JEJU (SOUTH KOREA) – One day before the end of Asia’s first Global Ministerial Environment Forum here , Friends of the Earth International called for the transformation of UNEP, the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme, into a UN Environment Organisation.
According to Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation, the existing system of international environmental governance is too weak and ineffective.
The call was made to some ninety environment ministers gathering here at international environment talks taking place March 29-31 in light of the rapid deterioration of the world’s water resources, urban environments, oceans, forests and other ecosystems.
Ministers are convening on the South Korean island of Jeju for the 8th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum. They are discussing, among other issues, the strengthening of international environmental governance. Several governments, such as the French government, have already expressed their support for the reform of the UN Environment Program into a UN Environment Organisation, which would have the same membership and funding basis as other UN specialised agencies.
According to Friends of the Earth, a UN Environment Organisation should provide effective financial, technical and political support for the coherent and coordinated improvement and implementation of existing environmental agreements. Additionally, it should ensure compliance of governments, international economic institutions and transnational corporations with the numerous international agreements that have been concluded over the past decades. 
“There are hundreds of international environmental treaties, but they are hardly being complied with,” said Ricardo Navarro, chair of Friends of the Earth International in Jeju.
“Governments, transnational corporations, and international economic institutions, like the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, are often neglecting legally binding commitments of treaties such as the Convention on Climate Change,” he added.
“Meanwhile, the dispute settlement mechanism of the World Trade Organisation clashes with the development of environmental regulations, as countries are afraid that these regulations will be deemed incompatible with WTO agreements. UNEP should reaffirm that multilateral environmental agreements, and not the World Trade Organisation, have the primary competence to determine environmental objectives and the necessity of trade measures in environmental agreements” added Alexandra Wandel of Friends of the Earth in Brussels (Belgium).
Friends of the Earth International is also calling for a joint UN review of the impacts of existing trade agreements on sustainable development, and the establishment of a world commission on trade and agriculture, which should review the impacts of existing trade agreements on sustainable agriculture and food security. Moreover Friends of the Earth is calling upon Governments to review existing environmental agreements and divest them of counterproductive market based solutions that run against the objectives of promoting equitable and sustainable societies.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT FRIENDS OF THE EARTH IN JEJU (SOUTH KOREA):
Ricardo Navarro, chair of Friends of the Earth International: +82-(0)16-730-4325
Kim Choony of KFEM / Friends of the Earth-Korea: +82-(0)16-730-4325 or email@example.com
Alexandra Wandel, European Trade Coordinator (in Brussels): + 32 -497 90 80 68
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 Ministers gather 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.