February 28, 2007
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FROM VOLUME 10, NUMBER 3, MARCH 1997
Developed and developing countries clashed in February
over how to run the U.N. Environment Program, forcing the suspension of the
biennial meeting of its governing board in Nairobi, Kenya. Western governments
want to streamline operations by establishing a high-level committee of
ministers to oversee operations. Many developing countries, who support the
cadre of Nairobi-based diplomats currently in control, perceive this proposal as
Western critics of UNEP argue that it needs not only better management, but
also a clearer mandate. In a recent issue of UNEP's Our Planet magazine,
Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell recommended that the agency focus on
turning scientific research into policy on global environmental problems such as
climate change, and forgo local development projects such as soil conservation
and clean water.
The U.S. and the European Union pushed to slash the UNEP budget from $100
million to $75 million for the 1998-1999 period. The U.S, the U.K., Spain and
possibly some other governments will temporarily withhold their contributions to
UNEP until they are satisfied with steps it takes to improve operations.
The controversy is part of a larger struggle to reform the entire United
Nations system, a goal supported by the newly appointed U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan. The UNEP Governing Council will meet again in a special session in
See Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 145-146, Feb. 19, 1997; New
Scientist, p. 11, Feb. 15; Chem. & Industry, p. 121, Feb. 17.
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