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About the Development Account

Thematic Reviews

Environmental Projects

In line with its vision of “environment for development,” the United Nations Environment Program is making a substantial contribution to the implementation of the strategies designed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. UNEP projects funded by the Development Account address an array of environmental problems in their social and economic contexts.

The projects aim at capacity building in environment-related areas, such as urban pollution, renewable energy, environmental management systems, environmental assessment, and environmental law. The geographical coverage of these projects includes Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The projects are often implemented in partnership with other UN organizations, sub-regional groups and networks, NGOs, and national governmental and scientific institutions.

The projects funded by the Development Account have demonstrated catalytic effects, as many follow-up activities are supported by donor governments and the private sector. In this regard, the “seed” resources frequently funded by the Development Account have an impact beyond the scope and duration of the projects. The sustainability and ownership of follow-up activities have been ensured through the inclusion of a range of stakeholders in the projects. Several projects have either established or fed into relevant regional networks. For instance, projects focusing on environmental problems in Africa have been linked to the Africa Environment Information Network (AEIN), one of the major initiatives of the African Ministers’ Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). This has not only made lessons learned available to various users, but it has also led to a commitment from governments to implement activities related to the projects at the national level.

Urban Pollution of Surficial and Groundwater Aquifers in Africa

The project targeted reduction of water pollution in urban areas of Africa, as well as the risk of exposure to a variety of substances, such as pathogens, carcinogens, and nitrates. In partnership with UNESCO, Habitat, and ECA, comprehensive assessments of groundwater vulnerability were conducted, major threats of surficial and groundwater aquifers were identified, and vulnerability maps were developed. Geohydrologists from the participating countries were trained in the simulation of surface and ground water interaction and in using Model Sensitivity Analysis and Ground Water Numerical Modeling.

The project has had a measurable impact for stakeholders, national and local, including policy-makers and water industry managers. The project has also led to increased awareness of groundwater vulnerability in the national and regional media.

Programme to Improve Participation in Certified Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and Build Capacity for their Implementation in West Asia

Industrial diversification, primary and secondary processing of oil and its derivatives, and the development and expansion of food processing, cement, textiles and tanneries in West Asia all have led to an increase in the number of potentially polluting industries in the region. The project was designed to improve environmental management within these industries by building capacity in small- and medium-sized enterprises, through the implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS).

The project has raised awareness of the benefits of EMS at the executive level within companies throughout the region and promoted voluntary initiatives, including such concepts as self-monitoring and self-auditing, product stewardship, Cleaner Production, Responsible Care, and the Global Compact. Many West Asian companies are now effectively implementing EMS and working towards external certification of their systems. The project engendered a better understanding of the role of EMS in ensuring regulatory compliance, and it built capacity within the region for the development and implementation of EMS. The project encouraged a more open relationship between the regulator and the regulated, through common understanding and open discussion of the requirements of an EMS.

Renewable energy for information and the provision of communication services in rural areas of developing countries

This project seeks to promote information and communication technology (ICT) applications throughout rural areas in order to expand opportunities for rural people in meeting their needs in sustainable ways. A major barrier to this achievement is lack of reliable and environmentally sound energy to power the necessary equipment. The project therefore aims to provide knowledge that would be used to raise awareness on best practices and to provide guidance on developing pilot projects.

A baseline study was conducted of both reliable renewable energy (RE)-powered ICTs (focusing on wireless applications) and business models currently operating in off-grid areas of developing countries. The project established a database of best practice providers of RE-powered ICT equipment, products, and services. RE-enabled ICT initiatives identified under the project were reviewed through case studies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Technical materials and a guidebook on cost-effective RE-powered ICTs were produced and distributed to private and public sector decision-makers; the materials demonstrated how this knowledge might be applied to improve access to ICTs in rural areas.

Selection and evaluation of cost-effective models of RE technologies that support extending ICT and services to rural areas have resulted in increased interest and commitment from several donors and Governments to replicate the best practices identified under the project.

Development of a collaborative institutional and data framework for integrated environmental assessments and reporting for West Africa

This project is dedicated to enhancing the capacity of institutions in West Africa for integrated environmental assessment and reporting. The project provided training, technical support, and necessary hardware to 14 countries in West Africa. A database was developed and applied to support the Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) reporting process. National State of Environment (SoE) inputs for all participating 14 countries and for the Sahel zone in West Africa formed the basis of the first SoE Report for West Africa, issued in English and French. An operational environment information network has also been established, comprised of 14 national focal points and two sub-regional organizations.

The project has also strengthened the capacities of relevant national institutions to conduct integrated environmental assessment and reporting and to manage environmental information. As a result of the improved understanding of the assessment and reporting methodology, institutions in West Africa have begun to prepare reports beyond their national SoE inputs with their own resources. The project has led to the establishment of a network of parliamentary committee chairpersons on the environment within the ECOWAS parliament. The Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD) and Central Africa are in the process of replicating the project. Lessons learned from the establishment of the information network have contributed to the design and implementation of the Africa Environment Information Network (AEIN).

Capacity-building for environmental data, information, and knowledge management to support decision-making at regional and national levels

The project focuses on providing improved access to regional and national environmental data through the establishment of new national environmental data facilities in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean in order to overcome sub-optimal decision-making on environmental policy.

In Africa a preliminary agreement was reached with partners and stakeholders at national, sub-regional, and regional levels on data and information-sharing to support the Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) and Global Environment Outlook (GEO) processes. In Latin America and the Caribbean a detailed implementation plan for the regional GEO data portal was developed and uploaded.

In Africa, a data and indicator information system was developed to support information management at the national, sub-regional, and regional levels in close collaboration with the AEO/GEO collaborating centers, led by the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE). The system supports data collection in the context of integrated environmental assessment and reporting.

A training manual on the integration of the environmental assessment and reporting (IEA) utilizes case studies and examples relevant to Africa and provides tutorials on the use of a variety of specialized data and information management tools.

Many governments in Africa and sub-regional groups, such as the Southern African Development Community and the Indian Ocean Commission, have committed themselves to implementing activities related to this project as part of the Africa Environment Information Network (AEIN).

Capacity Building through Partnership and Information and Communication Technology for Using Indigenous Knowledge to Promote Nature Conservation in Africa

This ongoing project focuses on helping communities to harness, promote, and utilize indigenous knowledge in environmental conservation (land, water, and biodiversity resources).

This project is building consensus on actions for the application of indigenous knowledge systems in conventional nature conservation and hydrological disaster management at the local and national levels, with the active participation of local people and communities. The project has been making progress towards improved and friendly access to indigenous knowledge through a recently established database. The database is intended for policy makers, environmental and disaster managers, academicians, and non-governmental organizations engaged in environmental conservation, poverty reduction, and hydrological disaster management.

The number of institutions participating in and with access to the website has enhanced the exchange of information on indigenous knowledge, and the website now includes new types of users. Information on indigenous knowledge and its application in environmental conservation and hydrological disaster management has been well-documented and included in a publication on the application and use of indigenous knowledge. The project helps in practical ways to pave the way for active participation of the local people and their communities in the use of indigenous knowledge for natural disaster management and environmental conservation.

Development of National Legal Databases for Capacity Building to Enhance Access to Environmental Law Information

This project targets government officials, the judiciary, legal practitioners, academia, and the public at large, with a view to improving their access to environmental law information, through a web-based database. In this regard, the project also builds capacity for the development and maintenance of national legal databases.

The project will provide training in how to organize national environmental law information electronically through databases, keywords, and search engines. National officials will create databases containing materials on environmental law and make them accessible via the Internet. The legal databases will be maintained by national experts, using the skills developed in the training programme.