United Nations Environment Programme

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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was established after the UN Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm in 1972. It was established as a global body to act as the environmental conscience of the UN system.[1]

In its Organisational Profile, UNEP describes its purpose as: '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.'[2]

UNEP goes on to describe the Stockholm Conference as marking 'the formal acceptance by the international community that development and the environment are inextricably linked'.

UNEP undertakes conferences and conventions to address various environmental issues which includes issues relating to endangered species, controlling the movement of hazardous wastes and the depletion of the ozone layer. It has established conventions such as the 1987 Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. UNEP states that it provides information, policy advice and practical support to UN member states in relation to the Millennium Development Goals and Agenda 21. It was also involved with the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‎ and the UN Global Compact

UNEP describes its 5 priority areas as being: environmental assessment and early warning, Development of policy instruments, enhanced coordination with environmental conventions, technology transfer and support to Africa. Its reponsibilities are described as including[3]:

  • Promoting international cooperation in the field of the environment and recommending appropriate policies.
  • Monitoring the status of the global environment and gathering and disseminating environmental information.
  • Catalyzing environmental awareness and action to address major environmental threats among governments, the private sector and civil society.
  • Facilitating the coordination of UN activities on matters concerned with the environment, and ensuring, through cooperation, liaison and participation, that their activities take environmental considerations into account.
  • Developing regional programmes for environmental sustainability.
  • Helping, upon request, environment ministries and other environmental authorities, in particular in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, to formulate and implement environmental policies.
  • Providing country-level environmental capacity building and technology support.
  • Helping to develop international environmental law, and providing expert advice on the development and use of environmental concepts and instruments.

UNEP states that it works with many partners, which includes UN entities, international organizations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society. Part of its work includes encouraging new partnerships and approaches within civil society and the private sector, which includes promoting cooperation between UNEP, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.


UNEP has staff from almost 100 countries with approximately 1,000 of them (about a third) living and working in Nairobi. The rest are located around the world in more than 28 cities in 25 countries.

Executive Director

Achim Steiner - UNEP Executive Director. Elected in 2006 for a period of 4 years. Steiner is described as serving on a number of international advisory boards, including the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) and was previously Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) from 2001 to 2006[4].

The appointment of Steiner was criticised by The Heritage Foundation who accused Annan of a conflict of interest after having received an award of $500,000 by a jury which included Steiner[5]

Senior Management Team

In 2009, the Senior Management Team is listed as [6] Angela Cropper - UNEP Deputy Executive Director and United Nations Assistant Secretary General Officer-in-Charge, Division of Regional Cooperation and Representation (DRC) | Maryam Niamir-Fuller - Director, Division of Global Environment Facility Coordination (DGEF) | Bakary Kante - Director, Division of Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC) | Sylvie Lemmet - Director, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) | Satinder Bindra - Director, Division of Communications & Public Information (DCPI) | Peter Gilruth - Director, Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) | Ibrahim Thiaw - Director, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation (DEPI) | John Scanlon - Principal Advisor, Policy and Programme Executive Office (EO) | Paul Akiwumi - Chief, Executive Office (EO) | Ivar A. Baste - Director, Environment Management Group (EMG)


In 2002, UNEP is reported to have a annual budget of approximately $100 million[7]. The report argues that international environmental cooperation and protection require sufficient financial resources and highlights how UNEP's budget is tiny compared to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which had a budget of $7.8 billion in 2000.

In 1999, Heimer wrote of how UNEP faced bankruptcy and institutional extinction[8]. Contributing factors included the lack of funds from the donating nations, who had given less than they had originally pledged. Heimer questioned the effectiveness of the global institution when it was stretched in so many different directions whilst operating 'on the brink of banruptcy'.

Global Environment Facility

UNEP operates 8 divisions to undertake its work to 'promote and facilitate sound environmental management for sustainable development'. This includes the division known as the Global Environment Facility (GEF)[9]. GEF is run by 3 implementing agences, UNEP, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank. GEF purpose is described as to 'help developing countries and countries in transition to meet the agreed incremental costs of measures designed to acheive global environmental benefits in six focal areas: biological diversity; climate change; international waters; ozone layer depletion; land degradation and persistant organic pollutants (POPs)'. The report states that it supports 500 projects in 152 countries which includes 'capacity building' which is described as an important component to 'support the implementation of national enabling activities, which strengthen the capacity of countries to meet their obligations under the global environmental conventions'. In 2009, GEF's describes itself (on its website) as operating 'a global partnership among 178 countries, international institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives'[10].

