The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty

The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty

The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty

The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty


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The past, present, and possible future of the agency designed to act as "the world's environmental conscience."

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) was founded in 1972 as a nimble, fast, and flexible entity at the core of the UN system--a subsidiary body rather than a specialized agency. It was intended to be the world's environmental conscience, an anchor institution that established norms and researched policy, leaving it to other organizations to carry out its recommendations. In this book, Maria Ivanova offers a detailed account of UNEP's origin and history. Ivanova counters the common criticism that UNEP was deficient by design, arguing that UNEP has in fact delivered on much (though not all) of its mandate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262542104
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 02/23/2021
Series: One Planet
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Maria Ivanova is is Associate Professor of Global Governance and Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Ivanova is also a visiting scholar at the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT.

Table of Contents

Series foreword ix

Foreword John W. McDonald xi

Preface xv

Cast of characters xxvii

List of abbreviations xlv

List of figures and tables xlix

1 UNEP: The past and potential of a global environmental institution 1

Anchor Institution for the Global Environment 6

The Creation Claims of Deficiency by Design 12

Goal Attainment and Problem Resolution 16

Capacity, Connectivity, Credibility 19

2 Deliberate design: form, function, finances, and location 25

Obstacle Course on the Road to Stockholm 26

Crafting Stockholm's Institutional Legacy 33

Why UNEP Is Not a Specialized Agency 35

Voluntary Financing as an Expression of Expansion Expectations 39

Founding UNEP in Nairobi 45

Conclusion 52

3 Delivering on an evolving mandate: reconciling normative and operational expectations 55

Competition and Coherence Challenges in the UN System 60

What Is Measured Is Managed 71

Creating Domestic and International Environmental Law 81

Conclusion 88

4 Addressing environmental problems: successes and challenges 91

Ozone Depletion 93

Marine Pollution 98

Desertification 99

Chemicals and Hazardous Waste 102

Climate Change 107

Biodiversity 110

Forests 114

Conclusion 115

5 Place matters: impacts of location on capacity and connectivity 117

Kenya's Powerful Promise 120

The Nairobi Paradox 121

Location Influence on UNEP 128

UNEP's Impact on Kenya 135

Conclusion 138

6 Executive leadership: the individual and the institution 141

Maurice Strong (1973-1975) 145

Mostafa Tolba (1976-1992) 152

Elizabeth Dowdeswell (1993-1998) 161

Klaus Töpfer (1998-2006) 170

Achim Steiner (2006-2016) 178

Erik Solheim (2016-2018) 185

Conclusion 194

7 The UNEP we need: potential for transformation 199

UNEP's Successes and Challenges 200

Permanence and Transience of Reform 203

Delivering on UNEP's Potential 211

Champion of the Earth 230

Notes 235

Bibliography 285

Index 317

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Ivanova’s book, by far the most profound and insightful analysis of UNEP, combines the author’s research rigor with her heartfelt humanity.”
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010–2016)
“Many promise but few deliver the kind of solid scholarship with policy pertinence as Ivanova has done for the ideational impact of UNEP, the undervalued ‘anchor’ in the battle to thwart the existential threat of climate change. Thoughtful, original, and hard-hitting.”
Thomas G. Weiss, Presidential Professor of Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center
“A must-read for scholars, policymakers, activists, and industry—especially those tasked with leading humanity out of the current global environmental crisis.”
Zakri Abdul Hamid, Former Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia

"Ivanova’s authoritative history of UNEP tells the story of how we have tried, succeeded, and failed to protect the environment. As multiple global crises trace their origins to nature’s destruction, this is essential reading."
—Rachel Kyte, Dean, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

“Ivanova’s in-depth, down-to-earth analysis of the evolution of UNEP provides essential lessons and perspective for enhancing global environmental governance. A genuinely captivating book!”
Ado Lõhmus, Permanent Representative of Estonia to UNEP and Vice-President of the UNEA-5 

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