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Unep chief Erik Solheim resigns

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Erik Solheim
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for environment Erik Solheim speaks during the 2018 edition of World Trade Organisation public forum on sustainable trade in Geneva. Solheim resigned on November 20, 2018 after an audit questioning his huge travel expenses triggered an outcry. PHOTO | FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP  

United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) Executive Director Erik Solheim has announced his resignation with effect from November 22, 2018.

This has come after receiving the final report on the audit of official travel undertaken by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services.

“Moments ago, with a heavy heart, I informed the Secretary-General (António Guterres) of my decision. He indicated that he will shortly be appointing an Officer in Charge of the Organisation.

It is my most sincere hope that this proves to be in the best interest of UN Environment and the wider UN. Despite the challenges this moment brings, I also hope each of you will take pride in what we have achieved together,” said Mr Solheim in a statement.

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He mentioned that in 2017, he heeded the call of the Secretary-General that it was time for a dramatic change in culture to take the UN in a new and exciting direction and ensure that the organisation remains relevant to address the challenges of the 21st century.

“I wanted UN Environment to be a lead agency for reform, even if it raised some questions. Doing things differently is never easy and I will depart knowing I never spared a moment in my effort to implement this vision and leave UN Environment more capable and more impactful,” he added.

He acknowledged all the inspiring colleagues who worked tirelessly to bring the organisation closer to member states and engage on the frontlines of the most urgent environmental issues, noting that he is only sorry that the journey has come to an end, hoping they will continue to take forward this vision.

“I have been and remain committed to doing what I believe to be in the best interest of UN Environment and the mission we are here to achieve,” he stated.

Mr Solheim, who took over from Achim Steiner as the Executive Director of the Nairobi-based UN Environment, had come under criticism for allegedly, in just 22 months, spending millions of shillings in unnecessary travel expenses, according to a draft audit report of official travel.

He however maintains that irrespective of the circumstances, he still remains a committed friend of UN Environment.

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