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UNEP at Fifty Goes Global

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The newly released “MIT Press Impact Report 2023” features Professor Maria Ivanova’s The Untold Story of the World´s Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty (MIT Press 2021) as one of the most influential MIT Press books. By showcasing UNEP at Fifty in its Spotlight: Global Reach section, the report presents Ivanova’s work as a model for how to engage the widest possible international audience with cutting-edge scholarly ideas and insights.

MIT Press has long led the way in promoting equitable global access to critical scholarship. Its commitment began in 1995 when it became one of the first publishers to create open access digital content. It has since played a pioneering role in increasing the positive, real-world impact of such scholarship by making it freely accessible to the public beyond the confines of traditional institutional research.

“Democratizing access to trustworthy information,” writes Amy Brand, Director and Publisher of the MIT Press, has never been more critical.” In the context of a triple planetary crisis – climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss – and the need for urgent action by everyone, everywhere, expanding the platform for works such as UNEP at Fifty places critical knowledge in the hands of people who can mobilize it to help create a more just, sustainable, and resilient world.

In The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution, Ivanova provides a comprehensive history of the five decades of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an analysis of its performance, and a vision for its future. The book traces the evolution of an organization designed to act as a catalyst in the environmental field and the world’s ecological conscience. It offers a clear-eyed assessment of UNEP’s major successes, such as the mitigation of ozone layer depletion, as well as its shortcomings. It also provides some practical guidance on how UNEP can serve most effectively as a champion for collective action.

Ivanova’s insights derive from more than two decades of engagement with UNEP. She has studied the organization, convened deliberative discussions, and advised governments and UNEP. In 2009, Ivanova convened all UNEP Executive Directors and a network of emerging leaders in Glion, Switzerland to reflect on the past and imagine a new future. She was coordinating lead author in UNEP’s flagship Global Environmental Outlook, delivered online training for governments on implementing global environmental agreements in collaboration with UNEP’s law division, and serves on the High-Level Advisory Board of UNEP’s Science-Policy-Business Forum.

In the MIT report, Ivanova expresses gratitude for having her book published open access, noting that “with UNEP based in Nairobi and communicating with developing countries, open access content allows vital information to get to places where people have no credit cards for ordering books or assured delivery mechanisms.”

Ivanova, who serves as Director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and as a Professor of Public Policy at Northeastern University in Boston, has focused her scholarship on international environmental institutions, environmental sustainability, and the interface of science and policy. She co-chaired the drafting process for the official letter from scientists and scholars of the world to global leaders at the Stockholm+50 Conference, calling for urgent policy action for a sustainable planet. In March 2022, she served on the Rwandan delegation to the UN Environment Assembly negotiating the resolution on a global treaty on plastics. She has also been a member of the Scientific Advisory Board to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2013-2016).

Ivanova has published extensively on global environmental governance, the United Nations Environment Programme, climate change, and the Sustainable Development Goals. Her work has appeared in, among other publications, Nature, Sustainability, Ethics & International Affairs, Global Policy, Global Environmental Politics, and Global Governance.

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