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Bonn: Development city on the Rhine

03 December 1999

BONN: Bonn, the home of the United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) headquarters, is making strides in its bid to become Germany's centre for international cooperation. Not long ago, national lawmakers were debating and arguing their cases here. But only recently, top-ranking speakers from all over the world met in Bonn for the Global Axes 2000 conference, including Nobel Prize winners Lech Walesa and Oskar Arias Sanchez, Mary Robinson, the United Nation's Human Rights High Commissioner, Germany's former Foreign Secretary Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Klaus Töpfer, who is responsible for global environmental policy. UNV Executive Coordinator Sharon Capeling-Alakija also took part in a panel discussion on prospects and concepts for the 21st century.

This event was held at the former Chamber in Bonn, a modern building with a panorama view across the Rhine. Here, many decisions of importance to Germany were voted on for more than 50 years. The Chamber is a symbol of how Bonn, a city some would associate with a mass departure, has re-orientated itself. More than 50 years of organizational activities centring on its role as the seat of government has contributed to its know-how and expertise in international cooperation.

Thus Bonn also recently hosted the World Climate Summit, 1999. For two weeks in October and November, the city focused on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference. The Global Development Network International Conference (GDN 99) followed with an event in Bonn early in December. This new World Bank network provides an opportunity for renowned researchers from all over the world to meet up with top-ranking decision-makers.

Bonn assumes a special role among Germany's municipalities. There is no other German city in which so many people are working in the environment of development and international cooperation. More than 150 state and parastatal institutions and non-governmental organizations are based in the region, ranging from Médecins sans Frontières, through the Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FLO), which campaigns for fair trade worldwide, to BICC, the Bonn International Centre for Conversion.

Six ministries continue to conduct their affairs in Bonn, including those responsible for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Environment, Education and Research, and also the Federal Ministry of Defence. The "Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst" (German Volunteer Service) and the Federal Government's development policy think-tank, the "Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik" (German Institute of Development) are to move to Bonn early in 2000.

Several UN organizations are already here. In addition to UNV and the UNFCCC Secretariat, there is the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), the UN Information Centre (UNIC), and the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals Secretariat (UNEP/CMS). And then there are the scientific institutions, such as the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) or the Centre for European Integration (ZEI).

The citizens of Bonn are familiar with international affairs. After all, this city on the Rhine was the seat of well over a hundred embassies for 40 years.

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)