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United Nations Environment Programme

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an agency of the United Nations, coordinates the organization's environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded by Maurice Strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in June 1972 and has overall responsibility for environmental problems among United Nations agencies; however, international talks on specialized issues, such as addressing climate change or combating desertification, are overseen by other UN organizations, like the Bonn-based Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. UNEP's activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy. It has played a significant role in developing international environmental conventions, promoting environmental science and information and illustrating the way those can be implemented in conjunction with policy, working on the development and implementation of policy with national governments, regional institutions in conjunction with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). UNEP has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.

United Nations Environment Programme
Emblem of the United Nations.svg
UNEP logo.svg
AbbreviationUN Environment
Formation5 June 1972; 46 years ago (1972-06-05)
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersNairobi, Kenya
Tanzania Joyce Msuya[1]
Parent organization
United Nations

UNEP frequently uses the alternative name UN Environment.[2]

UN Environment has aided in the formulation of guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international trade in potentially harmful chemicals, transboundary air pollution, and contamination of international waterways. Relevant documents, including scientific papers, are available via the UNEP Document Repository.[3]

The World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. UN Environment is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and it is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.[4] The International Cyanide Management Code, a programme of best practice for the chemical's use at gold mining operations, was developed under UN Environment's aegis.



UNEP headquarters was established in Nairobi, Kenya, on 5 June 1972 as an outcome from the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972) with a staff of 300, including 100 professionals in a variety of fields, and with a five‐year fund of more than US$100 million. At the time, US$40 million were pledged by The United States and the remainder by 50 other nations.[5]


Executive DirectorEdit

UNEP's current acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya took office in November 2018, following the resignation of Erik Solheim. Prior to that appointment, she was UNEP's Deputy Executive Director.[6]

In December 1972, the UN General Assembly unanimously elected Maurice Strong to be the first head of UN Environment. Also Secretary General of both the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which launched the world environment movement, and the 1992 Earth Summit, Strong has played a critical role in globalizing the environmental movement.

The position was then held for 17 years (1975–1992) by Dr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba, who was instrumental in bringing environmental considerations to the forefront of global thinking and action. Under his leadership, UN Environment's most widely acclaimed success—the historic 1987 agreement to protect the ozone layer—the Montreal Protocol was negotiated. He was succeeded by Elizabeth Dowdeswell (1992–1998), Klaus Töpfer (1998–2006), Achim Steiner (2006–2016), and Erik Solheim (2016–2018).

List of executive directorsEdit

# Picture Name
Nationality Took office Left office
1   Maurice Strong[7]
  Canada 1972 1975
2   Mostafa Kamal Tolba
  Egypt 1975 1992
3   Elizabeth Dowdeswell
(born 1944)
  Canada 1992 1998
4   Klaus Töpfer
(born 1938)
  Germany 1998 2006
5   Achim Steiner
(born 1961)
  Brazil 2006 2016
6   Erik Solheim
(born 1955)
  Norway 2016 2018
7 Joyce Msuya
(born 1968)
  Tanzania 2018 Present


UNEP's structure includes seven substantive Divisions:[citation needed]

  • Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA)
  • Environmental Policy Implementation (DEPI)
  • Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE)
  • Regional Cooperation (DRC)
  • Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC)
  • Communications and Public Information (DCPI)
  • Global Environment Facility Coordination (DGEF)


UNEP's main activities are related to:[8]

Notable achievementsEdit

UNEP has registered several successes, such as the 1987 Montreal Protocol for limiting emissions of gases blamed for thinning the planet's protective ozone layer, and the 2012 Minamata Convention, a treaty to limit toxic mercury.[9]

UNEP has sponsored the development of solar loan programmes, with attractive return rates, to buffer the initial deployment costs and entice consumers to consider and purchase solar PV systems. The most famous example is the solar loan programme sponsored by UN Environment helped 100,000 people finance solar power systems in India.[10] Success in India's solar programme has led to similar projects in other parts of the developing world, including Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia and Mexico.

UNEP sponsors the Marshlands project in the Middle East. In 2001, UN Environment alerted the international community to the destruction of the Marshlands when it released satellite images showing that 90 percent of the Marshlands had already been lost. The UN Environment "support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshland" commenced in August 2004, in order to manage the Marshland area in an environmentally sound manner.[11]

In order to ensure full participation of global communities, UN Environment works in an inclusive fashion that brings on board different societal cohorts. UN Environment has a programme for young people known as Tunza. Within this programme are other projects like the AEO for Youth.[12]

International Environmental Education Programme (1975-1995)

For two decades, UNESCO and UNEP led the International Environmental Education Programme (1975-1995), which set out a vision for, and gave practical guidance on how to mobilize education for environmental awareness. In 1976, UNESCO launched an environmental education newsletter ‘Connect’ as the official organ of the UNESCO-UNEP International Environmental Education Programme (IEEP). It served as a clearinghouse to exchange information on Environmental Education (EE) in general and to promote the aims and activities of the IEEP in particular, as well as being a network for institutions and individuals interested and active in environment education until 2007.[13]

Glaciers shrinking

Glaciers are shrinking at record rates and many could disappear within decades, the U.N. Environment Programme said on 16 March 2008. The scientists measuring the health of almost 30 glaciers around the world found that ice loss reached record levels in 2006. On average, the glaciers shrank by 4.9 feet in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available. The most severe loss was recorded at Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier, which shrank 10.2 feet in 2006. Glaciers lost an average of about a foot of ice a year between 1980 and 1999. But since the turn of the millennium the average loss has increased to about 20 inches.[14]

