UNEP Executive Directors

Maurice F. Strong

UNEP Executive Director,
1972 to 1975

Maurice F. Strong has played a unique and critical role in globalizing the environmental movement. He was appointed to lead the Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 1972. It was an historic event, marking the UN's first major conference on international environmental issues and resulted in the founding of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Six months later he was elected by the UN General Assembly to become UNEPs first Executive Director at its new headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, where until 1975 he played a critical role in globalizing the environmental movement.

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Mostafa Kamal Tolba

UNEP Executive Director,
1975 to 1992

Mostafa Kamal Tolba led Egypt's delegation to the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, which launched a lifetime of commitment to environmental issues. After Stockholm he was nominated as Deputy Executive Director of the newly established UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Within two years, he became the Executive Director - a post he held until retiring at the end of 1992.

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Elizabeth (Liz) Dowdeswell

UNEP Executive Director,
1992 to 1998

Liz Dowdeswell is the President & CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies, an organization that provides independent evidence-based scientific assessment of matters of public policy. She has served as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program and Undersecretary General of the United Nations. Her work as the founding President & CEO of Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) resulted in a government decision on the long term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

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Klaus Töpfer

UNEP Executive Director,
1998 to 2006

Klaus Töpfer, who is widely recognized as having spearheaded environmental policy as Minister of Environment in his home country, Germany, became Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in February 1998. Mr. Töpfer presided over a period in UNEP's history that has seen environmental sustainability become front page news and central to international development goals.

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Achim Steiner

UNEP Executive Director,
2006 to 2016

Acting on the nomination of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN General Assembly in 2006 unanimously elected Achim Steiner as the Executive Director of UNEP for a four-year term. He became the fifth Executive Director in UNEP's history. At its 83rd plenary meeting in 2010, the UN General Assembly, on the proposal of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, re-elected Mr. Achim Steiner as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme for another four-year term.

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Erik Solheim

UNEP Executive Director,
2016 to 2018

Following an extensive career focusing on environment and development in government and international organizations, Erik Solheim was elected to become Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme on 13 May 2016 to 22 November 2018.

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