Zimbabwe elected to chair key UN environment body
Zimbabwe, widely criticised for mismanaging its economy, was narrowly elected head of the main UN inter-governmental body on the environment, despite opposition led by European Union nations.
EU countries also objected to the Commission on Sustainable Development's entire two-week session, which they said had degenerated into scripted speeches without setting targets for renewable energy and other environmental policies.
As a result, the commission ended the conference among ministers from around the world on Friday without coming up with a consensus document after the 25-member EU refused to approve a paper because it did not include concrete measures.
After attempts at agreement failed, the commission voted for Zimbabwe's environment and tourism minister, Francis Nheme. The post rotates among regions and Nheme was Africa's choice to lead the commission for the next year.
The vote by secret ballot was 26-21 with three abstentions. Fifty of the 53 commission members voted.
Zimbabwe is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, with inflation running at 2,000 per cent. Mugabe's policies, including the seizure of white-held farms to resettle landless blacks, are often blamed along with corruption and violence against opponents.
The UN conference aimed to produce policies to advance long-term energy solutions that can contribute to economic and social development while protecting the environment. The object was to persuade developing nations to leapfrog past industrial countries' dependence on fossil fuel.
Germany's environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, noted that the EU and the United States had imposed travel sanctions, among other penalties, against officials in President Robert Mugabe's government for human rights abuses.
Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, also issued a statement.