Danish economist and environmentalist, Inger Andersen, on Saturday, June 15, 2019 took up her new role as Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), promising to prioritise greater action on climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution during her four-year tenure.
Ms. Andersen was nominated for the post by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and approved by the General Assembly in February 2019.
“I am proud and excited to begin work at the UN Environment Programme in beautiful Kenya at a critical time for humanity,” said Ms. Andersen. “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 went further: “But I would not be in this job if I 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. We see this clearly 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.
“In the coming weeks and months, I will work with the committed and excellent staff of the UN Environment Programme, and all of our partners and donors, to define the priorities of an organization that is central to our aspirations of a sustainable and equitable world.
“What I can say now is that 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.”
Ms. Andersen brings to the role a passion for conservation and sustainable development, demonstrated throughout over 30 years in international development economics, environmental sustainability and policymaking, designing and implementing projects and generating on-the-ground impact.
Between January 2015 and May 2019, Ms. Andersen was the Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Prior to joining IUCN, Ms 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 Centres (CGIAR) Fund Council.
Prior to her time at the World Bank, Ms. Andersen 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.
Ms. 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 specialisation in development economics.
She takes over from Joyce Msuya, of the United Republic of Tanzania, who has served as acting head of the organisation since late last year. Ms. Msuya will continue as Deputy Executive Director.