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  • Clients served:
    UNOSSC, UNDP, Harvard Institute for International Development, World Bank, USAID, NHS, UNICEF.
Sunday
Jun112017

A UNDP Success Story: Grassroots Environmental Campaign Mobilizes Thousands in Mongolia | 1998

I had read the other day the following headline from Bloomberg: World's Worst Air Has Mongolians Seeing Red, Planning Action. As far back as 1998, such a health and environmental tragedy was foreseen by a highly successful UNDP environment project. As its Canadian adviser Robert Ferguson said to UNDP News at the time, “Mongolia’s environment is endangered by a range of problems that are on the brink of exploding." He knew what he was talking about: Ferguson and his Mongolian colleagues had spent two years mobilizing Mongolians across the country to take practical steps to address the country's environmental problems as part of the Environmental Public Awareness Programme (EPAP). Few people had as much first-hand knowledge of the country and its environmental challenges than they did. In its 2007 Needs Assessment, the Government of Mongolia found the EPAP projects "had a wide impact on limiting many environmental problems. Successful projects such as the Dutch/UNDP funded Environmental Awareness Project (EPAP), which was actually a multitude of small pilot projects (most costing less than [US] $5,000 each) which taught local populations easily and efficiently different ways of living and working that are low-impact on the environment." 

UNDP News 1998 

A UNDP Success Story 

By David South, Communications Coordinator, UNDP Mongolia 

Grassroots environmental campaign mobilizes thousands in Mongolia 

A countrywide environmental education campaign in Mongolia has drawn praise from around the world, most especially for its ability to mobilize thousands of people and produce hundreds of advocacy materials.  

Robert Ferguson, a UNV Information Specialist from Canada, has just finished a two-year assignment advising on the Environmental Public Awareness Programme. The project, implemented by UNDP, proved that civil society is alive and very well in Mongolia, despite 70 years of Communism and the hardships of transition to a free-market economy.  

For the first-time visitor to Mongolia, it is easy to be dazzled by the view: the expansive steppe, the sparse population with a sprinkling of nomadic tents, the enormous herds of sheep, goats and cows. First impressions tend toward the belief that Mongolia is an unspoiled paradise where nomads have roamed for thousands of years. The reality is considerably different. The 600,000-plus capital of Ulaanbaatar, or Red Hero, is densely populated, urban and home to the country’s remaining factories and electrical power plants. In winter, pollution from power plants and coal stoves in the traditional tents, or gers, where half of the city’s population still lives, chokes the population and causes numerous respiratory problems. 

While Mongolia has space to spare - the  population is 2.4 million, plus 32 million head of livestock, in a territory the size of Western Europe - a long list of threats are taking their toll on this harsh but beautiful country.  

“Mongolia’s environment is endangered by a range of problems that are on the brink of exploding,” says Robert Ferguson. “As these  problems are not yet out of control, this country is in a very good position for grassroots initiatives that can help communities to realize their environmental problems and understand possible ways to keep them under control … 

... On one cold autumn day, Ferguson and his colleagues are visiting a project in the shantytown of Chingeltei in the north of the capital. A majority of Ulannbaatar’s population live in neighbourhoods like this, where the mix of traditional gers, wooden cottages and newly built Mongolian monster homes gives a vivid example of the transition years. The population has exploded as more and more Mongolians seek out their dreams in the capital.  

The Environmental Public Awareness Programme, or EPAP, uses small grants of between $1,000 and $2,000 to start awareness projects with local NGOs. After two years, nearly 100 small projects have been implemented - yet the original project document had only proposed 15 projects.  According to Ferguson, the project team, which includes Sumiya and Davaasuren, were struck by the wellspring of enthusiasm they were tapping.

… Garbage is strewn liberally on the dusty streets. Inspired by recycling campaigns in his native Canada, Ferguson encouraged local women to start the Blue Bag Project. Local women proudly show off their streets - garbage-free - as they collect pop and beer bottles and animal bones to turn in for cash at the local recycler. This is just one EPAP project that has galvanized grassroots action. Back in the EPAP at the Stalinesque Ministry of Nature and Environment, Ferguson continues … 

…. were all weak. What was needed was a means to take the right to public participation and an understanding of these laws to community organizations and let them develop public awareness campaigns that get the information out.”  

The Programme has exceeded expectations … 

…. “The response we got to our initial call for interested environmental groups was unexpected,” says Ferguson. “NGOs came from nowhere. And they embraced the idea …

… In October last year, EPAP launched the Mongolian Green Book, a pocked-sized environmental awareness handbook for NGOs. More recently Ferguson completed a Handbook on Environmental Public Awareness to share Mongolia’s experiences with others who care about the environment…

… The workshop is an immediate follow-up to the launching of the network through a workshop attended by 12 members in December 1998…

… with such enthusiasm that we pursued more money and nearly doubled the funding for small public awareness problems.”

Note: This is just an excerpt from the story. This issue of UNDP News featured contributions from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Danny Glover, Nadine Gordimer and Amartya Sen.


