Mostafa Tolba, Environmental Leader and UNEP Executive Director (1975-1992), Passes at Age 93
March 29, 2016  //  By:   //  Blog Post  //  No Comment
UNEP Directors Glion

From left to right, the five successive Executive Directors of UNEP: Achim Steiner, Klaus Topfer, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Mostafa Tolba, and Maurice Strong

Former Executive Director of UNEP Mostafa Tolba passed away on March 28th, 2016, at the age of 93. The global environmental governance community mourns the loss of one of its visionary leaders. Tolba was a scholar, a government official, and an international defender of the environment. He earned a PhD from Imperial College in London and published dozens of academic papers and hundreds of articles and statements on environmental issues. He was a minister in Egypt, headed up the Egyptian delegation to the historic 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, and was appointed Deputy Executive Director of UNEP in 1973.

In 1975, he replaced Maurice Strong as Executive Director and began his 17-year tenure in that position. Quickly, Tolba emerged as a leading voice for the environment. Under his direction, UNEP played a key leadership role in some of the world’s most important multilateral environmental agreements. The creation and adoption of the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances was one of the great achievements of Dr. Tolba.

“Mostafa Tolba is among the most prominent environmental leaders,” Maria Ivanova, the Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability notes. “His vision, his commitment, and his energy empowered and humbled. He was the catalytic force behind the creation of a number of environmental treaties and the resolution of one of the most serious global environmental problems – the depletion of the ozone layer.”

In addition to his global leadership, we are particularly grateful for Dr. Tolba’s support and engagement in the Global Environmental Governance Project. He participated actively in the 2009 Global Environmental Governance Forum in Glion, Switzerland, where we brought together several generations of environmental leaders including the 5 successive Executive Directors of UNEP. Below is a video of Tolba discussing UNEP and coordination of efforts. To see more videos of Tolba and the other UNEP Executive Directors speaking at the Glion Forum, click here.

Achim Steiner, current UNEP Executive Director, commemorates Tolba on the UNEP website. To read his thoughts and comments, click here.

About the Author :

Michael Denney is a PhD student in the Global Governance and Human Security program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is a Research Associate at the Center for Governance and Sustainability.

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