In celebration of World Environment Day, we share how UN Volunteers and V-force Volunteers contribute towards climate action and recovery in Sri Lanka. Through their assignments with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), they carve the pathway for a sustainable Sri Lanka.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Stockholm Conference, the theme of this year’s World Environment Day “Only One Earth” calls for collective and transformative change, highlighting the need to live sustainably in harmony through climate action. As the resources of our planet is limited, no one is spared from the impact of environmental degradation. Both collective and individual level efforts are necessary in minimizing such impacts and finding ways for a sustainable future.
UN Volunteers taking action for climate and nature
Together with the Government of Sri Lanka, the Climate and Environment Team (CET) of UNDP in Sri Lanka is a key partner to institutions such as the Ministry of Environment, the Disaster Management Centre and Biodiversity Secretariat among other partners in the public and private sector, working towards the common goal of supporting the country’s green development pathway.
Anuradha Withanachchi, UN Volunteer Programme Coordination Associate with UNDP supports the coordination of the overall projects carried out by the team. Her role covers the management of policy and communication products and the development of knowledge products on the work carried out by UNDP. She recalls her first assignment as a UN Volunteer at a small village Walapane, in the Nuwara Eliya district, where she directly witnessed the severe impact of climate change on rural communities despite their little contribution to the causes of climate change.
I am grateful for the opportunity not only to learn how climate change affects our own people, but also to be a part of the solutions and climate action. --Anuradha Withanachchi, UN Volunteer Programme Coordination Associate with UNDP, Sri Lanka
Like Anuradha, her colleagues Dinithi Subasinghe, Thevuni Halangode, and Xiaohua Feng are also involved in various projects led by UNDP’s Climate and Environment Team, in protecting biodiversity and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Dinithi, as Project Assistant, currently supports the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) Phase II. From the preparation of work plans to drafting reports, and assisting in finance, she contributes to the mobilization of resources necessary for Sri Lanka’s biodiversity conservation. More on her volunteer story can be viewed here.
Thevuni, who is involved in the Climate Promise Phase II project, is responsible for the communication and reporting activities under these initiatives. In line with this, Thevuni has been recently supporting the Stockholm+50 national consultations in Sri Lanka, from which the Country Report was produced to provide input to the global synthesis report and the Stockholm+50 conference in June 2022. Thevuni looks forward to seeing how the range of perspectives and recommendations discussed at the local consultations would be integrated into programming and government plans for the future. Read more about her contributions to biodiversity here.
Xiaohua is an international University UN Volunteer fully funded by China, and serves as a Programme Coordination Assistant at CET. He Facilitates the internal and external coordination of various projects, handles requests from all relevant stakeholders and creates materials for team meetings. In the Trilateral South-South Cooperation (TSSC) Project on Biogas, Solar and Biomass, Xiaohua assisted in communication functions with partners from China in sharing of knowledge and experience on the use of biogas and solar in the agro-industry sector.
Reflecting on his volunteer experience, Xiaohua Feng said that it showed him a path of career which is meaningful not only to himself, but also to others. ‘I believe engaging in the fight against climate change benefits every single person on this planet.”
“The Climate and Environment Team is greatly appreciative of the UNV programme and the UN Volunteers that we work with. These UNVs are instrumental in keeping the portfolio operating smoothly and are part of the crucial support system that helps UNDP deliver its development and climate targets to the communities that need it the most.” – noted Awandi Kohilawatta, Partnerships and Pipeline Coordinator at UNDP in Sri Lanka
“Xiaohua has been a great addition to the team, and his fresh perspective as a university volunteer has been a much-welcomed change. His support to the team in terms of producing articles and other daily operational activities has been a much-needed addition.” – Awandi Kohilawatta, Partnerships and Pipeline Coordinator
V-Force Volunteers bringing their expertise to the National Youth Dialogue on Climate, Environment and Green Development
Five V-Force Volunteers actively contributed to this year’s National Youth Dialogue on Climate, Environment and Green Development. The National Youth Dialogue is an annual event led by UNDP in Sri Lanka with this year’s objective focused on empowering young people to take a lead in the country’s sustainable green development. During the three days of trainings, discussions, and field visits in Mannar, Sri Lanka, the volunteers supported in logistical arrangements, coordination with participants, and providing live translations.
The team of V-Force Volunteers were an integral element in the successful delivery of knowledge to the participating youth. On the first day of the event, Edison Marynathan, with a background in wildlife conservation, took an important role of explaining the vitality of mangroves for fisheries and the coastal landscape, and guided the participants on steps to be followed during the plantation activity. On day two, Edison shared his knowledge and experience during the ‘Migratory birds, Ornithology and Eco-tourism’ discussion.
“V-Force has immensely helped our initiatives through its network of highly skilled volunteers. Engaging V-Force Volunteers have always been a great support to us to successfully implement our programmes on the ground.” – Ralani Weerasinghe, Learning and Skills Programme Associate, UNDP Sri Lanka
Anuradha, Dinithi, Thevuni, Xiaohua, and Edison are just a few of the many UN Volunteers and V-force Volunteers working towards the goal of sustainable green development. Put together, the efforts they make become part of a greater collective action. As such, volunteerism has been, and will continue to take a meaningful role in creating a shared future for all. After all, we only have one earth.