|The Malawi delegation that attended the meeting|
The Environment Assembly becomes the universal body and replaces the Governing Council, which had limited members.
In his welcome remarks, outgoing Governing Council President, Hassan Abdel Hilal who is Sudan’s Minister of Environment, Forests and Physical Development said UNEA represents a “ground-breaking platform for leadership in environmental policy and is set to make strategic decisions, provide political guidance and promote a science-policy interface.”
The first and newly elected UNEA president Oyun Sanjaasuren, reminded delegates at the conference of the grave global environment and development challenges that stem from an increasing global population which is now projected to hit 11 billion at the end of the century.
She highlighted UNEA’s position to deliberate on two priority areas which are sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda and illegal trade in wildlife.
Illegal trade in wildlife and timber topped the discussions at the conference with many African countries facing dwindling numbers in wildlife related tourism.
UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said that illegal trade in wildlife, a US$200 billion per year market is connected to human and arms trafficking and he stated that it not only threatens endangered species, but human livelihoods too.
Apart from the president of the assembly also elected eight vice presidents and one rapporteur.