The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) marked its
25th anniversary last December in a state of disarray. UNEP is arguably
the world's most important international environmental agency. No other
organization can match its track record of success in coordinating the
negotiation and implementation of international environmental treaties.
But since early 1997, UNEP has been on the brink of bankruptcy and
institutional extinction; and now, facing pressure to reform, the
organization is likely to pursue policies that would aggravate tensions over
environmental policy between the industrialized North and the developing
According to its critics, UNEP has drastically overextended its
mandate over the past decade by failing to set clear priorities and by
undertaking missions and projects for which it lacks the resources and
expertise to implement. In so doing, the organization has drained both its
coffers and its credibility, while confidence in the agency has eroded
among the richer nations that fund most of its operations. At a time when
the United Nations (UN) in general is under tremendous pressure to
downsize and reduce costs, UNEP has come to be seen by many donor
governments as a wasteful and ineffective bureaucracy.
"The UN Environment Programme: Thinking Globally, Retreating Locally,"
Yale Human Rights and Development Journal: Vol. 1
, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yhrdlj/vol1/iss1/6