France calls for a Nairobi-based UN Environment Organisation
Traditionally attached to environmental questions and concerned about the scope of the challenges faced by UNEP and the need to strengthen international environmental governance, France has been one of the leading countries to promote the transformation of UNEP into a full-fledged United Nations Organization. This project is now shared by the European Union and an increasing number of countries.
What will the UNEO be exactly? Modelled on the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Environment Organisation will be a strong voice with global recognition. It will be the instrument used to assess environmental damage and understand how to repair that damage; it will be a way to support the implementation of environmental decisions all over the planet. This new organisation, based in Nairobi, will ensure greater coherence within the UN and integrate better the various Conventions on environmental issues.
Concerning the issue of the location of this organisation’s headquarters, the French government’s and European Union’s position has always been very clear: the new UNEO, once established, will remain in Nairobi. For the last couple of years, this position has been made clear to every level of Kenyan authority, and was strongly reasserted during UNEP Governing Council last week.
Kenya, the first country from the South to harbour a UN organisation, would greatly benefit from the transformation of UNEP into the UNEO given the leading role the latter would play on the environmental field.
President Chirac, in order to discuss with experts on the need to promote the UNEO, recently organised an international conference on environment called “Citizens of the Earth”. This conference was not an intergovernmental conference. It brought together environmental specialists, famous activists, such as Kenyan Nobel Peace prize-winner Wangari Maathai, and governments that have already expressed their support for the UNEO.
This Conference gave momentum to promoting the idea, and resulted in the creation of the pioneering group “Friends of the UNEO” that gathers 48 countries, including countries from the G77 such as Burkina Faso, Chile or Morocco. Morocco has offered to host the first meeting of this group, which will probably take place in early summer.
Kenya as other countries which never publicly supported transforming UNEP into the UNEO, was not invited to the conference as all the participants joined President Chirac’s CALL FOR ACTION.
The outcome of the Conference was presented to Kenyan Minister for Environment, Prof. Kibwana last Thursday, by Nelly Olin, the French Minister for the Environment herself. During this meeting, Mrs Olin has been very clear about the fact that France and the EU would not accept to see the headquarters of UNEP or UNEO moved from Nairobi, and has also invited Kenya to join the “Friends of the UNEO”. France sincerely hopes to see Kenya join the group of about 50 countries supporting the creation of a world organization for the environment based in Nairobi for its greater benefit.
For more information about the conference, see here