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The first UN Environment Assembly and the future of UNEP

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The first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) took place from 23-27 June 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya. The overarching theme of the meeting was, ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, including sustainable consumption and production (SCP)’.

Many observers viewed the meeting as pivotal for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to demonstrate its ability to be the environmental voice of the UN system, as was called for in the Rio+20 outcome. Changes are afoot for UNEP, by the time of the second UNEA meeting in May 2016 the global post-2015 development agenda will have been agreed and UNEP will be seeking to establish its role within it. What’s more, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner will end his final term immediately after the 2016 UNEA; Steiner has been seen as the strongest advocate for a strengthened UNEP as well as an inspirational leader for the Programme. The next two years will be critical for UNEP to demonstrate its ability to shape the global environmental agenda and remain relevant in the changing international setting.

During the first UNEA meeting delegates from 160 countries adopted decisions on:

  •  strengthening the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) role in promoting air quality
  •  the science-policy interface
  •  ecosystem-based adaptation
  •  implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
  •  illegal trade in wildlife
  •  chemicals and waste and
  •  marine debris and microplastics.
     

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