NADIA MONDINI &
As one of its initiatives aimed at giving Graduate Institute students closer insights into global environmental issues and careers in sustainability, the Environmental Committee last week organized a visit to the International Environment House. The Environment House, just twenty minutes by tram from Maison de la Paix, gathers 22 UN organizations and 19 non-governmental organizations under one roof, all striving for a more sustainable world.
Ever since the 1960s, leading organisations in the struggle for environmental protection have been coming to Geneva to establish their headquarters, secretariats, or offices. The objective of our visit was to learn more about some of the subjects they deal with, as well as about the day-to-day work in the field of environment and sustainability.
After being kindly welcomed by the coordinator of the Geneva Environmental Network, we were given a short introduction about the International Environment House and the ecosystem of environmental organisations in Geneva. Three UN Environment professionals gave us insights into their work, drawing a fascinating picture of the incredible diversity of topics which the broad issue of sustainability encompasses. One of them explained to us the intricacies of carbon pricing, green fiscal policies, and the ways in which UN Environment endeavours to facilitate the transition to an inclusive green economy.
Another senior professional gave us an understanding of the role of natural resources and the environment in conflict and peacebuilding – an often overlooked issue. He elaborated on how severe environmental degradation can be both a cause and a consequence of conflict, and how its management can be used as a tool in reconciliation. Most interestingly, he showed us astonishing pictures and footage from some of his missions. For instance, in Colombia he encountered disastrous deforestation and mercury contamination caused by illegal mining during the civil conflict.
The final presenter, a Program Officer from the UN Environment Chemicals and Health Branch, illustrated to us how sound management of chemicals and waste is integrated into all 17 SDGs. He is currently responsible for the improvement of cross-sectoral governance for the sound management of chemicals at national and local levels. The work of his Branch, at the intersection between political processes and economic interests, has managed over more than a decade to significantly influence national development plans and strategies on that issue.
It was fascinating to be shown, in just one afternoon, a patchwork of so many different ramifications of environmental degradation, along with the strategies used to deal with them. Hearing professionals who have been active in environment and sustainability for many years tell us about their concrete experiences in the field and explaining to us the issues they deal with on a daily basis was inspiring, and certainly particularly valuable for students exposed to new ideas and perspectives on their own environment related research at the Graduate Institute.
Living and studying in International Geneva has many benefits, and being able to so directly access such an incredible pool of knowledge and experience in the field some of us feel most strongly about is most definitely one of the greatest of them.