Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

On recent publication in “Financial Times” on the situation around the re-election of the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations expresses concern over the recent publication in “Financial Times” (dated January 7) of an unbalanced and politically biased article on the situation around the re-election of the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Since June last year (not only after publication of a UNEP report on Ukraine in October as suggested by the FT), we have been in consultation with the Secretary-General on the fair geographical representation in the leadership of UNEP. We made a point that these discussions should remain professional, constructive, and confidential in accordance with established UN practices to avoid politicization and unnecessary personification.

However, the information was leaked to the press, apparently, in an attempt to exert pressure on the debate in the General Assembly, which we find inappropriate.

In this context, the Russian Mission would like to put the facts straight.

Indeed, Russia is not satisfied with the nomination by the Secretary-General of the current UNEP Executive Director, a Danish national, to be re-elected by the UN General Assembly for another four years because it would constitute a perpetualisation of a very unhealthy and discriminatory practice of nominating solely representatives of western countries to this high office. Out of seven Executive Directors of UNEP six were from either Europe or Canada. This is a clear violation of the spirit of Article 101 of the UN Charter and resolution 5/13 of the UN Environment Assembly adopted by consensus in February 2022 on fair geographical representation in the Secretariat of UNEP.

Inevitably, this practice leads to the domination of western staff in the UNEP Secretariat and serves the environmental priorities of a certain group of countries thus narrowing the scope of UNEP activities and leaving out the potential of national experience and aspirations of the developing countries which, ideally, should be the main beneficiaries of its work. 

It also creates the risk of erosion of the donor base of UNEP (currently, 119 countries do not make any voluntary contributions to the Environment Fund, which shows a lack of ownership on their part), as well as politicization of multilateral environmental cooperation.

We believe that it is high time to strengthen the geographic balance in UNEP and to enable a representative of the developing world to guide this organization. 

For this to happen, the Secretary-General should announce the vacancy of Executive Director of UNEP for the next term and initiate a standard process of selection through open and participatory consultations with the Member-States. This would fully comply with the letter and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and ensure that the best candidate is chosen and approved by all Member States.

The term of the incumbent Executive Director of UNEP expires only on 14 June 2023. To rush the current candidate through the General Assembly at this stage is untimely. We should avoid an unprecedented vote on a candidate for the position of a Head of a UN Programme and a disregard of clearly stated concerns and objections from a number of Member States from various Regional Groups to the European nominee.