Delegates from across the world, including economists and scientists, gathered for a five-day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, this week to address environmental concerns, including illegal trading of wildlife, chemical waste and air pollution and new universal development goals and environmental rule of law.

More than 1,200 high-level participants, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe, are taking part in the inaugural U.N. Environmental Assembly meeting. On the agenda also is a discussion for a new post-2015 development agenda to succeed the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs, agreed by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, aim to slash extreme hunger and poverty, cut maternal and infant mortality, combat disease and provide access to universal education and health care, all by the end of 2015. These targets will not be reached in many countries and areas, and will be incorporated in an even more ambitious post-2015 agenda.

During his speech to closing session of the UNEA, Ban Ki-moon said the UNEA, with its augmented role as a subsidiary organ of the U.N. General Assembly, has the mandate and capacity to position the environment alongside peace and security, poverty reduction, global health, trade and sustainable economic growth as an issue of crucial importance to every government. “We are now poised for the crucial next phase of human development–a universal post-2015 sustainable development agenda. That agenda needs a strong voice for the environment,” said Ban Ki-Moon.

The Environment Assembly plans to meet every two years and will replace the Governing Council of the Nairobi-based U.N. Environment Program (UNEP).

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