Summer Opportunities for Columbia Students at UN Environment Programme

by | 1.17.2013 at 4:57pm
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Since the Fall of 2007, the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB) and the Earth Institute, Columbia University, have partnered to offer research assistantships each year to Columbia University graduate students. These positions take place at the PCDMB offices in Geneva, Switzerland, each summer.  Travel costs will be covered for the selected students by the program.

This year’s positions are:

  • Summer Research Assistant, PCDMB
  • Environmental Management of UN Peacekeeping Operations: Review of International Good Practice and its Relevance to Peacekeeping
  • Conservation Project Support and Map Making with Field Projects in Afghanistan

Applications are available HERE and are due by 11:30PM on February 11.  Selected students will be invited to interview with UNEP-PCDMB and Earth Institute faculty and staff between February 18-25.  Final decisions will be made by March 15, 2013.

For more information, please contact Nathan Rudder at nrudder@ei.columbia.edu. 

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Environmental Management of UN Peacekeeping Operations: Review of International Good Practice and its Relevance to Peacekeeping 

Issuing organization: UNEP Post Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB)

Start date: Approximately end of May to end of August 2013 (to be discussed)

Duration: Minimum 3 months

Duty station: Geneva, Switzerland

Requirement: Current Columbia University graduate student

Background: UN peacekeeping operations place considerable demands on the environment and natural resources in post-conflict countries that often lack basic infrastructure to cope with these pressures.  Close to 120,000 peacekeepers serving across 15 missions are responsible for over half of the total UN’s greenhouse gas emissions, produce over 180 tonnes of solid waste daily and consume 10 million litres of water every day. 

UNEP PCDMB has worked closely with UN Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support (DPKO and DFS) over the last decade providing technical support in the area of environmental policy development and implementation. The key milestones in this cooperation have been:

  • Development and adoption of Environmental Policy for UN Filed Missions in June 2009
  • Conducting pilot technical and environmental assessments in Kenya and Somalia throughout 2010
  • Publication of the policy review report titled “Greening the Blue Helmets: Environment, Natural Resources and UN Peacekeeping Operations” in May 2012

One of the main findings of the 2012 report was that while a number of current peacekeeping missions have independently adopted environmental policies and undertaken impressive and far-reaching measures to introduce resource-efficient technologies and minimize the environmental impacts of their operations, the implementation of the 2009 Environmental Policy has been ‘ad hoc and limited’.  This is mainly due to limited financial and human resources as well as the challenging nature of peacekeeping operations.

In order to address this issue, UNEP, DPKO and DFS have developed a five –year technical cooperation framework with the overall aim to fully implement the 2009 policy by 2017.

Research ProjectThe five-year cooperation framework comprises a wide range of projects from development of new operational guidelines and implementation of quick-win projects in the field to development and delivery of comprehensive training programs.  Review of current environmental management practices and relevant standards is crucial to this work.

DPKO/DFS Environmental Policy requires that a UN peacekeeping operation and its members respect all local laws and regulations in a country or an area of operation.  Therefore, environmental issues at a peacekeeping mission will normally be subject to national laws and regulations governing the environment in general or those governing specific subjects such as health, natural resources, wildlife conservation, forestry, freshwater, coastal area management or toxic and hazardous substances.  The policy also states that in the absence of national laws and regulations, which is often the case in a peacekeeping setting, international obligations under international environmental treaties to which the host country is a party will provide the standards of conduct with which the mission will need to comply.  However, international treaties do not provide all the relevant norms and there is a need to identify additional sources of good international practice.

Identifying good international practice and selecting a particular norm in the context of a UN peacekeeping mission can be challenging.  A total of 113 countries, each with its own norms and practices as well as cultural ways of conducting day-to-day activities, currently provide uniformed peacekeepers.  Furthermore, when there is a lack of universally accepted international standard for a particular environmental issue, the use of a standard from a single country may be politically sensitive.

Against this background, the aim of this research project will be to identify suitable and widely-accepted international standards and good practice in order to contribute to improving environmental management of peacekeeping operations and the implementation of the DPKO/DFS environmental policy.

