Caring for our habitat
22 June 2004
Bonn, Germany: “I believe individuals can make a big difference in helping solve the world’s environmental problems.”
Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON)
Illegal dumping and off-site burning of rubbish are some of the challenges UN Volunteers are tackling in a cluster of villages north of the West Bank city of Nablus in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Consolidating the resources of village councils, municipalities, private sector firms and local associations has led to improved collection and safe disposal of solid waste and recycling. Mobilizing local volunteer action to promote environmentally-friendly habits, UN Volunteers have enlisted the participation of the local women’s club whose members visit households to teach families how to sort garbage and recycle. They also involve local youth organizations around projects such as planting seedlings and designing a children’s park made from used tyres. “The spark came from the villager’s participation, especially youth, women and children,” says Assad Swalmeh, mayor of Asira, one of the villages in the cluster. “Their involvement in the project and motivation will help us continue this initiative.”
Working with traditional chiefs, villagers, and municipal authorities in Mali’s Dogon country, UNV is helping preserve natural and cultural heritages and direct the benefits from tourism to disadvantaged communities. UN Volunteers encourage local communities to define their priorities and to take action preserving and restoring traditional clay architecture and rock-hewn homes, managing natural sites and educating students to better understand environmental concerns. They also assist in developing income-generating skills such as training women as tour guides and helping craftsmen better organize and market their products.
In Cape Verde, UNV, UNDP and the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) have launched a joint initiative to address the problems of land degradation, desertification and youth unemployment through volunteering. Cape Verdian UN Volunteers raise public awareness of environmental protection measures, provide training on the management of natural resources, promote volunteer action for the environment, and help young unemployed people to establish enterprises that are environmentally friendly.
In an ambitious clean-up drive of N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, UN Volunteers working with UNDP’s Local Initiative Facility for Urban Environment have helped communities establish 20 neighbourhood sanitation committees. These committees have developed into small-scale businesses and have initiated income-generating projects to improve the urban environment – including rubbish collection, installing public latrines, and maintaining drinking water fountains – thus helping to generate over 100 permanent jobs.
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