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Germany: 'UN City' To Host Yet Another Global Secretariat

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Credit: Wikimedia CommonsBy Ramesh Jaura
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN (IDN) - The international community acknowledged Germany's commitment to sustainable development as representatives of about 100 countries, gathered in Panama City at the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), decided on April 19 to base the global research body's Secretariat in Bonn.

Germany now hopes that Bonn will be chosen as the headquarters of the Green Climate Fund as well, for which it is preparing an official bid. The Fund was established at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, in November 2011. It is intended to provide financial support to developing countries as they transform their economies to low-carbon ones and adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced the plans at a gathering of Ambassadors on March 28, 2012 in Bonn as part of a concerted bid to muster support for the City as the seat of IBPES, an international policy-consulting forum intended to fulfil a role analogous to that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"Preserving biodiversity is no less vital than climate change issues. It is imperative if we are to sustain our planet's ecosystems. IPBES is purported to provide policy-makers with independent scientific information as a sound basis on which to make their decisions," Westerwelle said.

The choice of the former West German capital, in the face of tough competition from South Korea, India, Kenya and France, was far from coincidental. Bonn, which proudly calls itself a "UN City", has developed into a hub of international cooperation since the unification of Germany in 1990 and in the aftermath of the federal capital moving to Berlin.

In addition to several international organizations and institutions, such as the IUCN Environmental Law Center (IUCN ELC), Germany's Federal City Bonn currently hosts 17 United Nations institutions. These include the UN Volunteers (UNV), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC), which opened in Brussels in January 2004 replacing nine closed UN Information Centres in European capitals, following a decision by the UN General Assembly, also maintains a contact point in Bonn.

The number of UN agencies in Bonn, most of which are based at the newly established United Nations Campus in the city's former parliamentary quarter on the banks of the Rhine river, continues to grow. The most recent agency was started in 2007 in Bonn as the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).

As on previous occasions, the German Foreign Office, the German Environment Ministry and the German Embassies around the world conducted an intensive campaign over the past few months promoting Bonn as the best candidate city for the new IPBES headquarters.

Germany will support the work of IPBES with an annual contribution of one million euro for the voluntary trust fund as well as additional funding for concrete projects. It will, furthermore, grant IPBES staff and family members the usual privileges and immunities afforded to UN personnel.

"All these facilities in Bonn will be offered in a political environment which makes sustainability, conserving resources and protecting the climate and environment a higher priority than perhaps anywhere else in the world," Westerwelle told Ambassadors.

"This is very good news for Bonn and an excellent decision for the global endeavour to preserve our planet’s biodiversity," the German Foreign Minister said commenting the Panama City decision, which, he added "not only strengthens Bonn as a UN location. It also recognizes Germany’s international commitment." Already nearly 900 staff of international organizations have made the City their home.

Once the World Conference Centre Bonn (WCCB) is completed in the first half of 2013, the City will also have "ideal facilities" for staging major international conferences.

There are indeed objective reasons too for strengthening Bonn as UN City: it stands for a free and democratic Germany firmly rooted in the European idea. The so-called "Bonn Republic" in the aftermath of a bloody World War II (1939-1945) indeed charted new ground in bringing nations, countries and systems closer together and promoting reconciliation in Europe and the wider world.

"The city's atmosphere and the outlook of its residents still bear witness to these endeavours. This makes Bonn in my view particularly well suited to host international organizations and welcome people from all over the world in a spirit of friendship and tolerance," said Westerwelle echoing sentiments of German and non-German nationals who have witnessed the process of reconciliation in Europe leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In fact the German government also played a crucial role in encouraging the debate not only about climate change but also sustainable development at the first UN climate change conference in 1995 in Berlin, three years after the Earth Summit in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which gave birth to the biodiversity convention and the convention to combat desertification.

With a share of 8.018 percent, Germany contributes around 190 million US dollars, making it the third largest contributor to the regular budget after the United States (22 percent) and Japan (12.53 percent). Other important contributors are the United Kingdom (6.604 percent), France (6.123 percent) and Italy (4.999 percent). All in all, the 27 member states of the EU contribute around 39 percent, and so finance over one-third of the UN budget. [IDN-InDepthNews – April 21, 2012]

2012 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Picture: Aerial view of the former parliament building, now a part of the UN Campus in Bonn.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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