GEG Forum


GEG Forum, June 28th –  July 2nd, 2009,  Switzerland

The Global Environmental Governance Forum: Reflecting on the Past, Moving into the Future took place from June 28th to July 2nd, 2009 in Glion, Switzerland and brought together several generations of environmental leaders, including all five successive UNEP Executive Directors (Maurice Strong, Mostafa Tolba, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Klaus Töpfer, and Achim Steiner).

Participants from 26 countries gathered in order to rediscover the past, analyze the present and imagine the future of global environmental governance. Through intensive dialogue and deliberation the Forum fostered and inspired renewed environmental leadership. Further objectives of the Forum were:

  • Inject new vigor and thinking into the contemporary negotiations on international environmental governance
  • Generate possible options for environmental governance reform and for an institutional architecture for climate change drawing on the collective knowledge of environmental leaders from several generations

The stories of the men and women whose ideas and aspirations formed the system as we know it today brought to life the original vision for the international environmental governance architecture and laid the basis for a candid debate on governance reform. The Forum showed the importance of an historical analysis when designing institutions. One of the core principles of institutional design, which originates from the 1970s, is that form should follow function. Participants identified a set of five core functions that need to be performed by the GEG system as a whole: 1) monitoring, assessment and early warning, 2) policy and norm development, 3) capacity development, 4) enforcement, and 5) coordination.

The Forum resulted in:

  • Creation of a network of Global Environmental Governance Emerging Leaders thirteen young people from nine countries who made concrete personal commitments to action in the field.
  • Report Global Environmental Governance in the 21st Century: Way Ahead Wide Open, reflecting the main elements of the four-day discussions.
  • Two documentaries on global environmental governance Quest for Symphony a 16-minute white paper in images and Way Ahead Not Closed, a 30-minute edited version of the panel discussion of UNEP Executive Directors moderated by Gus Speth, former Dean of Yale’s Environment School.
  • Agenda for action including research plans and policy activities.
  • Plans for a joint research project on environmental governance with the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center at the University of Addis Ababa.
  • Significant interest in convening similar Environment Forums connecting generations and fostering leadership in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Plans for convening a Youth Conference and Training on Global Environmental Governance

Moreover, the Forum confirmed that leadership is critical for successful environmental governance. In this context, one of the key goals of the GEG Project is to continue to foster its global network of young professionals working in global environmental governance.

The Forum was organized in collaboration 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). It was supported financially by the UN Foundation, UNEP, HoA-REC, the University of Geneva and the governments of Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Forum Report & More Information

The report from the Global Environmental Governance Forum: Reflecting on the Past, Moving into the Future. Following the forum, entitled “Global Environmental Governance in the 21st Century: Way Ahead Wide Open” is available. You can download the Forum Report here.

Should you have difficulty downloaded this, or for further information about the Forum and the GEG Project’s efforts, please email