Erik Solheim resigned last week from his post as Executive Director of UN Environment. According to the Guardian’s reporting of an audit by the UN, the pressure had been mounting over several months due to excessive travel expenses (of over $500,000 in 22 months), long absences from his Nairobi duty station and his partnership with a company his wife was working for in Norway.
Whether or not his travel expenses sound excessive, they clearly broke UN protocols and member countries were unhappy about it and began to freeze funds to the organization.
Solheim did try to make some changes and reimbursed some of the money, but in the end it worked out to be too late.
Two Lane is waiting for the UN audit report which will be public on 12/17. We would like to know what the expectations were of the Executive Director in these 22 months. While the travel schedule sounds extreme, what were the expectations on the part of the countries? Also, if he spent 80% of his time outside of Nairobi, what was he doing and was it a part of the programme’s strategy? Solheim is a leader in the environmental movement and if this travel was to raise the profile of the organization (and not himself), then sitting in Nairobi might not have been the best use of his time. Having said that, absentee leaders can cause great internal strife especially in a leading environmental organization where CO2 emissions should be a major concern.
We are collecting more information on this and will report back once the UN report is available.