11 Dec 2019 Speech Environmental rights and governance

148th Committee of Permanent Representatives

Photo by UNEP / Florian Fussstetter

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First and foremost, I would like to extend to you my warmest welcome to this 148th meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives.

It has been two months since our last meeting, and it’s an opportunity for me to brief you on the developments that have taken place since then – both on the environment and within the United Nations Environment Programme.

It has been a packed period, marked in large part by the release of the UNEP Emissions Gap Report - a key pillar of the science behind the need for collective, positive climate action.

If we had acted on the Emissions Report when it was first released ten years ago, we would have needed to reduce emissions by 3.3 per cent each year. Now, we need deep and sustained cuts to reduce emissions by 7.6 per cent every year until 2030 to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s a five-fold increase in ambition!

If we do not act now, we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren a planet that will see mass extinctions, a planet that will become unbearably hot and largely inhabitable.

The good news is that we have the solutions: whether it is to invest in renewable energy; build cities more in tune with nature; prioritize mass transit systems and ensure that those most vulnerable to transformations are protected. It is in this push that we are enabled by a world where climate change is more in public imagination than ever before.

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stressed, the COP25 summit currently underway in Madrid clearly marks the "point of no return" for humanity.

And as we follow COP 25, I am so proud that UNEP-supported science has received unprecedented attention among policymakers and the public at large, with mention in more than 3000 media outlets, across 96 countries and 27 languages.

I am thankful for the leadership of the Committee of Permanent Representatives that is enabling us to further strengthen our science-policy interface role. We will hear about this report in more detail later today, where you will have an opportunity to engage directly with one of the main authors of the report.

The Multilateral Environmental Agreements that dock at UNEP have continued to forge ahead in the management of critical environmental challenges.

At the 31st Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, member states decided on further action to counteract the unexpected emissions of CFC-11, with preliminary data showing that the emissions have decreased in 2018 and 2019.

The Minamata Convention continued its important work on protecting human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury. It reviewed its Financial Mechanism, adopted the first-ever guidance on the Management of Contaminated Sites, and a much-awaited decision on mercury waste thresholds.

I was pleased to be able to attend COP 21 of the Barcelona Convention earlier this month which adopted 14 decisions on pollution and marine litter, biodiversity and marine protected areas, blue economy and integrated coastal management.

And finally, the third meeting of the ad hoc open-ended expert group on marine litter and micro-plastics brought together representatives from 85 member states, UN agencies, multilateral environmental agreement secretariats; and major groups and stakeholders in Bangkok in November.

Moving from the external to the internal, and against the backdrop of daunting environmental challenges which seem to stack up a bit higher each day, UNEP has embarked on a transformation process to ensure that we deepen our relevance and accelerate effectiveness.

In this spirit, our focus is on three pillars: strategic, behavioural and operational. The development of UNEP’s next Medium Term Strategy fits firmly in the strategic pillar, where we in turn will seek to raise our ambitions.

Changes are already taking place. Our Corporate Services Director has kept you updated on efforts to establish our “five lines of defence”, an initiative that will strengthen our efficiency and accountability. We are proud to say that this quarter we took this work to the next level by gathering over 100 staff for a Corporate Academy here in Nairobi, aimed at supporting staff in continuous learning and development experiences; and capacity and skill building.

I am also personally overseeing an end-to-end review of our entire project review process, including examining project selection, monitoring and delivery of results. Our aim is to make UNEP an even more compelling and essential proposition to our many partners.

On UN reform, our focus continues to be on implementing the roadmap that we have set out for ourselves. This is a learning curve and I look forward to updating you on our progress soon.

Above all, we are working hard to ensure that we are more efficient, effective and accountable than ever before.

Later today, we will brief you on UNEP’s funding, which is essential to ensuring we are able to deliver on the Programme of Work entrusted to us.

For 2019, we have received contributions amounting to $69.5 million. This represents just over 50 percent of our approved budget. So far, 77 Member States have contributed or pledged to contribute, and we thank you for the trust placed in UNEP. There is still time to meet the remaining target for 2019, and I urge you all to show the strength of our universal membership in addressing current and future challenges.
Finally, please allow me to provide you with an update on senior recruitments. I’m pleased to inform you that over the last two months we have announced a number of senior-level appointments namely:

  • Elizabeth Mrema, Acting Executive Secretary at the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Monika Stankiewicz, incoming Executive Secretary at Minamata (my huge thanks to Rosana for her tremendous leadership thus far)
  • Monika MacDevette, Head Chemicals Branch in the Economy Division
  • Elisabeth Turnbull-Brown, Deputy Director at Corporate Services Division

We have a number of other senior vacancies currently in our recruitment pipeline and we will keep you posted. 

So, with this, allow me to end by wishing you all a peaceful and energizing end of the year. I look forward to regrouping next year and moving full speed ahead in the decade of action that awaits us.

Asante sana

Thank you.


Joyce Msuya

Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment Programme