Beninese journalists take action for the Sustainable Development Goals
BY Marie Sandra Lennon, Aristide Djossou | October 18, 2016
If you are reading this blog chances are you work in development, so you might know something about the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you work for the United Nations, like we do, you might be able to identify a few of the 17 goals and maybe a few of their 169 targets. You might also be aware of the importance of the new agenda or, as the UN Secretary-General’s says - the SDGs are THE plan: there is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have a ‘Planet B'!
But, what about the rest of the World? Do they know?
In Benin our answer to this question was “not… yet”, so we rolled-up our sleeves and started spreading the word!
Journalists as allies
We all know how important media are and, more how fundamental journalists are to generating a public debate, sharing information with the local population and making governments accountable keeping their promises. Journalists could be great allies and we at the UN in Benin decided to partner with them to spread the word.
The Union of Media Professionals of Benin was prompt to take on the Agenda 2030 challenge and we were thrilled to collaborate with them on a number of workshops in Cotonou, Grand Popo and Parakou guaranteeing the participation of all major community radios in Benin.
More than one hundred journalists from different media establishments around the country participated in these workshops. We made sure to involve journalists from community radios, since they are often the most powerful channels to communicate with the most excluded and isolated populations, since they might not have other forms of communication, but they often have radios. Involving community radio journalists was our way of sticking to one of the (beautiful) agenda principles we maintained: to leave no one behind.
A spontaneous translate-a-thon
First we shared with journalists the goals of the 2030 Agenda, the development process of the Agenda and the principles behind it. Once achieved we moved to the important stuff: How are journalists in Benin going to engage and take action to mobilize support for the new agenda?
The first step that the journalists took was a basic but essential one: “Let’s translate the goals into our local languages”. Using local languages is essential to ensure the full involvement of local authorities, civil society and population, among other many collectives. For a few hours our SDG orientation workshop was transformed into a translation space, where journalists helped the UN coming up with the translation of the SDGs into languages used in Benin Bariba, Dendi and Yoruba. Simple but smart.
We and the UN and the team of journalists see this collaboration as a first step on engaging and knowing more about the UN efforts in Benin to accompany the Government in the implementation of the agenda, sharing their enthusiasm for being agents of positive change in their society.
During the workshop, they discussed with our programme colleagues on diverse development activities ongoing in their localities, including gender equity, education, and economic growth and how they relate to the SDGs. Such is the case of the towns of Banikoara and Bonou, where the Millennium Village Project is promoted by the journalists as one specific actions effectively linked to SDGs. Overall, they are enthusiastic on the contribution they could bring to achieve the SDGs and being agents of positive change in their society.
At the closure of one of the workshops, Isabelle Lemou, journalist from the Urban FM in Parakou, represented her peers and said “we very much need this type of capacity building as it will allow us to be armed to properly raise and advocate for SDGs issues”. She noted that collaboration between the UN and Beninese media should be reinforced in the future.
We are already planning to identify clear and practical ways to follow up on this collaboration with radio communities. Thanks to UNICEF, the UN in Benin is soon organizing a ‘brainstorming’ day with the Ministry of Communication and community radios across the country to agree on the next steps. We will keep you posted!
Why we’re turning to solar energy at the UN in Namibia
BY Caroline M Nkuziwalela, Saidu Kamara | August 2, 2017
On Saturday, 25 March 2017, UN Namibia took part in the global Earth Hour movement. We joined millions of people from every corner of the world to show support for climate action. Our participation in this movement proves critical in that, saving electricity today, we establish better energy saving habits which lead to a brighter, better future.
It’s easier said than done though. Did you know that in Namibia, between 40 to 80 percent of energy is imported from South Africa, which is facing shortages and has regular energy cuts? To tackle this, following the United Nations Partnership Framework agreement, we will assist the Government strategically to develop its own energy sources, prioritizing solar energy, for energy security and secure commitment towards a low carbon development pathway.
Turn on the lights, sustainably
What if we told you that the UN House in Windhoek is going to turn into a self-sustaining, energy efficient building? The UN House is comprised of 12 UN agencies, all of whom participate in the conversion to a solar photovoltaic PV system.
A photovoltaic system, or solar power system, is designed to supply usable solar power by means of photovoltaics and is being widely scaled as a primary source of renewable energy in many facilities across Africa. Imagine how much energy we could save if the lights at the office automatically switch off after 10 minutes of inactivity. Simple habits can make a difference in the way we use electricity.
For this reason, we launched last week a grid-interactive solar photovoltaic (PV) system at UN House. The facility will make up for a portion of electrical energy consumption and it will also help us save money. As Namibia receives a high amount of sunlight, this move towards renewable energy promotes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 7 ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ and is in line with the UN’s mission of Greening the Blue.
The recommended system size of 90 kWp will offset 19 percent annual energy use, with a 20 percent reduction in electricity costs annually. That’s a lot! The expected internal rate of return when this project is cash financed is 21.5 percent. This means we expect to break-even after five years. The solar panel system is not a backup solution but rather an energy subsidy system. When the solar panels produce more energy than is consumed, the difference is fed back into the national electric grid, increasing the availability of power distribution across the city of Windhoek.
Investing in Namibia’s Renewable Energy Plans
Due to poor insulation, inefficient lights, appliances, and heating and cooling equipment, we pay more for energy costs than we should. This is money we could save by investing in energy efficiency. In partnership with the Namibia Energy Institute, we plan to update the existing energy audit for the UN. We will also carry out a cost-benefit analysis to improve increasing energy efficiency by switching to energy-saving devices. Moreover, by installing a solar energy system, we can focus on renewable energy, particularly solar, without having to increase the price of our electricity.
With the help of renewable energy experts, we are supporting the government of the Republic of Namibia on a large-scale feasibility plan for Namibia’s first concentrated power plant. A concentrated power plant uses mirrors to focus the sun's light energy and convert it into heat to create steam to drive a turbine that generates electrical power.
In addition, we are also researching how to transfer this technology to the country, i.e. exploring the potential for manufacturing solar panels locally, PV parts/equipment, and building capacities and skills for the renewable energies industry. Given the size of the sector in Namibia, we also supported a project tasked with experimenting different approaches to generating bio-energy through the use of agricultural waste. Our main goal is to learn from the previous work and engage the Namibia Energy Institute in technical advisory and support capacity.
We’re excited about the possibilities that solar energy can bring to our work and Namibia. We will keep you posted on our journey there!