GEF was established in 1991 as a $1 billion pilot program in the World Bank[11]. In 1994 it was restructured and moved out of the World Bank, however the World Bank continues to run it as one of the 3 implementing agences. GEF states that the 'private sector is recognized as an important stakeholder in GEF activities'. GEF 'encourages the private sector to seek opportunities to collaboratively engage in the identification of project concepts and objectives as well as in the financing, and monitoring and evaluation of GEF projects'.

Violation of indigenous people's rights

In 2007, the Forest Peoples Programme undertook a review of the treatment of indigenous peoples’ and social issues in 23 large and medium-sized GEF biodiversity projects in 2005-2006[12]. Their evaluation found that the projects did not follow a rights-based approach to the legal rights of indigenous communities in the areas concerned and that any treatment of such rights was 'generally superficial'. Less than 1 in 5 of the projects had been found to conduct detailed field baseline studies or thorough social assessment as part of project preparation and there was a 'high degree of ambiguity regarding the extent to which a project may impose involuntary resettlement or restrictions on customary use of natural resources'.

One example given by the Forest Peoples Programme, described how the Mby’a Guarani indigenous peoples in Paraguay had been treated in the planning of the “Initiative for the Protection of Wildlife Areas of Paraguay” (PAR/98/G33)[13]. A reserve was established on the ancestral lands of the Mby'a Guarani people which violated their rights as the law does not allow for the expropriation of their ancestral lands. In addition to this there had not been compliance with international policies to ensure transparency, indigenous participation, respect for human rights and the dissemination of information. The Mby'a Guarani people had to threaten to sue before they were able to receive any information on the reservation project and they were not consulted at all in its planning, even through this is their ancestral land to which they rely on for their sustenance.

UNEP Financial Initiative

In 1991 a group of commercial banks which including Deutsche Bank, HSBC Holdings, Natwest, Royal Bank of Canada, and Westpac, joined in partnership with UNEP to create the UNEP Financial Initiative[14]. The initiative describes it purpose as to facilitate dialogue with financial institutions 'about the nexus between economic development, environmental protection, and sustainable development'.

Steering Group

The initiative is managed by a steering group which, in 2009, consist of[15]:

Robert Tacon - chair. Tacon is also Senior Advisor, Sustainability with Standard Chartered plc | Sylvie Lemmet - who has served the World Bank and the French Cour des Comptes | Paul A. Hilton Director if Investment company Calvert | Paul Turner Managing Director and Head of Sustainable Development with LLoyds TSB | Sean Silvey of ANZ | Bien Subiantoro - a Director with PT Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI)

Working Group Representatives

Armin Sandhoevel - CEO Allianz Climate Solutions, Allianz Dresdner Bank (Munich, Germany) | Claire Boasson of Caisse des Dépôts | Catherine Boiteux-Pelletier - of AXA (France) | Blaise Desbordes of Caisse des Dépôts (France) | Paul McNamara of Prudential Plc (London)

Regional Task Force Representatives

Africa: Cas Coovadia - Managing Director of Banking Council of South Africa | Asia: Damien Walsh of Mecu Limited (Australia) | Central and Eastern Europe: Mark King of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Stella Kovlaka of Empori Bank | Latin America: Chris Wells of Banco Real, Santander Group and Ruben Chavez of HSBC | North America: Sandra Odendahl of the Royal Bank of Canada and Richard Pearl of State Street Corporation


In 2009, companies signed up to the UNEP Financial Initiative are listed as[16]:

