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Regional News

UNEP in Europe warms up for World Environment Day by echoing call to end illegal trade in wildlife

Debates, film screenings and educational events announced following the launch of global UN campaign against the illegal trade backed by A-list stars

Geneva, 26 May 2016 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will in Europe host a medley of events highlighting the plight of wildlife and the need to take care of our planet on World Environment Day (5 June).

The events tie in with an unprecedented global campaign launched by the United Nations today on the World Environment Day theme of tackling the illegal trade in wildlife, which is pushing species to the brink of extinction, robbing countries of their natural heritage and profiting international criminal networks.

“Each year, thousands of wild animals are illegally killed, often by organized criminal networks motivated by profit and greed,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I call on all Governments and people everywhere to support the new United Nations campaign, Wild for Life, which aims to mobilize the world to end this destructive trade. Preserving wildlife is crucial for the well-being of people and planet alike.”

In Geneva, World Environment Day celebrations will be kicked off with the fourth edition of a World Environment Day quiz on 2 June organised by the Geneva Environment Network. A roundtable for all environmental stakeholders will the next day take place on preparations for major upcoming meetings dealing with conservation and biodiversity governance this year involving the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity and related Protocols.

Organised with CITES, a premiere screening for Geneva will follow of Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale, which tells the true-life story of a baby elephant born into a rescue camp in the wilderness of Botswana. All UN buildings and hundreds of local companies in the city will furthermore be provided with special menus prepared by the Eldora catering service to celebrate on 6 June.

UNEP’s office in Almaty, is meanwhile teaming up with UN partners to organize a series of events open to the general public, including a conference for students on the illegal trade in wildlife held at Kazakhstan’s National University on 3 June. The event will examine the trade through a Central Asian lens by focusing on issues such as poaching and illegal fishing and species such as the Caspian Seal and snow leopard. The media will first be invited to Almaty’s UN House, while NGOs and students will then attend a panel discussion on priority issues.

In Brussels, UNEP will meanwhile have a booth with other UN partners at celebrations taking place in the city’s Parc du Cinquantennaire. There, visitors will find information on the global WED theme and other aspects of UNEP’s work – in particular on sustainable consumption and production. The stand will involve numerous activities, including for children, while tens of thousands of visitors are expected. A CINEONU screening of Racing Extinction on the human-driven extinction of species and efforts to document it is furthermore being organised with UN partners and will be followed by a panel discussion.

In Vienna, UNEP is co-organising an event exploring the political processes for and discussing the challenges to involving youths in the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda. Trees will be planted by the EU Commissioner for the Environment, the Austrian Ministry of the Environment and Director General of the Austrian State Forests as part of the event. 

Renewed collaboration between UNEP and the Sarajevo Film Festival will see films screened on air quality, climate change and the environment in August, following on from other interactive events. In Moscow, children and students will be able to join UNEP staff for an educational visit to the city’s zoo, while UNEP will take part in the city’s New Era international festival, among other events.

Wild for life

#WildforLife, launched yesterday at the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi in front of environment ministers from every corner of the planet, aims to mobilize millions of people to make commitments and take action to end the illegal trade.

The campaign is run by UNEP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and CITES.

UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors are lending their weight to the cause. These include four-time African Footballer of the Year Yaya Touré (Manchester City, Ivory Coast), who is backing elephants; Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, who is fighting for sea turtles; and actor Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries, Lost), who is rooting for pangolins.

Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa. Three rhinos are killed every day, and the Western Black Rhino has already gone extinct. Pangolins – scaly anteaters – are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Great Apes are already locally extinct in several African nations.

The campaign asks participants to find their kindred species and use their own spheres of influence to end the illegal trade, however it touches or impacts them. 

Profits from the illegal wildlife trade sometimes go into the pockets of international criminal networks, threatening peace and security, and damaging the livelihoods of local communities who depend on tourism. 

Stopping this trade is also crucial to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it threatens countries’ biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, and disturbs peace. SDG 15 in particular calls for the protection of wild fauna and flora as well as the ecosystems that they depend on – including targets on combatting and addressing the supply and demand of illegal wildlife products.

Politicians, celebrities and business leaders will be making pledges during UNEA-2 and in the run-up to World Environment Day, which is themed “Go Wild For Life” to tie in with the campaign. Angola, the global host of WED, will be making significant pledges to tackle the illegal ivory trade at the event.

Join the campaign by visiting and using the #Wildforlife hashtag on Twitter to share your kindred animal and pledge.

Download additional quotes from celebrities and the heads of the UN agencies involved.