Electric vehicles

At the fifth Magdeburg Environmental Forum held from 3–4 July 2008, in Magdeburg, Germany, UN Environment and car manufacturer Daimler called for the establishment of infrastructure for electric vehicles. At this international conference, 250 high-ranking representatives from the world of politics and non-government organizations discussed solutions for future road transportation under the motto of "Sustainable Mobility–the Post-2012 CO2 Agenda".[15]


UNEP publishes many reports, atlases and newsletters. For instance, the fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) assessment is a comprehensive report on environment, development and human well-being, providing analysis and information for policy makers and the concerned public. One of many points in the GEO-5 warns that we are living far beyond our means. It notes that the human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available.

In June 2010, a report from UN Environment declared that a global shift towards a vegan diet was needed to save the world from hunger, fuel shortages and climate change.[16]

International yearsEdit

(International) Patron of the Year of the Dolphin was H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, with Special Ambassador to the cause being Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys musical group.[17]

  • 2010 – International Year of Biodiversity
  • 2011 – International Year of Forests
  • 2012 – International Year for Sustainable Energy for All
  • 2013 – International Year of Water Cooperation

(See international observance and list of environmental dates.)


Following the publication of Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February 2007, the "Paris Call for Action" — read out by French President Jacques Chirac and supported by 46 countries — called for the United Nations Environment Programme to be replaced by a new and more powerful "United Nations Environment Organization (UNEO)", to be modelled on the World Health Organization. The 46 countries included the European Union nations, but notably did not include the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China, the top four emitters of greenhouse gases.[18]

In December 2012, following the Rio+20 Summit, a decision by the General Assembly of the United Nations to "strengthen and upgrade"[19] the UN Environment Programme (UN Environment) and establish universal membership of its governing body was confirmed.

2018 funds witholdingEdit

In September 2018, the Dutch government announced it would withhold $8 million in funding to UNEP until nepotism issues with regard to the head of the U.N. Environment Programme.[20]. Sweden and Denmark stopped funding as well. A spokesman for the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs said the freezing of funds was probably unprecedented.[21]

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC BY-SA License statement: Issues and trends in Education for Sustainable Development, 26, 27, UNESCO. To learn how to add open license text to Wikipedia articles, please see Wikipedia:Adding open license text to Wikipedia. For information on reusing text from Wikipedia, please see the terms of use.


  1. ^ Daily Nation (21 November 2018). "Tanzanian picked to head Unep as chief Erik Solheim resigns". The EastAfrican Quoting Daily Nation. Nairobi. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  2. ^ "About UN Environment". UN Environment.
  3. ^ "Home". UNEP Document Repository. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  4. ^ "About » UNDG at the Global Level » UNDG". United Nations Development Group. 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  5. ^ Gladwinn Hill (October 20, 1975), U.N. Environment Effort: A Start, a Long Way to Go New York Times.
  6. ^ "Tanzanian appointed to head U.N. Environment Programme". AfricaNews. 21 November 2018. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  7. ^ Schrijver, Nico (2010). Development Without Destruction: The UN and Global Resource Management. United Nations Intellectual History Project Series. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-253-22197-1.
  8. ^ "United Nations Environment Programme". November 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  9. ^ Alister Doyle (February 17, 2013 ), Reformed U.N. formula for making planet greener to get first test Reuters.
  10. ^ "Solar loan programme in India".
  11. ^ UN Environment Marshland project in Middle East Archived October 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ AEO-for-Youth Archived 23 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Issues and trends in Education for Sustainable Development. Paris: UNESCO. 2018. pp. 26, 27. ISBN 9789231002441.
  14. ^ "U.N.: Glaciers shrinking at record rate".
  15. ^ "UNEP and Daimler Call for Infrastructure for Electric and Fuel-cell Vehicles". 4 July 2008. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  16. ^ Felicity Carus UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet, The Guardian, 2 June 2010
  17. ^ "Pop Superstar Nick Carter to Help Wild Dolphins and Oceans".
  18. ^ Doyle, Alister (2007-02-03). "46 nations call for tougher U.N. environment role". Reuters.[dead link]
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Damian Carrington (27 September 2018). "Under-fire UN environment chief forced back to HQ". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2018. a spokesman for the Dutch government told the Guardian: “A planned payment of €8m will be held until Unep provides more clarity, and until it is clear that Unep is taking this matter seriously.” [...] “In relation to any notion of nepotism, I wish to clarify that my spouse was recruited to REV Ocean through an open, transparent and competitive process,” said Solheim
  21. ^ Damian Carrington (25 September 2018). "Nations halt funding to UN environment programme as outcry over chief grows". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2018. the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs thinktank said he thought the freezing of funds was probably unprecedented. “There are many who don’t think Unep is functioning as it should

Further readingEdit

  • United Nations Environment Programme. "Natural Allies: UNEP and Civil Society." Nairobi: United Nations Foundation, 2004.
  • Paul Berthoud, A Professional Life Narrative, 2008, worked with UNEP and offers testimony from the inside of the early years of the organization.
  • Dodds, F., Strauss, M., with Strong, M., 2012, Only One Earth: The Long Road via Rio to Sustainable Development. London Earthscan

External linksEdit