Joke Waller-Hunter

Joke Waller-Hunter (15 November 1946 – 14 October 2005) was a Dutch UN official and one of the most influential people in the world of international environmental action, particularly regarding the implementation of the Kyoto Accord. She started working for the province of North Holland, and continued her career after that for many years at the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. Her efforts at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 drew much attention. She was the first UN Director for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, a position which she served from 1994 to 1998. From 1998 to 2002 Joke Waller-Hunter was director of the OECD Environment Directorate.

She subsequently joined the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany, as its Executive Secretary on 1 May 2002. In this position she oversaw the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol and played a leading role in preparations for its implementation. Joke Waller-Hunter was awarded an honorary doctorate of the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam in September 2005 citing her contribution to society through her outstanding work in the field of sustainable development and protection of the global climate. Joke Waller-Hunter was a firm believer in sustainable development and environmental protection. She was convinced that it is possible to combine environmental and climate change concerns with sustainable economic growth. She also knew that global cooperation was essential to the advancement of that cause.

Personally Joke Waller-Hunter set high standards for herself and for her staff wherever she worked. She was almost always the first in the office, and usually the last to leave. No matter how many options for action her staff had come up with, Joke Waller-Hunter was able to see several more. And yet, far from dispiriting her staff, this inspired them to do even better. Joke Waller-Hunter saw the good in people; she nurtured their talents and skills; she created an environment in which everyone could shine, be heard and do their best. The untimely death of Joke Waller-Hunter in October 2005 as a result of breast cancer came as a blow to many.

With her passing the Netherlands, Europe and the whole world lost a great source of inspiration in the struggle for a more sustainable world. In her will she left her estate to Both ENDS with clear instructions on how to use it. Joke Waller-Hunter had been associated to Both ENDS from the organisation’s start in 1986. Throughout the years she followed Both ENDS’ development from a distance with warm interest. We are very proud that she chose us to handle her estate and to develop the Joke Waller-Hunter initiative.

She has bequeathed her estate for the capacity development of environmental organisations in developing countries and, in particular, for fostering the leadership of persons affiliated with environmental organisations. In her testament, she wrote that the assets of her estate are to be used for: “improving the environment in developing countries and, in particular, enhancing the expertise of non-governmental environmental organisations.” and “granting financial contributions to eligible persons in developing countries for organising study trips, studying and research, putting together publications, schooling and transferring knowledge.”