The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) sees itself as the voice of the environment within the UN. The organisation, which is based in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, has regional offices throughout the world. The Europe regional office is located in Geneva and is supported by additional teams in Brussels, Vienna, Moscow and Paris. UNEP develops international environmental policy and international environmental law, collects data on the environment and draws attention to concrete threats through its reports.
UNEP currently has seven priority areas. For example, UNEP helps individual countries to respond to climate change. It contributes to reducing the risks posed by natural disasters and conflicts, and to improving the management of chemicals and waste. It encourages the Member States to adopt a holistic approach to ecosystems and to practise sustainable water management. It supports the national administrations in the implementation of their environmental policies and contributes to the improvement of the international environmental standards. UNEP provides information and instruments for environmental observation and for the improvement of environmental knowledge. It promotes sustainable consumption and the efficient use of resources. In addition, UNEP contributes to the further development of the green economy concept.
UNEP also makes an important contribution to the development of international agreements and manages some of them. The agreements which UNEP helped to develop include the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer of 1985 and its Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer of 1987. These agreements are managed by the Ozone Secretariat in Nairobi. UNEP operates the joint secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal of 1989, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade of 1998, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants of 2001 in Geneva. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) of 1973 is also administered by UNEP in Geneva.
UNEP was upgraded by the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012. The conference approved the universal membership of UNEP: instead of just 58 states, as previously, all UN Member States are now also UNEP members. It also decided to convene a general assembly of the members every two years and the United Nations Environment Assembly convened in Nairobi in 2014 for the first time. The UNEP share of the regular budget of the United Nations was increased at the Rio conference in 2012. The Member States were also called on to increase their voluntary contributions. Switzerland has long been one of the organisation’s main donor countries.