The week-long meeting was dominated by two issues: reform and finance. Progress was made on both fronts - the budget was adopted and the Council gave broad support to the proposed restructuring of UNEP in line with a new integrated work programme, which focuses on the organisation's five areas of concentration: Environmental monitoring, assessment, information and research including early warning; Enhanced coordination of environmental conventions and development of policy instruments; Freshwater; Technology transfer and industry; and Support to Africa.
On finance, governments recognised the need for UNEP to have adequate, stable and predictable financial resources if it is to effectively meet the environmental challenges of the next century. A decision was taken to broaden the funding base, and the Council authorized the Executive Director's proposal to prepare an increased budget of $US 120 million for the next biennium - this at a time when other UN agencies are faced with decreasing funds.
"By their words and actions the international community have demonstrated a new confidence in UNEP," said Toepfer. "The spirit, atmosphere and cooperation this week have been tremendous, with not only governments, but NGOs, youth, the private sector and industry, all contributing to a successful outcome," he said.
"This session of the Governing Council has been of crucial importance to the future work of UNEP," continued Toepfer. "I asked for practical and psychological support in our efforts to re-orientate UNEP in response to the new challenges and responsibilities before us. I received a clear, strong, positive answer. UNEP is back on the map," he said.
Two years ago, the 19th session of Governing Council adopted the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP. The Declaration re-focused the work of UNEP and gave a clear mandate for the reform and restructuring of the organization. This week, governments have endorsed the new work programme, clearly linked to the Declaration, and the associated new functional organization structure of UNEP, which was unveiled at the Special Session of the Governing Council in May, 1998.
As part of the debate on UNEP reform, the Council had before it the Report of the United Nations Secretary-General to the 53rd session of the General Assembly on "Environment and Human Settlements." It contains proposals that incorporate the work of the UN Task Force on environment and human settlements, chaired by Klaus Toepfer. During this week there were many views expressed which the UNEP Executive Director said would provide further impetus to the positive consideration of the report by the General Assembly.
The Council adopted decision UNEP/GC.20/L.14, which welcomes the Secretary-General's report and "expresses its support for ... the establishment of an Environmental Management Group for the coordination of the environmental and human settlements activities of the United Nations system." Also, it "welcomes the proposals for the facilitation and support by UNEP of enhanced coordination amongst the bureaux and secretariats of environment and environment related conventions, taking into account the status of the respective convention secretariats and the autonomy of the conferences of the parties to these conventions."
Speaking to the press today, Toepfer praised the "excellent job" done by the President of the Governing Council, H.E. Mr. Laszlo Miklos, the Minister of Environment of the Slovak Republic. He went on to say that all his aims for this Council meeting had been realised, and that UNEP's inputs to the upcoming Commission on Sustainable Development meeting in New York were "well received".
After comments on the budget, work programme and reform, Toepfer said, "There is still a long way to go, but the decisions taken this week are a step in the right direction, and UNEP is now better positioned to carry out its mandate in the new millennium."
As a complement to the formal agenda, delegates participated in fifteen side-events on a wide variety of topics, including: sustainable tourism (chaired by Dr. Richard Leakey, Director of Kenya Wildlife Service); the impact of deforestation on the environment (which included a presentation by Prof. Wangari Maathai), and a roundtable on telecommunications and the environment (with executives from leading international companies).
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Official Governing Council documents are available on UNEP's Web site at
UNEP News Release 1999/13