Following his nomination by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the General Assembly today elected Erik Solheim of Norway to a four-year term as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
He will succeed Achim Steiner of Germany, to whom the Secretary-General conveys his gratitude and appreciation for having managed, during his 10-year tenure, to inspire and lead significant transformation of UNEP into a strategically powerful and substantively confident organization. Mr. Steiner’s leadership and tangible achievements as Chair of the High-Level Committee on Programmes, the principal mechanism for coordination of the United Nations system, are praiseworthy.
Mr. Solheim is currently Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a post he has held since 2013, and serves as UNEP’s Special Envoy for environment, conflict and disaster. Known in Norway as the “green” politician, he held the combined portfolio of Minister for the Environment and International Development between 2007 and 2012, later serving as Minister for International Development from 2005 to 2007.
Having spent most of his career fighting for the environment in national and global politics, including through non-governmental organizations and during his combined ministerial tenure, Mr. Solheim has focussed on the challenge of integrating environmental and developmental issues. During his tenure, Norway dedicated 1 per cent of gross national income to overseas development assistance, and passed the unique Nature Diversity Act. He initiated the process leading to the formation of the global coalition to conserve and promote sustainable use of the world’s rainforests — the UN-REDD [United Nations Collaborative Prgramme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] — gaining invaluable diplomatic and organizational experience.
The holder of an undergraduate degree in history and social studies from the University of Oslo, Mr. Solheim has received several awards for his work on climate and environment, including UNEP’s “Champion of the Earth” award. He has contributed to a number of peace and reconciliation efforts, most notably as chief negotiator of the peace process in Sri Lanka.
Born in 1955, he is married and has four children.