20 Jan 2015

Lieu: International Environment House II

Organisation: Geneva Environment Network

A high-level dialogue to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Geneva Environment Network (GEN) was organized at the International Environment House II (7-9 chemin de Balexert) on Tuesday 20 January.

Hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Environment, GEN –  www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org – has been, for the last fifteen years, the Geneva hub for a myriad of actors to meet and debate pressing  environmental challenges.

With the objective of celebrating a very diverse network, which offers interactive debates with key actors of the ‘International Geneva’, a lively panel discussion with personalities from governments, the United Nations family, NGOs, universities and foundations on how key players imagine the world will be in 15 years’ time was organized. Panelists provided visionary speeches on the state of the planet, how to best transition to a more sustainable world, and discuss the role of Geneva as global hub for environmental governance, contributing to the Post-2015 Agenda.

See also GEN 15th Anniversary interviews video.


Welcome remarks

Achim STEINER, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
H.E. Franz PERREZ,  Switzerland’s Ambassador for the Environment

Speeches and interactive debate with

Achim STEINER, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Christian FRIIS BACH, Executive Secretary of UNECE
Rolph PAYET, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Executive Secretary
Inger ANDERSEN, IUCN Director-General
Marco LAMBERTINI, WWF International Director-General
Thierry APOTHELOZ, Mayor of Vernier

Moderator: Prof. Laurence BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, University of Geneva

Closing remarks

H.E. Franz PERREZ,  Switzerland’s Ambassador for the Environment

Key points from discussion


Achim STEINER, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, that various platforms established in Geneva and that GEN illustrates the opportunity to work together.

H.E. Franz PERREZ,  Switzerland’s Ambassador for the Environment, in his opening remarks, mentioned that GEN creates an atmosphere of friends, the way we interact together, it’s one of the great things of GEN to bring us as friends in a same room. He remembered some key milestones of the past 15 years, including how GEN helped with the ratification of BRS conventions by organising workshops.


Achim STEINER provided reference points for the future :

  • Post-2015 agenda and Sustainable development goals
  • Addressing climate changes. Paris COP21 => credible next step
  • Transition to a Green economy. The issue of finance become critical.

He insisted that we need to act collectively and accept that actions do have consequences. Values have been abandoned, what are the values that will guide us ? Not be caught up in individuality, but collectivity of values that unite us.

Christian FRIIS BACH, Executive Secretary of UNECE, was positive about our future in 2030. He described how the international agreements managed by UNECE will make our decisions durable: carbon free society, energy revolution; a well connected world; efficient non-pollutant transportation; water scarcity bringing peaceful processes; a more peaceful and democratic world.

  • The future of carbon will be based on strong agreement, hopefully concluded this year in Paris. We will have moved closer to a zero carbon society. Previsions have been too pessimistic, the energy revolution will speed up significantly, boosted by science and UN instruments.
  • We will live in an extremely well connected world, and our UN sister agencies will make sure that dignity an privacy is protected.
  • Entirely new means of transportation, efficient and non-pollutant.
  • Most disease will be curable, thanks to genetics.
  • We will have less pollution levels.
  • Water scarcity will led to peaceful processess, thanks also to the Water Convention.
  • We will achieve sustainable forest management.
  • We will live in a much more peaceful world. Geneva will be driving it with the work promoted by the Human Rights actors.
  • The world will be much more democratic, with the contribution of the Aahrus Convention.
  • First and foremost, extreme poverty will be eradicated, based on SDGs, that will be implemented with the help of the Geneva hub.

Inger ANDERSEN, IUCN Director-General, pointed that we have to take action, it is a question of commitment. She raised the importance of environmental legislation. Inger insisted that we need need to find vibrations outside the environmental community, inspire the young ones and work more with the private sector. They need to feel these problems. As previous speakers she spoke about equity, stating that we have the duty to ensure a degree of equity.

  • What did we learn in those 15 years? How were we willing at looking at longer term? We will be 8.5 billion people with a lot of pressure on resources that are going to sustain us. What would it take to reduce footprint ? Less crops, meat and energy consumption. A much better environment legislation, at local and global levels.
  • We need expand agricultural productivity. We will find smart ways of doing it ?
  • Hope that we go beyond what international energy predicts , as it’s not good enough. There are many solutions, but need R& D, and a clear agreement in Paris.
  • Even without this shift, sea level will rise, million people will be affected. We need smart urban habitats, smart footprint.
  • Bonn challenge, pledged to increase restored land by 2020. Restoration can bring numerous opportunities.
  • Environment and conflict : impact on environment. We need to be careful in ways we can be a more peaceful world.
  • Our community has to find vibration with private sector, with the markets, as that’s were footprint will happen.
  • We need to inspire next generation, that they feel and own this problem, in a manner that has to be inspirational.
  • World cannot be a place where the wealthy countries have the best. We need equity : each one of us has to ensure degree of equity.

Rolph PAYET, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Executive Secretary mentioned that networking is the new future. We have to network more and more. We should work collectively, making the invisible visible, reach the unreachable.

On the chemicals and waste topic, Rolph remembered that everything we do generates chemicals. The number of chemicals that are not being managed, and nanochemicals, is increasing. We should not be reinventing the problems we had in the last 30 years. Silent spring needs to become loud spring. We need to make it happen.

Marco LAMBERTINI, WWF International Director-General also remembered that we have never been so aware of current issues and that interaction is important beyond social boundaries.

Thierry APOTHELOZ, Mayor of Vernier believes poverty and environment are linked and it is time for change.


The Geneva Environment Network 15th Anniversary Interviews from GENetwork on Vimeo.

More information and documents

GEN invitation

GEN is a cooperative partnership of over 75 environment and sustainable development organizations based at the International Environment House and elsewhere in the Geneva area, including United Nations offices and programmes, non-governmental organizations, local authorities and academic institutions. Set up in 1999, the GEN secretariat, led by UNEP and supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, actively promotes increased cooperation and networking between its members.