This will be achieved by reviewing existing DPKO/DFS environmental policy and guidance documents, and identifying gaps where standards are either in need of revision or where new ones are needed.

Duties and Responsibilities: The Research Assistant’s role and responsibilities will include the following:

  1. Review DPKO/DFS environmental policy and guidance, and prepare a summary of existing environmental standards and good practice referenced in these documents against particular environmental issues.
  2. Assess the relevance of existing standards and good practice, and identify where new standards and good practice references are needed
  3. In consultation with your supervisor and DPKO/DFS focal point, and based on the significance of an environmental issue, create a priority list for the identification of new standards and good practice.
  4. Identify relevant international standards and good practice for each environmental issue in order of priority.  (International law and multilateral agreements, as well as UN and international organization’s standards should be prioritized over national standards).
  5. Initiate contact and solicit inputs from various organizations and individuals as part of the research study.
  6. Prepare a paper summarizing relevant standards that can be used as a quick reference document by UN peacekeepers.
  7. Perform any other tasks as required.

The work will be conducted under the supervision of the coordinator of UNEP’s Environment and Peacekeeping portfolio.

Required skills and competencies

 

  • Strong research and communication skills with ability to express ideas clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing;
  • Background in environmental law/policy, environmental engineering, green building or related discipline;
  • Experience in project development;
  • Fluency in English; knowledge of French will be an asset;
  • Ability to work independently and to participate effectively in a team based information sharing environment
  • Professionalism
  • Initiative and creativity.

Please be prepared to submit a letter of recommendation from Columbia professor if you are selected as a candidate.

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Conservation Project Support and Map Making with Field Projects in Afghanistan

Issuing Organisation:  UNEP Post-Conflict and Disasters Management Branch

Start Date:      20 June – 20 September 2013

Duty station: Geneva, Switzerland

Supervisor: Andrew Scanlon, Programme manager, UNEP/PCDMB

Background: A field activity of UNEP’s Building Environmental Resilience in Afghanistan (BERA) programme is to provide technical assistance to the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) and both the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to develop and implement field based national programmes in community based natural resources management, ecological disaster risk reduction and watershed management.

Integrating communities who live in and around proposed project sites, through coordinated projects with other donors, universities and government offices is a key part of UNEP’s efforts for sustainable sub-national environmental management in Afghanistan. This coordination takes place in the form of regional landscape scale conservation and agro-biodiversity strategy, with conservation agriculture and livelihoods projects in the areas surrounding the protected area as a driving mechanism for success. Bamyan, Badakshan and Balkh provinces form the field component of the ecological demonstration project component of UNEP’s work in Afghanistan.

UNEP’s goal is to protect endangered species, preserve and restore native habitat, and conserve natural legacies. Its mission is to encourage stewardship of the areas diverse resources through a variety of environmental protection, community development and education opportunities.

Research Internship Project: UNEP is implementing a series of Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) projects in three field locations in Afghanistan. These efforts add value and practical field experience to the national policy effort. Baseline mapping and inventory of the socio-economic and cultural and natural resources of the sites is being carried out as part of the initial baseline surveys. For strategic planning, landscape scale conservation and protected areas management, baseline data and documentation is crucial. In addition to survey and cartographic-based methodologies, innovative principles of community based resource mapping have been implemented.

Initial assessments in the area show unsustainable practices of fuel-wood collection, topsoil and turf harvesting, intensive agriculture and rain-fed planting of wheat on pasturelands, and large-scale stock keeping in fragile high-mountain environments. Lack of knowledge and awareness are contributing to the degradation. Long-term success for conservation and sustainable community development in the region will depend on achieving better baseline data and understanding for the spatial and temporal extent of the changes taking place. Long-term transects, plots and studies, based on mapping layers will assist management and understanding for decision-makers and planners here locally, nationally and globally.

An integrated practical programme of conservation education and awareness raising is also needed, given that recent years of conflict, loss of traditional local knowledge, and absence of a national environmental education plan for the protection of nature and resources.

