JEJU (SOUTH KOREA) – Friends of the Earth International today denounced the US efforts to undermine the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Some 90 ministers participated in Asia’s first Global Ministerial Environment Forum that ended today on the island of Jeju in South Korea. [1]

All countries present at the meeting but one, the US, seemed united in their recognition that UNEP is currently too small, too weak, too ineffective and too badly funded to deal effectively with the wide range of global environmental problems the world is facing. US delegates in Jeju blocked practically every concrete proposal to strengthen this UN institution, making the outcome of this ministerial meeting effectively meaningless.

Meanwhile, the French government, with support from the European Union, is actively trying to strengthen UNEP, with a view of turning it into a UN ‘specialized agency’. Friends of the Earth supports the proposal for such a ‘UN Environment Organization’, as it would greatly enhance the authority, effectiveness and financial basis of the most important UN institution in the field of the environment.

“A strong UN environment institution is urgently needed to ensure compliance with the numerous multilateral environmental agreements concluded over the past years,” said Ricardo Navarro, chair of Friends of the Earth International, in Jeju.

UNEP does not have a reliable public funding base, and this one of its main problems, according to Friends of the Earth.

“The current dependence of UNEP on voluntary contributions from Northern governments and industry is seriously undermining its effectiveness and even its legitimacy.” said Simone Lovera, International Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth. “As a result, most of its initiatives to ensure implementation and compliance are targeted towards developing countries, while some Northern countries are much more behind as far as the implementation of treaties are concerned,” she added.

Ministers also discussed the environmental dimension of reaching the UN ‘Millennium Development Goal’ of halving, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. While Ministers clearly acknowledged the need for coherent and sustainable legal, regulatory and institutional arrangements, Friends of the Earth deplores that no specific reference was made to the negative impacts of privatization of water resources, nor to the threats the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which often imposes such privatization processes, poses to sustainable water management and the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.


Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International: +82-(0)16-730-4325 (number valid until Apr. 1st only)
Simone Lovera, International Campaign Coordinator: +82-(0)18-6964091 (number valid until Apr. 1st only)
Kim Choony, KFEM / Friends of the Earth-Korea: +82-(0)16-730-4325


[1] Official website: Ministers met from 29 to 31 March 2004 on the South Korean island of Jeju for the 8th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum.