BONN, 15 June 2005 -- A new agreement signed earlier this week between the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will help coastal communities in Sri Lanka get back on track from the devastating impact of the 26 December tsunamis.
UNV and GEF are joining forces to rehabilitate and restore the coastal environment and the socio-economic activities of the communities, mainly fishing villages, devastated by the tsunamis. This initiative complements UNV's current presence in the country, where UN Volunteers have been working since early January with local NGOs and communities to rebuild people's lives.
Through GEF's Small Grants Programme (SGP), UN Volunteers will provide technical support and training to local NGOs in eight coastal villages. They will focus on carrying out beach rehabilitation and biodiversity renewal initiatives, drinking water replenishment, income-generation projects, as well as raising awareness of marine and coastal ecosystem management among fishers, tourism operators, and other resource users.
GEF will fund the NGOs through the SGP and UNV will deploy teams of UN Volunteers who will work directly with the communities through these NGOs. Activities will focus on a range of livelihood enhancements -- from the set up of income generation projects to the creation of a microcredit system.
Now in the sixth month of its post-tsunami relief and recovery efforts, UNV is strengthening its assistance to the other affected communities in the region. Along with the UN Human Settlements Programme, or UN-Habitat, UN Volunteer engineers, architects and city planners are part of a large-scale initiative to build safer and stronger homes in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Several private sector companies are also backing UNV's efforts by sponsoring their employees for short-term UN Volunteer assignments. In March and April, several corporate volunteers from Energy Assistance, a voluntary organization of employees from the energy corporation Suez International, spent two weeks each in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The objectives of the initial mission were to survey the condition of the public power distribution system and identify rehabilitation needs. One such project is the repair of the electrical installation of the main hospital in Banda Aceh, the capital city of Indonesia's Aceh province.
Other companies like Emirates Airlines have launched innovative customer-driven campaigns to support UNV. Since March, the Dubai-based airline has been giving members of its frequent flyer programme, Skywards, the option to donate their miles to fly UN Volunteers to the tsunami-affected countries. To date, tens of thousands of miles have been used.
UNV's role in the tsunami response
Immediately following last December's tsunamis, teams of UN Volunteers were deployed to support the initial relief response in the affected countries. Working with UNDP, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), other UN agencies and programmes, affected country governments and NGOs, they are supporting the reconstruction of key infrastructure by delivering skills training to restore livelihoods and by building local capacity of communities in disaster preparedness and response.
For more information on UNV's tsunami response, please visit:
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent financial organization. It provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities. More information on GEF can be found at: http://gefweb.org