Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Rio+20: Hopes and Challenges for a Sustainable Future

Join us for a conversation with Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, PhD
former environmental economist at the World Bank

Climate change | Green economy | Water scarcity | Food security | Population | Institutional frameworks

7 December 2011 (Wednesday) 
12pm to 1:15pm 
DePaul Center 
1 East Jackson, 
North CafĂ© 
11th floor, next to cafeteria

This is a brown-bag lecture – you are welcome to bring your own lunch.

Dr. Alfredo Sfeir-Younis will discuss the upcoming international Rio+20 Conference at Rio de Janeiro, 20 to 22 June 2012. He will map out the plans, hopes and challenges facing governments, NGOs, youth, universities and the world’s people. And, he will present his “lessons learned” from 29 years at the World Bank, having traveled the world dealing with issues of poverty, food security, the green economy, sustainability, etc.

The event is coordinated  by Prof. Patricia Zzczerba, United Nations Coordinator for DePaul University's School for New Learning and Dr. Marco Tavanti, Associate Professor School of Public Service


Sunday, December 4, 2011


The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) is being organized in pursuance of General Assembly Resolution 64/236 (A/RES/64/236). The Conference will take place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. It is envisaged as a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives. The Conference will result in a focused political document.
Objective of the Conference
The objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges
Themes of the Conference

The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


 Sustainable Development and Volunteerism Take Centre Stage as NGOs Prepare for 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference in Bonn

PDF Version of the Press Release (English)

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) gearing up for the sixty-forth annual United Nations DPI/NGO meeting in Bonn, Germany, have chosen sustainable development and volunteerism as their major topics of discussion.  The meeting, which will take place from 3-5 September, has as its theme, “Sustainable Societies:  Responsive Citizens”.  Non-governmental organizations will use these twin themes to showcase the impact that volunteers and engaged citizens make on sustainable livelihoods and communities.

The Conference will also give the global NGO community the opportunity to prepare a consensus statement containing their input on sustainable development and its relationship to volunteerism, as well as reflecting their views on the upcoming major United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled for 4-6 June 2012 in Brazil, known as Rio+20, and the General Assembly’s discussion in December 2011 on the International Year of Volunteers + 10.  In addition, with its important overarching theme on the role of volunteerism in promoting sustainability, the DPI/NGO Conference is expected to influence those talks in the Assembly.

The DPI/NGO Conference is expected to secure renewed commitment from the NGO community on the issue of sustainable development by assessing the progress made to date, specifically around the issue of building sustainable societies through responsive citizenship.  Through four round tables, 38 NGO-led workshops, and some 23 exhibits, the Conference will offer NGOs and civil society activists in the fields of both environment and development and volunteerism an opportunity to examine emerging issues.  They will also have the chance to raise questions on such critical issues as the green economy and its link with social equity, as well as to identify challenges and obstacles as the global NGO community prepares its position on Rio+20.

Some 20 internationally renowned speakers on the environment, sustainability and volunteerism, including Achim Steiner, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, will address the annual DPI/NGO gathering.  Mr. Steiner notes that this meeting will be an important moment for building NGO consensus around key sustainable development issues ahead Rio+20.

“The urgent need to implement and evolve sustainable development onto a resource-efficient, employment-generating, green economy path is among the central issues for Rio+20,” says Mr. Steiner.  “These and the other central challenges of the twenty-first century urgently require the analysis, input, vision and support of civil society — the Bonn meeting is the moment for a broad alliance of non-governmental organizations to sharpen and focus their unique contribution to a successful outcome in Brazil next June”.

One of the partners in this year’s event is the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV).  Looking forward to the Bonn meeting, UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri says, “The themes we’ll be discussing are more significant than ever.  NGOs and responsive citizens — the people — act at the heart of societies.  They are key to transforming development, since grass-roots voluntary action reaches into the long-term and is more responsive to community needs, giving it real sustainability.”  “The development debate is shifting,” she warns, and adds:  “Sustainability and human well-being are finally coming to centre stage.”

In calling for the global NGO community to seize the opportunity Bonn presents as UNV marks the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, and in the run-up to Rio+20, she suggests that “volunteering is a truly sustainable and people-centred approach, so let’s join together and seize the chance to move it up the international agenda through this conference.”

