The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was set up in 1973 by the United Nations General Assembly as a result of a recommendation from the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. Its mission is:
"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."
UNEP is governed by a Governing Council (GC) and Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF). The Governing Council was established in December 1975. Governing Council reports to the General Assembly of the United Nations through the Economic and Social Council. The 58 members of the Council are elected by the General Assembly, for four-year terms. Governing Council establishes UNEP’s programme priorities, and approves the biennial budget and program of work. It meets every two years in Nairobi, Kenya, and every other year in special session, usually in another country. The Global Ministerial Environment Forum is convened annually to review important and emerging policy issues in the field of the environment, with the Governing Council constituting the forum either in its regular sessions or special sessions.
The Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR), based in Nairobi, monitors and assesses the implementation of the decisions of the Governing Council. It also plays a role in the preparations leading up to the GC meetings. The CPR, holds four regular meetings each year, with provision for extraordinary meetings if requested by at least five members.
Main functions and responsibilities of the Governing Council of UNEP are:
- To promote international cooperation in the field of the environment and to recommend, as appropriate, policies to this end;
- To provide general policy guidance for the direction and coordination of environmental programmes within the United Nations system;
- To receive and review the periodic reports of the Executive Director of UNEP on the implementation of environmental programmes within the United Nations system;
- To keep under review the world environmental situation in order to ensure that emerging environmental problems of wide international significance receive appropriate and adequate consideration by Governments;
- To promote the contribution of the relevant international scientific and other professional communities to the acquisition, assessment and exchange of environmental knowledge and information and, as appropriate, to the technical aspects of the formulation and implementation of environmental programmes within the United Nations system;
- To maintain under continuing review the impact of national and international environmental policies and measures on developing countries, as well as the problem of additional costs that may be incurred by developing countries in the implementation of environmental programmes and projects, and to ensure that such programmes and projects shall be compatible with the development plans and priorities of those countries; and
- To review and approve the programme of utilization of resources of the Environment Fund.
The UNEP Secretariat is located in Nairobi and has at its head an Executive Director, appointed by the UN Secretary-General. UNEP has six Divisions (Environment assessment and early warning; Environmental law and conventions; Policy implementation; Technology, industry and economics; regional cooperation and representation; and Communication and public information) and six regional offices, including the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, located in Bangkok. UNEP also has major offices in Geneva and Paris, where its Division of Technology, Industry and Economics is situated.
UNEP also hosts several environmental convention secretariats including the Ozone Secretariat in Nairobi and the Montreal Protocol's Multilateral Fund in Montreal, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Geneva, the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal, the Convention on Migratory Species in Bonn, and a growing family of chemicals-related agreements, including the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and the recently negotiated Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) located in Geneva.
Australia’s permanent Mission in Nairobi is accredited to UNEP, and staff from the Mission represent Australia at various meetings held in Nairobi, including the Committee of Permanent Representatives. Australia's High Commissioner to Kenya is also the Australian Permanent Representative to UNEP.
Australia has been actively involved in UNEP activities since its , including through the provision of funding. We have been particularly active at various times with UNEP on issues such as cleaner production, sustainable consumption, marine environment, chemicals and ozone. Australia has assisted UNEP with work in our region, including contributing funding for regional meetings on specific issues. We have also had major involvement at various times with some of the sector-specific work of UNEP.
Officers from the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, and from other Departments as relevant from time to time (particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), represent Australia's interests at various UNEP meetings, including Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum and meetings/workshops related to specific issues.