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UN environment Chief Erik Solheim resigns amid audit on travel expenses

UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim has resigned from his post following an audit report questioning his huge travel expenses. A UN audit had found that Solheim had spent nearly five lakh US dollar on travel. The unjustified travel expenses come at a time when the world body is struggling with shrinking budgets.

Nov 21, 2018 12:05 IST
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UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim resigned from his post on November 20, 2018 following an audit report questioning his huge travel expenses.

In an official statement, Solheim said that he had received the final audit report of his travel expenses and after deep reflection, he decided to step down. A UN audit had found that Solheim had spent nearly five lakh US dollar on travel.

These unjustified travel expenses raised accusations that the Environment chief showed little regard for the environment and efforts to reduce carbon emissions generated by air travel. They come at a time when the world body is struggling with shrinking budgets.

The Report: Key Highlights

According to a draft of the report, the amount spent on travel by UN Environment doubled between 2014 and 2017.

The report was particularly critical of the travel undertaken by Solheim, UN Environment executive director since 2016.

Solheim was found to have travelled for 529 out of the 668 days audited, spending $488,518 with no regard for the rules.

On one occasion, it said that Solheim made an eight-hour trip from Washington DC for a weekend in Paris, before taking another flight to New York City.

The report says that Solheim's leave and travel were approved by a member of his office who reported directly to him - in contravention of UN rules.

The audit was carried out by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

About Erik Solheim

 UN environment Chief Erik Solheim quits

Erik Solheim is a Norwegian diplomat, who served as the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme from 2016 to 2018.

Solheim was formerly a politician for the Socialist Left Party (SV). He led its youth branch, the Socialist Youth, from 1977 to 1981 and was the party secretary from 1981 to 1985. He served as a member of the Parliament of Norway from 1989 to 2001.

He was the leader of his party from 1987 to 1997. During Solheim's tenure as a party leader, the party moved closer to the centre and abandoned many former hard-left stances.

In 2000 Solheim left Norwegian politics to take up an appointment as a special adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs working as a participant in the Norwegian delegation that unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the Sri Lankan Civil War before the outbreak of Eelam War IV.

Solheim returned to Norwegian politics in 2005 when he was appointed Minister of International Development. In 2007 he additionally became the Minister of the Environment and he held both offices until 2012.

After leaving the government in 2012, he returned to his previous position as a special adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and he served as the Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee in Paris from 2013 till he was appointed Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2016.

Other Details

Solheim's resignation, which was accepted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, would be effective from November 22.

The UN Environment Programme aims to set the global environmental agenda through leadership and partnerships.

Solheim was described by UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric as having been a leading voice in drawing the world's attention to critical environmental challenges, including plastics pollution and circularity, climate action, the rights of environmental defenders, biodiversity and environmental security.

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