Thursday, November 01, 2012

First visit to the UN Environmental Programme in Nairobi, Kenya

UNEP is located in an 140-acre campus, donated by Kenya, which is spacious and beautifully landscaped (the maintenance is presumably paid for by UNEP and not by Kenya).

In addition to the landscaped gardens, what are impressive are: 
 - the "green" building (not in the colour of the external walls, but in terms of its use of solar-generated electricity, water-use and so on), and 
 -  the 14 grand auditoria which are used for the "grand" meetings - e.g. the UN Security Council meeting a few years ago which recognised South Sudan.

Contrasting with the above are the badly-designed rooms for normal meetings - e.g. the briefing room  for our group. 

In what sense are the "normal" meeting rooms badly-designed?

Here is a short list:

 - there is sound pollution from neighbouring rooms, which compounds the problem of the sound system not being organised for presentations, only for rather formal sit-down discussions

 -  it is impossible to project slides high enough for everyone in even in these relatively small rooms to see comfortably

 - the rooms are unaesthetic (no colour coordination, no sense of what materials go togehter and what don't)

-  the rooms are poorly maintained- there are bit and pieces on the walls, patches and so on, broken equipment still hanging around (old and stripped-out fan sill on the ceiling, and so on).

Once one gets past the general ambience of the place, and is confronted with all the work that UNEP does on a limited budget, it is still evident that the organisation is highly bureaucratic, and that there is the usual wasteage of money.  Most startling was the depiction of how many agencies, organisations and groups are involved in the UN alone in environmental matters.  

It is also clear that UN groups have a huge problem in communicating all that they do even to groups that are interested and active in environmental matters.

There is of course a difference between activity and achievement:  apparently that there are some 500 conventions or treaties covering aspects of sustainability, so UNEP commissioned a study of 90 of the most important, and concluded that only on four of them had there been any substantial impact.

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