25 Jun 2019 Speech Environmental rights and governance

146th Committee of Permanent Representatives

Thank you Madam Chair,

Excellencies and distinguished guests,

It is a great honour for me to stand here before you today to deliver my first statement as the new Executive Director. and I thank you for this opportunity. Thank you also for the opportunity to meet with the regional groups over the past two days in a more informal setting which allowed me to hear you, and to get to know you, to listen to the voices that you bring to the table and to hear of your expectations.

I look forward to working with you in partnership and collaboration in the years to come.

Excellencies, colleagues

The UN Environment Programme has a proud history of horizon watching, of identifying waves that are coming to our shores and of supporting nations to come to agreement on some of the biggest planetary challenges we face.

Since 1972 we have played a leading voice in strengthening the science policy interface; supporting global governance for the environment; and in convening for change.

I am both honoured and privileged to address you today as the Head of the United Nations Environment Programme.

There are many reasons why I am proud to be at this institution, but perhaps what motivates me the most is that we are truly led by the member states.

And therefore I stand before you as a listener and fellow traveler, on this journey towards a stronger institution, and to push the needle on sustainability for member states and for the people on this good planet.

We are at one of the most complex moments in history. The health of our environment and what’s at stake is more in public conscience than ever before. The science is definitive. We have a limited window of opportunity to steer humanity towards sustainability. But with these challenges have come astonishing human capacity for innovation and imagination towards finding solutions.

We cannot achieve peace and prosperity without safeguarding the planet. Those are the very elements that are enshrined in the sustainable development goals. The vision and expectations from member states as clearly articulated in the Rio + 20 outcome document The Future We Want and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development will continue to be that guiding force.

I am committed to direct and systematic engagement and to “proving our worth through action” as the UN Secretary-General has said – through engagement with capitals, at ministerial fora and through our governing bodies such as the Committee of Permanent Representatives, the Assembly and other related bureaus.

But strengthening organizational performance through our Medium Term strategy and Programme of Work is critical and this forms the foundation of our organization at this time.

With the deadline of the SDGs looming close, just 10 short years away, we have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our work through the next medium term strategy on which we begin work on this year.

I will continue to re-build the confidence of Member States to systematically address issues of accountability, transparency, budgets and programme clarity.

As I have said in the regional meetings we’ve held with you, I wish to extend my enormous thanks to Joyce who has steered this ship with the support of the member states during the last seven months.

As I step into this leadership position, I will ensure a well-functioning top leadership team and set the appropriate tone at the top.

Staff are the greatest asset we have at the UN Environment Programme. We will pay particular attention to the softer elements of leadership and culture. In line with the Secretary-General’s priorities, I will be very strong in my efforts to promote gender parity, geographical diversity, fairness of treatment, etc.

We are here to support the wider UN system and every process linked to environmental actions. We afford the highest priority to the UN reform process both in terms of embedding environmental issues across the work of the UN but also in using the delivery mechanisms of the UN in support our mandate.

In September of this year, the UN Secretary-General will convene a Climate Action Summit, to afford countries the opportunity to showcase a collective leap in ambition for climate action. Our work on nature-based solutions with Member States will make an important contribution to the Summit in demonstrating cost-effective actions and cost-effective solutions from the natural world with multiple benefits for ecosystem restoration; biodiversity; livelihoods; for emissions reduction and for greater resilience.

In 2020, the next meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, will agree on the post 2020 framework and I hope we will set ambitious targets to arrest biodiversity loss and to secure the very sustainability of our planet. We look forward to contributing to these processes to “up” the action and to enhance the ambition.

Success for us means halting the rapid loss of species. Success for us means preventing seven million people premature deaths from air pollution each year. Success for us means countries taking action towards sustainable consumption and production. Success for us means a planet powered by renewable energy. Success for us all means all of humanity reaping the benefits of a healthy planet and thriving environment for centuries to come.

That is what I will work towards with the strong support of you and member states and with capable ability of management and staff at the UN Environment Programme.

Thank you very much

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme