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Environment Ministers to attend UNEP meeting in Nairobi

NAIROBI, 23 January 2001 - Up to 100 Environment Ministers are expected to attend the 2nd Global Ministerial Environment Forum/21st session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (GC21) at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, from 5 to 9 February 2001. GC21, which will build on last year's landmark Ministerial Forum held in Malmo Sweden, will set UNEP's budget and work-programme and, importantly, provide input to Earth Summit II, scheduled for South Africa in 2002.

"With the active participation of the world's environment ministers, senior figures from business and civil society and top UN officials, such as the Director-General of UNESCO, we are seeing a new dimension to UNEP's Governing Council," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director. "The UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum is clearly now the world's leading international forum for governments to address current and emerging environmental policy issues," he said.

During GC21 there will be numerous side events, as well as the launch of, and briefings on major new UNEP initiatives and reports. A series of embargoed stories - topics ranging from the consequences of melting permafrost in the Arctic and new data on vulnerability to climate change to the loss of the world's indigenous languages and cultures and their links with the preservation of habitats and wildlife - will also be released.

2001 is the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations and there will be a ministerial discussion on this topic. Nobel Prize laureate, Wole Soyinka, will facilitate the debate on an issue where more than 2500 of the world's languages are threatened with extinction, partly due to the loss of the natural environments in which their speakers live.

Renewable energy, especially in the African context, is also high on the agenda. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, group managing director of the Royal Dutch Shell, will add the business perspective to ministerial discussion on this topic. There will also be a field trip to a geothermal power plant at Olkaria near Naivasha and a presentation of the "Olkaria III, Kenya - Geothermal" project that has been developed by the Global Environment Facility in connection with climate change and energy issues.

The meeting opens at 10am on Monday 5 February. The first three days of the meeting will deal with policy issues and administrative matters including UNEP's work programme and budget for the biennium 2002-2003.

Ministerial discussions on 8 and 9 February will focus on issues such as renewable energy, the linkages between environment, health, and poverty, the increased intensity and frequency of natural and man-made disasters, the specific needs of Africa, UNEP's contribution to the second Earth Summit and international environmental governance.

Meeting documents are available on the Web at: http://www.unep.org/GC_21st/

Note to journalists: Only bona fide representatives of the media - press, photo, radio, television and film - will be accredited to cover this meeting. Access to some sessions of the ministerial meeting may be closed but a fully serviced press centre will be in operation and regular press briefings held with ministers, Klaus Toepfer and others.

From 5 to 9 February, a bus to UNEP will leave from outside Chester House at 09.15.

Before GC21/GMEF starts, the media are invited to attend an NGO Forum on 1 February and a meeting on the environmental dimensions of the Global Compact (initiated last year by the UN Secretary-General) entitled "The Global Compact in Practice," on 3 and 4 February.

For details of how to apply for accreditation contact Anila Shah on tel. (254-2)-623089, fax: 623692, email: anila.shah@unep.org. Media registration will begin 1 February.

For more information please contact: Tore J. Brevik in Nairobi on tel: (254-2)-623292, fax: 623692 or Robert Bisset on 623084, robert.bisset@unep.org, Nick Nuttall on 623381, nick.nuttall@unep.org, Patricia Jacobs on 623088, patricia.jacobs@unep.org

UNEP News Release 2001/07