The United Nations DPI/NGO Conference will also attract a large number of speakers from both the sustainable development community and the world of volunteerism, some of international renown and others with highly regarded reputations in specific regions.  Among the keynote speakers, Dr. Vandana Shiva, a trained physicist and activist from India, will discuss sustainability.
In comments ahead of the Bonn meeting, she captures the essence of the discussions that will be held on the green economy.  Stressing that green economics needs to be an “authentic green”, she underscores that:  “It cannot be the brown of desertification and deforestation.  It cannot be the red of violence against nature and people, or the unnecessary conflicts over natural resources – the land and water, seeds and food.”

The plenary speakers at the round tables that will be held during the DPI/NGO Conference will come from all backgrounds and walks of life and will share their wisdom and visions on a broad range of issues related to sustainability and volunteerism.  Dr. Grace Aguiling–Dalisay of the Philippines, a former volunteer psychologist trainer and selector for the VSO Bahaginan in the Philippines, has spent some 35 years in the joint worlds of academia and civil society.  Her hope for the Bonn Conference is “that Governments, civil societies, NGOs and international bodies will tap volunteerism much more vigorously and deliberately, taking stock of the contribution of volunteering to engendering societies with empowered citizens who know and claim their rights, are involved in the development of their own communities, and are able to hold their leaders to account for a socially equitable world.”
Among the first timers to the annual meeting are Ukrainian environmental activist Anna Golubovska-Onisimova of Mama-86 [which promotes protection of the environment in Ukraine], and Dr. Eden Mamut, a Romanian professor at the Black Sea Universities Network [a conglomeration of universities that deal with Black sea ecological issues], who will bring the unique perspective of Eastern Europe.  As for the African region, another first-participant will be Rose de Lima Ramanankavana, an environmental activist from Madagascar.

The NGO Section of the Department of Public Information has also reached out this year to the corporate world, and as a result of that effort, Daniel Bena, Director of Sustainable development at PepsiCo will also be a contributor.  Among the numerous speakers set to participate in the Conference workshops will not only by Laureates of the Alternative Nobel Prize — Abser Kamal from Bangladesh, and Pat Mooney from Canada — and World Food Prize Laureate Hans Herren, but also inspirational leaders of the environmental, peace, volunteer and social movements, including Dr. Justin Davis Smith, Chief Executive of the NGO Volunteering England, of the United Kingdom.
As in previous years, the Conference is expected to produce an NGO Declaration and a Call to Action for civil society, United Nations Member States and the international community.  In previous years, the outcome document adopted by the Conference has been introduced by the respective host country Government in the competent United Nations forums, including the General Assembly and the Security Council.  This year, those forums would be the Rio+20 preparatory process, which kicks off in December 2011, and the General Assembly’s two-day meeting on the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.

Bernward Geier, Coordinator of the German NGO Focal Group in encouraging European NGOs to register for the Conference says NGOS in Germany are looking forward to welcoming their colleagues from around the world “for three days of learning, listening, debating, networking and […] the joy in being part of such a monumental conference”.  Registration ends on 16 August.
Kiyo Akasaka Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information who is excited by the growing number of registrants says, “The Bonn Conference is a unique occasion to bring together passionate volunteers, civil society and UN experts from all over the world to focus on Rio+20 and concrete ways to save our planet — today, and for future generations.”
As in previous years, the Conference will also feature a number of side events, including the launch of two major United Nations reports, as well as regional NGO consultations, and a public town hall meeting.  More details on the programme can be found on the Conference website:  www.undpingoconference.org.
The Conference, organized annually by the Department of Public Information, will be held this year in partnership with the Government of Germany, the United Nations Volunteer Programme and the NGO/DPI Executive Committee.

For additional information, please contact Maria-Luisa Chavez, Chief of the NGO Relations Section, tel.:  +1 917 367 7022; or Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Information Officer in the NGO Relations Section, tel.:  +1 917 367 9380.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Community sustainability in developing countries: urban vs rural

Community development and planning is essential for countries with growing populations in order to prepare the infrastructure to support the increasing demand on limited natural resources.