Access Bank Plc - Nigeria | Achmea - Netherlands | Acuity Investment Management Inc - Canada | Aioi Insurance Co. Ltd - Japan | Alcyone Finance - France | Allianz - Germany | Alpha Bank - Greece | American International Group (AIG) - USA | Aquila Capital Structured Assets GmbH - Germany | ASN Bank - Netherlands | ASSET4 AG - Switzerland | Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) - Australia | Aviva plc - UK | AXA - Group Management Services - France | Banca Commerciala Romana - Romania | Banca Internacional d'Andorra- Banca Mora - Andorra | Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A. - Italy | Banco Africano de Investimentos - Angola, Africa | Banco Itaú Holding Financeira S.A. - Brazil | Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Economico e Social (BNDES) - Brazil | Banco Nacional de Obras y Servicios Publicos SNC (Banobras) - Mexico | Banco Rabobank International Brasil SA - Brazil | Bangkok Insurance Public Company Ltd - Thailand | Bank Muscat (SOAG) - Oman | Bank of America - USA | Bank of Industry Ltd - Nigeria | [[Bank of Montreal - Canada | Bank of Shanghai - China | Bank Sarasin & Co. Ltd - Switzerland | Barclays Group plc - UK | Bayern LB - Germany | BBVA Group - Spain | BMCE Bank - Morocco | BNP Paribas Asset Management - France | British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC) - Canada | Caisse des Dépôts - France | Caixa d'Estalvis i Pensions de Barcelona ("la Caixa") - Spain | CalPERS - USA | Calvert Group - USA | Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) - Canada | CarbonRe AG - Switzerland | China Merchants Bank CO.,LTD - China | Chuo Mitsui Trust Group - Japan | Citigroup - USA | ClearBridge Advisors, Legg Mason - USA | Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) - Venezuela | Crèdit Andorrà - Andorra | Credit Suisse - Switzerland | Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) - Croatia | Daegu Bank - South Korea | Daiwa Securities Group Inc - Japan | Danske Bank A/S - Denmark | Degussa Bank GmbH - Germany | Desjardins Group - Canada | Deutsche Bank AG - Germany | Development Bank of Japan Inc. - Japan | Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) - South Africa | Development Bank of the Philippines | Development Partners Fund (DPF) - China | Dexia - France | DnB NOR - Norway | EFG Eurobank Ergasias S.A. - Greece | Ekobanken - Din Medlemsbank - Sweden | Emporiki Bank - Greece | European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) - UK | Export Development Canada | Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) - Australia | F&C Asset Management - UK | Fidelity Bank plc - Nigeria | FIRA-Banco de Mexico | Folksam - Sweden | Fortis Bank Nederland | Friends' Provident Life & Pension Limited - UK | Fundacion Social - Colombia | Good Bankers Co. Ltd - Japan | Groupama Asset Management - France | Grupo Santander - Spain | Hana Bank - South Korea | Henderson Global Investors - UK | Hermes Fund Management Limited - UK | HSBC Holdings plc - UK | HSH Nordbank AG - Germany | Hyundai Marine and Fire Insurance Co. Ltd - South Korea | Industrial Bank Co. Ltd - China | Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services - India | ING - Netherlands | Innovest Strategic Value Advisors Inc. - USA | Insight Investment - UK | Insurance Australia Group Limited - Australia | Interamerican Hellenic Life Insurance Company SA - Greece | Intesa Sanpaolo - Italy | Japan Bank For International Cooperation (JBIC) - Japan | JPMorgan Chase & Co - USA | KfW Bankengruppe - Germany | KlimaINVEST Management Gmbh - Germany | Kommunalkredit Public Consulting GmbH - Austria | Kookmin Bank - South Korea | KPA AB - Sweden | Land Bank of the Philippines | Landesbank Baden-Württemberg - Germany | Landsbanki Islands hf (The National Bank of Iceland) | Lloyd's - UK | Lloyds TSB Group plc - UK | Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie - Switzerland | Manulife Financial Corporation - Canada | MAPFRE S.A - Spain | Mecu Limited - Australia | Medibank Private Ltd - Australia | Merrill Lynch - USA | Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation - Japan | Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co Ltd - Japan | Mizuho Financial Group Inc - Japan | Munich Reinsurance Company - Germany | National Australia Bank Limited | National Bank of Kuwait | Nedbank Ltd - South Africa | Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) | Nikko Asset Management Co Ltd - Japan | Nikko Citi Holdings Inc - Japan | Nipponkoa Insurance Co Ltd - Japan | Nordea AB - Sweden | Oceanic Bank International Plc - Nigeria | OECO Capital Lebensversicherung AG - Germany | Pax World Management Corp - USA | Piraeus Bank S.A - Greece | Planters Development Bank - Philippines | Prudential plc - UK | PT Bank Negara Indonesia | QBE Insurance Group Ltd - Australia | Rabobank Netherlands | Raiffeisen Zentralbank Austria AG | Rowet Group Limited - Nigeria | Royal & SunAlliance - UK | Royal Bank of Canada | Royal Bank of Scotland Group - UK | Samsung Investment Trust Management Co LTD - South Korea | Savings & Loans Credit Union (S.A.) Ltd - Australia | Scotiabank (Bank of Nova Scotia) - Canada | SEB AG - Germany | Shinhan Bank - South Korea | Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) - Sweden | Société Générale - France | Sompo Japan Insurance Inc | Standard Chartered plc - UK | State Street Corporation - USA | Storebrand - Norway | Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc - Japan | Sustainable Asset Management - Switzerland | Sustainable Development Capital LLP - UK | Svenska Handelsbanken - Sweden | Swedbank] AB - Sweden | Swiss Reinsurance Company - Switzerland | The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd - Japan | The Co-operators Group Limited - Canada | The Export-Import Bank of Korea | The Shiga Bank Ltd - Japan | The Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co Ltd - Japan | TISCO Financial Group Public Company Limited - Thailand | [[Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co Ltd - Japan | Toronto Dominion Bank - Canada | Triodos Bank NV - Netherlands | Turkiye Sinai Kalkinma Bankasi (TSKB) - Turkey | UBA Foundation - Nigeria | UBS AG - Switzerland | UmweltBank AG - Germany | Unicredit Group - Italy | Union Credit Bank - USA | Vancity Group of Companies - Canada | VicSuper Pty Ltd - Australia | WestLB AG - Germany | Westpac Banking Corporation - Australia | Woori Bank - South Korea | XL Insurance | Switzerland | YES BANK Limited - India | Zenith Bank plc - Nigeria | Zürcher Kantonalbank - Switzerland


