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Addressing the current environmental challenges requires the environment to move to the centre of political and economic decision-making. It follows that UNEP must evolve from being a marginal player at the intergovernmental level to becoming a central player. The argument for doing so rests on the recognition that the prosperity of the world—both achieving greater prosperity in most of the world and maintaining the prosperity that exists already in some parts—depends on maintaining the productivity of the world’s major geo-biological cycles. As these are all under serious threat, we must accept that our prospects for prosperity are similarly under serious threat.
It should not be. The fact is that UNEP does not have and, in all likelihood, never will have the resources to make much of an impact on the ground through direct, country-level activity. There are better ways to serve its constituency of poorer countries. The first is to change the narrative, moving away from the “poverty” agenda with its negative connotations to a “prosperity and equity” agenda. But whatever solution is chosen, UNEP must reinforce its regional presence and strengthen its regional offices.