the Government of the Republic of Korea, UNEP will launch a 'Cleaner Production Declaration' to commit signatories to quantified targets to achieve increased resources productivity and pollution prevention."

The UNEP Executive Director, who is also Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi and Acting Head of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), briefly addressed the issue of streamlining UNEP's organizational structure.

"This exercise is being undertaken to provide a cleaner organizational structure." There is a "need for a leaner and more effective administration and to avoid overlappings," he said.

In this regard, Toepfer said that, "We hope to achieve economies of nearly 30 per cent from the streamlining of our organization in Nairobi. This saving - I have called it the 'environment dividend' - will be used to fund the programs of UNEP, especially for strengthening the regional profile," he said.

Commenting on the organization's financial situation, Toepfer said that, "A solid financial base is an essential prerequisite to UNEP's ability to discharge its strengthened mandate and to meet the growing environmental challenges worldwide."

"One of my principal objectives in the medium term is to seek, with the cooperation of governments, to restore the Environment Fund to at least its 1993 level of over US $65 million," he said.

Concluding his opening address, the Executive Director acknowledged the support he had received from both the Committee of Permanent Representatives in Nairobi, and UNEP's High-level Committee of Ministers and Officials.

"Together, we can make the United Nations Environment Programme, a catalytic body, the voice of the United Nations in Environmental Policy," he said. "Together, we can build a stronger and more effective United Nations presence in Nairobi."


Note to journalists:

Mr. Toepfer's speech in its entirity is available on the internet.

UNEP Home Page:

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

Robert Bisset
Media and Communications Officer
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-62-3084, Fax: 254-2-62-3692

UNEP News Release 1998/30

UNEP Web Site:

Monday 25 May 1998
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