UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UN Environment Programme (1972; Nairobi; 15 executive staff; unep.org).

UNEP is the “leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.”  They aim “to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.”

It sponsors the Green Economy Initiative, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, World Environment Day, and the UN Environment Assembly. The inaugural UNEA in March 2014 had over 1200 participants, 170 national delegations, 112 delegations headed at minister level and 40 events during the five-day event at UNEP’s Headquarters in Nairobi. “UNEA marks a milestone in the four decade-long journey to accord environmental issues such as those outlined above the same status as the challenges to peace, security, finance, health and trade,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “The fact that for the first time all member states of the United Nations will be represented in UNEP means increased legitimacy, representation of all voices across the spectrum of both regional and developmental realities, and empowerment of the Ministers responsible for the environment.”



  • Air – Aims to improve air quality to protect the environment and human health
  • Biosafety – We help governments minimize the effects of biotechnology on biological diversity and human health
  • Chemicals & waste – Works to ensure the sound management of chemicals and waste
  • Climate change – Works to minimize the scale and impact of climate change
  • Disasters & conflicts – Work to minimize the environmental causes and consequences of crisis
  • Ecosystems – Aims to protect and restore ecosystems and the goods and services they provide
  • Education & environment – Promotes skills, attitudes and values in support of sustainable and just societies
  • Energy -Promotes energy efficiency and the use of energy from renewable sources
  • Environment under review – Aims to empower governments and other stakeholders in evidence-based decision-making
  • Environmental rights and governance – Support strong laws and institutions for a healthier, more sustainable world
  • Extractives – Supports positive change in the extractive sector’s governance and business practices
  • Forests – Supports the protection of forests for social, economic and environmental benefits
  • Gender – Promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in environmental protection and sustainable development
  • Green economy -Promotes the transition to economies that are low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive
  • Oceans & seas – Promotes the protection and sustainable management of the world’s marine and coastal environments
  • Resource efficiency – Works to accelerate the transition to sustainable societies
  • Sustainable Development Goals – Delivers on the environmental dimension of each of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals
  • Technology – Promotes the use of environmentally sound technologies in developing countries and countries in transition
  • Transport – Promotes sustainable, low-emission transport and work to reduce the sector’s contribution to air pollution and climate change
  • Water – Helps countries to protect and restore freshwater and marine ecosystems to sustain their services for generations to come



HIGHLIGHT: Sixth Global Environment Outlook (March 2019, 745p; 28p summary in six languages) – A series of flagship reports.  First published in 1997, this 6th report (GEO6), with the theme of “Healthy Planet, Healthy People,” covers climate change as a priority issue, the growing chasm between rich and poor countries, declining genetic diversity as a threat to food security and ecosystem resilience, rising sea levels and ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, water quality “worsened significantly since 1990” in most regions due to organic and chemical pollution, governance challenges, biodiversity (“a major species extinction event is unfolding”), land and soil, resources and materials, effectiveness of environmental policies, the need for transformative change, innovations for systemic transformation, trends in target achievement for selected Sustainable Development Goals, and benefits from following sustainable future pathways: human health and well-being, prosperity, and resilient societies.

Leadership: Inger Andersen (Executive Director), Joyce Msuya (Deputy Executive Director, UN Assistant Secretary-General)
Budget: ~$425m (2018)

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