In areas of China, the strain on community development is space in overpopulated urban centers. These cities cannot sustain the congestion from commuter vehicle traffic. In order to continue their growth, cities, like Dalian, China, have to find a way to reorganize the area and develop an effective rail-transit system to alleviate congestion. Urban Community Growth through Rail-Transit

While urban communities are also an issue in India, rural communities are in need of sustainable development due to the issue of watershed areas, specifically in the Maharashtra region.

The Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR) began their organization to help people live sustainably in rain dry areas where the water tends to pool in one section. WOTR trains people to live sustainably on their land by promoting farming over wild grazing and establishing infrastructure, such as public bathrooms, where they do not yet exist. Tackling Poverty with Sustainable Living

Photo credits: S Zhao, Dalian University of Technology, CN's report on "Rail transit oriented urban development in Dalian: towards a new urban form", 2007 and WOTR.org

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bringing New Life to Nueva Vida

Just outside of Managua, there is an area called Ciudad Sandino, which is the most densely populated and poorest area of Nicaragua, which itself is the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere and ranks 115th, according the United Nations Human Development Index. This area has served as an area of refuge to victims of natural disasters, particularly since Hurricane Mitch. 80% of the residents of this area lack formal employment and live on less than $1 per day. These people yearn for a better life, and with the help of Center for Development in Central America (CDCA), they are able to improve their standard of living and build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

The belief of community involvement and community building is a cornerstone for CDCA. Without imposing “outside” ideas or values, members of CDCA listen to the needs of specific communities and facilitate in the organization of democratically elected entities. Helping communities create sustainable economies and infrastructure so that groups are self-sufficient and evolve beyond relying on aid. The focus of sustainable economic development, sustainable agriculture, primary health care, education have resulted in programs which develop long term jobs, protect farmers’ land rights, offer basic health care needs and technical job training for Nicaraguans.

CDCA has affected the communities of Nueva Vida and Ciudad Sandino through sustainable economic development, specifically developing loan programs such as the Shared Risk Investment Fund, called the Vida Fund and smaller micro loans. These programs have educated the community on sustainable agriculture and fair trade practices, allowing them to work toward earning a living wage. 6 cooperatives have been formed with the assistance of the Vida Fund, including a women’s sewing cooperative, a concrete construction building materials cooperative, a water filter manufacturing cooperative, a woodworking cooperative, and a security cooperative.

Through the development of the agricultural export coop, COPROEXNIC, small producers and growers have been wioorking together to sell directly to clients, eliminating the middle man and giving them control and ownership of their business practices.With the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices, CDCA has facilitated the increase in exports of organic sesame, cotton, honey, peanuts, coffee, black beans and soy.

CDCA has also developed a health clinic called Nueva Vida Clinic, in response to the privatization of, and waning access to, healthcare. This permanent clinic was built in 2001 and has helped provide this community with regular medical exams, a pharmacy, ongoing wound care, and part-time counselor and dentist.

For more information or to donate to CDCA, please click here.

Clean Water = Sustainable Development

Water is an important source of life. It illustrates the true meaning of sustainable development. I came across a great non for profit organization called WaterAid that focuses on providing clean water and sanitation to developing countries. What I like the most about this organization is the fact that they engage the local communities by teaching them how to use and maintain the new low cost technologies they put in place. WaterAid doesn’t only focus on the now when it comes to providing clean water, it focuses on teaching the local communities to keep their water source clean and potable in the long run.

WaterAid is an organization based in London, England that has offices in Australia, USA, and Sweden. It was created on July 21, 1981 by the UK water industry as a charity trust. They bring fresh and safe accessible water and sanitation to developing countries all around the world. Their vision is to empower the poorest people access to safe water and sanitation. WaterAid currently helps 26 countries in Africa, Asia and Pacific region access potable water and learn about hygiene and sanitation. Their primary goal is to involve local communities in each project they work on. So this organization is in constant collaboration with local partners, local individuals and poor communities on how to use low cost, sustainable water projects that WaterAid staff members and volunteers create for each community. Also there is a strong emphasize in educating the local communities in the use of appropriate health and hygiene methods in order to maintain a sustainable environment for the long run. Sustainable development is about the legacy we leave for the future generation and WaterAid makes sure that everyone is involved in achieving that goal.

For more information, please visit: