United National Environment Programme (UNEP) is an international environmental organization under the umbrella of the United Nations (UN). New York harbors the headquarters of the UN while Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna have regional offices and this explains why the location of UNEP offices is in Gigiri, Nairobi Kenya.
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Established more than four decades ago, the main purpose of the organization is to correlate human activities with the environment. Fundamentally, UNEP functions in encouraging all sectors within its mandate to preserve and protect the environment. Through voluntary contribution from cluster members and corporate institutions or persons, UNEP acquires finances needed in running and implementing their strategic plans.
Unfortunately, location, bankruptcy, and bureaucracy are some of the challenges that UNEP faces while implementing the strategic plans. Therefore, UNEP, as an environmental organization, provides the funds used to create awareness about human environment; unfortunately, limited financial aids and political issues are some of the challenges the organization experiences.
Under the United Nation system, the United Nation Environmental Program (UNEP) is the main branch that deals with environmental policies. In 1972, the UN assembly established the body to monitor the environment and human activities within the member states and across the world. Although other countries like China are nonmember states, UNEP also monitors their role in preserving or sustaining the natural resources.
With its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and regional offices in other parts of the world (but within member states), UNEP accomplishes its role in controlling human activities like farming, hunting, and industrial activities within the environment. Achim Steiner heads the UNEP activities, and he collaborates with other experts to ensure the continuity of life without negative impacts on the future generations.
Concisely, the purpose of UNEP is to address environmental problems in over fifty states. Internationally, UNEP coordinates or monitors human activities in relation to the environment. Therefore, UNEP facilitates environmental programs at country, regional, and global level.
As aforementioned, the main function of UNEP is to promote environmental science and information (Hiemer 134). Through partnership with corporate institutions, international bodies, nongovernmental organizations, governments of cluster members, and civil societies, UNEP enhances sustainable environmental issues (Rechkemmer 60).
The first function is to monitor climate change in relation to human activities. The past few years have experienced a decline in the forest cover, natural water resources, and wetland areas. Consequently, the weather patterns have changed with increased in global warming, carbon emissions and discharge of greenhouse gases into the environment.
Therefore, UNEP creates awareness about conservation of plants to fight the aforementioned problems. In addition, governments and energy institutions are establishing sources of renewable energy to curb environmental degradation. Secondly, UNEP guides and assesses the environment within countries experiencing political instabilities or natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, wild fires, and tsunamis among others. Thirdly, UNEP restores, monitors, and protects natural ecosystems like the marine, wetlands, and land among others.
The fourth function of UNEP is to govern the environment especially during regional, country, or global developments (Meyer-Ohlendorf and Knigge 30). Fifth, UNEP concentrates on waste management systems in member countries. Through its expertise, UNEP ensures safe disposal of harmful/hazardous wastes like heavy metals to preserve the environment and human health. Finally, it guides, promotes, and assesses the sustainable use of natural resources like land for farming activities or trees for paper manufacturing by human beings.
UNEP relies on financial aid from cluster members countries, international organizations, corporate societies, and private institutions to implement its plans. Major funding for UNEP is from Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, France, and Netherlands.
In addition, other contributions are from trust funds, support kitties, and counterpart groups (bodies within the UN) and the UN regular budget. UNEP uses its funds to implement most of its plans. Commonly, UNEP uses its funds to employ environmental experts who carry out the functions of the organizations.
Secondly, the organization also channels the funds to establish other minor organizations to assist in running its activities. Some of the minor bodies or partnerships under UNEP include Global Programme of Action (GPA), which oversees the pollution of marines especially from land activities, and Montreal protocol that manages the usage of substances that deplete ozone layer, convention of biodiversity, and convention on migratory species/endangered species among others (Meyer-Ohlendorf and Knigge 15).
Moreover, UNEP uses its funds to facilitate and educate communities on emerging issues about the environment. The funds also assist in writing environmental journals and circulars to enhance the creation of environmental awareness or establishment of environmental projects like harvesting of rainwater in rural communities.
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Although UNEP has achieved some of its functions like reduction of carbon emissions, the foremost challenges lie in funding, location of headquarters, and other political issues like leadership. Lack of frequent funding from organizations or member countries is the main problem that UNEP faces.
The financial contributions lack assessment, which makes it hard for the organization to draw its expenditure budget. Sometimes, a member state may decline to assist in a given financial year. Most of the UN organizations’ headquarters are in either New York or Geneva.
However, the offices of UNEP are in Nairobi, Kenya, which has led to disagreements from some of the member states. Other states point at the political instability and safety issues as the major problems in Kenya. Sadly, due its location, other states decline to assist in the funding of the organization. Other problems originate from political issues like leadership, which contribute to instability of the organization.
According to Inavova, UNEP has failed in implementing the principal tasks accorded to it; therefore, environmentalists and policy makers are pushing for restructuring of the institution (10). The recommendation to change the organization from UNEP to UNEO by some of the stakeholder is yet to bear fruits. Furthermore, some of the stakeholders recommend the assessment of funds from voluntary contribution to curb bankruptcy in the organization.
In summary, UNEP is a powerful organization that has led to improvement in environmental activities across the world. Established in 1972, the organization is the UN organization that has seen worldwide partnerships and corporations preserve environmental degradation.
The UNEP’s six main obligations focus on climatic issues, ecosystem preservation, environmental leadership, waste management, and disaster management. Other smaller organizations and agreement under UNEP assist in implementing the functions of UNEP. Although the organization draws most of its finances from voluntary countries, especially from the European Union, bankruptcy is among the main problem it experiences.
Political interference and location of the UNEP’s headquarters are the two other problems the organization is yet to handle. Finally, rebranding of the organization name, activities, and funding are the recommendations environmentalists and other stakeholders are pointing at as the possible solutions.
Hiemer, Matthew. “The UN Environment Programme: Thinking Globally, Retreating Locally”. Yale human rights & development law journal 1.4 (1998): 132-137.
Inavova, Maria. “Can the anchor hold? Rethinking the United Nations environmental Programme for the 21st century”. Yale center for environmental law and policy 7.3 (2002): 9-14.
Meyer-Ohlendorf, Nils, and Knigge, Markus. A UN environmental organization. New York: Center for UN Reform Education, 2007.
Rechkemmer, Andreas. Uneo — Towards an International Environment Organization: Approaches to a Sustainable Reform of Global Environmental Governance. German: Nomos Publishers, 2005.