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Russia warns of ‘Western dominance’ over UN agency

Reappointing Denmark’s Inger Andersen to lead the organization’s environmental program could “politicize” global conservation efforts, Moscow says

The UN’s conservation efforts and climate change response may fall victim to pro-Western bias if Inger Andersen is reappointed to lead its environmental agency, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. The statement came in response to a media story claiming that Russia had sought to stifle Andersen’s candidacy in an attempt to undermine Western support for Kiev during its military conflict with Moscow.

The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) is tasked with raising awareness and advocating for global solutions to combat climate change. Andersen, an economist and conservation expert from Denmark, serves as its executive director, but her term is expiring this year.

The Financial Times cited two UN sources last week as saying that Moscow was working to block Andersen’s reappointment. The report also cited unnamed diplomats as describing the move as “part of a broader effort by the country to exert influence on the world stage and undermine the objectives of Western nations that have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” 

READ MORE: Russia outlines endgame for Ukraine conflict

Without specifying the publication, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called the report “politically charged.” 

Zakharova stated that prolonging Andersen’s tenure would “strengthen the discriminatory practice of almost exclusively appointing the representatives of Western countries to this high position.” 

Such practice unavoidably leads to the dominance of Western staffers at UNEP and to the ignoring of rich national conservation experiences and priorities of developing countries.

Zakharova argued that Andersen’s reappointment could lead to the “politicization” of international environmental efforts. “We believe that the time has come to strengthen the geographical balance at UNEP and let a member from the non-Western world lead the organization,” she said.

UNEP’s leader is elected by the UN General Assembly after being nominated by the organization’s secretary general.

January 14, 2023 at 06:35PM

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