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A - Opening of the session

1. The nineteenth session of the UNEP Governing Council was opened on 27 January 1997 by Mr. S. Shafqat Kakakhel (Pakistan), President of the Council at its eighteenth session. He pointed to the interrelated nature of the main policy items on the Council's agenda, and suggested that the Council take an integrated approach to addressing them. He emphasized that there was a need to revisit the role and functions of UNEP in the changed circumstances since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The issues of good management, effective governance and adequate financing must be subjected to particular scrutiny by the Council. He noted with concern the declining trend in the Council-approved budget levels for the UNEP programme.

2. At the opening meeting of the nineteenth session, on 27 January 1997, the Council heard a statement by Ms. E. Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP. In her statement, Ms. Dowdeswell reported on the accomplishments of the organization during 1996, and the steps it had taken to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness. She noted that regaining the credibility of UNEP as a world-class organization would require deep and far-reaching organizational reform. She observed that an examination of the role and focus of UNEP, and also of its governance, and the provision of a sound and adequate financial base were central to the reform of the organization. She highlighted the marked shortfall in contributions to the Environment Fund in 1996, in relation to the approved Fund programme budget, and its impact on implementing UNEP responsibilities under Agenda 21. She urged the Council to offer radical new views to ensure guaranteed, secure and adequate financing of the UNEP global environment programme. She emphasized that UNEP must emerge as an independent, objective and authoritative organization, equipped and empowered to champion global environmental issues, lead the United Nations in a concerted attack on the worst aspects of global environmental degradation, and develop, monitor and perhaps even enforce international environmental law. The full text of her statement was subsequently circulated under the symbol UNEP/GC.19/29/Add.1.

3. The representative of Kenya welcomed the participants to Nairobi.