Thursday, 3 March 2022 saw the coming together of presidents, high-level officials, and others in a special session to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP@50), themed “strengthening UNEP for the implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Throughout the day, delegates heard speeches commemorating 50 years of environmental multilateralism under UNEP, and were treated to dazzling music and dance performances.
During opening statements, UNEA-6 President Leyla Benali outlined achievements of UNEP since its creation, calling on delegates to swing the pendulum to the next level in the coming years. Abdulla Shahid, President of the UN General Assembly, congratulated UNEP on its 50 years of being at the forefront of environmental action.
Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), underlined UNEP’s achievements, including on awareness raising, environmental advocacy, and education. Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, said that “we are standing on the shoulders of giants” whose pioneering work laid the foundations for today’s environmental multilateralism.
During national statements, delegates heard from heads of states and other dignitaries, thanking Nairobi and Kenya for hosting UNEP, and commending UNEP for its role in ensuring collective action for sustainable development and addressing the triple planetary crisis. Many reiterated their countries’ commitments to environmental multilateralism, transformative change that leaves no one behind, and enhancing synergies between MEAs.
UNEP Executive Director Andersen presented a report on progress on enhancing the science-policy interface of UNEP with its annex titled “Reflecting on the Past and Imagining the Future.” Yugratna Srivastava, Major Group for Children and Youth, and Stephen Stec, Scientific and Technological Community Major Group, presented the “UNEP We Want Report,” with Srivastava reminding delegates that, “the time is ticking, we do not have the next 50 years to solve the environmental crisis.”