Community Interviews

Seeking to learn about the history of the global environmental governance system from its architects, the Global Environmental Governance Project aims to create an adequate record of the recollections and observations of key participants involved in the creation and management of the global environmental governance system.

We have begun interviewing individuals who have been intimately engaged in international environmental issues over the past 40 years.

Check out some of these leaders in Governance in Film, or visit the GEG Project on Vimeo for more videos.

People Interviewed to Date

Henrique Cavalcanti has held a number of positions with the Federal Government in Brazil: as Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy (1967-1969), as Deputy Minister of the Interior (1969-1974), during which time he was a member of the Brazilian delegation to the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, and as Federal Minister of Environment and the Amazon (1994). Cavalcanti served as Chairman of the Third Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (1995-1996). Currently, in addition to being an advisor and board member in various organizations, he is a Professor at the Center of Advanced Studies on Government at the University of Brasilia.

Return to Top

Arthur Dahl held various positions within the United Nations Environment Programme between 1989 and 2002, including Deputy to the Director of the Regional Seas Programmes (1989-1992) and Deputy Assistant Executive Director (1996-1998). After his retirement, Dahl continues to consult for UNEP and other international organizations and runs the UNEP/UNITAR/University of Geneva Environmental Diplomacy course for mid-career professionals.

Return to Top

Elizabeth Dowdeswell was Executive Director of UNEP from 1993 to 1997.  Prior to joining UNEP, she served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment Canada and was responsible for the national weather and atmospheric agency. She was a negotiator at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. After leaving UNEP, she founded Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which has been critical in guiding decisions regarding the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. As a former teacher, lecturer and educational consultant, Liz Dowdeswell has continually focused on engaging the public in policy-making and has seen education as a means by which to achieve results. She remains a visiting professor in Public Health and Ethics at the University of Toronto’s McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health. Ms. Dowdeswell is a Director on the Board of several corporations and advises a number of not-for-profit organizations. She also chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee of the new Council of Canadian Academies.

Return to Top

Lars-Göran Engfeldt served as Swedish liaison officer in the secretariat for the Stockholm Conference in the early 1970s, prior to which he worked at the Swedish Mission to the UN in New York. In 1993, he was appointed Ambassador to Kenya and Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN Habitat. For several years, Engfeldt served as Swedish Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro. Since 1998, he has been Chief Negotiator for global environment and sustainable development issues for the Swedish Ministry of Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2001, Engfeldt was Head of Delegation of Sweden on behalf of the European Union to the Ninth Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and subsequently served as a Member of the Bureau of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Return to Top

Richard N. Gardner, Professor of Law and International Organization at Columbia University, joined the Kennedy Administration in 1961, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, a position he held until 1965. During preparations for the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, he served as a special adviser to the United Nations, as he did again later, at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In addition to his teaching career, Gardner currently serves as Senior Counsel to Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius, a global law firm.

Return to Top

Wendy Grieder came to Washington, DC in 1963 to work in Sargent Shriver’s personal office at the Peace Corps. After working for the United States Information Agency and then the McGovern-Shriver 1972 Presidential campaign, she spent six years doing foreign policy and defense work for Senator James Abourezk (1973-1979). Grieder went on to serve as International Activities Specialist in the policy division of the Office of International Activities at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She retired from the EPA in 2007, after twenty-five years of service.

Return to Top

John W. McDonald is considered “the father” of UNEP.  He was the Secretary of the U.S. Delegation to the 1972 Stockholm Conference. While serving as Director of Economic and Social Affairs at the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the US State Department, he initiated a discussion on the creation of a new UN agency for the environment. He was awarded the State Department Superior Honor Award in July 1972 for his work in creating UNEP. With a long history in the US Foreign Service, Ambassador McDonald conducted diplomacy in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He has served as Deputy Director General of the UN International Labor Organization and has carried out a wide variety of assignments for the U.S. State Department in the area of multilateral diplomacy, having been appointed Ambassador four times to represent the United States at various UN World Conferences. After retiring in 1987, he went on to hold several professorial, teaching and lecturing positions at the Foreign Service Institute, the Center for the Study of Foreign Affairs, and the Iowa Peace Institute, which he headed as President from 1988 to 1992. As a co-founder of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in 1992, Ambassador McDonald and his colleagues have been instrumental in defining and applying the concept of multi-track diplomacy, which treats the process of international peacemaking as a web of interconnected activities, individuals, institutions and communities operating together to create peace.

Return to Top

William K. Reilly was a senior staff member of the White House Council on Environmental Quality during the first years of its existence, in the early 1970s. Prior to becoming Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (1989-1993), he was President of the World Wildlife Fund (1985-1989) and The Conservation Foundation (1973-1989). As EPA Administrator, Reilly served as the head of the US delegation to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is currently President and CEO of Aqua International Partners.

Return to Top

William D. Ruckelshaus was the first Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, where he served until 1973. He was a delegate to the Stockholm Conference and representative to the Brundtland Commission. Mr. Ruckelshaus returned to the EPA in 1985 as the fifth Administrator of the agency.  He has served as the US envoy to the Pacific Salmon Treaty in 1999, as Chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for the State of Washington, and as Chair of the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership. In June 2001, he was appointed to the Commission on Ocean Policy, created by Congress in 2000. Mr. Ruckelshaus is currently a Strategic Director in the Madrona Venture Group, and a principal in Madrona Investment Group, L.L.C. (MIG), a Seattle based investment company. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Isilon Systems, is on the board of TVW and of numerous profit and non-profit organizations including The Energy Foundation, Center for Global Development and founding Director of the Initiative for Global Development.

Return to Top

James Gustave Speth was the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean and the Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies until 2009. Previously, Gus Speth served as Administrator of UNDP and Chair of the UN Development Group, was Founder and President of the World Resources Institute, Chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality, and senior attorney and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He has served on the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment, the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development, and the National Commission on the Environment. Gus Speth is the recipient of the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Environmental Law Institute, and the Blue Planet Prize.

Return to Top

Maurice F. Strong was the first Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) from 1973-1975, after guiding its founding as Secretary-General of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment. Strong was also the Secretary-General for the 1992UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio Earth Summit). His career has spanned over five decades at some of Canada’s major energy companies, including the Power Corporation of Canada, Ontario Hydro, and Petro-Canada (the national oil company). From 2005-2006, he was a Personal Envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Korean Peninsula. Maurice Strong is now an Honorary Professor at Peking University, the Honorary Chairman of the Peking University Environmental Foundation and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Research on Security and Sustainability for Northeast Asia.

Return to Top

Mostafa K. Tolba was the Head of Egyptian Delegation to the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, and became the first Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme in 1973. He served as Deputy Executive Director until 1976 when he became the Executive Director of UNEP until 1992. In this capacity, he also provided leadership in the formation and implementation of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Dr. Tolba is currently the President of the International Centre for Environment and Development, Professor Emeritus at Cairo University, and Chairman of the Egyptian Consultants for Environment and Development.

Return to Top

Russell E. Train was the first Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality(1970-1973) and the head of the US delegation to the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1973, he was appointed Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (1973-1977). Prior to becoming its Chairman (1985-1994), Train served as President of the World Wildlife Fund-U.S (1978-1985). After a long career, he continues to serve the World Wildlife Fund as Chairman Emeritus.

Return to Top