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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) celebrates its 50th anniversary this week as experts, policy makers and government representatives from across the world gather at the organization’s Vienna headquarters to discuss its future work.
Formed in November 1966, the specialist agency, which assists developing and middle income countries achieve sustainable industrial development, has been the driver behind thousands of successful initiatives to improve the lives of millions of the world’s poor.
In 2016 UNIDO has 839 ongoing projects across the world worth a total of almost US$1.2 billion. These initiatives aim to share prosperity in communities and increase their economic competitiveness while safeguarding the local environment.
Looking to the future, UNIDO’s Director General, Li Yong says that the organization can help to create jobs and conditions which might prevent future refugee crises, “Our piloting programme, Programme for Country Partnership, supporting African countries, Ethiopia, Senegal, to focus on the industrial parks, special economic zones and agro-industrial parks are generating thousands of jobs which will help resolve the issue of refugees, migrations and at the same time in the long run supporting poverty elevation in the region."
Other attendees in Vienna include the Crown Prince of Bahrain, the Chairman of the Bank of China Tian Guoli, President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Jin Liqun and the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.
Liqun says his bank, along with UNIDO, would continue to push for industrial development whilst also improving the environment, “First of all, we embrace the noble cause and great cause of inclusive and sustainable development. This is crucially important for so many developing countries on the way to industrialization and development for all. What's most important is that we are not going to follow the beaten track of the western countries in the previous centuries. We aim at industrialization at a high level, which means we will improve the environment and development at the same time."
Gatilov says how UNIDO’s work can help prevent the conditions in which terrorism can arise and he hopes the new incoming U.S. government would also devote more attention to organizations like the UN and UNIDO
Another major topic is female economic empowerment. The Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation, Sahar Nasr, said women need equal rights, equal opportunities and should be given every opportunity to contribute to the economic sphere.
UNIDO is not a funding agency. Typically it implements pilot projects with funds from donors, then finds partners to either fund the next phase or take UNIDO’s approach and replicate it. For example, in the early 1990s the organization developed a multi-functional platform to generate energy in remote areas that were not connected to national electricity grids. Within a few years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UN Development Programme had replicated the model in 3,000 villages across Africa.
UNIDO has also developed a new type of assistance: the Programme for Country Partnership, a custom-built package for each country which brings key stakeholders together. In Ethiopia, for example, the agency worked on the feasibility of an industrial park. The World Bank contributed US$250 million funding. UNIDO then continued to provide operational support for the park.
Three examples of successful UNIDO projects from the last decade are:
Côte d’Ivoire – providing clean, sustainable energy
UNIDO has helped build seven solar power stations in the Zanzan region bringing clean, affordable and sustainable power, so allowing everyone to share in the benefits of industrialization.
Mali - shea butter exports bring female economic empowerment
This project has helped women in poor, remote areas of Mali produce and export tonnes of organic shea butter for further processing in Europe. The skills learnt by the women have helped reduce poverty, enabled their children to go to school and have opened up international trade not just to this women’s co-operative but to Mali as a whole.
Sierra Leone - food security for farmers
One of the biggest challenges that farmers face in Africa is finding somewhere to sell their products at a fair price. In Sierra Leone, high transport costs and poor infrastructure mean that farmers are forced to sell their goods locally but with no guarantee they’ll find buyers at local markets for cassava, a staple root vegetable. UNIDO projects have helped farmers get a guaranteed place to sell their produce beyond their localities, so increasing their income.
UNIDO – statistics and websites and statistics
Extensive information is available on UNIDO’s open data platform: https://open.unido.org/index.
html and from UNIDO’s main website:https://www.unido.org/
Countries with the most current UNIDO projects are China (29), Tanzania (22), India (21), Ethiopia (20) Nigeria (19), Egypt (17), South Africa (17), Morocco (13), Tunisia (12) and Turkey (12).
The five countries providing the most funding to UNIDO’s current projects are Switzerland (US$55m), Japan (US$36m), Italy (US$29m), Sweden (US$28m) and Norway (US$20m).