The highly successful EPAP project was profiled in UNDP News in 1998.
Many resources are available online to explore Mongolia's 1990s transition experience.
The Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia, published in 1999 by the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office.
The Mongolian Green Book was published in 1999 by the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office.
Read Robert Ferguson's The Devil and the Disappearing Sea: Or, How I Tried to Stop the World's Worst Ecological Catastrophe (Publisher: Raincoast Books, 2004) to learn more about the toxic mix of politics and the environment. 
Wednesday
May172017

UNDP Mongolia Media Coverage | 1997-1999

 

As head of communications for UNDP/UN Mongolia, I cultivated a good relationship with local and foreign media. This had many benefits for the mission, including extensive coverage of Mongolia and the UN's work. A small sample of the stories this relationship generated were published in the book In Their Own Words: Selected Writings by Journalists on Mongolia, 1997-1999 (ISBN 99929-5-043-9). Rather than having a confrontational relationship with the media, we found facilitating a constant flow of information back and forth led to many great stories, great adventures and the opportunity to meet highly talented journalists and other media professionals: all to the benefit of the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office. 

 

In Their Own Words was published in 1999 by UNDP Mongolia.
Der Spiegel is a German weekly news magazine and is one of Europe's largest publications of its kind. It chose my photo taken in the Gobi desert for its profile of the Internet revolution in 1998.
Friday
Mar182016

UNDP Travelling Seminar: Environment and Development | Mongolia 1998

 

As head of communications for UNDP/UN Mongolia, I organised and led press tours across the country for international journalists in 1997 and 1998.

Library catalogue description: https://www.e-varamu.ee/item/NG6OSO3DWRMB4NGGULKHVE434XN4KJ4R

A book published by UNDP chronicled the press tour in 1998.

UNDP Mongolia staff photo 1997. I served for two years as the UNDP Mongolia head of communications (1997-1999).

Friday
Mar182016

Interviews for the GOSH Child Health Portal | 2001-2003

An interview in the hospital newsletter Roundabout.

Roundabout, November 2001 Issue No. 18

Joint Website Launched

A two-year project to turn our joint institution’s website (www.gosh.nhs.uk) into a respected child health portal got underway with the launch of the first phase of development in September. The second phase of content development will get the site ship shape for a UK-wide publicity campaign as the hospital’s 150th birthday celebrations begin in January.

The site’s web editor, David South, has been working on the project since arriving here in June, having worked on award-winning websites for the United Nations.

“The first phase saw collaboration from staff across both institutions,” he says. “An impressive amount was done, and we have now laid the foundations for future improvements to the content on the site. I really want to offer more for children. Over three million children in the UK now surf the internet.”

The opportunity for both institutions is enormous. As the internet has evolved, it has become increasingly clear that the future of its development lies in the public sphere. US government sites now outstrip commercial operations, selling far more books than the largest online bookseller, amazon.com. Here in the UK, the www.ukonline.gov.uk site is working to offer one-stop access to all government services, including health care.

Unlike commercial operations, the hospital and the Institute are an unbiased resource for the public to turn to. Currently, the joint site has more than 180 factsheets for families covering tests and procedures, illnesses and diseases and operations. It also has the complete archive of Dr. Jane Collins’ Times column, with its jargon-free look at child health issues.

“This being London, we have the unique advantage of being at the centre of so many developments, and having the opportunity to communicate this through our website,” says David South.

Across the NHS the Modernisation Plan involves the largest data collection exercise in its history. More and more resources will be offered online, and the content produced by individual trusts like ours will be linked with national sites like NHS Direct.

New GOSH/ICH website

With over three million children in the UK now using the internet, and a total of 33 million UK citizens accessing it through work, school or the home, no organisation can afford not to make the most of this valuable communications tool. Estimates vary, but some put the number of health-related websites at more than 100,000. Trust is an even more important issue, as users search for accurate information. It is in this context that the new hospital and ICH website, www.gosh.nhs.uk, launched in September. Web editor David South puts us in the picture.

The new site reflects the hard work and collaboration of staff across both institutions, and it is hoped it will quickly make its mark as a trusted resource on complex child health issues. The site also becomes one of the most visible signs of our on-going modernisation programme, and can uniquely tie together the breadth of our work in a way that no other medium can. The site development project spans two years and will fit in with the wider move across the NHS to offer a wide range of services online.

The next phase of the site’s development is aimed at getting the site ready for a larger publicity campaign slated to coincide with the hospital’s 150th birthday celebrations with start in January. In preparation for this public launch, a number of improvements will be made to the site’s content, interactivity, platform and design. To put it simply, the site should become a critical first stop for anybody seeking our services, or wanting to learn more about the latest research and care developments in the field of complex child issues.

The joint site will also be available via Gosweb for staff in the hospital who don’t already have internet access.

As the project evolved, regular updates were communicated to colleagues and the public through the media.

Tuesday
Jul142015

Southern Innovator’s Fifth Issue Profiles Innovators in Waste and Recycling | 2014