Global Environmental Governance Forum (2009): Reflecting on the Past, Moving into the Future
June 28 – July 2, 2009 in Glion, Switzerland

Convened by 
The Global Environmental Governance (GEG) Project 
[which became the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Boston]


In cooperation with 
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center (HoA-REC) 


With financial support from 
The United Nations Foundation, UNEP, HoA-REC and the governments of 
Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland


     In 2009, the Global Environmental Governance (GEG) Forum (2009): Reflecting on the Past, Moving into the Future brought together for the first and only time all five consecutive executive directors of UNEP until that date: Maurice Strong, Mostafa Tolba, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Klaus Töpfer, and Achim Steiner. Eighty global environmental leaders, including founders and directors of key international institutions and emerging young leaders, gathered to reflect on the past and envision the future. 














     The motivating vision for the Forum was a reinvigorated environmental governance system able to effectively tackle global environmental challenges. The goals were to: 

  1. inspire and foster renewed global environmental governance leadership

  2. inject new vigor and thinking into the contemporary negotiations on international environmental governance and on climate change

  3. generate possible options for environmental governance reform 


     Constructive dialogue was at the core of the Forum. The culmination of a decade of analytical and policy work, the Forum brought together generations of environmental leaders to sit down face to face and draw lessons from the past to inform the future. Phase I focused on examining the original vision for the system with its architects and current managers and exploring ideas for broader reforms. In Phase II, the emerging leaders took on an active role and engaged in structured discussion on how to build on what they had learned from the deliberations. See Forum Agenda 

Ambassador John W. McDonald’s narrative of the original vision for a new international environmental organization and his account of the decisions on UNEP’s location in Nairobi framed the discussions. The stories of Bill Ruckelshaus, the first Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency; of Ambassador Lars-Göran Engfeldt who was Sweden’s Liaison Officer at the 1972 Stockholm Conference; of Jim MacNeill, the Secretary General of the 1987 Brundtland Commission; of Michael Zammit Cutajar, the first Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change painted a complex picture of ambitious vision, limited capacity, strained connectivity, and missed opportunities. The five Executive Directors shared their visions on UNEP’s future and ideas for moving forward. The dialogue in Glion broke boundaries and forged lasting connections. It led to national dialogues on global environmental governance in Argentina, China, Nepal, Ethiopia, and Uganda that the emerging leaders hosted.

     Through intense deliberations and animated discussions, the Forum articulated ideas. It forged connections and collaborations and created a network of emerging environmental leaders dedicated to working for sound global management of environmental issues of international importance. Indeed, the baton was passed from one generation to another. 

Vision Statement

Our vision is to establish a leading intellectual hub that connects scholars and practitioners worldwide, linking analytical rigor and policy action on issues of environment, development, and sustainability governance.


Center for Governance & Sustainability

UMass Boston

Wheatley Hall, 4th Floor, Room 126
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.

Boston, MA 02125 USA


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Home Page Video Credit: Emily Moothart