Towards this end the intern will capture lessons learned from field village and valley projects; focus preparation of conservation education, outreach and awareness materials; develop appropriate messaging that builds on existing mapping and conservation work; and share results with relevant audiences from local to national to international.

The activities will be carried out under the supervision of and with support from UNEP Geneva, UNEP Afghanistan national team, and the UNEP Bamyan Field Office.

Duties and ResponsibilitiesThe Research Assistant’s role and responsibilities will include the following:

  1. Liaise with UNEP Afghanistan field and Kabul offices to understand projects and capture lessons learned from sites across three provinces;
  2. Discuss and develop preliminary report with Afghanistan team;
  3. Analyze and synthesize findings and basic location based GIS maps of important resources and linkages from 30 village projects;
  4. Develop a preliminary report on the layout and characteristics for the three provincial sites including capturing project activities and assessing common elements for national level lessons learned outputs;
  5. Work with UNEP Kabul and Geneva team to prepare atlas-type output and series of posters sharing information about the field projects.
  6. Work with UNEP staff and Geneva based communications experts to develop local language summary project sheets and posters
  7. Perform any other tasks as required.

 Required skills and competencies: 

  • Strong communication skills with ability to express ideas clearly, both in writing and graphically;
  • GIS and conservation mapmaking capacity;
  • Background in natural or social sciences;
  • Background in conservation education and outreach, materials preparation and website page design and writing would be an advantage;
  • Experience in community project development and implementation;
  • Fluency in English; Knowledge of Dari or Farsi an asset.
  • Ability to work independently and to participate effectively in a team based information sharing environment;
  • Initiative and creativity.

Please be prepared to submit a letter of recommendation from Columbia professor if you are selected as a finalist announced roughly a week after the deadline.

***

Summer Research Assistant  

Issuing organization: UNEP Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB)

Start date: Approximately 20 June – 20 September 2013

Duration: 3 months

Duty station: Geneva, Switzerland

Background: UNEP’s Disaster and Conflicts programme seeks to minimize environmental threats to human well-being from the environmental causes and consequences of conflicts and disasters. UNEP’s Disasters and Conflicts work, led by the PCDMB, has responded to crisis situations in more than 40 countries since 1999, delivering high-quality environmental expertise to national governments and partners in the UN family.

Under the guidance and direct supervision of the Communications Advisor, the communication internship program supports the implementation of the communications strategies to raise the understanding and awareness of the PCDMB with partners, media and the public.

Aimed at improving its strategic communication/outreach activities the PCDMB requires an intern to assist with initiatives in this area.

Duties and Responsibilities: The Intern’s role and responsibilities will include the following:

  1. Develop training materials including Power Point presentations using existing material and resources in addition to developing and incorporating innovative training materials. The presentations will be delivered face-to-face and through e-learning softwares;
  2. Creation and organization of a photo library specific to the Disasters and Conflicts subprogramme;
  3. Website updating & maintenance, including writing content;
  4. Bi-annual newsletter – assisting in editing content, and managing mailing list using specific software;
  5. Carry out topic-specific research and necessary consultations with subject experts.
  6. Undertake any activity as requested by the Communications Advisor in the area of strategic communication and outreach.

The work will be conducted under the supervision of the Communications Advisor.

Required Qualifications and Skills:

 

  1. Current or newly graduated student at a college or university;
  2. Understanding of UN peacekeeping and its role in post-conflict recovery;
  3. Strong computer skills (Microsoft Office, web applications etc);
  4. Experience of preparation of presentations;
  5. Good eye for design and sense of aesthetics;
  6. Comfortable with the use of photo editing softwares;
  7. Strong research and communication skills with ability to express ideas clearly, both orally and in writing;
  8. Fluency in English; knowledge of French will be an asset;
  9. Ability to work independently and to participate effectively in a team based information sharing environment;
  10. Professionalism;
  11. Initiative and creativity.

Please be prepared to submit a letter of recommendation from Columbia professor if you are selected as a finalist announced roughly a week after the deadline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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