UNEP has a major office in Paris, France (where its Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) is headquartered). UNEP DTIE also has branches in Geneva, Switzerland, and Osaka, Japan.

UNEP is represented across the globe by six regional offices: Nairobi, Kenya; Bangkok, Thailand; Geneva, Switzerland; Mexico City, Mexico; Washington DC, USA; Manama, Bahrain.

It also has offices in New York, USA (to provide liaison with the UN General Assembly and Secretariat), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Brussels, Belgium; Cairo, Egypt; Brasilia, Brazil; Beijing, China; Moscow, Russia.

UNEP Headquarters:

P.O. Box 30552
Nairobi 00100
Phone: +254 20 7621 234
Fax: +254 20 7623 927 / 692
Telex: 22068 / 22173
E-mail: unepinfo@unep.org
Web: www.unep.org


  1. United Nations Environment Programme Organisation Profile Accessed 23rd April 2009
  2. United Nations Environment Programme Organisation Profile Accessed 23rd April 2009
  3. United Nations Environment Programme Organisation Profile Accessed 23rd April 2009
  4. United Nations Environment Programme Meet the Executive Director Accessed 23rd April 2009
  5. The Heritage Foundation Kofi Annan's Conflicts of Interest Must Be Investigated 9th May 2006. Accessed 23rd April 2009
  6. United Nations Environment Programme Senior Management Team Accessed 23rd April 2009
  7. CIEL Backgrounder on the Johannesburg Summit 2002 Call to Action: The Need For New International Environmental Governance February 21st 2002. Accessed 23rd April 2009
  8. Heimer, M. (1999) The UN Environment Programme: Thinking Globally, Retreating Locally 7/11/1999. Accessed 23rd April 2009
  9. United Nations Environment Programme Organisation Profiles Accessed 29th April 2009
  10. Global Environment Facility About the GEP:What is the GEF Accessed 29th April 2009
  11. Global Environment Facility About the GEP:What is the GEF Accessed 29th April 2009
  12. Taylor, L. & Griffiths, T. (2007) A desk-based review of the treatment of indigenous peoples’ and social issues in large and medium-sized GEF biodiversity projects (2005-2006) Forest Peoples Programme. February 2007. Accessed 29th April 2009
  13. Forest Peoples Programme RE: GEF “Paraguay Wildlife Project” (PAR98G/33) Violates the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Request for the Assistance of the GEF Council Letter to the GEF Council. November 2007. Accessed 29th April 2009
  14. United Nations Environment Programme About:Background Accessed 23rd April 2009
  15. United Nations Environmental Programme Financial Initiative Steering Committee Accessed 23rd April 2009
  16. United Nation Environment Programme Financal Initiative Our Signatories Accessed 23rd April 2009