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Governments call for revitalization, reform and strengthening of the United Nations Environment Programme

Nairobi, 22 May 1998 - A special session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council ended here today, with governments solidly backing the reform proposals presented to them yesterday by UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer.

"We have come to an atmosphere of constructive cooperation, partnership and common responsibility," said Toepfer in his closing statement to the meeting. "In this atmosphere, we must try our utmost to develop UNEP, to make this institution once again The Environmental Voice of the United Nations," he said.

In a decision adopted this afternoon, ministers and other senior government officials called for the revitalization, reform and strengthening of the organization. Responding to Toepfer's detailed plans for a new UNEP structure, the Council's unanimous decision welcomed his proposals which reflect new areas of concentration for the organization in the short and medium term, namely:


  1. Environmental information, assessment and research, including environmental emergency response capacity and strengthening of the early warning and assessment functions of UNEP; (A number of delegations specifically thanked the Executive Director for his initiative and active role as the coordinator of the United Nations response to the forest fires disaster in Indonesia and Brazil).


  2. Enhanced coordination of environmental conventions and development of environmental policy instruments;
  3. Freshwater;
  4. Technology transfer and industry;
  5. Support to Africa;

    It was noted that further organizational reform must ensure a more rational, efficient and cost-effective functioning of the secretariat as a whole. In this regard, the announcement by Toepfer in his opening statement on Wednesday, that he hoped to reap an "environment dividend" from his plans to streamline and rationalize the administrative arrangements for UNEP, was welcomed. Toepfer said that "savings of nearly 30 percent will be used to fund the programs of UNEP, especially for strengthening the regional profile."

    Reflecting the strong support voiced for the Executive Director and his plans during the three-day meeting, the Council underscored the paramount importance of adequate and predictable funding for UNEP and called upon all governments to contribute according to their financial capabilities. Financial contributions to UNEP have declined in recent years. One of Klaus Toepfer's principal objectives in the medium term is to restore the Environment Fund to at least its 1993 level of over US $65 million.

    Addressing the financial issue in his closing remarks, the President of the Council, Arnaldo Jose Gabaldon (former Minister of Environment, Venezuela), reminded governments that in the past, they had pledged to increase their financial contributions to UNEP once the organization was on course again.

    "We are now on the right track. UNEP is recovering its sense of purpose, its lofty mission," said Gabaldon. "You have pledged to increase your contributions - this is the right time to do it," he said. Thanking the delegates for their enthusiastic endorsement and support, Toepfer stressed that with his first 100 days behind him, "for me and my staff the hard work starts now."

    This meeting was only the 5th special session of UNEP's Governing Council. The 20th regular session of the Governing Council will be held in May 1999.


    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 Council is also open to other member states of the United Nations, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and representatives of civil society.


    For more information:

    Tore J. Brevik
    UNEP Information and Public Affairs UNEP
    Tel: 254-2-62-3292, Fax: 254-2-62-3927

    Robert Bisset
    Media and Communications Officer
    Tel: 254-2-62-3084, Fax: 254-2-62-3692

    UNEP Home Page:

    UNEP News Release 1998/31

Tuesday 26 May 1998
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