Photo: UNEP Chief Inger Andersen (left) and her deputy Joyce Msuya. Credit: UN Environment - Photo: 2019

Danish Environmentalist Takes Over as UNEP Chief

By Radwan Jakeem

NEW YORK | NAIROBI (IDN) – Danish economist and environmentalist Inger Andersen, who took over as Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, brings to the role a passion for conservation and sustainable development, promising to prioritize greater action on climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution during her four-year tenure.

“I am proud and excited to begin work at the UN Environment Programme in beautiful Kenya at a critical time for humanity,” she said. “Good environmental stewardship has never been more important. Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution in all its forms pose a clear and present danger to human and planetary health, and to prosperity.”

She takes over from Joyce Msuya, of the United Republic of Tanzania, who has served as acting head of the organization since late last year, and will continue as Deputy Executive Director.

Andersen said she would not be in this job if she did not have hope. “From environmental and scientific assessments we know that it is entirely possible for humanity to fix the problems we have caused. Now, more than ever, the will to act is in place.”

This is clearly visible in the increased ambition of governments, stronger private sector engagement and, of course, the unstoppable rise of global movements led by young people crying out for change, she said obliquely referring to ‘Fridays for Future’.

Andersen said she would work with “partners and donors, to define the priorities of an organization that is central to our aspirations of a sustainable and equitable world”.

She added: “The best tool at our disposal is global unity. With challenges as monumental as those we all face, we will succeed together or we will fail together. I will be looking to deepen collaboration with the UN Environment Programme’s partners, old and new, to work towards a healthy environment that allows all of humanity to thrive.”

Andersen demonstrated her passion for conservation and sustainable development throughout over 30 years in international development economics, environmental sustainability and policy-making, designing and implementing projects and generating on-the-ground impact.

Between January 2015 and May 2019, she was the Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Prior to joining IUCN, Andersen held various leadership roles at the World Bank: she served as Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa, Vice President for Sustainable Development and Head of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) Fund Council.

Prior to her time at the World Bank, she worked at the United Nations for 12 years. She started in the UN Sudano-Sahelian Office, focusing on drought and desertification issues, before being appointed as the UN Development Programme’s Water and Environment Coordinator for the Arab Region.

Andersen’s educational background includes a BA from London Metropolitan University North and an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, with a specialization in development economics.

She was nominated for the post by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and approved by the General Assembly in February 2019. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 June 2019]

Photo: UNEP Chief Inger Andersen (left) and her deputy Joyce Msuya. Credit: UN Environment

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