Alliances between international organizations

Gaetano Leone

Gaetano Leone, UNEP

Gaetano Leone is Officer-in-Charge at the Regional Office for Europe at UNEP Geneva.

UNEP in Europe

Europe remains a critical region for UNEP

One of six regional offices, UNEP Geneva is home to the Regional Office for Europe, responsible for supporting the regional delivery of UNEP's program and building partnerships with governments and civil society.

Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, the United Nations Environment Programme relies on its six regional offices to ensure that its activities respond to the particular needs of each region. While each part of the world is special in its own way, what makes Europe unique for UNEP is that so many substantive activities and treaty secretariats are based here.

In addition to the many UNEP offices established in Geneva at the International Environment House, UNEP maintains its Division for Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) in Paris and its Global Programme of Action on Land-based Sources of Pollution (GPA) in The Hague. Other UNEP-linked offices in the region are hosted in Arendal, Norway; Riso, Denmark; Athens, Greece; and Vienna, Austria. The Geneva-based Regional Office for Europe (ROE) also maintains liaison offices in Brussels (for the EU) and Moscow.

Like its counterparts elsewhere, the Regional Office for Europe is tasked with promoting coherence among UNEP's diverse activities in the region. Many of these activities are managed from the divisions located at headquarters, but ROE often plays a direct role in their regional delivery. The office also liaises with European governments, which are invaluable supporters of UNEP's program and mandate, and with other UN bodies based in the region.

UNEP's dense European network of offices and activities creates many opportunities for building partnerships with governments, nongovernmental organizations and other intergovernmental bodies. Many of these partners support UNEP by, for example, providing inputs into the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) process or helping to prepare the annual Civil Society Forum.

UNEP ROE collaborates with the International Olympic Committee on the greening of the Olympics.

Much of UNEP's focus in Europe is directed toward supporting the Balkans sub-region as well as the so-called EECCA countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. This involves providing technical assistance, training and advisory services on a wide range of issues. Key partners in this work include UNDP, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), WWF-International, the Regional Environmental Centre (REC) and of course the European Union.

In addition to these dynamic relationships, UNEP also maintains a special network of some 30 partners known as UNEP National Committees. Representing a wide range of constituencies committed to environmental objectives, these multi-stakeholder organizations include environmental and development NGOs, UN Associations, news media, industry and labor, the scientific community, women, youth, indigenous peoples' organizations, community groups, governments and prominent individuals.

National committees are channels for communicating with the general public in each country. They help to increase public awareness of UNEP's mandate and mission, promote public support for UNEP's work, draw attention to global, regional and national environmental problems and concerns, and mobilize resources for the solution of environmental problems. The committees also assist UNEP in organizing special events, public information campaigns and workshops on various environmental issues.

While each of UNEP's various European-based convention secretariats and substantive offices focuses on its specific mandate, the Regional Office for Europe has a much broader remit for promoting UNEP's general interests. This includes fostering partnerships and promoting public awareness.

For example, ROE organizes World Environment Day celebrations every year on 5 June, makes presentations to the permanent diplomatic missions, reaches out to civil society audiences such as student groups and collaborates with the International Olympic Committee on the greening of the Olympics. It also implements substantive projects in the fields of environment and security and sustainable consumption and production and supports the Environment for Europe process.

Europe is clearly set to remain a critical region for UNEP as a source of funding, expertise and partnerships. But UNEP is also committed to giving back to the region as much as it receives through innovative projects and the ongoing regional dialogue on how Europe can best contribute to protecting the global environment.