Fiftieth Anniversary of United Nations Industrial Development Organization
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) celebrated its 50th anniversary last week as experts, policy makers and government representatives from across the world gathered 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 $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 program supporting African countries, Ethiopia and 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 and migrations,” he said, “and at the same time in the long run supporting poverty elevation in the region.”
Jin Liqun, president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, said his bank, along with UNIDO, would continue to push for industrial development whilst also improving the environment, “First of all, we embrace the noble and great cause of inclusive and sustainable development,” said Lin. “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.”
UNIDO 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. 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 Program 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 the agency worked on the feasibility of an industrial park. The World Bank contributed $250 million funding. UNIDO then continued to provide operational support for the park.
Other examples of successful UNIDO projects from the last decade in clude helping build seven solar power stations in the Zanzan region of Côte d’Ivoire, bringing clean, affordable and sustainable power, so allowing everyone to share in the benefits of industrialization.
In Mali, a project has helped women in poor, remote areas produce and export tons of organic shea butter for further processing in Europe. The skills learned by the women have helped reduce poverty, enabled their children to go to school, and have opened up international trade to Mali.
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.