Swiss hail progress at environment conference

Water is key in the fight against poverty, says Roch Keystone

The head of the Swiss environment agency, Philippe Roch, says he is satisfied with the outcome of a United Nations environment meeting, held in Nairobi.

This content was published on February 25, 2005

Among the topics discussed were the link between poverty and the environment, as well as the protection of the world’s drinking-water reserves.

More than 1,000 delegates - including around 100 ministers - from nearly 140 countries attended the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting, which was held at its headquarters in the Kenyan capital.

Officials considered how boosting the environment could help achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals on reducing hunger, poverty and disease by the target date of 2015.

Speaking at the end of the conference on Friday, Roch told swissinfo that delegates had agreed on a text which, for the first time, linked the protection of the environment to the fight against poverty.

"There is a very strong link between the protection of the environment and development and this is the first time that the message has been this clear at a ministerial level at a UNEP meeting," said Roch.

He added that representatives from UNEP were due to present the evidence linking the environment and the Millennium Goals to a UN meeting in New York in September.


Switzerland, which is a member of UNEP’s governing council, also called for more action over the protection of the world’s drinking-water reserves.

Roch said that clean water was key in the fight against poverty, but warned that some people had yet to understand this.

"People are only slowly becoming aware that we have to take care of water from start to finish, including the sources, distribution and cleanliness of water," said Roch.

Other topics up for discussion were the reinforcement of UNEP’s international role and the UNEP as the reference for world environmental policy.

Roch said that the fact that more than 100 ministers had attended the meeting was a sign of UNEP’s growing importance.

"Countries are increasingly realising that there is a strong link between environmental conservation and their future, and this leads to them wanting more environment measures," Roch told swissinfo.

"But when it comes to taking these measures, there are still a lot of objections and excuses. This is a big worry because we are not putting measures into practice quickly enough, especially when you consider all the problems that exist."


Key facts

UNEP was created in 1972.
The current director is the German national, Klaus Topfer.
UNEP's tasks include assessing environmental conditions, helping transfer environmental knowledge and technologies and developing legal instruments.
The UNEP budget is around SFr160 million ($138 million) over the next two years. Switzerland contributed SFr3.5 million in 2005.

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