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Joint UNEP/UNCHS (Habitat) Task Force set-up to monitor environmental and human settlement impacts of Balkans conflict

Nairobi, 11 May 1999 - Speaking here today, Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director and Acting Executive Director of UNCHS (Habitat), said he welcomes the timely initiative by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to send a humanitarian needs assessment mission to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In support of the wider United Nations system effort in the region, Toepfer has already established a joint UN Environment Programme (UNEP)/UN Centre for Human Settlements, UNCHS (Habitat) Task Force on the Environment and Human Settlements in the Balkans.

"We urgently need clear, detailed and credible information on the impacts on human settlements and infrastructure, and on the possible environmental repercussions of the Balkans conflict, such as water and air pollution or the release of hazardous waste," said Toepfer. "Such vital information will enable us to come up with a prioritised action programme for the whole region," he said.

Due to the circumstances of the ongoing conflict, it is extremely difficult to verify information on environmental damage in the the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the wider Balkans region. However, the environmental impacts of the conflict on both the human population and natural ecology needs to be objectively and scientifically assessed.

The broad-based joint UNEP/UNCHS (Habitat) Task Force team will collect, collate, and review available information on impacts on human settlements and actual and potential environmental impacts in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and neighbouring countries. In cooperation with technical bodies and relevant United Nations agencies, it will also identify areas in need of assistance, help formulate response measures and give recommendations on specific actions to be taken in the short, medium and long-term. Toepfer decided that UNEP's Senior Policy Advisor, Bakary Kante of Senegal, will chair the Task Force.

"The Task Force was set-up in response to UNEP and Habitat's regular mandate and the team will work closely with relevant United Nations agencies, governments, non-governmental organisations, and our national focal points in the region," said Toepfer. "In a spirit of cooperation, which is essential if we are to find lasting solutions to the problems, information and findings will be shared with all our partners in a collaborative manner."

Mr. Kante will join the comprehensive United Nations inter-agency humanitarian team which is scheduled to go to the Balkans region.

For more information please contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of CPI
on tel: (254-2) 623292,
Robert Bisset,
UNEP Spokesman's Office,
on tel: (254-2) 623084, fax: 623692,

UNEP News Release 1999/35

Wednesday 12 May 1999
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