Download a zip file of pictures of celebrities morphed with their kindred animals.
Download a fact sheet on the illegal trade in wildlife.

For more information please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, UNEP Regional Office for Europe,, +41 79 251 82 36.


Improving ocean governance at regional level

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a new report with recommendations on how to improve regional governance of the environment covering most of the world’s surface.

The publication, titled ‘Regional Oceans Governance – Making Regional Seas Programmes, Regional Fishery Bodies and Large Marine Ecosystem Mechanisms Work Better Together,' was launched yesterday at the 2016 edition of European Maritime Day, held in Turku, Finland.

European Maritime Day is the annual meeting for the ocean community in Europe and this year the event was organized in cooperation of the Finnish city and the Government of Finland under the theme ‘Investing in competitive blue growth - smart and sustainable solutions’.

Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface and 95% of its biosphere. They are of vital importance to the international community - not only for their living and non-living resources and the shipping and other maritime uses they facilitate, but also for the key role they play in the global climate and weather system.

The marine environment, its resources, and its biodiversity are increasingly threatened by human activities, both maritime and terrestrial. While these threats require dedicated, separate attention, there is increasingly wide support for more holistic and integrated governance approaches that take account of the spatial dimension and functioning of ecosystems.

Given the fragmented nature of existing ocean governance at the global as well as regional levels, the report examines three regional ocean governance mechanisms: UNEP Regional Seas Programmes, Regional Fisheries Bodies and Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs). These regional mechanisms have different mandates, geographical coverage and constituency.

Due to the limited coordination between these mechanisms, overlaps and gaps exist The report therefore analyses the legal, institutional and scientific foundations of the three mechanisms and assesses challenges for cooperation and coordination.

As a way forward, the publication examines different options to improve the ocean governance at the regional level including:

(a) revising the mandate of key players;

(b) strengthening individual mechanisms;

(c) promoting informal cooperation and coordination arrangements; and

(d) better connecting LMEs with other regional ocean governance mechanisms.

When new ocean governance mechanisms are created in future, existing ones should not be bypassed, the report recommends. The LME mechanisms could thus focus on strengthening existing Regional Seas programmes and Regional Fisheries Bodies rather than creating new inter-governmental mechanisms, it proposes.

The report is also relevant to the EU International ocean governance process. A summary of the public consultation on international ocean governance, conducted from June to October 2015, highlighted the importance of regional ocean governance mechanisms in the context of international ocean governance.

European efforts for blue growth and sustainable management of the oceans and seas have a clear link to global efforts on marine environment conservation as called for by Sustainable Development Goal 14.

The report can be downloaded here.

For more information 

Takehiro Nakamura, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),

Kanako Hasegawa, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Phone:+254-20-7624791

UNEP guides countries to stamp out lead in paint

UNEP is providing Central and Eastern European and Central Asian countries with tools to develop legislation stamping out lead in paint.

A regulatory toolkit developed by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint– lead by UNEP and the World Health Organisation - is being presented to 17 countries at a workshop held in Chisinau, Moldova today and tomorrow.

Overall exposure to the heavy metal, often via lead in paint, is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of intellectual disability among children every year, with the vast majority living in low and middle-income countries. Pregnant women are also particularly at risk as exposure can cause miscarriage and other problems, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Out of the 17, only five countries report to have legally-binding controls on lead in paint in place. Globally, 65 governments report to not have legally-binding laws on the topic, while information is lacking for a further 71 countries.

“Children in Europe and around the world have the right to play and paint without being at risk of a serious health hazard. Alternatives to lead in paint are widely available and low in cost. UNEP is pleased to support countries take action to banish this danger for good, following other global successes” underlined Jan Dusik, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe.

“I am confident that the workshop’s outcomes will foster the development of relevant national secondary legislation,” said Valeriu Munteanu, Minister of the Environment of Moldova, at the workshop opening.

Representatives from the following countries are attending the workshop: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Republic of Serbia, Republic of Uzbekistan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

Following a similar workshop held in Addis Ababa last December, 15 East African countries agreed to adopt a legal total lead limit of 90 parts per million for all paints by 2020. Since then, work is already underway between two countries and IPEN, a civil society NGO, to draw up legislation banning lead in paint.

The two-day event – part of a global series - is financed by UNEP and co-hosted by the organisation together with the Government of the Republic of Moldova. 

Chemicals and waste, including lead in paint, will furthermore be discussed at the United Nations Environment Assembly taking place on 23-27 May in Nairobi.

For more information please click here or get in touch with

Photo credit: Anastasia Gangal

For UNEP global news, click here
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