As the principal body of the United Nations in the field of the environment, UNEP has been mandated by the General Assembly in its resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 15 December 1972:
- To promote international cooperation in the field of the environment;
- To provide general policy guidance for the direction and coordination of environmental programmes within the United Nations system;
- To review the implementation of environmental programmes within the United Nations system;
- To keep under review the world environmental situation;
- To promote the contribution of relevant international scientific and other professional communities;
- To exchange environmental knowledge and information on technical aspects of formulation and implementation of environmental programmes within the United Nations system.
In accordance with these mandates, as underscored by the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme, the role of UNEP is to be the leading global environmental authority and in that role to set the global environmental agenda, to promote the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and to serve as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.
UNEP has been fulfilling this role since 1972 by:
- Bridging science and policy through environmental monitoring, assessments and information;
- Providing international platforms to facilitate policy debate, negotiations and decision-making;
- Facilitating the development of environmental law;
- Providing assistance to Member States in strengthening their national, subregional and regional policies, laws and institutions;
- Enhancing cooperation among States and various non-State actors to address environmental issues of common concerns collectively.
In particular, the combination of UNEP normative functions at the global level, its regional coordinating functions and its catalytic operational activities at the national level enables UNEP to advance environmental policy coherence at all levels.
Through the implementation of decision SS.VII/1 on international environmental governance adopted by the UNEP Governing Council in Cartagena, Colombia in February 2002, UNEP contributes to international efforts aimed at strengthening international environmental governance. UNEP’s work in the field of environmental governance in built upon Governing Council decision SS.VII/1.