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Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, to Receive ELI Environmental Achievement Award

July 2017

Washington, D.C.: The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) is pleased to announce that it will present its 2017 Environmental Achievement Award to Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for his visionary leadership on global sustainability and rule of law in the environmental setting.

UNDP Administrator Achim SteinerSteiner’s career in public service, spanning across three decades and multiple institutions, has been nothing short of remarkable. From his early days doing field work in developing countries for Germany’s Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to his service as IUCN’s Director General, to his long tenure as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, along with his tour as United Nations Under Secretary General, and now to his current work as Administrator of UNDP, no one has brought more breadth, innovation, and sustained effort to building holistic environmental governance systems, and to producing the future that we want and need, than Steiner.

His leadership and vision have played a major role in ushering in a commitment to sustainability, in producing the Paris Climate Agreement, in advancing rule of law worldwide, in infusing environmental economics and valuation of ecosystem services into environment-sensitive decisionmaking, and in catalyzing green finance and sustainable business practices. In his current role, drawing on UNDP's extensive network of country offices and staff, Steiner is shaping development policy all around the world and playing a major role in effectuating the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement, and other multilateral environmental agreements.

According to Scott Fulton, ELI’s President, “Achim Steiner has been a singular champion for rule of law in the environmental sphere, positioning environmental law at the heart of sustainable development and a just, fair, and sustainable future for everyone.” He inspired the 2012 World Congress on Justice, Governance, and Law for Sustainable Development, ensuring that the Rio+20 United Conference on Sustainable Development took into account the critical role of environmental law, and the important contribution of judges, attorneys general, and auditors general in making “law work” for all of us. This marked the birth of a growing emphasis on “environmental rule of law,” a concept around which Steiner led the world to a consensus statement in 2013.

Steiner played a key role in the launching of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment in 2016, and under Steiner’s leadership, UNEP’s global judges program enhanced the capacity of judges all around the world to handle environmental cases.  Steiner also has worked to fill in legislative gaps at the international level, among other things leading the world to the adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and working toward stronger laws and institutions with regard to illegal trade in wildlife.

Looking beyond the role of governments to other drivers of a sustainable future, Steiner has long been a thought leader on how to leverage finance, policies, economics, and business-driven solutions to reduce carbon emissions, catalyze clean energy technologies, and drive sustainable consumption and production in both developed and developing countries. For example, under his leadership, UNEP produced the groundbreaking 2011 report, “Towards a Green Economy,” which proved influential in the buildup to the Rio+20 World Summit in 2012, and placed the concept of the green economy on the international agenda. He further catalyzed forward movement in this area through initiatives such as the UNEP Finance Initiative and Inquiry into green finance. “Steiner’s leadership has established effective policy frameworks that both conceptualize and realize improved human well-being, poverty reduction, environmental progress, and social equity,” says ELI Board Chair Ben Wilson. “His vision and guidance have effectively made the case for the compatibility between environmental protection and economic growth, establishing guideposts for governments, organizations, and companies across the globe to follow.”

“The trend toward mainstreaming sustainability is occurring across all sectors, from governments working to reconcile their laws and systems with the sustainability ideal, to businesses increasingly integrating sustainability into their business models, to NGOs promoting sustainable communities. This progress was driven in no small part by Achim’s exemplary leadership, which is among the reasons ELI has selected him as the recipient of the 2017 ELI Environmental Achievement Award. ELI’s own governance and sustainability initiatives aim to realize his vision of a future that promotes environmental protection, economic progress, and quality of life,” explained Scott Fulton.

ELI is honored to present the 2017 Environmental Achievement Award to Achim Steiner on October 18 in Washington, D.C.