UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme


The United Nations Environment Programme is responsible for the environment theme in the UN system through the Environmental Management Group in which all UN organisations and the Bretton Woods institutions are represented. The UNEP mandate is to establish international standards for environmental policy and provide direction to international initiatives based on scientific knowledge.

More specifically, the UNEP’s activities can be summarised as follows:

  • monitoring and assessing global, regional and national trends related to the environment;
  • developing national and international tools to address environmental problems;
  • assisting national institutions that support environmental management;
  • facilitating the transfer of science and technology related to the environment in the context of sustainable development;
  • encouraging partnerships and new initiatives in the public, non-governmental and private sectors with the aim of bringing the most pressing environmental issues to the attention of authorities.

The UNEP strategy for the 2010-2013 period, which reflects the organisation’s vision and mandate, focuses on six thematic priorities:

  1. Climate change
  2. Disasters and conflicts
  3. Sustainable management of ecosystems
  4. Environmental management
  5. Harmful substances and hazardous waste
  6. Resource efficiency - sustainable production and consumption

The 2014-2017 strategy, which was approved by the latest UNEP Governing Council meeting in February 2013, adds a seventh priority: Environment Under Review focussing on the UNEP’s scientific task of monitoring and assessing the condition of the global environment.

The UNEP’s priorities as outlined in these strategies are entirely consistent with Belgium’s strategic priorities relating to the environment and development cooperation. In terms of climate change there has been an increased focus on climate adaptation since 2008, in addition to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We see this trend reflected in the UNEP’s strategy and work programme as well as in Belgium’s strategic choices. In the future, the UNEP wishes to focus more on sustainable production and consumption.

Based on these compatible priorities, the Royal Decree of 12 June 2012 confirmed the UNEP as one of the international partner organisations of Multilateral Cooperation. In 2009, a decision was taken for a full core policy relating to multilateral partners to achieve more efficient, more effective and more predictable cooperation. In 2013, a multiyear agreement was concluded with the UNEP for a Belgian contribution to the programme amounting to EUR 12.55 million spread over 2013, 2014 and 2015.

In addition to activities related to the UNEP strategies, the latter is also responsible for the secretariat of eleven multilateral environmental conventions and is one of the three main executive agencies of the Global Environment Facility.

The Governing Council, with fifty-eight countries with voting rights, had acted as the UNEP’s management body since 1972. During the Rio+20 Conference for Sustainable Development in 2012, a consensus was reached on reinforcing the UNEP in the UN system. Henceforth, the Governing Council is to meet with universal membership and a decision was taken in February 2013 to rename the GC the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEA.

Each UNEA session will be concluded with a two-day, high-level segment that will take strategic decisions, provide political guidance and fulfil the following roles:

(a) Establish the global environmental agenda;
(b) Provide overarching policy advice and determine policy responses to address urgent environmental problems;
(c) Policy evaluation, dialogue and sharing experiences;
(d) Strategic steering of the UNEP’s direction;
(e) Organise multi-stakeholder dialogue;
(f) Ensure partnerships for achieving environmental objectives and mobilising resources.