29 August 2006 United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors and renowned international football players Ronaldo Luiz Nazariode Lima and Zinédine Zidane along with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) today issued a joint statement supporting plans to build a cleaner, healthier, energy-efficient public transport system in South Africa in time for the 2010 World Cup.
“The FIFA World Cup is a stage for the skills and talents of the world’s finest footballers, and teams. But it is also a real opportunity to showcase the talents of engineers, designers, architects and city planners and their solutions for a cleaner, fairer, and ultimately more just planet,” they said.
An eco-friendly project to achieve that highlighted today at the opening of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Assembly in Cape Town “is about much more than the mobility of footballers and fans,” said UNDP Associate Administrator Ad Melkert, who is a participant in the GEF conference.
The project will investigate clean energy alternatives to fossil fuel-driven transport, make public transport a viable alternative to private cars for match spectators, and create better, sustainable transport planning around the country. This, said Mr. Melkert, “will leave a lasting legacy with South Africa taking the lead in pushing back pollution that is now ‘suffocating’ many of the poor.”
For the first time the world’s greatest football tournament will be hosted by an African country, and with around 300,000 international visitors expected, the South African Government wants to ensure that the current unreliable, polluting and dangerous public transport system gets the attention it will require to accommodate them.
The project is currently being submitted by the South African Government to the GEF Assembly through UNDP. Established in 1991, the GEF helps developing countries fund projects and programmes which protect the global environment. “GEF partners are well placed to elevate the environmental challenge to the global agenda,” Mr. Melkert said.
Additionally GEF grants support projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer and persistent organic pollutants. The three implementing agencies of the GEF are the World Bank www.worldbank.org, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UNDP.
Ronaldo and Zidane noted in their UNDP statement that sub-standard public transportation perpetuates poverty, generates health-threatening polluted air and contributes to climate change, which affects everyone, everywhere. “We both have personal experience of this as we were both brought up in communities where poor quality public transport was sadly the norm.”
The athletes voiced hope that “when the final whistle blows” at the 2010 World Cup, the project will have played its part in making the event “healthier, more enjoyable and more inclusive” while “acting as a catalyst for the development of 21st century public transport across Africa and the developing world.”