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First UN Environment Assembly heralds new era in global efforts to address environment sustainability

20 June 2014

The First United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) will convene in Nairobi, Kenya, from 23 to 27 June 2014. UNEA is the newly constituted UN high-level platform for decision-making on the environment and is tasked with charting a new course in the way the international community addresses environmental sustainability challenges.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the UN General Assembly, Ministers of Environment and Foreign Affairs and Chief Executives of a number of international organizations are set to attend the newly-established UNEA that will bring together over 1,200 high-level participants from government, business and civil society.

“The convening of the first UNEA session in Nairobi – home of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the often referred to environment capital of the world – represents a coming-of-age for the global environment community, says UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “For the first time, all 193 members of the UN, plus Observer States and major stakeholders, will be represented in the new assembly — thereby bestowing upon UNEA a new level of representation, legitimacy and authority.”

“A broad range of actors from the world of economy, finance, social sciences, legislation, the judiciary and development are also due to participate to help shape the global environment agenda, under the stewardship of UNEA. The issues facing this first session of UNEA are weighty ones which require the voices of all member states and partners to be heard.”

“Now more than ever, it has become increasingly clear that the seperation between environmental sustainability and economic and social development should be overcome through the careful management of natural resources as the keystone of a prosperous and stable society. In this new forum, UNEP and its partners will be able to provide governments and other policymakers with the science, policy options and platform, for international cooperation to more effectively address the environmental dimension of sustainable development,” he added.

As the new governing body of UNEP as well as the world’s Environment Assembly, UNEA has the mandate to make strategic decisions and provide political guidance in the work of UNEP, and promote a strong science-policy interface.

The first UNEA session is expected to deliver a series of outcomes that would spell out concrete actions to address the key environmental challenges discussed at UNEA. Where appropriate, UNEA may also recommend draft resolutions for adoption at the United Nations General Assembly for UN system-wide action.

At UNEA’s high-level segment – held under the slogan A Life of Dignity for All— Ministers and international leaders will gather to address two key sustainable development and environment topics of current international concern, namely:

To complement the Ministerial discussions, UNEA will also see the convening of two Symposia that address two key aspects of environmental sustainability:

The UNEA deliberations will conclude with a High-Level Segment led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the General Assembly John Ashe. It will comprise of: a strategic briefing on the state of the environment by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner; ministerial plenaries on Sustainable Development Goals, including Sustainable Consumption and Production, and the illegal trade in wildlife.

During the UNEA week, more than 40 special and side events, fora, and high level dialogues, will take place at UNEP’s headquarters, covering a range of issues, such as: climate change, gender and the environment, green jobs, air quality, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the sound management of chemicals, among other topics.