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UNEP Governing Council

Item #d99jan45

The 20th session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council took place in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 1-5, 1999. The session included a three-day technical section, a two-day high-level section, and 15 panel discussions on sustainable tourism, the impact of deforestation on the environment, global telecommunications, and other topics. About 600 delegates from more than 100 countries attended. The Governing Council adopted about 30 decisions about the Environment Fund, administrative matters, UNEP’s budget, the state of the environment, cooperation within and outside the U.N., governance of UNEP, the upcoming meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the U.N. General Assembly’s consideration of the Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements, and interactions among environment-related international conventions.

The meeting was dominated by two issues: reform and finance. Progress was made on both fronts. Governments recognized the need for UNEP to have adequate, stable, and predictable financial resources if it is to meet the environmental challenges of the next century effectively, and a budget for the next biennium of US$120 million was adopted. Also, broad support was given to the proposed restructuring of UNEP in line with the organization’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.

The cooperation and resolve of the meeting was noteworthy considering the lack of direction exhibited at the previous meeting two years before, which ended up adopting the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP that refocused the work of UNEP and gave a clear mandate for reform and restructuring the organization. At this session, governments endorsed a work program that is clearly linked to the Declaration and a functional organizational structure for UNEP.

As part of the debate on UNEP reform, the Council had before it the report of the U.N. Secretary-General to the General Assembly on “Environment and Human Settlements.” It contains proposals that incorporate the work of the U.N. Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements. Many views were expressed during the meeting that 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.”

An extensive report on the full session is available at

  • Guide to Publishers
  • Index of Abbreviations

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