Catch the Trade Winds in Your Sails...

'So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails...'

'So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails...'

When Mark Twain first arrived in London, two front page newspaper stories caught his attention.

The first was: 'Mark Twain arrives in London.'

At the bottom was another headline that read: 'Gold bullion goes missing.'

As if the two were related.

Today I feel like Mark Twain, although I would wish the headlines to be:

'UNEP reviews progress on its 'Valuing the Essentials' and 'Coexistence' Programs.

And at the bottom: 'World Biodiversity thrives as economies recover.'

Because this time I would like the two to be related!

I’ve had an amazing 14 years at UNEP, including the last four as the Head of the Biodiversity and Land Branch.

I am forever thankful for the career I’ve had.

We are an amazing team and have achieved a lot together over the last four years. By way of example...

- Since 2016 we have mobilized over US$350 million of Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding.

- for the GEF 6 replenishment cycle we mobilized over US$ 220 million 

- In GEF 7 we are now just over US$ 130 million, 

- In 2015, no finance staff were committed to the GEF unit. We now support 9 finance staff (FMOs and FAs) and cover their costs. 

- In 2015 overall project expenditure was just over US$ 20 million, last year (2019) project expenditure exceeded US$ 45 million, a more than 100% increase to 2015

The GEF is not the only area where we achieved stellar results

Our world class Economics work continues to be widely acknowledged and cited.

- We launched The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food systems (TEEB AGri-Food) as well as the Inclusive Wealth Report

- We are advancing global norms and standards, including developing Natural Capital Accounting techniques; ensuring our economies take nature into account; developing Inclusive Wealth Metric, a new measure for well-being and sustainability to augment GDP, gross domestic product, which only measures the size of and growth in the economy, not people's welfare / well being.

We further grew the funding for Economic work, which now stands overall at over $30 million;

In 2016, we had to make strategic calls to address a wildlife emergency that consumed the world.

- The real institutional challenge was building the emergency response capacity that countries needed, and could draw on, while ensuring long term institutional capacity to anticipate and help prevent future crises.

- We established a new Unit, the current Wildlife Unit and have grown it into a formidable force for good, for wildlife and for people.

- Through the team, we are seeing global transitions to new wildlife economies and science-based responses to threats from zoonotic diseases, such as Covid-19

- Our wildlife funding has grown from a negative sum to about  $20 million.

Just under a year ago, we welcomed the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit 

- They are already tackling the most difficult sustainability challenges, championing the UN decade for Restoration, Peatlands recovery, and mobilising the Faith Community to be greater champions for environment.

As a Branch, we have grown threefold to just over 50 staff and consultants

And in each of you, I found respect. Respect for people. Respect for ideas.

In this Branch, you are not defined by your administrative title or position but by the strength of your ideas.

Life is sometimes unjust, but in this Branch we ringfenced one area where unfairness should never be found: and that's in the contest of ideas.

We understood that it does not matter what your administrative tag is, your ideas define who you are.

We were curious about the world around us.

We provided ideas. We questioned ideas. We implemented ideas.

For the world gets better because of, not in spite of, those with a curious mind.

The last four years proved a really enjoyable adventure. Thank you for believing in me and my ideas.

As I leave and go to new challenges, it’s this team’s dedication that will make it more personal.

You have given me the confidence I need to take the next step in my career.

I will miss the generosity and kindness of such brilliant colleagues.

Mark Twain once said:

'Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.

So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails...'

Continue making some good trouble. And farewell to each of you my friends.


Mariam Bajulaiye

02.09.2020 10:14

Mr Gomera, where is the next destination of the boat? May you always find happiness in the next adventure...

Monica Mwove

01.09.2020 07:35

Maxwell, Congratulations once more! You have done well and with great achievement. The world is your oyster indeed.

Ben Mhandu

31.08.2020 13:01


Like prehistoric parietal art the numbers in the footprint tell a story that will remain. It’s been phenomenal!

As you set sail and harness these trade-winds, may that beam, your virtuous que

Hope Moyo

29.08.2020 13:37

Great to read about the footprints you are leaving on a global scale! Proud of you indeed and ‘... may you always catch the wind in your sails ...’ All the best!


28.08.2020 16:08

As you move on in your glorious future may success be always with you. I will always remember your wisdom & guidance. Farewell kule!!!

Reneth mano

28.08.2020 12:22

Max. This is a great footprimt of impressive accomplishment at instutional strengthening and mobilization of funds towards socially impactful investments. I wish you the best in your next venture.

Emily Chakavarika

28.08.2020 01:12

Inspirational and profound! Yes to some good trouble and all the best!!!

Gibson Guvheya

27.08.2020 15:51

Max, absolutely spellbinding valedictory remarks. You and your team have moved mountains. Best wishes to all of you as you journey ahead.

Latest comments

10.08 | 16:04

Continue to rest in peace sekuru

10.08 | 07:11

Till we meet again keep resting in peace sekuru

05.07 | 09:26

Isitshwala, the food of champions! You took me down memory lane with this piece, my friend. And with a smile too!!

21.06 | 10:01

RIP will always be missed

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