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G - UNEP's regional office system

78. Introducing his report on UNEP's regional office system (UNEPIGC.1515/Add.3), the Executive Director stated that at its fourteenth session the Council had requested him to reduce the cost of the system to the programme and programme support costs budget but, as his consultations had clearly shown, the Council had not intended him to cut down expenditure on the system as such. Although there had been no request to undertake an evaluation of the regional offices, he had nevertheless felt the need of an evaluation and had engaged an independent consultant for the purpose. . as indicated in the. introduction to his report.

79. There was general support for the proposals set out in the report of the Executive Director, particularly with regard to strengthening the regional offices in developing regions. one representative observed that additional funds were not required in the case of the Regional Office for Europe and another representative, agreeing with him, said that the same comment applied to the Regional Office for North America: indeed, both those offices could receive less. Those views were supported by two other representatives. There was considerable opposition to the proposal to transfer responsibility for the six Arabic-speaking countries of Africa to the Regional Office for West Asia. One representative said that the countries in North Africa had not been consulted about the proposal and that they did not support it, as they were in agreement on African solidarity.

80. One representative said that the creation of a sub-regional office in Africa would answer aspirations of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (ANCEN) to give better services to all parts of Africa and two other representatives said that both AMCEN and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) would co-ordinate their activities with the proposed sub-regional office. one representative preferred the idea of strengthening the existing regional office by providing additional financial and personnel support to that of creating sub-regional offices, since the former alternative would minimize additional expenditure on administration and infrastructure. One representative considered that the proposal to establish a sub-regional office in Latin America was premature. He suggested that the secretariat should prepare a study on the terms of reference of such offices and engage in consultations with the Governments concerned. That suggestion was supported by two other representatives. Another representative said the proposal to establish a sub-regional office in the Pacific should be the subject of consultation among the countries of the region, since none of the small islands of the South Pacific were represented at the current session of the Governing Council. A sub-regional office would enable such countries to participate more effectively in UNEP programmes and provide support in confronting their particular environmental problems, including the prospect of sea-level rise.

81. With regard to the location of offices, one representative suggested that the Regional Office for Africa should be moved out of Nairobi, where it was submerged in headquarters activities. Several representatives suggested that the cost of establishing sub-regional offices could be minimized by collocating them with the offices of other United Nations sub-regional units, including those of UNDP.

82. With regard to the funding of the system, two representatives said that they agreed with the principle of switching funds out of the programme and programme support costs (PPSC) budget. Another supported in principle the proposal to finance the sub-regional offices from extrabudgetary funds, but excluding the Environment Fund itself. However, the associated support costs should be charged to PPSC, as ACABQ had recommended.

83. A number of representatives commented on the various regional offices. One representative said that more emphasis should be laid on actual programme development and implementation for the achievement of sustainable development, with particular emphasis on the Programme for African Co-operation. He also endorsed the Executive Director's recommendation on the establishment of UREP national committees and on strengthening relationships with UNDP, the World Bank and the regional economic and social commissions. A representative from another region said he would like to have more information about the functions of national committees. Yet another representative referred to the need to strengthen the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, where remarkable economic development was causing many types of environmental problems. His country had sent a remote-sensing expert and an expert on nature conservation to the Regional Office at Bangkok.

84. One representative proposed more decentralization of UREP programmes and more active participation by countries and sharing of regional resources. He suggested that the Regional Office at Bangkok should be responsible for co-ordinating the regional seas programme but that other aspects of regional co-operation should be dealt with centrally. Two representatives supported AMCEN's request that the Governing Council should ask the international community to make greater efforts to achieve Africa's objectives of maintaining the environment

85. Another representative said that the Regional Office for Europe should be restructured to improve programme delivery. The Office should function as a support unit for clearing-house activities and it should also obtain the expertise required to ensure that due account was taken of UNEP's policy in the increasing number of consultations among Europe-based organizations dealing with environmental matters. He went on to say that, on a regional and sub-regional basis generally, more attention should be paid to the growing number of requests for technical support from individual countries. He endorsed the recommendation for strengthening the relationship between regional offices of the United Nations and other international agencies in order to promote environmental components in their activities. The long-term objective should be to phase out UNEP's regional offices when environmental concerns had been fully integrated into the programmes of the regional economic and social commissions. To that end, he would urge that the work of the regional offices should be internally evaluated at regular intervals in relation to the environmental activities of those commissions.

86. The Executive Director stated that he had no interest in differences on matters of detail among the States of a region; he simply sought to use UNEP resources to the best effect. He did not believe it possible from a single office to serve 50 African countries as effectively as he would wish, but, so long as UNEP did not possess the resources to do otherwise, the four officers Who made up the Regional Office for Africa had to be located in oneoffice and that office had to be at Nairobi alongside the headquarters, in order to take advantage of the backstopping provided by the whole of UNEP. The wholepurpose of his report was to stimulate a debate on principles, priorities and practicalities; he was putting forward ideas and proposals and looked to the Council for policy guidance. of course, if financial possibilities of strengthening the system by means of establishing sub-regional offices manifested themselves, there would be detailed discussions with the Governments concerned regarding their location and so forth.